Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Wasted Life?

However hard I try, I am not the tidiest person in the world; I have also known people who are far untidier than I am.

Nowadays my untidiness doesn’t much bother me but, at one time, it did! When I was in my twenties and thirties we lived in a very nice little modern house, in a row of identical houses, all inhabited by young parents. Quite often we would baby-sit for one another - and at that time it bothered me a great deal! I would come home from an evening in a house that was identical to my own, feeling quite depressed that somehow I could never achieve the kind of tidiness that my neighbours did.

Looking back I can see that my life was somewhat different from the others in that I had so many ‘hobbies’ that invariably required more storage than the tiny house provided so there always seemed to be ‘clutter’ around!

Our next house was a Victorian one and it seemed to provide a solution. Older houses seem to ‘absorb’  my kind of untidiness; in fact I don’t worry about it any more as long as I can find what I need!

But recently I was looking for the ‘Terms and Conditions’ of my Home Emergency Service provider before making a phonecall to change to a different provider. It wasn’t where I thought it was and I ended up turning out my overstuffed filing cabinet, removing the oldest papers to make room for new ones. I was soon drowning under a sea of paper as I sorted things into piles for recycling, for shredding etc - when a tiny scrap of paper floated out from somewhere with something scribbled on it -

‘a tidy house is a sign of a wasted life’

It set me wondering, what is a ‘wasted life’? 

I’m not sure that we can ever say for certain that anything is truly wasted but it does seem to me that not doing our utmost to reach our full potential is a waste of our lives.

It was hearing a sermon, some years ago, on the parable of the ‘talents’ that brought this home to me forcefully and led to me taking a first step back into painting, after a gap of several years, by volunteering to help with the scenery for the church drama group’s upcoming production, Dick Whittington. 

Maybe Dick Whittington, in boldly setting out to seek his fortune in London, was, in a way, trying to reach his full potential. He did, after all, end up as Lord Mayor of  London!

So what is it that can hold us back from being all that we have it in us to be?

  • ‘Parental expectations’ is one of the culprits that springs immediately to my mind. My two oldest sisters, both became primary school teachers and I always assumed that was their choice. But the younger of the two, when she was approaching retirement age, confided in me that she had never wanted to teach, but that our parents had expected her to follow in her older sibling’s footsteps. What she really wanted to do was open an Art and Craft shop and we began to make plans to do this together as soon as she retired. But she died suddenly within a couple of months so she never got around to doing what she would have been happiest doing. A cautionary tale! I’ve known others who realise, late in life, that they are still working to ‘repay’ their parents for all they’ve done for them by following the career of their parents' choosing and not their own.
  • Fear of failing.
  • Unwillingness to ‘rock the boat’ because we have grown comfortable as we are.
  • Social and peer pressure to maintain the status quo, to be the sort of person we’ve always been and never venture outside the box we’ve created for ourselves.
  • The fear that if we go our own way, strike out on our own path, we’ll be seen as selfish, by ourselves as well as by others.
  • The need to ‘keep up appearances’  and this is where ‘tidiness’ may come in!

    Do you feel that you're working towards reaching you full potential? If not, maybe this is the moment to begin - better late than never!

    'It's never too late to be what you might have been,'
      George Eliot



    UmmSuhayb said...

    Hehe! I needed this. I do try to tell myself that the living room is for 'living' in and living inevitably creates mess. That's why people have drawing rooms if they have space, so it's ready for unexpected guests who dmight not appreciate the mess!
    Making hay while the sun shines is a phrase in my head nowadays as the weather is so nice but could change any minute, so I've been up the allotment a fair bit.
    Reading 'feel the fear..and do it anyway' - mixed feelings about the exercises in the book , but the general concept rings true!

    art2cee2 said...

    Wonderful post. You probably hit home to a lot of people. I am a neat freak myself, but my studio is kind of a mess (which is in my basement) and sometimes I can't find what I am looking for even though I know its there somewhere. It is an orderly mess. Everything is put away, its just finding it. I love your quotes...and your illustrating sketches. I have learned that life is too short to worry about doing laundry on a nice day. Which is why I got nothing done this past weekend going, going, going with my guests. Today I rest. Then its back to what I need to do.

    Kerra Lindsey said...

    Judy--what a fantastic write-up! Love the referencing to our parents and social peer pressure. Our 'living room' is just that--lived in. We have four boys and a big old dog. The main room and the kitchen are entry points for guests, so they get the most attention. Our downstairs? No holds barred down there! That's where the boys play music, guitars and xbox and I have my working studio. It's my favorite part of the house and no matter what, everyone always gravitates down there. No one seems to care if the pillows are across the floor, my paints and paper are spread out across my table and toys scattered around. It's a favorite and a total waste to keep it immaculate. Who wants to play in a room that you feel like you'd 'mess up' if you used it? Not me or anyone else who visits our home. Psst: you're welcome anytime if you come across the pond. We can have coffee and paint to our hearts content amongst the 'chaos' of our play area. :)
    Cheers! -Kerra

    Judy Adamson said...

    Hi Louise - glad this came at the right moment! The (with-)drawing room is a nice idea - I grew up in a house with one. But does anyone still have one?

    Hi Crystal - I like the idea of an 'orderly mess'. That's what I tell myself mine is. But when I really, really tidy up is when I can never find anything!

    Hi Kerra - I know what you mean about houses where you feel afraid of messing things up. They're a nightmare! And thank you for the invitation - you're welcome to come and play in my attic at the top of my house any day too!

    Itaya Art said...

    Wonderful post Judy! I've often felt it had to do with my artistic and creative side as to why I can't keep everything perfectly in order. I'm very organized but like you I too always seem to have several projects going. Some areas are easier for me to keep organized in the house but my creative area is pure organized chaos at the moment. :) I do seem to get better and better with it all as I get older but still not quite there yet. It's nice to know I'm in good company. :) Love your illustrations!

    Country Mouse Studio said...

    Really interesting article and so true. After having worked in Senior's homes I've decided that a wasted life is one filled with unforgiveness and regret. People seem to get stuck there when they get older. And it's so true never leave anything for later, you really can't be sure you're going to have tomorrow.

    Judy Adamson said...

    Thank you for your comments, Itaya and I'm glad you like my little 'doodles'. I find that doing little 'thumbnails' for my blog, makes sure I keep drawing reasonably regularly, even in busy times.

    I think I'm getting 'worse' as I get older but on the other hand, it bothers me less.

    Judy Adamson said...

    Hi Carole - thank you for stopping by. I completely agree with you about getting stuck in unforgiveness and regret! I know someone who seems to have been 'stuck' in unforgiveness for years and I can see firsthand how it keeps her totally 'stuck'! It uses such a lot of energy and attention and I think it's such a waste of her life! As for 'regret' - as I wrote about my sister, I've seen that firsthand too!

    I've just remembered a Picasso quote that seems very pertinent: 'Only put off to tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone'.

    Pretty Petal Handmade said...

    Thanks so much for writing this post, its exactly what goes through my head at the moment - especially as you have said, when I've been to peoples houses who have children but somehow seem to keep them clean!?? I soon have come to realise these people dont work from home therefore, how can I be expected to find "tidy" space for everything!

    Really enjoyed reading this, thanks for mentioning it to me x

    Judy Adamson said...

    Hi Pretty Petal - I'm glad you found my post useful! Seeing all your lovely handmade creations on your blog, it's no wonder there are a few stray bits and pieces about, especially with small children around! I think it actually makes for a much more relaxing environment for guests as well as the family!

    Looking forward to meeting you, hopefully on 25th April, but if that doesn't work out, I'm sure we can fix another time.

    UmmSuhayb said...

    Waqar' mum has a drawing room, she is very polite about the mess when she comes here- even attempts to tidy it on occasions!

    Judy Adamson said...

    Yes, it can be very tricky knowing whether tidying up is 'helping' or just drawing attention to the 'untidiness'. It's probably always best to ask first.

    Betsy Grant said...

    Interesting post. I like what you had to say about depending on what others think of us to shape our thoughts and actions. It takes strength of character to follow the direction of our own choosing regardless of the opinion of others.

    Judy Adamson said...

    Thank you, Betsy. Yes, I wrote about that from personal experience so I know it can be difficult. But when you want something enough, it makes it easier to follow one's own 'calling', though I don't think it is ever easy in the face of opposition or discouragement from others.