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December 21, 2004: All I want for Christmas

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I suppose I could blame the Gemini in me, but the truth is that I am a procrastinator of the highest level. If you give me a deadline that I know I cannot miss I will get things done. I am marvelous under pressure, actually Ive done some of my best work in the last frantic moments before something was due. Projects at work (and when I was younger, at school) will be completed on time and consistently because my job (or my grades) depends on it. But when there is no deadline and no urgency about getting something done, I lack the incentive to finish. Setting deadlines for myself does not work because the problem is that I know that I am a big slacker and will just find a way to move that deadline back again and again until I ignore it completely. After all, its not like Im going to fire myself, or give myself a failing grade, or do anything remotely dastardly that would convince me to not mess with myself as task master again.

But I recognize that my procrastinating tendencies can be a problem. I tend to start things with the best of intentions but then they fall by the wayside as I move on to something else. However, in my own defense, its not like Im incapable of finishing anything at all. After all, for the past several years weve had all our Christmas shopping done early, the cards out on time, and all the baking done. And occasionally I manage to surprise myself and follow a project through to completion (such as sponge-painting the dining room, or sewing and hanging curtains, or organizing the garage). But most of the time I will get almost all the way through, and then find something else that drags me away before the final pieces are complete. This would be why the molding was never put back on the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves in our bedroom (and why we have a large wad of tissues stuffed under one corner because there is a little bit of a draft there that the molding would likely cover if we would actually PUT IT BACK). This is also why there have been pencil marks on the wall of the claustrophobic toilet room in our master bathroom for probably over a year now, and cans of paint downstairs for the faux sky project I keep intending to get to, one of these days.

So this year I have decided that, of all the things that I could want for Christmas, the one thing I want most of all is a Finisher. I know such a thing does not exist, of course, but that does not prevent me from dreaming wistfully of getting one underneath my tree. In my imagination it looks kind of like a little house elf, but with lots and lots of arms that whirl around at top speed, and it mutters to itself in a squirrely little voice and there is a sound like a high-pitched motor when it darts here and there around the house while I watch in awe. Actually, I dont even want it under the tree. I want it zipping about the house while I sleep on Christmas Eve, doing what it is meant to be doing, which is finishing all the projects that I have started over the years and that still languish, dusty and undone.

The Finisher could start, for example, with the breakfast nook tree. The artistic friend who helped me start this thing has agreed with me that perhaps in hindsight we should have made it an oak tree something with really big leaves for which I could have created a nifty stencil or sponge and which would have been finished one heck of a lot sooner. But no, we picked teeny tiny leaves each one taking careful application of three different shades of green and that is before she even starts in on giving them their final realistic touches. I will let my artistic friend take care of the ending details, but if I had my very own Finisher, at least all the rest of the several thousand leaves still to be painted would be finished.

Next, the Finisher would move on to the sewing machine or rather, to the pile of half-finished curtain panels that have been sitting beside it, slowly gathering protective layers of cat hair as the feline members of this household make them into comfy little nests. I had the best of intentions for these curtain panels, and in my defense I did, over the course of about a year and a half, manage to plow through curtains for the computer room, double-panel curtains for the bedroom, and a set of lovely yellow ones for the dining room which hung for only a few days before we realized that they just werent going to do and replaced them with lace panels. So all that remains in this entire house in the way of curtains are the ones for the breakfast nook very simple tab panels in white cotton, with little tiebacks in blue. I cut the fabric and did half the pressing and hemmed up half the panelsbut that was quite likely almost a year ago. The Finisher would de-cat fur them, sew them, iron out all the wrinkles, and even hang them for me so I can finally get rid of that last set of temporary paper shades which have hung in those three windows for the nearly four years we have been in this house.

Because this is my fantasy, my Finisher would be super-speedy in getting all my tasks completed. Next it would tackle all that billing paperwork Ive been meaning to file for the past year, and it would organize all those photographs that are overflowing the cardboard box Ive been stuffing them in since 1992 (the last time I put a photo in an album). It would riffle through all those print-outs of all the recipes weve tried in our quest to expand our repertoire of healthy dinner ideas and copy them neatly into the cookbook I bought for this very purpose several months ago (but which has exactly two recipes copied into it so far), and it would also decipher my scribbled notes on the margins of those print-outs to incorporate all my recipe modifications so I dont have to try to remember every time whether or not I left in some crucial ingredient. It would move all that miscellaneous desk stuff from my old desk to my new desk the new desk that was built into the office and which has been there for nearly four years, drawers still mostly empty, waiting for me to do this very simple transfer. But my Finisher would immediately know what size organizing caddies would fit in the drawers and separate everything out by type and I would no longer have to extract my passport from a glob of Petromalt at the back of the miscellaneous drawer because it didnt have anywhere else to go. Oh, and speaking of my passport, the Finisher would also fill out and actually *mail* in the paperwork to get the darn thing updated with my new married name. Do I need to point out that I have had this new name now for over three years?

At our monthly craft night earlier this month the hostess asked each of us what one thing we wanted to work on for ourselves for the next year. And I immediately said that I needed to work on finishing things. So Santa, if youre listening, I could really use your help. Just one Finisher. I am even willing to forego my yearly request for a small, winged dragon (fire breathing optional). Just bring me a Finisher, even just one on loan. And in the meantime I swear Ill do my best to keep on working on those procrastinating tendencies so that next year maybe I wont need that Finisher underneath my Christmas tree.

I swear it, Santa. Ill get right on it. Just as soon as I finish this baby blanket Im knitting. Oh, and did you see that cute pattern for the afghan? And I have this great idea for painting stripes in the downstairs bathroom, and I was thinking that maybe I need to put together emergency kits for our cars, and one of these days I really need to get outside and weed the path in the backyard like I've been saying I'm going to do now for months, and while I'm out there I really ought to finally organize all those leftover rocks from when we built the raised flower bed so they dont lie in untidy heaps all over the ground for another year, and we really need to take the recycling to the recycling center, and, and, and

I think I am doomed.

This has been a Holidailies entry.

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