February 25, 2007

The Restorative Effects of an Accomplishment, Any Accomplishment
speaking into a tin can telephone

One of the photos I found that really made my day.

It’s Saturday at 5:15 am and I’m awake, anticipating my cat alarm clock will go off at any moment to say “feed me.” She does this every morning sometimes starting at 4, meowing and gently touching me on the forehead with her paw to rouse me. She wants to eat. But she doesn’t seem to understand on Saturdays I can sleep in, as long as I can fend off thinking of all the things I have to do today.

I get up cautiously so as not to re-injure my lower back. I’ve been moving very slowly the last few months, like an old man I see hunched over near work. I don’t want to end up like him but it’s getting close: too close for comfort. I have a lot to do today. Is my tooth hurting again? I can only take one physical malady at a time before I start the day ruminating.

I’m waiting for an important phone call. I want to write another blog post. I’m collaborating on an art project. I need to get a friend some info for a grant proposal. I’m trying to find a live photo printer who can reprint some of my photographs for a library that’s decided to buy my work. (Years of no sales end exactly two weeks after I dismantled my darkroom. The irony isn’t lost on me.) I’m trying to find images that will make my PowerPoint presentation shine at the conference I will be speaking at in April. And, of course, Mercury is in retrograde again.

My days always start out with a lot of promise, the promise that by the end of the day I will have accomplished an assortment of glorious things. Hope is always on the horizon as the sun rises. As the sun sets, ending with a full list of these achievements is how I evaluate the success of each day. Doesn’t everybody?

These accomplishments don’t have to be monumental. I rated the other day a “10” because I took a great photo at work and made it even better with some Photoshop magic. That night I was happily asleep in minutes. It’s these little creative accomplishments that really count. I don’t ask for much. A constant stream of them will surpass the restorative effects of Lunesta any night.

Today I need immediate gratification. I have an idea for a new blog piece but I will have to spend some time researching it to make it work. Even though the PowerPoint is job-related, I decide to spend my Saturday morning focused on it. I will feel relieved if I can make some progress this weekend. I go through every slide, trying to find a funny or interesting image to match. Google, flickr, free photo sites, or my own iPhoto images —nothing clicks. I know what I want. I’m looking for images that will play off of my words. I can visualize my audience laughing and interested, but distant online photographers are not cooperating today. Where are the good photos? And I don’t want to pay for them. Did I mention that?

Four hours later, nothing. My wife calls downstairs, “Are you ready to go?” I’ve agreed to revisit the window store. Three years after our last visit our whole house still needs new windows all around. Okay, fine. No progress will be made on my PowerPoint this morning. A bad mood starts to settle in. Well, if we’re going there I have a few more errands to attend to and then one last stop at the wine store. An ice storm is threatening and we don’t have any wine in the house. A good vintage always goes so well with ice and sleet.

But these errands are not going to yield any bedtime accomplishments. I take note of my darkening mood and reflect on its outside appearance. My girls are yelling at each other and my youngest is whining. The house is a total mess because we’ve moved everything into tall stacks of boxes for our bathroom renovations (and my darkroom demolition). And my wife has just stacked our stash of Girl Scout cookies throughout the living room. I am the office cookie pusher. One hundred boxes must follow me to work this week where my coworkers are anxiously awaiting their mid-winter sugar-laden carbs. Not one room is exempt from this mess. I find no refuge from the physical or creative chaos in any part of our house. I’m in a bad claustrophobic type of mood now.

Errands done. We get back home at four. Grumpy, I tackle the PowerPoint once again. I need to accomplish something. Anything creative. I google “tin can telephone” producing a major find. It’s on a stock photo site and it’s so good I will pay for it. Yes, you heard me, pay for it! It’s that good. I learn to cull the slide’s idea down to its essence then do a photo search. The photo doesn’t have to reflect my idea, just bounce off it. This works. And I mark that conclusion off as a big achievement. Isn’t a little money spent worth that bedtime accomplishment?

My wife calls me to dinner. She opens a bottle of our just acquired 2002 Thornbird Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine store recommended this when I asked for a full-bodied Cab with a smooth finish. “This one is subtle but with substance,” my wine advisor counseled. A little good wine can make my accomplishments seem less important at the end of an “accomplishmentless” day.

I hear the ice outside begin to pelt our front lawn.

The wine is exactly as he described. We are amazed. We haven’t had a spot-on wine recommendation in months. And with the addition of my new PowerPoint images, I’m suddenly in a great mood. After dinner my wife suggests we watch last night’s episode of Psyched. The quirky main character is exactly how I was when I was in my mid-twenty’s (well, if I hadn’t been so full of angst and focused on accomplishing something, anything).

This has been a great day. I should be able to fall asleep in no time.

Update: The Weatherman’s prediction of sleet and ice turned into 6 inches of snow. Cabernets don’t go well with snow. Instead try a Flora Springs Chardonnay.

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Hi Jeff,

I am also in the midst of dismantling my darkroom.
I think we need a support group for this process. It’s expensive, overwhelming, and time consuming. I spent so much money building the darkroom when we moved here, and now 8 years later I’m spending money taking it apart.

Posted by: Judy Gelles on February 25, 2007 2:35 PM

One hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies - wow! In case you’re not familiar, wanted to share that the Girl Scouts have finally joined the digital age, they’ve created a Web site that makes it easy to find those tasty cookies, especially for people who don’t have co-workers like YOU they can count on for that exciting mid-winter delivery ;-)

There are also some groovy vintage cookie ads on MySpace —pretty funny, kitschy television ads from the 1970’s. They’re worth a look.

Posted by: FoodGal on February 26, 2007 12:55 PM

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