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James McNeill Whistler: Amsterdam Nocturne (1883–1884)

"Just imagine how capable I'll one day feel …"

Now that The Muse and I have been back in The Villa for a year and a quarter, I'm noticing an increasing backlog of undone chores. Some appear to have become permanent and threaten to migrate out of Someday Likely To Get Done status into Untouchables, or apparent ones. These I will just consider to be features rather than problems, finished as they sit, however unsightly and indicting. Some will represent me coming to accept my limitations and others, my fundamentally lazy nature. A very few will permanently seem too daunting to ever seriously consider, bridges too far or too big of britches. However they became Untouchables, I will maintain them in that state with most of the dedication I also reserve for actually completing tasks. They will become as much a part of my identity as any actual accomplishment, that spot I can't see I never shave properly, the lucky shoes which will always look scuffed and worn and yet favorites. Idiot children.

I imagine that one day I might maintain a maintenance schedule as if I meant to maintain it.
Instead, I propose the work then work hardest to avoid it until it becomes a problem, a backlog needing clearing. Few things in this universe better sap motivation than a backlogged item present due to one's own laxness. The more I slack, the harder it becomes to complete the task, or so it sure seems. Then, of course, in some otherwise idle moment, I might stoop to at least start clearing it up only to find that the whole thing took about ten minutes to completely resolve. Weeks, sometimes months of negative motivation evaporates in a few short minutes! It's enough to embarrass even the most disciplined procrastinator. To spend so very much time avoiding anything so ultimately trivial. I should be stripped of my professional status and henceforth answer to mere amateur-crastinator. Pathetic.

The Untouchables are, of course, imminently touchable, at any time, and only a simple mindset shift determines when the time seems right. I might not even notice myself continuing to avoid it when, just for a moment, a possibility glimmers. I just do it. Last night, killing some time while The Muse had filled the house up with visitors conducting a strategy session, I had relegated myself to my office, where I saw the room with fresh eyes for a moment. That box filled with hats that had been sitting there in the corner waiting, for a year and a quarter, for me to finally unpack their moose antler hatrack, seemed to beckon me over. I scanned the tops of the surrounding bookshelves and suddenly noticed that there was plenty of space up there to hold a few hats, pending my unpacking the moose antler hatrack. In a minute or two, I'd gone through and emptied that box of hats and tastefully displayed them around the room. That's another Untouchable gone never to return.

Some mornings, and even more evenings, my Untouchable collection seems more asset than liability. It holds more diverting potential than a closetful of jigsaw puzzles, each a mystery, each a challenge. I must be a wealthy man if I consider my possessions like this, with all my undone effort a store of future entertainment, insurance, of sorts, against every growing bored or old. My youth reappears whenever I finally manage to dispatch one of these puzzles and I feel a budding competence denied me through my denials. I hold the keys to my own continuing salvation, there in the basement, and in those unhung pictures littering my office. Just imagine how capable I'll one day feel once I finally manage to touch those Untouchables!<

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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