There are (at least) two kinds of people in the world. Firstly, those who thrive on the big moments, you know the kind; they pronounce (again and again) that they plan to embark on something momentous, be it a project or a new love. Sometimes you lose touch with them, and when you meet them again or hear some news, it is inevitably boring: Never finished, didn’t do it, back to where I/they started (looking for something new to get excited about for five minutes).
I belong to the kind who also makes big pronouncements, but generally get on with it, because somehow in the articulation I strike up a contract with myself and then I am bound to it, otherwise I have to deal with my own disappointment. While this is probably the more productive of the two (the thesis gets written), it’s not necessarily better, because I’m pretty sure forcing yourself to do something because of a fear of failure can be as hellish as doing nothing for the same reason.
Apart from the obvious (slacking vs. doing), there isn’t a clear-cut line between slackers and doers in terms of motion. As the philosophe reminded me the other day (in a brilliant Dr. Phil moment), the over-achievement streak is potentially as stand-still as the other. In other words, if all you are is a slave to the idea of achievement, rather than to the achievement itself, you are equally in danger of not getting anywhere that actually matters.
It was a sobering reminder (prone as I am to The Ambition). Still, I can say that apart from the thankfully (/relatively) rare moments that my brain kicks into robot mode, I do get real pleasure out of the things that I pursue, and that is one of the exquisite luxuries of my life. And not only in the completion of the things, but also in the pursuit, and that’s the important thing. Of course 8 out of 10 days that you work on something it’s boring, as are lengths 18-76 of an 80 length swim. But as John Lennon suggested when he said something along the lines of life happening when you’re busy making other plans, echoing someone else with a very Zen twist (“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood, carry wood”), most of the good stuff happens between the crests of the waves, because that’s where most of time is, and damn, sometimes you find the most unexpected pleasures in the lulls: a smile to welcome you back from a shit day at work; a forgotten bottle of wine that infuses an ordinary Thursday evening with something extraordinary.
Alas, not all the time. I just tried my hand at baking muffins again. I only did it because I know I can’t, and that infuriates me. I know what I’m looking for: I need a muffin top, a crusty crust, a bready (rather than cakey) crumb, a very subtle sweetness. How bloody hard can it be? I’ve tried I don’t know how many recipes. I’ve been careful not to overmix. I’ve resisted tweaking. I can bake a beautiful loaf of bread and a kick-ass chocolate cake. I even baked my own wedding cake! See:
But, no, not the MUFFIN, that most standardised, industrialised, bastardised piece of obese confectionary when it goes wrong (ie. the monstrosities they sell at Vida and Mugg&Bean), but the perfect marriage between bread and cake when it goes right. I am undone.