Janet Sheridan: The day of a dawdler
Joel tells me I piddle around. He’s right. However, I prefer to think of myself as a dilly-dallier because it sounds more ladylike. Just yesterday, my plan to start a slow-cooker dinner, wash the windows, and write a poem faded like my youth — with haste and without heed.
When I sat down at my computer to start a poem, I opened Facebook instead and frittered away an hour scrolling, reading, and studying photographs posted by others of their relatives, vacations, celebrations, injuries, dogs, and dinners. Meanwhile, my poetic impulse died a wordless little death.
Then my mind wandered to an upcoming social event, and I went to my closet to find a pair of shoes to go with the outfit I planned to wear.. I searched through an accumulation of shoes from my professional days until my head spun, seeking the perfect pair: neither so narrow they pinch nor so wide they gap, supportive but still stylish, heeled but not too high, a complementary color, and clean. None will do.
Thinking I had time to order another pair, I returned to my computer where a random thought ambushed me: “I wonder why mosquitoes bypass me to viciously attack Joel? Hoping to learn they bite Joel because he deserves it and I don’t.”
I opened Google, lost sight of my goal, and spent 40 minutes reading about rabies.
The mail rescued me from the tortured world of rabid animals with three advertisements from credit card companies and a cooking magazine. I discarded the ads, but the magazine’s cover photograph of a sheet pan filled with sumac chicken and perfectly charred cauliflower and carrots tempted me inside, where every recipe I read struck me as the best thing since Grandma’s popcorn balls. I tore out a dozen must-try recipes and tossed them into a drawer where they mingle gwith a multitude of untested recipes from past issues: macaroni with brie and crab, caramel bacon spice cake, and braised leeks with mozzarella and a fried egg.
I spent the afternoon striding purposefully into a room and wondering why. Eventually, I found my befuddled self in the basement and unable to imagine why until I noticed the storage shelves filled with 30-plus years of junk I wanted to organize. Previous owners donated some of the clutter; then Joel and I added more because someday we’ll get those worn-out hiking boots resoled and you never know when a jar filled with random screws will yield the exact one you need.
I approached the shelves crowded with partially-used cans of paint. Determined but clueless, I shuffled them here and there, shaking some to see if their contents had congealed and scrutinizing the drips on others to see if they matched the current colors on our walls or could be discarded. Then, abandoning my futile efforts to tame chaos with minimal work and wishful thinking, I decided to open every can, discard some, label others, and group those remaining. But I needed to get a marker for labeling.
So I went upstairs and watered my houseplants.
Later, over dinner, which was not slow-cooked but rather hastily assembled from leftovers, I thought mournfully of my unrealized poem, gazed through dirt-streaked windows, and struggled to stay awake.
Dawdling is hard work. Moving along the organized freeway of choosing one task and completing it before moving to another is easy compared to taking every side trip that pops up without knowing where it will take you, how long it will last, or why you’re on it.
No wonder I was exhausted.
Imagine that there’s a town next to a raging river, with a waterfall just five minutes downstream. One day, the residents of this town notice people caught in the river and many are going right over the waterfall’s edge. What can the townspeople do to save these people?