Measured Extravagance

13 January 2003 - 12:36 p.m.

Being infected with the cleaning (a/k/a procrastination) bug last week turned out to be a good thing: as I finished typing up the last entry (at 1 a.m.), the Beautiful Young Man returned from Amelia's show with three friends in tow. So we were up in the significantly-cleaner living room drinking Scotch until 3 a.m. Late Saturday night (11 p.m.-ish), our friend Squeej stopped by on his way back to Austin, so I fried pork chops and dished out potato salad and handed him a freshly-laundered comforter. Sunday evening, I arrived home to find the guys gearing up to watch a tape Statos had brought over (Full Metal Challenge, Junkyard Wars, and Escape from Experiment Island).

A while back, a woman at my church pleaded with me to join the GLBT+ group recently formed there. At first, I said no, because I didn't want to add any more meetings or social events or committee obligations to my calendar. She told me that it would be helpful if I allowed my name to be added to the group, to demonstrate support. For that, I said, "sure."

She then sent an email to the group that made it sound like I had begged her to add me to their roster. She mentioned my inability to participate in their activities, but in that context it came across as a self-important list of excuses. Great, I thought. Now everyone will think I want to be part of the gang without pitching in my fair share. She also hadn't warned me that being listed with the group would mean receiving heaps of email.

After I simmered down, I concluded that the most politic action would be to do nothing. There being no gracious way to extricate myself from the email list, I consoled myself with the thought that it would not in fact hurt me to be in on another loop of church communication, and that I ought to be old enough by now to skim-and-delete messages without making a huge song-and-dance about it. Also, it occurred to me that many people do not read emails carefully or thoroughly [1] so any impression of me presented by ____'s email was likely to be fleeting, more so than if I kicked up a fuss or demanded that she issue a clarification - that, and I am old enough to know that I can't do much about inaccurate representations or the conclusions people draw from 'em. All one can do is focus on the work, decide whose opinions really matter, and let the rest swirl to where it will.

I was brooding over this anew last night, after conversations with a couple of prominent church members on trying to manage our obligations - and sense of obligation. As one of them put it, "I've promised myself that, after ______, I am not going to another ______ potluck for the rest of the month!" Yeah, I resemble that remark. Looking at the weekend ahead, I'm to sing at three services, bring wine and dessert to a potluck, and attend a non-church guild meeting. I'll be skipping two classes, a lunch, and a march, and I'm feeling worried and guilty about not attending another potluck scheduled on Friday night - but, dammit, it does conflict with an existing commitment; to my knowledge, the leaders didn't consult the group before setting the date; and, I'm aware that it's really egotistical of me to imagine that the success of an event hinges on my presence.

I know where some of the baggage is coming from: I've been let down before by people who assumed that "everyone else will show up" - and, when I was younger, I too bailed out of this and that when I shouldn't have. So I get hypersensitive and fretful and overcompensatory about this sort of thing. At the same time, I keep reminding myself that none of the stakes are so high that I can't space my contributions the way I see fit, no matter how much pressure I get from the other people invested in such efforts.

That, and much of this is supposed to be fun. That, and (even though no one believes me, unless or until they know me well) I'm an introvert: I'm happy at home with my books and my pens and my piano and my pets. But I also thrive on being wanted and making myself useful - and it's good to know that there are people eager to help my business succeed and who I can call on if we get slammed by misfortune or ill health. It's not an either/or situation, and I know that - it's just that I sometimes have to spell it out to myself this explicitly in order to maintain my sense of balance.

At any rate, I flatter myself that, to the world at large, I at least convey more calm than panic. Yesterday, during my shift at the grocery certificate table, a man walked up and told me he appreciated how I carried with me "a sense of peace." (That, I think, would surprise some of the people who know me well. But I've heard the same thing from other acquaintances at church, and I can see how someone might conclude I was the serene type: "Watching [you] listen to the postlude arm-in-arm with your friend - that made me happy.")

For the church auction a couple of months ago, I offered to crochet a blanket to order. The person who had transcribed my donation form had left off my specifications for the minimum bid and the maximum dimensions, which was irksome, but the guy who put in the winning bid is a sweetheart, so I quashed my annoyance and agreed to make a full-size afghan for his couch (I felt it wasn't fair to penalize him because some nudnik didn't think the information I'd provided was important). I've learned my lesson: next year, I will submit all of my donations online (to minimize abridgment issues), I won't attach samples (I think the offer would have fetched higher bids via live auction than silent), and I'll insist on a high minimum bid to cover the potential size/customization issues (the ones I'd intended to avoid by providing the specifications the transcriber chose to omit).

Anyway, I made substantial progress this weekend on that afghan, finishing up the second 8 oz. skein and starting in on the third. I crocheted my way through the last two quarters of the Titans-Steelers game, two coffee hours, one service, a congregational meeting, the aforementioned videotape (FMC was mildly amusing, Junkyard Wars highly so, and Experiment Island so lame that the BYM fast-forwarded through most of the second half with the comment, "I don't think this is going to last out the season"), a video of As You Like It (Stratford Festival, 1983), and some baroque Spanish music. I may well try to finish off that third skein this week, it having occurred to me that the blanket is in fact my only prepaid project at the moment, so it does in fact make sense to consider it a priority even though it isn't career-related or technically "due" right away. (Heaps of calligraphy and writing to practice and produce, of course, but it's all on spec.)

I think my motto for the week is going to be a line the Finance Chair delivered at yesterday's meeting, regarding capital campaigns: "There are no unrealistic goals, just unrealistic timeframes." (It got the biggest laugh of the afternoon.) So, enough fretting. I know what I want to do, I know what I have to do, and while the two lists aren't identical, there's enough overlap between the two that I do believe I'm a fortunate woman.

(That, and I was just reading in It Happened on Broadway about how starving actors in New York used to make "tomato soup" out of ketchup packets and hot water. And, in Young Man From the Provinces, about alcoholism and bulimia and being driven by the desperate longing to be admired and adored. With such reading, I zigzag between concluding I cut myself too much slack and realizing that I don't always give myself enough credit for what I do accomplish.

It averages out, I suppose. And so, enough with the fretting. Time to work.)

[1] how many times have you coped with a customer service rep firing back an automatic response based on a few keywords in your message - in spite of the fact that you took the pains to describe the issues in specific detail because none of the options on their web-based form matched up with your problem in the first place? ... or a response to a diary entry where the writer clearly read (or understood) only part of the post?

One year ago: "I think I have a relief headache. . ."

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