Being Efficient isn’t a Great Epithet

Here lies Caren McCaleb. She could put dishes away faster than you. Ponder that and go do something great with your life.

That’s what I am reflecting on after a little incident this morning with a bunch of stray plastic lids. I need to re-frame my habitual response.

I have a pet peeve that’s triggered almost daily. It’s about putting things away. I want every item to have a place in the home where it lives. I want them to be in that place, and only that place, when they are not in use. My husband does not seem to want this. He is okay with things being in all sorts of places. In my model, every object has an assigned parking lot that no one else can park in, in his, the parking lot is first come first serve and just because you got the prime spot yesterday doesn’t mean a plastic lid can’t claim it today.

The reason I prefer my model is that it is more efficient. When I am putting things away, especially the dishes, I can grab what I want to return and just place it where it goes. In his model, I grab what I want to put away, go to the place it lives, notice the space is now occupied by an interloper, set down the object I’m holding, resettle the interlopers, pick up the object again and finally place it. The peeve I feel, the irritation, is that extra few steps. I don’t want to move the stupid plastic lids before I can set down the bowl! I’ve got other important things to do like surf the web for bad news.

Imagine if every time you came back to your apartment, you have to double park your car, knock on the neighbor’s door, ask for his keys and move his car from your parking spot to his. Such a needless pain in the ass.

Or is it?

My husband consistently does a bunch of things I hate to do; bill paying, laundry, feeding the dogs, last dog walk of the night, veterinary interactions, communicating with our tax guy, installing everything that needs installing, car maintenance, Wi-Fi maintenance, staying calm. He also does a bunch of things so much better than me, like making chili and being a DJ. His chili is perfection and he is a genius music curator. Is there something on this list that I would trade for better tupperware management?

If we both did what I can do, how would this other stuff get done? If we both did what I can do, what would be the need for me? Rather than see this an act against my efficiency, I need to see it as an opportunity to be of use.

When I move the plastic lids to free up the space for a small ornamental bowl, I am contributing to this family. I am not being denied quality of life. I need to see my task as a gift of gratitude to those I love and not as stolen piece of mind. The piece of mind that will be lost is when I don’t have my wonderful husband and his wonder skills.

I don’t hold my husband close and tell him how lovely it is to be married to a very efficient man. Please let me give him a better reason to hold me close in return.

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Art Making is a Risk

When you make something, you risk living with the knowledge of your own assessment. Is it good? Is it worthwhile? Does anybody freaking relate to it or care?! The answer is sure to be no as often as yes. The thing you make might be mediocre, useless and ignored by all who know you. Who wants to grapple with that? If avoiding feelings is your number one priority, don’t make anything.

Uh, oh! There’s a problem. Not making art is also risky. You might have to confront the feelings you have about creating nothing and always turning outward for access to interesting stuff.

Art making puts you in direct conversation with your hopes and expectations. That’s some risky business right there because you might not be satisfied with the outcome. But who cares when the process is so fun! Of all the perilous things you could do, making art is the least outwardly consequential. There are no art police, there are no art laws. It’s great territory for private indulgence in extravagant, showy, badass behavior. It’s where you attempt to impress your self over and over. When you succeed, Woah! It feels good! It becomes the thing that makes sense of everything senseless, creating an antidote to the horrors of reality. It’s the vast void from which you conjure the tangible like a medieval wizard. It’s sure to happen if given enough time, space and respect. Personally, I find regular indulgence in the creative process the most satisfying way to know myself and generate love for the world.

All the expectations you encounter, all the self-assessments you give and receive, they can be useful. Mediocre art is always the first step to good art. Useless art is only a breath away from becoming treasure. You can and will find someone who relates to your offering, but only if you have one to give.

Be a delinquent in your art practice. Thumb your nose at whatever you disdain in your art practice. Be wild and daring and reckless in your art practice. Be risky where the reward is greatest and the consequence the least onerous. Otherwise pay your bills on time and call your mother. Everything in its time and place.

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