For example, crafting. I don’t craft. Frankly, I don’t like other people’s crafts. The shallow materialist in me loves the store-bought and shiny. Crafts just look so, well, homemade.
But while eight months pregnant I spied a beautiful mobile in a high-end boutique that was priced at some obscene number. That costs a week of daycare, I thought, and it’s just yarn!
Enter the pom poms.
In a fit of optimism and willful ignoring of my own tendencies and preferences, I went to the craft store, purchased several skeins of yarn, two pom pom makers, and something called an embroidery hoop. I would make my baby a mobile. It would be great. An heirloom! Something with a mother’s touch to be cherished by her daughter.
By the time the baby arrived, and with the help of visiting parents, I had crafted half the number of pom poms necessary for the mobile. I had hopelessly knotted one of the skeins of yarn, and there were little bits of fluff everywhere. Oh, and while my mother-in-law’s pom poms emerged cute little colorful balls, mine were sad, thin things—little multicolored hamsters of despair.
And so, after the baby came, I cleaned the supplies away into a plastic bag, placed the bag on a high shelf in the closet, and there it has remained. My baby is now 11 months old and totally uninterested in mobiles.
But there has been pom pom creep.
While the material object that is my depressing, unfinished mobile remain packed high in the closet, it’s been enjoying a second life on my to do list.
Like many type-Aish people, I sit down and plan my week on Sundays. I look at what’s ahead in the next week and what wasn’t completed from last week and make a new list.
And those damn pom poms have been migrating from week to week, never completed, never touched, but lurking at the bottom of my list, infecting the next week’s chores with a sense of failure, a sense of impossibility.
Because I know I’m never going to do it. Unlike things related to my job or to my health or the health of my family, the pom poms are not important. Also, unlike reminder items on my to do list such as “buy Christmas gifts,” or “email Mikaela about going to movies,” or even “get haircut,” the to-do item “finish mobile” isn’t fun or tempting for me. Which means that I’ve been lightly but regularly beating myself up with a thing I don’t really want to do week after week as I migrate this task from to-do list to to-do list.
“Finish mobile” is a pretty frivolous task, as far as things go, but I suspect we all have versions of these lurkers on our to-do lists. I see them as the foul offspring of some blend of American work ethic plus fantasy life. What if I were this kind of person?, I ask myself. What if I were the kind of mother who made things for her children? And then, Practical Polly that I am, I immediately imagine this hypothetical person’s chores and assign them to myself. But the truth of the matter is that I’m not that kind of mother. And that’s okay, but I need to take her chores off my list!
I think the hypothetical selves in our lives can be lovely, allowing us to explore possibilities, to test out ideas--What if I were the kind of person who ran marathons? What if I were the kind of person who volunteered regularly? What if I were the kind of person who organized weekly trivia nights? Etc.--but as we look at these dream lives, it’s worthwhile remembering that they needn’t burden our current existences with guilt for undone chores. If it’s freeing, cross those motherf*ng pom poms off your list!