Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Steady as She Goes

It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
~ Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1474-1564

Sitting at this desk in a brown-tiled room, a fire blazing on a chilly—but not yet cold—November morning, it becomes apparent to me that I am a Spurter. One-who-spurts. Better yet, I should say: One-Who-Does-Things-in-Spurts. I’m certain that this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me; so indeed, it’s not really a surprise even to me. Recognition, however, comes a little slow for my mercurial and somewhat exhausted brain.

But it’s true: almost anything I’ve ever done—and done well—has been in a great spurt of inspiration or information or necessity: writing a college essay (night before, cram cram), reading a book (all in one sitting, no matter the tomb), writing a novel (I’m a sixteen-plus pages at a time sort of writer), cleaning the house (flurry of activity, Windex, Lysol, vacuum, oh my!), hiking a trail (turn around now, are you kidding?!), catching up with friends (all of them, all in one day), and even deciding to have a baby (okay, maybe I won’t go there.) “Slow and steady wins the race” has never been my adage of choice, and perhaps it should be. Perhaps those plodders, the successful, steady-as-she-goes types, are onto something. Maybe there’s a potion.

It can’t be easy to live with, this spurting tendency of mine. Since we dated for three years before becoming engaged, I think my husband may have had some sort of idea what he was getting into. But then, we’d never lived together before, so the day to day reality of this odd aspect of my nature may still be an annoyance… even after six years of marriage. Yeesh. As we’ve grown together, we try to plan, to budget, to make lists. These are all practical antidotes for the spurting. They help at times; at others they’re just stop-gap. My fifteen month-old daughter doesn’t seem to mind the spurting, though she may be too young at this point to recognize that Mama is a little nuts. Or maybe, heaven forbid, she’s a spurter, too. Maybe there’s a potion.

The dog is definitely a spurter: this I knew the day I brought her home from the breeder and she went skidding full-tilt around the hardwood floors of the beachhouse I was renting at the time; or, when she bounded—at all of six weeks old and about the size of a loaf of bread—into the rough Atlantic, only to be pummeled by a monster wave. She’s still that way, gazelling up steep trails in her late-middle-age, high on joy, then crashing on our couch for hours after. The lulls between spurts, for both of us—my dog and me—are getting longer. This does not bode well for future productivity.

At times I long to be one of the plodders, those whose houses stay clean for months on end, the ones who train for marathons a year away, whose lives are clear and unworried and neat, those steady, accomplished people. Michelangelo was steady. It took him four years each, give or take, to both sculpt the David and paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. During each of those times he was also commissioned for, and completed, other works—including architectural projects and paintings. Inspired? Surely. But also determined, prepared, steady. Most would say that Michelangelo was a master, a true genius. He felt differently: “If you knew how much work went into it,” he would say, “you would not call it genius.”

So there’s the goal: to marry the inspired, the passion, with the steady, the deliberate. In the meantime, I bow to you, Plodders. Keepers-of-the-schedules. Master Buonarroti, always. My elderly, across the street neighbor, who raises her American flag every morning at 7:35 a.m. You are the producers. That I may, one day, be one.

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