Excitements and Possibilities

“…the excitement and possibilities are in the working and can only come in the working” – is a quote of long-standing importance for me. The words are those of the painter Francis Bacon, and they’re scribbled on a paper scrap, edged with blots and scratches from attempts to get my fountain pen started. It sat on the desk for a long time, and now is thumb tacked to a shelf – a reminder to get started.

Bacon referred to creative work, but I try and tell myself the same principle operates with house chores. Now in October, jobs pile up that I’ve let go during the summer when the garden is priority (or truthfully the blog is priority). But just now I am trying to convince myself of “excitement and possibilities” in resealing the bathtub. It’s the kind of job I stall about.

I already know the phrase applies to garden work. I go out to do some specific task and suddenly have ideas about what else I’d like to do. Moments when work gets accomplished and new potential excites me.

Lists work – one on a yellow pad in the kitchen and one on my desk calendar. I just need make them – and then look at them. (I love a peek at other people’s lists. The first time I saw a son’s long “to do” list on a yellow pad, I knew things were different.) The best thing about the sealant job would be being able to cross it off the list.

I’m hoping going public about the caulk job (and taking a toothbrush to the grout wouldn’t be a bad idea either) might spur me on. Once engaged, the fall jobs won’t take so long. “Well begun is half done” the adage says.

I’d like to get past the “must do” part of the list to elective tasks – like organizing the recipes (the mother of my young friend told me about plastic pages in a notebook making finding things simple). Changing the nook pillows. Clean out my closet.

Virginia Woolf once wrote of the summer being “folded up and put away on a shelf like a sweater.” I think of that each time I get a sweater off the shelf at the top of my closet. It’s past time to get out the heavier sweaters (the distinction here is not sweater or no sweater, but the weight of the wool). It’s time to wash and organize the sweaters, add fresh lavender sachets and discourage moths with their own job in mind.

Freeing my mind from nagging and reminding might lead to excitement, and I have a gift from the young writer to help – words from John Cage: “If something is boring after 2 minutes, try it for 4. If still boring, try it for 8, 16, 32 and so on. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” Olé!

3 thoughts on “Excitements and Possibilities

  1. Lists, lists, lists – I couldn’t function without them. Now you encourage me to actually have a place to find my lists other than maybe one in the kitchen and maybe another buried in the sewing room, or my jacket pocket or purse flap….
    So satisfying to be able to scratch through a task or project.

  2. Some days I find my lists get so long that I become discouraged. On those days I start a new list – a list that’s guaranteed to make me feel better. The list contains only tasks I’ve already completed that day…and every task gets crossed off! I mean, really, how often do we get through our whole list in a single day.

    Warning: this approach should not be used regularly (“…don’t try this at home…I’m a professional”)

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