KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - FIONA LOONEY Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

I need to start sweat­ing the small stuff. The big stuff, I’m really good at. Write 1,500 words by tea-time? Why, of course! A play by Christ­mas, you say? Have two — they’re small. A de­posit of €150 for a school tour to Paris? I’ve the cheque book right here. But the small stuff? Not a chance. Re­mem­ber those 1,500 words? Could you pos­si­bly write an­other 200, de­scrib­ing your­self? I won’t, thanks. Could you change the name of one of those characters in the play? No, I couldn’t be both­ered. And I’ll also be need­ing €2 for a cake sale. Sing for it.

It has been ever thus. As a child, I once spent months lov­ingly cut­ting out, sewing, stuff­ing and mak­ing clothes for a rag doll from scratch — and then never both­ered giv­ing her a face. I came across her re­cently in my par­ents’ at­tic, and she’s still as fresh as she ever was: pretty, but de­cid­edly va­cant.

I am ca­pa­ble of spend­ing days — weeks, even — work­ing on a project that I then don’t bother in­voic­ing for. And it’s not even as if I for­get: I just sim­ply can’t be both­ered de­vot­ing the five min­utes it would take to com­plete the pa­per­work (if I’ve re­cently worked for you and you’re now read­ing this in un­ex­pected de­light, then don’t get too ex­cited — I do usu­ally get around to th­ese things even­tu­ally). In or­der to ful­fil a deal, I re­cently wrote an en­tire sit­com but then failed to de­liver a 200-word bi­og­ra­phy that would ac­ti­vate the con­tract.

At best, I am the only one in­con­ve­nienced by my in­abil­ity to en­gage with the small print of life. But the kids suf­fer too. I am ex­cel­lent at mak­ing nu­tri­tious school lunches, and even bet­ter at for­get­ting to put them into the school­bags. I will spend hours at par­ent- teacher meet­ings and par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion meet­ings and even the scary talks about the in­ter­net and drugs — but can I be both­ered to sign a jour­nal ev­ery Thurs­day? No, I can­not.

On more than one oc­ca­sion, I’ve wel­comed home a down­cast (and hun­gry) child who’s had to ‘share’ an­other un­for­tu­nate’s lunch, while theirs has re­mained proudly on the kitchen unit for the whole school day.

And I’m fairly sure that in the sec­ondary school, there are teach­ers who can’t quite be­lieve that an un­signed home­work jour­nal is

‘I am ex­cel­lent at mak­ing nu­tri­tious lunches, and even bet­ter at for­get­ting to put them in the school-bags’

the fault of a par­ent, and not a child. Ac­tu­ally, to be bru­tally hon­est, it’s prob­a­bly a bit of both. And maybe it’s be­cause I’m be­gin­ning to see the symp­toms of not sweat­ing the small stuff in the two older chil­dren — dis­cov­er­ing, on the morn­ing of the Ju­nior Cert maths exam, that The Teenager did not own a ge­om­e­try set was some­thing of a turn­ing point — that I’m start­ing to think that it’s high time I pulled up my own socks.

To this end, I turn to that wis­est and most re­li­able source of good coun­sel: the in­ter­net. And there, I dis­cover that not sweat­ing the small stuff is ap­par­ently more de­sir­able than break­ing out over the de­tails. A man called Richard Carl­son has even writ­ten a book, ar­gu­ing to that end. His most pop­u­lar quote, the in­ter­net tells me, is this: ‘Some­thing won­der­ful be­gins to hap­pen with the sim­ple re­al­i­sa­tion that life, like an au­to­mo­bile, is driven from the in­side out, not the other way around. As you fo­cus more on be­com­ing more peace­ful with where you are, rather than fo­cus­ing on where you would rather be, you be­gin to find peace right now, in the present.’

Now, I don’t mean to take on ei­ther the au­thor or the in­ter­net, but what on earth has that to do with post­ing off che­ques you’ve for­got­ten to sign (an­other hobby of mine)? Where, in fo­cus­ing on be­com­ing more peace­ful with where you are, is there a help­ful hint for how to re­mem­ber to put a lunch into a school-bag?

So I think I might have to write a book of my own. In it, I shall point out that if you drive your car in­side out, then you’ll most likely be mown down by ap­proach­ing traf­fic. Also, I’ll men­tion that you can’t buy a car in the first place if you never in­voice for work you’ve done, or if you don’t sign the cheque.

But mainly, I’ll be fo­cus­ing on the fact that chil­dren don’t care that you can write two plays si­mul­ta­ne­ously when you can’t man­age to put their lunch in their bags. Trust me: sweat the small stuff. The big stuff won’t quite take care of it­self, but some­times the really big screw-ups are just eas­ier to ex­plain.

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