Held At Gunpoint By Your To Do List
I sit down at my computer to work - yes, work - and my mind is swarmed with the “have-to”s and “should”s of everyday life. You know the drill: an endless bombardment of emails, chores, grocery lists, menial tasks, handy jobs, and errands all clawing for my attention and insisting that they are the real problems in life. They push the productive part of my brain into a corner with its hands up, and wave a gun at it saying “Listen, bud. We’re here to stay, so you might as well get used to it. We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but you will have to deal with us sooner or later.”
Of course, they’re right. Those emails, all dressed up in their bold “new message” fonts and gaining in numbers quickly enough to throw a riot will soon need to be pacified. The handy tasks at home will hammer at my brain until I relent, and the chores will sit like fat french maids in the living room of my skull with their feet up. Strictly speaking, these unwelcome inhabitants aren’t going anywhere, and never will without my help. They are setting up camp in my brain and are taking up needless headspace I could be using for other things.
Other things like writing. As much as this militaristic government of tasks and to-dos would like to believe it is the be-all-end-all, the truth is, my mind should be serving a different ruler. It should be serving the majesty of manuscripts, the crown of creativity, the sovereign of scribbling . . . my creative side. While this tyrannical bunch of rebels have held my writing at gun-point – performed a “coup de task,” if you will – their strength is nothing compared to the power of the pen. It is, after all, mightier than the sword.
Or is it? If ink is truly more potent than their weapons, then why do they always end up backing me into a corner with my hands up? Why do I run off to do their bidding and leave my monarch of the muses to fend for itself? They could have gagged and tied up my creativity before I’m halfway through my email list, for all I know, and that’s no way to treat the rightful sovereign of my skull. If innovation is really the leader I should be obeying, then why do I always bow down to these cerebral bullies? Why do I let them use my prefrontal cortex as a punching bag and shove my creative leader into a corner, sighing and shaking its head?
Perhaps, as with any military government, the fear overwhelms the reason. Yes, I hate being the deprecated slave of checklists, but when they make you believe that you are powerless, you bow down to them . . . or else.
But when you take off their important uniforms and weapons, you are left with nothing more or less than the ordinary. They stand there in their underwear, bashful and exposed, asking to be excused for bothering you. When you strip them down to what they really are, they are everyday agents with squeaky voices, whining about the milk running out or a bill that needs to be paid. And when you get down to those ridiculous and insignificant basics, it makes you raise an eyebrow at what they are doing here in the first place. So they apologize for disturbing you and back out of the way; after all, they know you are a busy person with many important things to do, and they hate to get in the way of greatness.
So, while the battle of my brain is nowhere near won, and I will likely have to address these regenerating armies of assignments for years to come, it is comforting to strip these things down once in a while. Because when you take off the shoulder pads and steel-toed boots, you are left with scrawny, bare trivialities that back away into corners.
With them out of the way, an empty space is created in the spotlight of your mind. Then, creativity can stride out from the darkness, roll up its sleeves, and announce: “Now . . . where were we?"