I’ve heard that work expands to fill the time available (or something like that – Remind me to get a Bartlett’s Book of Quotations so that I don’t mangle these axioms and I can tell you who said it).
Anyway, this morning was a case in point. Because Thursdays are mostly taken up by my time with my mother, I wanted to get up extra early so that I could get my routine done before going to Mom’s. So I was up before dawn cooking breakfast and feeding the cat. By six thirty, breakfast was over and I was washing dishes. So far, so good. But then, it happened. I was wiping off the stove and the counters, and I noticed some grime. Not your everyday grime, mind you, but some serious, built-up, greasy grime, and it was all over the top of the stove.
Now, I’m not Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker, but there is a limit to just how much of this stuff I can stand. So I took apart the stove, piece by piece, and began scrubbing from the inside out. Suddenly, it was an hour later, and all my lovely extra time had evaporated.
My big philosophical question for the day is this: Was the stove scrubbing a serious and important task that is part of my larger effort to keep my home free of chaos and clutter? Or (and this is my own sneaking suspicion) was the stove scrubbing merely a distraction to keep me from completing my writing?
I guess the only possible answer is – It depends.
First question: Am I a serious writer? In order to know the answer to that question, you would have to define “serious writer”. If the answer is: “a writer who makes a serious amount of money as a writer”, then I would have to say, alas, no. If the answer is: “anyone who takes themselves seriously as a writer”, I’m afraid the answer would again have to be, no. If the answer is: “anyone who writes something of weight or import”, I would have to say that I’m not the one to judge that. But if the answer is, “Anyone who writes every day” – I qualify.
Second question: Does cleaning matter? In order to know the answer to that question, you would have to define “cleaning”. Is cleaning merely mindless routine that must be repeated every day in as little time as possible? (In which case, it matters very little, indeed). Or. Is cleaning a way to unclutter our surroundings in order to unclutter our minds and free us for more creative tasks? Or is the act of cleaning in and of itself therapeutic and necessary to our well-being? I have to say that I have been all over the map myself with these questions, and I don’t really know the answer. (Sigh).
Well, if nothing else, this morning’s exercise at the stove gave me something to ponder – and it gave you something to read. Let’s just leave it at that.
© Robin Munson, 2005