In the “Grip”

I’m in the grip of an inferior moment. Except let’s call this what it is: an inferior couple of hours.

In a nutshell, I’m tired of my house being cluttered – never mind that it’s only two or three rooms that get that way – and I’ve gotten to the reckless phase of “toss it; I don’t care if it’s solid gold; get it out of my sight.”

Specifically, I’m sitting in the bedroom by my bedside table (which is really a bookcase), all my summer clothes tossed on the floor ready to be sucked into vacuum bags for storage, magazines strewn around me, books stacked, miscellaneous papers received and read but never disposed of, four notebooks and three notepads, hair implements I’ve never even used, six pairs of eyeglasses (all old prescriptions), and, for God’s sake, 53 pens of various colors and styles. Fifty three! The dust bunnies are gathered all around to watch with fascination this entire entertaining moment.

In my head my Gremlin whispers, “you’re a loser, you don’t follow through, what the hell were you thinking trying to have a nice house, ohmygod you’re becoming a hoarder, there’s something wrong with you.” What’s emerging from my mouth is nothing short of judgmental self criticism because, for the moment, that gremlin has one humongous hand over the authentic me’s mouth. I KNOW what’s happening is an inferior moment. I KNOW those statements are false. I KNOW those judgments are wrong. I just can’t get that out right now. I’m in the grip.

Charlie’s standing there, God love him, perplexed and trying so very hard to say and do all the right things and probably wondering what the hell happened to his normally reasonable wife and what in the world was he thinking getting married to her in the first place. (Ah, that’s holdover grip talk at work.)

Later I’ll think about what might have been able to loosen the gremlin’s hand from my authentic me’s mouth long enough to allow the rational, supportive, accepting truth to pull me back into my normal modus operandi. (I’m guessing that would be some kind of inane comment about aliens popping up out of stomachs. Not sure, but if he could get me laughing, it might just ease the death grip of my inferior preference.) Well, that, and simply hunkering down to help with my obsessive task accomplishment right now, which he’s doing.

I’m smart enough to realize what’s going on. And smart enough to know what I need to do – foremost among my resources is a good night’s sleep, and I know that’s coming. For now, it’s furious activity designed to accomplish what I devoutly desire – order and serenity. That’s taking the form of a sparkling clean bedside table with everything in its place. Its correct place, which is somewhere else, quite possibly the trash can. Or the Goodwill pile. Just so it’s not in my line of sight.

Fast forward to the next morning. I’m rested. I’m recovered. I’m a little remorseful about the impromptu eruption of my alien, but I really do understand it. I also learn from it, so long ago I made my peace and don’t generally regret these things. Much.

But for the uninitiated, let me explain what happened. Because I guarantee you, it happens to us all, although it may take alternate forms and be caused by different triggers.

I’m big on possibilities and love to enmesh myself in lots of activities, a broad range of interests, multiple projects, and humans – give and take, the outside world, the world of people, places, things, and stuff! Details – while I do just fine with them usually – must be balanced with my normal future focus and big picture thinking and my need to be in the midst of external stimulation. If the balance shifts, I begin to obsess … with those details, which can become overwhelming if I’m not careful. And that right there is the culprit: my natural tendency is to slough over details and pay attention to the big picture, which is oh so much more fun and stimulating. Those details? They recede, at least until the balance shifts.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that old adage “can’t see the forest for the trees” really applies here. Normally I see the forest (the big picture) and not the individual trees (the details), but when I’m overwhelmed by all those picky trees, I lose my view of how it’s supposed to be, of how all those individual trees create the overall thing – an awesome forest. That big picture is obscured; I’m adrift in a sea of details; and that’s when my gremlin sees daylight.

Yesterday, I cooked for an evening dinner party (details). Planning the event (big picture) wasn’t in the equation. I cleaned up the kitchen (details), and then decided to tackle the dining room with an eye to weed out all the “stuff” that normally gathers there, thanks to it being the entry from the garage. My purpose was twofold: to clean in preparation for decorating for the holidays (no forest “vision” there, just tree “details”).

Charlie went golfing, so it was just me and two dogs, neither of whom qualify as good conversationalists; they sleep a lot. So it was me with no other communication or outside stimulation, no bouncing ideas off others, no visioning or planning, no interactions. Just solitude, heavy with details.

After dinner (it was good, by the way), I made the fatal error of coveting my sister’s bedroom – large and luxurious, compared to ours. The whole thing started off as a very well-meant problem-solving session with my guests (sister included) that left me feeling less than competent for even having a too-small bedroom in the first place. How ridiculous! (That should have been my first clue of the impending inferior episode.)

By the time the guests left and I got ready for bed, all I could see were details – books, magazines, hair clips, papers, PENS – and suddenly I was in the midst of a stand of trees, no forest in sight.

There’s no cure, but experience helps. Understanding what puts you there and learning how to recognize when you enter that landscape helps. Figuring out how to best extricate yourself once you recognize your location and educating significant others about how they might lend assistance helps, too.

Most of all, I’ve discovered that you try to love those inferior moments, because they never appear empty-handed. They always have the gift of self discovery and knowledge. You just have to learn how to pry it out of their grip.

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