Every once in awhile, you have to stop and take a look around at how your life is decorated. And there’s no time like the present, especially when you have a project that requires all of the time and focus that you can muster.
So far, the greatest curse of parenthood is that you have NO TIME to waste. But the greatest blessing of parenthood is that you have no time TO WASTE. Every moment is a precious jewel that quickly gets squandered or invested. There are none left over to save, nothing in between. It might have been just as true before I became a parent, just not so abundantly clear at all times—it was far too simple to live within the illusion of tomorrow.
So when I feel like I’m too pinched for time to get things done, I know it’s time to start ripping down some ugly wallpaper that somehow just happened to get put up in the living room that is my life. Rip, rip.
- UGLY WALLPAPER #1: I don’t have time to read a book. Since my daughter was born, I’ve just been too busy. At least that’s what I thought until my friend Brian Castner released his book The Long Walk this month. It was a compelling read, and my word-starved brain devoured it in 4 days. The truth comes out, and the wallpaper comes down. Now I’m reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages and just “haven’t had the time.”
- UGLY WALLPAPER #2: I have too much to do to make any real progress. I always feel like this, but more and more I go back to one of the most basic lessons I’ve ever learned from music—how to practice with a metronome. You set the tempo as slowly as you can play a passage correctly, and then you move it up a tick, enough that it’s faster, but not really noticeable to your body and mind. With patience, you can perfect any passage quickly and permanently, and you won’t even notice that it’s happening. Every huge and seemingly unachievable task can be broken down into a series of small and completely achievable tasks.
- UGLY WALLPAPER #3: Everything is urgent, therefore nothing is urgent. You know, I’ve always liked this old saying, but I’ve realized something recently. This statement is either backward, or it’s missing a crucial third statement: Everything is urgent, therefore nothing is urgent, but everything is still urgent. You don’t get anything out of this statement if it drives you to inaction. It’s not about letting it all go, it’s about setting priorities so you can focus and get something off of your plate. Perhaps it’s just too subtly stated for our present-day brains to appreciate when we’re backed in a corner. How about this: Everything can’t possibly be urgent, therefore something has to actually be urgent, so make a decision already.
- UGLY WALLPAPER #4: Cleaning and organization is procrastination. No, procrastination is procrastination. Sometimes you just have to stop chasing whatever dream dragon it is that’s currently holding your soul captive and clean up. There is a tipping point where stuff actually does get in the way. De-cluttering your office = good. Detailing your kitchen sink with an old toothbrush = bad.
- UGLY WALLPAPER #5: Decoration is a distraction. I’ve often fantasized about living a spartan existence, just floating in space, untouched by sentimentality, working working working. But it’s not always the wallpaper that’s ugly. Sometimes the problem is what’s underneath. If you’ve got the guts to take a look around and find things that aren’t sitting well, you’re that much more likely to expose the root of that confusion. If your foundation is solid, then decoration is a purposeful and healthy act. That goes for a coat of paint, a nice framed picture, a new pair of jeans, an evening at the movies, or a much-needed beer at the end of a hot summer day. Even wallpaper can be an okay thing—but I still prefer paint.