Rendered Fat Content


Jean Francois Raffaelli: Le Chiffonier [The Rag Picker] (1879)
" … the very nature of Readiness: Or Not."

"Ready or not, here I come," has proven the most valuable phrase I learned playing childhood games. It seems to encapsulate a critically important understanding about engaging in this world, that when time comes, it does not presume readiness. Indeed, it scoffs at it with utter indifference. Through my life so far, if I'm honest in my assessment, I might insist that I've never once felt as though I was completely prepared for anything, and yet I've more or less thrived, often sitting on the edge of my seat or cowering near some corner, but I've thrived. When a teacher handed out test papers, he might as well have spoken that fateful phrase, "Ready or not …", because test time had come. Further preparation had just become beside the point. Whatever might have come before matters not at all. 'What next' matters then.

I carry a vestigial notion that I really should be ready, though.
I maintain preparation rituals just as if these might render me ready, though they rarely have. I hide my lack of complete preparation and pretend as if I'd fully prepared. I think hubris describes how I publicly cope with my sense that I have not fully prepared. Inside, I quake at the prospect, though I only rarely make a complete hash out of any challenge. I sense that if I had been more diligent, more disciplined, I most certainly would have avoided the embarrassment Or Not induces. I generally proceed anyway, faking it, hoping that I might make it through anyway. Like in hide and seek, I accept the hiding place I happened into when my searcher declared, "ready or not," then hope for the best. What other choice have I got?

Today's Move In Day. The truck arrives at 8:30. By noon or shortly thereafter, all that stuff The Muse and I packed will have been delivered. We're readier than we were three days ago when we arrived, when we noticed about a month's worth of stuff we'd really rather resolve before accepting delivery. Some rugs need pulling up and the underlying floors want refinishing, effort only possible if the rooms remain empty. We'll juggle the result since full readiness was, as usual, simply not in the cards this time, as if they'd ever been in any hand we'd ever been dealt. Here it comes, with extra heavy emphasis on the "or not" portion of the caution. Here it comes, ready OR NOT. 'Not' has always proven to be the portion of the phrase that bedeviled me, though this time, I'm wondering how I never seemed to learn that this Or Not represents how everything always works. I've never been ready once. Readiness would represent an unprecedented state yet I seem to weigh it as somehow more valuable than Or Not, which has always, always, always previously been my fate. I ain't really ready for Readiness, either, so, perhaps this time, I could just get over my reticence before the truck gets here and accept this latest Or Not as my kind of Readiness, just as ready as I ever get.

Of all the silly human tricks, the notion of Readiness stands in a class by itself. It seems related to the pernicious notion of best, where, when envisioning, we gravitate toward what might be best rather than toward what might 'merely' suffice. When has best ever been successfully invoked? Are we just trying to disappoint ourselves? Screw best and screw least worst, too, I'm almost always satisfied with the barely adequate or the near miss. I've been frequenting fast food drive throughs during this transition and I've noticed a currently popular response to almost everything invokes perfection. I order a burger and the tinny voice over the speaker responds with, "Perfect." I achieved perfection ordering that Whopper? Does that make me a prodigy? I mean, I never studied and rarely practiced, yet I apparently just hit one out of the park! Perfect! I feel more dismayed than delighted with this designation.

Yesterday, helping my step son move some stuff, The GrandOther showed up after school, clearly not ready to help. We conscripted her anyway, and she grumbled. When we finished, I complemented her by saying that she'd made a modest yet wholly inadequate contribution to the effort. Not ready, willing, and able. Not perfect. Like everything in life, the opportunity came anyway, indifferent to anyone's inevitable unreadiness. I thought the experience a perfect preparation for the future she faces in a world so often characterized by its utter indifference. Ready Or Not, here comes what's next, Or Not being the operant condition. I could go kicking and screaming, refusing to proceed, as if that reaction could possibly buy me any advantage. We will accept delivery even though we're clearly not yet ready, then make up what we might become not ready for next. Such, it seems this morning, has always been the very nature of Readiness: Or Not.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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