KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
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.