Rendered Fat Content


Edgar Degas: The Ballet from "Robert le Diable" (1871)
"I seem to work just to disappoint myself."

We've been working late this week, our little crew usually still here after six most evenings. This might have been a natural reaction to having taken Monday off for the Labor Day holiday, or maybe we sense a major milestone and pivot point approaching. Maybe neither or maybe both. Effect does not require a discrete cause, but seems to beg for one. Our downstairs, main floor work will soon be finished. The planking for the second floor is supposed to be here next week, but has not yet arrived. Joel Our Carpenter reported that he has a few days' fill-in work if our progress stalls. Kurt Our Painter has plenty to keep him occupied, his work necessarily trailing behind. Joel's the finish carpenter, but Kurt actually finishes what Joel just gets started. Kurt says he's used to that.

I wake up at my usual obscenely early hour, but with a difference of late.
Mentally alert, I feel physically tired, an almost unfamiliar sensation for this guy who mostly lives in his head. I'm a little afraid that I've taken on too much but I sense that I'm actually UnderDoing, whatever I might contribute, unavoidably insufficient. I wouldn't know enough-ness if it sat on my face. I know well the sense of insufficiency my efforts induce. I have no sense of reasonable. I work amateurishly slowly, seeming to accomplish little. Is refinishing a door a day an acceptable rate? Should I really be producing results at twice or three times that pace? I seem to putter a lot, organizing between actual tasks, cleaning up and setting up and running almost unnecessary errands while Joel and Kurt keep their noses down and deep into their businesses. I feel like a dilettante whatever I do.

I also awaken with a fresh ache or pain which tells me that I might have overdone something again. Yesterday, Kurt and I erected scaffolding, a chore requiring much hefting. I stand on two planks, fifteen feet up, legs quavering, while pulling up another piece of scaffolding which I'll lift up and plug into the piece just below it. Kurt will pass up some bracing and I'll plug that into the sides of that piece, legs still quavering. We'll repeat this performance until I'm at the top, looking down from twenty feet up. If I stand, I can peek into my gutters, legs still quavering. Now I have a set of monkey bars to clamor up and down and some window trim to paint and a couple of windows that need disassembling, all accomplished at my sub-supersonic pace, an amateur UnderDoing his inadequate best. I'll try harder knowing it won't be quite enough.

I have no clue how anyone comes to comprehend what comprises enoughness. Inadequacy seems an innate facility, but a sense of sufficiency seems a learned response, but learned from what, precisely? I was taught to apply myself, to work through fatigue and inadequacy, to dedicate myself to an effort, but received no instruction on how to recognize when I might be approaching done. I consequently learned how to exhaust myself and finish feeling as though I had not contributed quite enough. There was always something left undone, a small embellishment I could have contributed but chose not to, if only because I'd lost my light and I was late for dinner. I seem to work just to disappoint myself.

While Kurt and Joel just seem to know when they're finished and they both seem to maintain a pace that leaves them having accomplished something by the end of their shift, I sense that I missed an opportunity to produce a little more than I did. I retire with a sense of inability rather more firmly set, and not with a sense of accomplishment. I retire with even more to try to accomplish tomorrow and a sense that I'll likely fall a little short of that objective. It would not surprise me if, when Joel and Kurt finally finish their assignments and The Muse calls this project done, that I will have somehow accumulated an infinite queue of essentially undoable tasks onto my UnderDoing list, where I will probably keep picking at them for the rest of my days without making much progress.


Friday comes regardless of how much I feel I've accomplished. My writing week left me feeling as if I had not quite contributed enough, like I should have done better for myself and for my dedicated readers. This week, The Muse and I traveled to be with my son and grandkids, my son-in-law—my daughter's widower—and my first wife, to dispatch our Dwalink Dwaughta Heidi's ashes into Mt. Hood's Still Creek. This was a solemn occasion which none of us knew how to observe. We managed it thanks to my first wife's direction. I followed, feeling as though I was UnderDoing something important. Heidi's ashes served as punctuation to a life of over-accomplishing, not ashes to ashes, but to still water heading toward a Pacific Ocean. Rest in peace, dear daughter.

I began my writing week removing paint in
SandMan. "One must imagine more than observe to recreate any past."

My political screed for the period came in the increasingly familiar form of
UnrelentingDecency. "It was never them versus us, regardless of how hard anyone tried to convince us. The harder they tried to convince, the more we should have noticed just how indecent their proposal was."

In my most popular posting of this period, I described my
OffDays, lest my readers get the wrong impression about my dedication to HomeMaking. "My work ethic seems stronger than my survival instinct."

I pointed out a common little derision in
Justing. "Subtexts matter, too, and sometimes exert the greater influence."

I described my relationship with distance in
LongWayHome. "We claim that we've never taken the same route once between those two points, and there's more than wordplay at play in that assertion."

I offered a peek beneath our grand refurbishing to reveal what's behind that work in
DustToDust "Once one makes explicit any implicit past, one must expect some emergent ramifications, in this case, enough dust to produce another task on the urgent to-do list: Clean up this damned dust before it does us all in."

I ended my writing week describing what I called my
Intos. "Most of the time, I'm not turning into anything. I'm just who I am and doing my usual bidding. But a few times, perhaps a total of a half dozen times so far, I set about trying to turn what I had into something else. I made a break with my past. I blew up my present. I poked my head into some future not quite yet emergent. I set about turning Into something different."

A week of sanding and dust, of off days and attempted Unrelenting Decency, challenging justs, taking long ways home while turning into something different than I began, and I still feel as though I'm UnderDoing. May I never find proper proportion, I guess. I might be really, really messed up but also curiously blessed. If I leave every table, every day, feeling unsatisfied with my consumption, with my contribution, that sense does seem to keep me coming back for more, to give more, not in perpetual motion, but rather unrelentingly. Thank you for following along beside me as I continue attempting to commit sincere acts of HomeMaking.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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