I’ve done the math, and assuming my calculations are correct (which you should not assume if you believe math should only be done by trained professionals, or at least people who regularly add 7+5 and get 12 every time) I spend 73.8% of every day trying to get other grownups to do what they are supposed to do. Of the remaining 26.2% of my day, 23% is trying to get my kids to do what they are supposed to do, and 3.2% involves cookies. Cookies always do what they are supposed to do, and they do it pleasantly.
I promise you that I don’t expect or really want anyone to go above and beyond. If someone goes above and beyond, it only makes me feel like a slacker. Which I might be, but I don’t want to feel that way. So just do what you are supposed to do and be done with it.
This seems like such an incredibly low standard that it should be met with some regularity. But it isn’t. Sure, I prefer things the way I prefer them, but I know that D is for Done and that’s all I want. I’m not a neat freak, I’m not a Type-A Nut Job, I’m not especially anal retentive (the prunes have helped), but I do have standards. Low ones, but standards nonetheless.
For example, the rest of the house may look like the Crips and Bloods had it out once and for all in my living room, but I want my kitchen and bathroom clean. The places with running water. The places where I eat and where I make myself and my various parts clean. And yet…..and yet…..my one hard and fast rule is that when I get home from work there shouldn’t be breakfast dishes in the sink. As there is a retired adult in my house and two children who, while they were always be my babies, are five foot five and five foot nine respectively, so everyone can reach as high as I can reach. Therefore, between the three of them you’d think someone would rinse out a cereal bowl from time to time and fling it in the dishwasher.
You’d think wrong.
I’m the only one who seems to be even vaguely aware of the mildew that grows in the toilet, sometimes to the point where it has begun to evolve into a sentient being capable of starring in its own reality show. I think this is a vision thing. Like color blind people can’t tell red from green, my family members can’t tell dirty from clean. No, the kitchen isn’t clean if there are still crumbs on the counter. No, the bathroom isn’t clean if there is enough hair on the floor to gather up and knit a sweater with. (Yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. Get over your pedantic self.)
I wish it were all as easily fixable as swiping a paper towel across a countertop and swirling a brush in a toilet bowl. If the problem were only cleaning and my family, I could fix it. (Maybe?)
Nope. Getting people to show up for appointments is a problem. Getting people to respond to important questions is a problem. Getting people to return phone calls is virtually impossible. So many times at work I am asked a question that begins, “When will……..?” When will anything? Couldn’t tell you. I can tell you when I will do something, but that’s where my control and knowledge ends. My crystal ball is broken, and the best I can do is tell you when another grownup should do something, not when they will. Sometimes I can’t even get people to respond when them doing it involves me giving them money. It is ten times as hard when I need someone to do something that doesn’t get them any money or – gasp – might cost them something.
We’re all human, I know, and we all do what we can to get through the day. Sometimes things slip through the cracks, sometimes we forget, and sometimes something more important comes along. But how long does it take to shoot an email that says, “I haven’t forgotten you, I just got swamped?”
I’m a doer. I like getting things done. I don’t mind working, and I live for the feeling of accomplishment that comes from the pride of a completed task. I cannot bear the inability to complete a task because of a failure on someone else’s part to hear the Call of Duty. The only thing that prevents me from a full screaming banshee tantrum including the clawing-out-of-eyeballs-of-the-offender(s) is an enormous amount of self control.
To paraphrase Leviticus, do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, nor shall you fail to do what you need to do so that others can get stuff done. To paraphrase the Serenity Prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control; the strength (and stamina) to control the things I can; and the wisdom not to send death threats to those whose inability to act responsibly gets in my way.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.