Friday, April 26, 2013

To Do or Not to Do

I didn't enjoy being young. Enumerating all the reasons for this would be foolhardy and dull, but one reason was that I felt constantly powerless. Everyone else in my life determined what I would do and when I would do it, and that bothered me too much to really enjoy myself. It confused me greatly then, and still bemuses me slightly, when people express nostalgia for the days of childhood. It wasn't all bad, of course, but I would wholeheartedly choose the autonomy and responsibility I have now over the stuckness I felt then. Every time, anytime.

I think I've finally gotten my arms around it, though, what people are missing when they miss childhood. Every morning when I sit down to my computer, I wake my brain up enough to ask what I have to do that day. What's on my to-do list? Chores, correspondence, money-work, creative work? Checking on submissions, revisions, reading for others, grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, dusting? Does Matt need socks or something dry-cleaned? Is there something coming up in our lives that I need to prepare for now?

It's not just having to complete all these tasks, but having to remember to do them, and feeling the pressure of responsibility to get A, B, and C done that day, that adulthood is all about. You can pay others to keep your to-do list for you, potentially; you can shirk all your responsibilities and wash yourself with a rag on a stick. But normally, you have a to-do list for any given day and you run through it before you sleep again.

This morning, when I sat down at my computer and tried to boot up my mental to-do list, I felt this weariness. Like, ohgod, I have another damn to-do list for today, I am so tired of doing things. (See also this.)

I wondered if it was possible not to have a to-do list for an extended period, and realized that's what childhood is like. Everyone else is keeping your list for you; you just have to follow their directions. How reassuring it would be to do life this way, rather than having to keep track of all your own shit.

In other news, water is wet. Happy Friday.


Chad said...

For me, the powerlessness of childhood was compounded by the capriciousness of some of those who DID have power over me. I'll never forget being ordered to do yardwork for the babysitter when I was 7 or 8, remarking to one of the other kids to receive this duty (it wasn't a punishment for something, we were just told to do it) that boy, I'd be glad when I grew up and had rights - a third kid reported this to said babysitter, and I was punished for THAT. What the hell kinda sense did that make?

But when comes to that long-ass list of responsibilities and just plain ol' annoying Shit To Do, yeah, sometimes kid-dom still has an appeal.

Denise said...

I've thought about this in recent years too-the constant running in my brain of all the things I have to do and the actual lists, which usually get about 3/4 done before I abandon them for new ones. That's an adult thing that no one tells you about, really. I'm feeling this a lot with the wedding this year especially. It sure makes senility sound appealing, doesn't it? I mean, to get to a point where you don't even wipe your own ass when you poop sounds pretty sublime sometimes, ha ha! I remember this online list from a few years back of signs that you're stressed and the one that I still remember is "You fantasize about how relaxing it would be if you were in jail." Even though my life has been busy this year with a new job and wedding planning, it's the mental business that really gets me. On that note, I had insomnia last night and only slept 4 hours in two two-hour increments. Sigh.

Katharine Coldiron said...

@Chad, "the powerlessness of childhood was compounded by the capriciousness of some of those who DID have power over me." WORD. UP. The situation you describe is like what happens to people in a prison camp. Not the conditions, of course, just the logic - there is no good reaction aside from silence.

@Denise, although I don't fantasize about senility or prison, I have had more than a few passing thoughts about how nice it would be in a booby hatch. Nothing to do but focus on your own mental health and boring-ass activities like checkers. Sounds grand to me.

Also, during the week of my wedding, I slept probably 10 hours over the five days. But once it was over, it was like a gigantic weight was off my shoulders. The last time I remember feeling such relief was when I graduated from college.

Chad said...

Don't get me wrong, life in the booby hatch ain't all that bad, all things considered. But never underestimate the reaction you may have the first time you go someplace where you're patted down, security-wanded, and locked in. No matter how nice they are about it, there's something about having to find someone with a key and ask permission to leave.

Other than that, though, it's entirely workable and even occasionally pleasant. And man, the stories you hear...