The more assignments I create for myself, the more often I catch myself (too late!) raising a hand to volunteer to take on another project, the more I realize that insanity isn’t all that simple to achieve. If it were, I could get some rest. Sound familiar?
The problem is that rational thought, a prime factor of being sane, is an inhibitor of the ability to do nothing. And I believe people in general have an abundance of rationality. You may not think so, but hear me out.
When I refer to insanity, I am not talking about serious mental illness; that is a completely different topic involving a medical disorder or clinically diagnosable psychosis. The types of insanity I am referring to are garden variety, and they pop up in our oh-so-very ordinary lives. How often have you been immersed in activities that have the potential of being labelled foolish, idiotic, or just plain stupid?
I’ll offer a few examples to get this rolling, and then you can add your list here: deciding to completely remodel an old house while you’re still living in it, and then decide that, since you haven’t made quite enough of a mess yet, it would be interestingly artistic to raise the roof in a quarter of that house a whole five feet. Or deciding to co-chair an enormous fundraising event for a very worthwhile cause while you are in the process of raising that roof. Or committing to publish a bi-monthly blog that is hopefully amusing to read for lots of people. And then there’s the problem of being driven to finish your second novel. And all of this is going on at the same time.
Like the tasks and obligations we all take on every day, none of those four commitments could be considered foolish, idiotic, or just plain stupid, if they could be segregated out and placed on separate plates on the table. The straightjacket hypothesis arises because these four topics intersect one another; they weave, dodge, duck and ramble. All of those commitments are a bit like bindweed, that attractive nuisance with a suitable Latin moniker Convolvulus arvensis — it produces pretty little flowers that look a whole lot like morning glory, except that morning glory it isn’t. Sure, Convolvulus is a genus of the morning glory flower, but with bind-y, wind-y tendrils that are guaranteed to choke off your cultivated flower beds, if you let them. It’s hard to pronounce, too, which is probably why you can’t buy a flat of it at Lowe’s Home Improvement. But even if you skipped the Latin name and asked for a flat of bindweed at Lowe’s, the salesperson would just look at you funny.
So, rather than considering life to be a formal dinner party, I prefer to think of it as an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. Because, as with most people, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.
I was managing the cooktop of my life (and the front burner to back burner shuffle) pretty well, or so I’d thought, until our Construction Manager requested paint colors for the house.
COLOR? You want me to make serious, life-changing decisions for what color to paint the rooms inside my house?
And she was only going to allot me six days to do it. God had seven days to create the World. Couldn’t I have at least one more?
The simple answer was: No, Emily. You are not God. And from that, you should understand a whole lot more about reality. So, pick the colors already. How difficult is that?
In the meantime, I had been invited to be a participant in ReadCon, an event hosted by our local library district, with a bunch of Colorado authors. That same week, I was responsible for a Wrap-Up party for the big fundraiser, which Dr. K and I decided to host at The Mess (our house), and yes, I am still working on the next novel, Drinking the Knock Water. It’s a great story, gripping, in fact. I think you’ll like it. I’m at 76,000 words, not that I’m counting. Except that I needed to make a decision about the paint colors. No! Wait! Paint colors for my house-in-progress have absolutely nothing to do with what I needed to accomplish right now!
Which is why I thought I would ask the writer Edgar Allan Poe for his opinion.
Poe had a complicated and short life, dying at age 40, and as macabre as he might seem today, based on his literary works, studies hint that he was less of a murderous bent, less dragged down by lunacy, and in truth, more of a poetic ladies’ man. It makes me wonder, were women his downfall?
I saw him at the Author’s Event last Saturday night, and decided to ask him the question that was gnawing at my heart: what color should I paint the Dining Room?
“I know what you’re thinking,” I whispered in his (cardboard) ear. “You’re thinking that history precedes itself, that the decree has already been writ large by your biographers. You probably think I should paint the Dining Room blood red.”
Poe was silent for quite a time, and as I stood next to him, shifting from left foot to right, it occurred to me that I might look foolish, whispering to a cardboard cutout. But, I was at wit’s end; the clock was ticking its way down to the Color Decision Deadline. And then, I heard a sigh, and a sound softer than the brush of a raven’s wing.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. (Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven. 1845)
No one stood nearby, and Edgar’s slim form certainly hadn’t moved. Or had he? Had I been mistaken, or did I just see a shift of his eyes in my direction? If by chance the dark poet was listening to me and weighing my words, maybe I should try once more? “Green is appealing,” I told him. “It’s a relaxing color. But then, I could see where you might feel that red would be more dramatic, particularly in a Dining Room. . ..”
I trailed off, confused and feeling insecure. This was craziness, talking to a piece of cardboard!
Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. (Edgar Allan Poe. The Philosophy of Composition. 1846)
There it was again, that voice, a whisp of chiffon curtain, carried on the night air. And in the brief quietness that encircled us, uniting Edgar and me for a hairsbreadth in time, I came to understand the intemperance of insatiability.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @. Life inspired. Vodka tempered.