Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 18, 2007

Creeping Chaos (No, it’s not the name of a band, but it could be…)

Half an hour to write a post… can it be done? For many people, half an hour is more than enough time to write a few paragraphs. For me– compulsive over-writer and re-writer and tangent-taker that I am– it’s a real challenge. But here we go anyway…

Now that I’m back home, I’m wrestling with my inner slob (call him Sloppy Mark for now), trying to get him to hold up his end of the workload on all the little summer projects we have hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles. (Look it up if I lost you… no time to explain or link metaphors.)

There’s the painting of the family room (paintcans have been sitting in the basement about six months now), the staining/protecting of the wood on our three big new windows, the preparations for Graham’s kindergarten, Mark’s preparations for a bigger class load in the fall, Sue teaching a freshman class for the first time ever, the put-off playdates, the untrimmed bushes we said we were gonna pull out anyway, …the doorbell, the telephone–Calgon, take me away! (remember that commercial?)

And the granddaddy of them all, the thing that’s been making me feel guilty and awful all summer as I’ve delayed dealing with it: my administrative and creative work as de facto multimedia coordinator for my church’s huge 50th anniversary celebration August 3rd and 4th. Sometimes I don’t know how I got to this place in life, where I’m the go-to guy for cheap or free techie type stuff. It’s all because I had some vague idea twenty years ago that I wanted to use television to do just that: “tell a vision”– to tell stories. I’m a word guy, a relationship guy, and a storyteller… not a cameraman, computer geek or natural born editor, with all the structured and up-to-date skills it takes to do those jobs. I know just enough about those formal skills and technologies that I can get by. But it never came naturally, something always goes wrong that I don’t know how to fix, and I end up aggravated right up to the end. And then my hard work doesn’t always show in the final product, which is often put off till the last minute, and probably just good enough to get by. Then in the end, I don’t have a strong sense that it was appreciated anyway, and I’m left wondering “What was the point of all that work?”

Or maybe I’m just insecure enough that people’s appreciation never gets through to me, so I go on feeling like a limping lout, a leader by default only, because I was the one dumb enough to say yes, to show up, to be available.

I think I used to do it for me: for the vague sense of being perceived as “the man” and the satisfaction of getting a thing done. Now I just miss the days when I could spend a guilt-free Saturday watching baseball or playing pinball, with few responsibilities, and no family or work or community responsibilities creeping in to bust my good groove and then make me start beating up on that poor inner slob.

Sloppy Mark’s never been anything but good to me, and yet I repay him with such malice. See? There it is. One more thing to feel guilty about. I don’t know if this is the definition of self-hatred, or something more benign and typical.

Whatever it is, though, I don’t like it. I’m pissed, and Sloppy Mark is just plain miserable.


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