Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Big Plan

When I was a little girl, I made elaborate schedules for myself and at eight, had I known what a algorithm was, I would have taken the self scheduling thing one hundred steps further and substituted this:

Get up
Brush Hair
Brush Teeth
Feed Cat
Feed Self

With some sort of schematic for what I was supposed to accomplish every morning before school.
(Seriously, this is what I posted--caps and all--on the back of my bedroom door when I was eight because I needed a reminder to feed the cat) I was very diligent with this schedule, too. I wish I still had that first list because it was the beginning of a compulsion: making schedules for myself in the form of to-do lists. Unfortunately, with age my lists have become more elaborate and if I were completely insane I’m sure I would have algorithms in place with arrows and lines as back up plans. Today has proven to be one of those “best laid plans. . .” days, where the to-do list looks like an algorithm what “oh God, what now! “ My day was supposed to look like this:

Get up (I find it necessary to include this forty years later in case I try to work out or take a shower while still in bed)
The Beav to school
Work in the yard
Beav from school
Read (I’m such a freak I schedule my ‘recreation’) [this is also code for lay in the sun]
Dinner prep

This is what happened:
Don’t sleep
Get up in time to make sure The Beav is up for school
Decide he needs one more sick day (just a cold no H1N1) but should go to the doctor
Go back to bed for an hour
Make doctor’s appointment for the boy
Go back to bed for another hour
Run errands on the way to the doctor because the dry cleaner and the vet are on the way
Go to the Doctor
Finally do something on your to do list (this is where the arrow goes around to “write” on my dream list)

Lessee, I’m accomplishing one thing on my list so far.

I came up with my dream schedule while I was cleaning yesterday. This was going to be my day. No more cleaning, no more digging in the dirt or moving things around. My only real responsibilities were The Beav and dinner. In my defense, this slothful day was brought about after nearly a week of planting two large flower beds and a vegetable garden. Most people wouldn’t balk at being this busy. But I refuse to be overscheduled. And I loath people who are always: “Ohmygawd! I am so crazy busy! ” The evil people in my head want to say something like: for the love of God just stop doing whatever bullshit it is you do because it really doesn’t make you or your life more important if you are “too busy”. I strive at under scheduling my life and my housewife pals always admired my boundary setting skills. “You want me to bake something for the preschool that day? Nope, can’t do it. I already have something planned for that day and I don’t plan more than one activity a day! “ I must confess this penchant for avoiding over scheduling too much is not from mad boundary setting skills but sheer laziness.

I had to leave off the slothful life because the flower beds were prepared and the calendar says it’s May. I was daunted by this task because I’ve never taken on such a huge gardening project. I had helped with a vegetable garden when Wally was a baby. Ward did the heavy lifting, I weeded a bit and harvested. The Fabulous House in the Suburbs had established landscaping and I did attempt one flower bed but it was an abysmal failure and led me to believe I had a black thumb. The “do you garden” question was always met with an apologetic shake of the head. However, the success of my seedlings (now out in the big world) and the many thriving plants in the beds for nearly a week, all surviving my hand are leading me to believe I might be a gardener after all. More telling, than week old plants, is the joy I felt working in the dirt. The only way I can describe the joy I feel when I look out on my flower beds is like the small child who has successfully built a miniture building from random blocks. Remember how they look when the complex and architecturally impossible structure was complete? My boys would sit back on their haunches, arms outstretched, eyes never leaving the towers and shout out a gleeful: “Ta-Da!!!” I want to stand in the front yard and shout: “Ta-Da!” Maybe I will in August when my lovely garden is blooming.

I loved working in the beds and it felt good to be dirty and sore. Part of me wishes I had more to plant; but until the fall, I must be content with watering, deadheading and weeding. I had always thought the whole: “just go outside and you will feel better” advice aimed at the depressed was some kind of pseudo hippy back-to-nature bladdy-blah. I found the dirt theory has merit; I felt rejuvenated by it and the fresh air. It even felt good to work in the damp drizzle for a couple of days. And had I known how meditative gardening is, I would have started years ago. At last an excuse to live in my head! I found myself composing letters to the long lost in my life. The letters were stories rather than self flagellating apologies which is the tone my spinning usually takes (link). At times I did have to pay close attention to what I was doing. The work was niggling and fussy when the roots of a few of my new plants (I’m looking at you Shasta Daisies) were matted and tangled in big clumps. The exercise of untangling the mass without breaking them, to separate the plants safely, reminded me of untangling and unwinding the small IV lines and life support tubes connected to my wee patients years ago in the NICU. Fussy work is not my favorite sort of work.

Transplanting the seedlings was fussy, too. As I transplanted the tendrils, I recalled a dream or a memory of helping my father when I was five or so. We had a big garden and my job was to stick my finger in the dirt making a small round hole where he would place the seed. My finger placing round holes with such diligence, I can still see my dirty and bitten nail as I pulled it from the loamy soil. I remember watching him coax the seedlings into the ground with the aid of an iced tea spoon’s long handle; the handle a sort of guide or crutch against the tender new born stalk. The mind works in such magnificent ways and I found myself doing just this with my own wee cucumbers; only then remembering the close heat and sun on my neck, the smell of the pine trees and how, when I looked up from my task, they made a gigantic fence around our yard. I know remembering the cloying heat helped me tolerate the damp chill the other day.

When I had decided to attack the new flower beds this week, I was going to catch up on Podcasts while I worked. But I forgot my Ipod and discovered the sounds of the crows, dogs and breeze, even the distant traffic, was friendly company. I can’t remember if it was quiet in the garden when I was a little girl. Chances are the silence was punctuated by birdsong which was then interrupted by construction noise. My favorite silence is the silence of the mesa in a snow storm. I have never heard such quiet as the sound of snow covering that vast emptiness.

So today, The Big Plan was flummoxed and thrown out the window and we went, instead to the dry cleaners, doctor and vet. The Big Plan hit the first wall last night at midnight when I still wasn’t asleep for worrying over the dog’s panting and labored breathing. I lay awake for hours listening to him; composing how I would prepare myself to find him miserable and exhausted this morning. It would be time for his last car trip. I rehearsed what it will be like to make the phone calls when it is time for him to leave us. Fortunately, the only one worse for the night’s troubled breathing was me. Kip awakened his merry self, wanting to go outside to have a big sniff and make sure all was right with his world. He was fine and would be with us yet another day. He felt well enough to woo-wooo-wooof at us for food and grrr-grrr-grrr when we wouldn’t let him outside to play in the sprinkler.

My perfect day stalled by life. Yet again, life having a more perfect day in mind for me. I was lucky enough to have an interesting conversation with The Beav that ranged from his persnickety math teacher who doesn’t believe in time to make up homework if you are sick (my question was: what if you are in a coma or your hands are burned?) to the labor reforms which came about after The Jungle was published. I still had plenty of time to fuss over this writing exercise; I’ll have time to hang in the sun for an allotted hour, water my plants; maybe even have a beer. But we won’t harsh my mellow with the gritty reminder I must cook dinner tonight.

Perhaps if I hacked up a lung, I could get out of dinner. Unfortunately, I can’t let that happen because it’s not on The List.
*the photo is from flikr Creative Commons by "A River Runs Through It" thanks to the generosity of such creative folks.

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