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Studies of the Foetus in the Womb, 1510-13 by Leonardo da Vinci
"The long-procrastinated change finally comes as if in a lightening flash."

The National Weather Service predicts eight to sixteen inches of snow for this last day of winter and tomorrow's first day of spring. I worked all day outside in my shirtsleeves yesterday, rearranging everything in the garage to make room for that long-dreaded second car. The little voice in my head had insisted that it could not be done, two cars could not possibly fit into our two car garage, though most of our neighbors manage to fit two into their's. Our situation seemed somehow different. "None of our neighbors need to store a king's ransom in clay flowerpots in their garages," said that little voice in my head. "Store them somewhere else," my exasperated gut whispered in response. I dutifully schlepped that king's ransom of flowerpots down the steep sidehill and neatly stacked them on top of a carefully laid tarp, sorted by size, and bordered by innumerable cat litter tubs filled with last year's potting soil. The result looked like a bivouac supply base for a garden troll army, charming and primitive. By the end of the day, two cars sat parked in that garage.

I'd walked through that garage every day since the last time I rearranged it, averting my eyes.
That last resorting had fallen somewhat short of my aspirations and I kept promising myself that I'd get around to tidying it up one of these days. One of these days never seems to come. Their promise serves to effectively undermine any actual effort however lofty intentions might seem. The loftier, the more stymied such intentions become until I stumble across some threshold of self loathing or inconveniencing necessity. Thoroughly exasperated, I act, and often act wisely and well. Until that exasperation kicked in, nada; after, anything's not only possible, but suddenly probable. I just get 'er done. I believe that humans come into their best selves when thoroughly exasperated. I remember my father, after tolerating a string of foolishness from his five kids, looking up from his novel or newspaper to ask in his weariest voice, "Now what?" Two little words with one enormous significance. We'd nudged him to his edge. Time to shut down our shenanigans and become our better selves.

I'd reached my Now What? Moment with our cluttered garage. The garage might serve as the most reliable metaphor for my soul, for our garage is actually MY garage, like The Muse's sewing room is wholly and solely her room. I would no more think of rearranging her sometimes seemingly cluttered sewing room shelves than I would expect her to sort through my garage's errant paint cans. Her intrusion would constitute a definite violation. We each have our own shit to sort, with help perhaps needed but never appreciated. Chores tend to leave clutter behind them. Painting supplies eventually migrate to colonize every damned shelf until nobody could ever find the proper brush when it's sorely needed. Some reckoning must eventually come or the handyman's soul is lost. Still, no improvement comes until that handyman experiences requisite exasperation. One final Now What? Moment tips the balance and everything finally gets done.

I cannot move around in the world carrying that level of exasperation, even though I think I know that I might better move around the world fueled with a tank filled with frustration. I might prove more productive if I had a little more get even grudge in my tank. I might never accumulate the clutter if I was more regularly disgusted with myself. I seem to need to find myself very near the end of my rope before I can muster the motivation to make any real difference. I suspect that it was never the plans that guided the general's hand, but the frustration born of foiled plans that tipped the engagement. That ganging aglee accompanying only the very best of the best laid plans creates the necessary conditions for something truly significant to emerge from an almost blinding Now What? haze. I hate it when it turns out that way, but l love what I produce as a result.

It does not follow that hounding another into exasperation improves tidiness or productivity. I seem to need to goad myself into fruitful action. My well-formed conscience has to catch myself repeatedly violating one of my own rules of comportment before I find adequate motivation. The Muse can hen peck me all she pleases, but never nudge me an inch off my dime. I'm the one who must frustrate myself. I claim that I need to catch myself being myself, by which I mean that I need to catch myself exhibiting my worst before I seem to stumble into producing anything dramatically better. A Greek chorus of chiders can't change anything. One small exasperated voice whispering within me might change anything. There's a damned good reason why acceptance comes after denial, bargaining, and anger. Those three spooling up stages of acceptance work like a magneto to produce the adequately exasperated charge which discharges itself into eventual acceptance. The long-procrastinated change finally comes as if in a lightening flash.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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