It’s been a while. Since last I wrote, I’ve moved across town. Packing hell, cleaning hell, unpacking hell. Spotting the theme?
I have made ‘progress, not perfection’ my mantra, in the way most severely overwhelmed people latch onto an idea that stops them crying or raging. There was an ant infestation in my old place. Not the sort where you see one or two, kill them, and you’re done. The sort with scarily big nests throughout the house. Don’t get me wrong, any time I saw an ant, I’d killed it. I waged the sort of war against bugs that made no sense to those around me. Pretty sure the old place is held together with layer upon layer of bug spray at this point. I’d thought I was on top of the problem, and I was so incredibly wrong it’s laughable only to keep from crying. An external hard drive full of writing, and all my uni lecture audio? Ant nest. It’s still a source of rage.
The packing had issues, clearly. The move had issues, too. The sort of issues that mean that the bond cleaners should be choked with their own (clearly unused) brooms. We’ve been here shy on three weeks now, and the place is slowly becoming liveable.
Not homey. Not perfect. Liveable.
It wasn’t when we arrived. The ‘professional clean’ was a half-assed vacuum. That’s it. Someone paid $900 for the sort of vacuuming perfected by recalcitrant children. There are cigarette burns in the carpet that weren’t there on our original inspection. There was grease all over the kitchen, the sort that’s been there so long that everything needed multiple hard-core steam cleans to stop feeling sticky and horrible. It’s still not all gone. There were grease caked trays in the oven, and even dried blood drops meandering between the front patio and kitchen.
All in all, ick.
What I expected was professionalism, and the ability to walk in and maybe give a quick once-over before putting things in place and moving on. I hadn’t expected day 4 to see us still finding spots of horrible grossness (under the kitchen bench. Yellow unidentified former food objects), or still being left waiting for the real estate to actually do something beyond sass us. I hadn’t expected it to be over a week before my cat could move in, or to still have a garage full of boxes three weeks in.
Progress, not perfection.
We like to think that everything will happen in the time frame we want. I will have moved into the new place fully in days, not weeks. I’ll write a good quality draft in a month. I’ll have my whole life figured out and awesome before I’m 30.
And then we walk in and see the blood spatter, or we realise our little story requires a heap of research- or the sort of nuances that take time to develop, or we talk honestly to the people we know who are over 30 and realise that exactly no-one has this stuff totally sorted (even life coaches and psychologists have bad days, after all).
That clearly defined boundary showcasing exactly when we’ll be happy (or even just less ragey) dies in that moment, but most of us ignore the growing stench and keep trying to make it work anyway. It’s gonna work, I just need to stay up all night writing/ cleaning/ organising! Every night. Until it’s done. I can do this! I HAVE to do this, or I have failed in some vague and baffling way!
If you’ve ever tried the perpetual all-nighter approach, you’ll know it ends in sobbing, tantrums, sugar poisoning, and collapsing in a heap at the absolute worst time. And what you do manage to achieve isn’t what you’d call high quality work. You’ve trashed your body and addled your brain for something you’ll have to work your butt off just to make functional.
We tend to think of perfection as an instant kind of deal- we want it now, not later on. The thought of slowing that process down and focusing on making progress? Ugh. Who wants that? I want to be unpacked, settled in, and in a routine now, not over a month into the lease. But that’s the more likely outcome. There are boxes piled in the garage, and more to come by the sounds of it (here’s to sorting out art supplies in the very near future!!) My beautiful writing desk is piled with stuff needing to be organised and put away.
Anna Kunnecke, a totally kick ass human being, had a brilliant tip for feeling less overwhelmed when it all goes ass-over and chaotic. Have a look at the way you feel about the chaos in the house (or that to-do list for writing that I know you have hiding in a drawer somewhere). There’ll almost always be something that makes you crazier or more anxious than everything else.
For me, it’s the kitchen benches and my desk. If the kitchen is cluttered, I’ll avoid it and ‘forget’ to eat. If the desk is messy, I feel guilty and shitty because my adopted Dad gave it to me, and I hate seeing it in anything less than pristine condition. It actually pains me.
Anna calls it making white space. In my more frustrated moments, I tend to think of it as breaking the spine of the problem. Have I mentioned being crazy overwhelmed lately These little areas of sanity stand out in the chaos, and subconsciously, when they’re in view, we feel a bit better about the overall chaos around us. It’s not the end of the world, because there are bits that don’t suck. The important bits don’t suck.
It’s the same with writing. Nail that bit that drives you craziest, and watch the rest begin to make more sense.
Progress, not perfection.
As for me, I think I’m going to curl up in bed with a good, easy to read, book.