Maybe it could be different

 

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It’s Not This Time of Year Without… insane traffic, crowded shopping malls, the premature  stress of shopping and last minute to-do lists enhanced by premature decorations,accelerated consumption, marketing created traditions, the same songs playing in loop, awkward get-togethers and the promises that next year, yes, next year it will be different.

My eternal to do list

One day I’ll stop watching Poirot reruns and start organizing.


I will tame  the chaos after finally putting to use hours of reading “how to declutter” posts.


I will give my closets the professional organizer treatment and end up with a curated wardrobe of classical pieces.


I will stop buying every piece of vintage luggage that crosses my path because I will not need the extra storage space anymore.


I will keep only what is necessary.


And will try to convince myself that minimalism is sexy.


I will stop trying to keep all the things my granddad used to collect.


And after I have managed to strip my life off all the frivolity , I will finally have the time to read all the books lying around.


I have never crossed any item of this to do list. Either because I’m too lazy or too busy procrastinating.


Or because I can’t force my maximalist nature to become something else and pretend I don’t find beauty in the poetry of everyday chaos.

 

 

 

The Poetry of List-Making

Things I do when procrastinating 

I’m  the worst procrastinator I know. I do write do to lists and visualize results and even tried to follow one or more of the popular productivity methods and tools out there and have read countless articles and posts on how to beat procrastination to no success.

Things linger until the last minute because “performing better under pressure” seems  to be my favourite excuse. Things get done but the end result is seldom as good as it could or should be. My flat mate at university used to say I was a “perfectionist afraid of perfection”. This was, of course, only a polite or kind way of stating the obvious. I was, and still am, a typical procrastinator. I avoid what has to be done. I put off projects and beginnings because the optimal conditions are never present, they will materialize tomorrow. Or Someday,  which, according to me, actually seems to be a weekday.

I am the kind of person that thinks I can do it all even if, at the same time, I am pretty sure that I am incapable of doing anything at all. Reading   James Surowiecki’s  article Later – What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?,  I was thrilled to discover myself in one of the paragraphs:

Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.

Just like General McClellan, I excel at planning. Realizing – making those plans  “real” – is not something that I feel confident enough to do. I tend to get lost in the wonder of new knowledge and the beauty of concepts. This was never as evident to me as when when I needed to write my PhD thesis. I had procrastinated ( a lot) during the dreaded writing phase of my master’s dissertation but managed to bring myself to do nothing else for a whole month and finish it. After all, the only “procrastination hack” that really works it’s the “just do it” one.

To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing…

Pablo Picasso

Unfortunately it was not that simple while attempting to write a lengthy, “formal document that argues in defence of a particular thesis”. I kept changing focus and approaches and adding material to my reading list and daydreaming about doing something else. One of my plans at the time was to become a découpage artist instead of continuing up (or down) an academic career path and for a few days I devoted myself to upcycling my Aldo wedge sandals into a pair of shoes that maybe Frida Kahlo would use. I’ve never been happier about the results of my action as inaction approach.

You can check the results of my procrastination or even take them home with you, here.

Spiral 

For a few moths, after I hurt my knee doing a “remate” during a rehearsal for a flamenco show, I was afraid of stairs. For a few months, every step required thinking. Walking downstairs was especially difficult, the rule that tells you to walk up as a little kid would do, doesn’t really apply when going down. The movement becomes mechanized and painful. The rhythmic fluidity of walking down is gone and you are left with a bust metronome that can’t actually keep the time.

Being somewhat of a drama queen, I thought this was going to last forever. I tried to reinvent myself as some kind of replicant, to come up with  a cyberpunk character to match my armor knee brace. For three months or so I looked like an extra on The Matrix and even though I felt vulnerable and generally afraid of stairs, escalators and crowded places, wearing a medical device as a fashion statement felt empowering. I don’t even know if people stared, it didn’t matter if they did. I suppose that’s what “power dressing” means, to me at least.

Every day I would go out to work in my warrior costume and every day at 12 I would go to physiotherapy and would have to climb up and down the hospital staircases as a form of exercise.  As much as this was a daily routine, seeing it in a metaphorical way is almost unavoidable. Steps as obstacles to be surpassed, stairs as progression and stairs as regression. In this case coming down just took a lot longer than a real fall.

The fact that I got hurt to the sound of La Leyenda del Tiempo strikes me as both ironic and enlightening. I  hurt myself for not paying attention to what I was doing while feeling the music that gives life to a wonderful poem that makes life sound as a mad galloping spiral staircase in constant movement. All of a sudden I was back down at the starting step trying to convince myself that it wasn’t as serious as it looked, a few days of ice packs and everything would be back to normal.

It was serious, and it involved convincing my restless self that it was a step at a time kind of situation and still, from certain angles, all staircases are spirals of infinite movement, how do you to get back in when understanding how you have managed to fall out is difficult enough?

I’d love to wear a rainbow everyday 

I have started dressing in black in my late 20s. Before that I used to wear what I now think of as very loud and over the top colorful outfits that, in a way, were in direct contradiction with a tendency for existential nausea.

I do not remember if black was a conscious choice or it just happened that I started to resemble myself more while retreating into some kind of invisibility at the same time.

Now, dressing in black does have, sometimes,  the same burden of the “perpetual  mourning” for the state of the world and I identify with every single line on this song.  How could I possibly wear “bright colors on my back”? Black helps me not to manifest emotions in ways that would most probably lead me to a nervous breakdown.

Not everyday does dressing in black assume this suffocating grief for “our suffering age”.  In all its absence, black is full of contradictions. The color of oppression and rebellion, the color of religious Puritans and bondage fetishists, the uniform of authority and intellectual nonconformity.

In all its “poetic beauty” black allows me to write a different story everyday. This song is often part of the soundtrack.

References

Johnny Cash

Charles Baudelaire

Rebecca Willis via Feelguide

Paint it black 

Ms. Berta’s beaded jersey 

Ms. Berta used to own an antique / vintage store at Galerias Lumière in Porto. Now reborn into a beautifully retro gourmet, design space quoted on most
tourist and “what to do in Porto” guides, these galleries opened in 1978 as one of the first shopping centers in Porto. Most of us growing up in the 80s remember the space as a movie theater with two cinema rooms (A and L). The cinemas closed down in 1997 and are now a parking lot, others businesses, like the store that sold all sorts of collectibles from coins to stamps to postcards and pocket calendars slowly died.

I started going to Ms. Berta’s store when I was in high school, which means I was mostly a window shopper kind of client until I built up the courage to get in and graduate into the browser / snooper kind. I was fascinated by the antique jewelry and lace gloves but the first thing a managed to buy from her was a 1960s handbag that I still own. This coral beaded jersey was bought on the last month or so before Ms. Berta closed her shop for good. I remember the day, I remember fragments of the conversation and that she had a friend and her grandson with her. Sadly I don’t remember the exact date. This was the first time I understood buying vintage clothes as creating bonds. It was her jersey. She had had it made for her and was letting it go. A piece of someone’s story that, unfortunately, faits a little too big on me. I’m also ready to let it go.