I recently read a laugh-out-loud article in Real Simple magazine that depicts the Pinterest version of the perfect morning. In it, author Raquel D’Apice peppers in fake links to made-up DIY projects like “simple felted dryer-lint slipper tutorial” as she satirizes the frenzied follies of motherhood.
It got me thinking about my reluctance to enter the Pinterest world, which has felt less like a polite refusal and more like bracing myself against a torrential storm in a doorway, appendages sprawled out like Spiderman. Everyone’s Pinning, right? Why not give it a go?
It’s not for fear that I won’t like it. It’s for fear that I’ll really, really like it. I already have more than enough half-finished projects kicking around my life: painting that trim in the bathroom, crafting that hot air balloon stencil painting for my daughter’s room, opening those boxes we haven’t unpacked since leaving the condo, building that asparagus bed, writing that memoir, reupholstering that chair, finishing my second child’s baby book seven years later…the list goes on. But the twitching response is building to an alarming crescendo.
People have raved about Pinterest’s gardening boards, parenting boards, meal planning boards, style boards, home decorating boards, and, of course, cat-themed boards. I wonder about all this time and effort brainstorming, designing, and planning. What about the doing? The follow-though? The roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-to-work execution of a task?
If allowed entry, I could see myself tumbling right down the rabbit hole – broadening my horizons wider and wider as I drift along random redecorating Pin tangents until I’ve dreamt up enough collages to construct an entire neighborhood, let alone my tiny half-bath. My Pin-to-completed project ratio would be dismal.
I’m guilty of allowing myself to be lured by the deceptive charm of a project that is born, lives, and dies entirely in my imagination. If I throw enough vivid detail at it, it seems real(ish). My book, for example: I can imagine its cover, a title, the foreword I’ll beg of an accomplished author acquaintance. I can listen to podcasts and TedTalks on writing a best seller, research how to find an agent, and how to market a memoir.
Or, I can write it. I can decide to fit it into my life – carve out time, pore over my outline, and let it flow.
So what holds people back? The inability to delay gratification? The need for instant results? Laziness? Or is it apprehension that threatens productivity? Are we worried about outcomes being less than perfect…not living up to our expectations? Or worse, becoming a Pinterest Fail? For shame!
You’ve seen the “Nailed it!” montages, yes? The Pinterest projects gone so, so wrong. I first found them on Facebook, of all places. They feature photos comparing the perfect Pinterest project to real attempts made by actual humans. Envision the effort to bake and decorate that perfect porcupine birthday cake (ouch), or cook those owl-face eggs (better just go ahead and scramble ‘em). And how about those sweet yellow ducklings nestled on delicate cupcakes that look more like they've been left to melt on a hot sidewalk next to their regurgitated late-night happy meals. I could indulge for hours (mostly because I’m avoiding the first sentence of my sixth chapter in the memoir). Commiseration is comforting.
More than likely, there’s not only one obvious excuse for stalling and procrastination. We’re also busy. Really, really busy. A BBC article cites busyness as the current “indicator of high success,” yet task-completion apparently wanes when our brains are stuck in this spinning hamster wheel mode. Our time management skills worsen and we prioritize the trivial over the important.
For all this keeping busy, the amount of time spent working (at the office or from home) in Europe and North America hasn’t actually increased in recent decades. We just feel busier, stay busier, act busier (even outside of work). Sort of like how my dishwasher does some stuff for an hour and a half to our dishes but leaves the cups smelling like a wet dog.
I know I’m fabulously adept at acting busy. I can create any number of seemingly imperative roadblocks to finishing crucial tasks. When I need a distraction, I can call on the weeds in my vegetable garden, or research for my contract work, my kids’ endless wishes, or home construction projects, or even get a few more hours of sleep when I could be busting out 75 words per minute on my book.
Or, I could turn to that mountain of unfolded clean laundry that spends its days on my bed and nights on the couch. Ha – I kid, I kid. What other than laundry would I dole out as a consequence for sibling squabbles? Exercise also rarely steps ahead in the pecking order, unless of course we count lugging ye olde laundry mountain around the house.
Although the BBC article argues we’re only under the guise of being more busy than generations past, the trend of time spent parenting has been steadily increasing for years. We prioritize being with our offspring, and our little ones are plugged into more activities than ever before. Many parents feel we have less to offer to ourselves when we’re so lovingly dedicated to childrearing.
A parent pal of mine admitted she can only plan day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour, because the adulthood juggle-struggle is real. She can’t think ahead to next soccer season or even next week when her daunting to-do list for this afternoon demands her full attention. Amen.
In my marriage, my husband and I have organically settled on roles, for better or worse. He works the steady full-time job with benefits and a retirement plan, and I work creative part-time, flexible jobs while shouldering the bulk of childcare, cooking, housecleaning (toilets are NOT terrariums!), and general management involving all the normal coordination associated with family life.
Don’t get me wrong, Papa doesn’t receive a cigar and whiskey when he walks through the door. He changes diapers, cleans up after meals, cooks waaaaaay better than me, and we almost always pay the rec department to have him coach his own kids in sports. I just have more hours with the kids and at home.
My husband has the enviable ability to hyper-focus, and he really gets stuff done. During weekends or evenings when he’s upstairs banging boards into place and hanging sheetrock, his mind seems nowhere else. He assumes I’ll pick up the parenting slack in his absence. And I do. When he works, he works. When he relaxes, he relaxes.
When I work, I work and attend to dozens of other interruptions. When I relax, I relax and probably try to finish some of that leftover work. I’d like to believe it’s my true zest for living life to the fullest that propels me and not the hamster wheel spazz-brain.
As I’ve contemplated this theme, I’ve come to realize that in order to actually accomplish one goal, six or so others need to be pushed to the back burner. This is the reality of it, and I am trying to accept it, while also blocking out the guilt of neglect.
A friend recently asked me, “How are you so productive, lady?” I had just reworked an essay for the umpteenth time (during daylight hours no less). Before me, a crossroads: On the one hand, I could’ve silently basked in the glory of her kind perception like that mom who spends all day posting photos of her perfectly portrayed world. Instead, I answered honestly. “I ignored the runts for two hours.”
A few years ago, when they were still in the danger zone of consuming pennies, this wouldn't have been possible. But they’re nine and seven and fairly self-sufficient. We were hanging out at my mom’s condo in the village. They scootered, biked, found kids in the neighborhood to play with, and watched a show on the tube. To fend off that lurking weight on my conscience for choosing writing over my kids, I remembered an article that attests this type of parenting helps nurture your children’s imagination and problem-solving skills. Winning!
Seriously though, something always has “to give.” If I make three batches of homemade jam from berries we’ve picked ourselves, guess what’s for dinner? Jam. When I spend hours preparing chicken pot pie with buttermilk drop biscuits for a special meal the night before my husband’s mouth surgery, guess what happens to my promise of helping him “snap lines” (construction talk)?
Take-backsies for the second evening in a row, because I’ll be cleaning up my culinary genius crime scene until bedtime. When I draft a piece to submit for publication, guess what happens to my contract work? Backburner city. When I play a three-hour round of my favorite childhood board game with my kids, guess what happens to the box next to “grocery shopping” on the to-do list. Unchecked. Looks like it’s jam again for dinner.
Life is full of “pulls.” I try to remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am to trip over the mundane. My family has food to eat and a home that’s safe and warm. We have our health and bonds of love. We don’t have real problems. Yes, life can feel harried and chock-full, but rarely disastrous. So I’m freed up to dream, plan, brainstorm, and when the stars align, resist self-limiting thoughts enough to get a job done.
That’s when it’s time to proudly proclaim (in earnest or with humor), “Nailed it!”