Can’t relax until things are produced (Huff)

Home Column Can’t relax until things are produced (Huff)

I have a compulsion to produce. I don’t think it is an obsessive compulsion, but sometimes I would like to tone it down a bit. I often find myself lining up tasks in my brain when I would rather just forget about them. I am not sure what drives this. Perhaps it is a deep-seated remnant of human evolution that is part of the survival instinct. It might be called work ethic. Many things that I produce are more by choice than necessity, although those lines are also blurred. I cannot sit around and do nothing when the sun is shining. If I am engaging in a passive activity such as watching TV, I have to convince myself that there is nothing more important that I should be doing.

I am compelled while doing mundane tasks to complete the task to a certain level of quality. I suppose this is true of everyone to varying degrees. If I am washing the dishes, I sometimes feel the need to get serious and scrub the bottom of the pots to bring them back to top condition. This has nothing to do with the functionality of the pots, only some desire to see them shining. When mowing in the fields I sometimes literally find myself questioning if I am being compelled against my will to swing the tractor around in a circle just to get that one small spot that I missed. Sometimes I will go against the compulsion just to prove that I can. Is that weird?

Excessive compulsion can be crippling as with people who must count every stair step or go through a door in exactly the right way. Some people require things be spotlessly clean or must have everything exactly positioned in the correct way or they are not comfortable.

While compelled to produce, I do not require perfection. There are those who call themselves perfectionists and I am very happy that I am not one of them. I can satisfy myself with about 98 percent. My lawn will look good but not perfect. Our house is basically clean but not spotless and we tolerate some clutter because if we couldn’t, Charlotte and I would probably drive each other crazy. If I demanded perfection, it would be harder to produce musical recordings or build home projects and that would be a real loss for me. Much of my work is done in the macro world of the farm where meaningful progress takes a progression of broad strokes. Sometimes there is little satisfaction in working toward a big goal, but when that goal is reached, there is great satisfaction. My compulsion to produce keeps me inching toward the final result.

Whatever the motivation, I constantly feel that I need to be doing more. One completed recording calls for the next. Picking up these pinecones leads to picking up those pinecones. Spraying the weeds in the yard calls for spraying the fence lines and the pond weed. Clearing an area leads to stacking and burning the cleared debris which leads to improvement which leads to the desire for more improvement. I often lie in bed with my mind spinning, planning the most efficient way to accomplish the list of things that lie before me. Maybe it is the desire for order and the appreciation of beauty that drives this production. I am not comfortable sitting on my porch if the view is not pleasing. I am not content to let nature pile up around me. It can’t feel as good to sit on the porch if you haven’t worked to contribute to the pleasure.

This production is both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes envy the person who can live and be content without the constant need to produce. Luckily, I am able to allow myself to relax at times. After a day of some sort of production, I feel content to enjoy the fact that things have been accomplished. When in college, I studied hard all week but allowed myself from my last class on Friday until Sunday night to completely forget about schoolwork. I almost always reserve Sunday night as a time to decompress before starting a new week.

In truth, I have no choice in this matter. I am simply going in the direction that my brain points. Maybe the source of the motivation doesn’t really matter. I’m just being me.

More later.


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