Wednesday, April 22, 2009


There's a product on the market called "Short Cuts"--which, for those not familiar with it, is a package of cut-up chicken or turkey breast available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and aimed at harried, time-challenged shoppers so they can grab it and quickly toss it on a salad or something without actually having to cook an entire chicken and chop it into bite-sized pieces in their 10 minutes of prep time before dinner. (Yes, that was a very long sentence, but when I feel stressed out, I think in run-ons...)

Short Cuts/Shortcuts are very useful on occasion (I bought some this week), but I know they can't solve my underlying problem, which is that I just don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I imagine I should do. Sometimes that's a matter of priority--I want something "done," but I don't want to be "doing" it. Actually, that's the problem for me most of the time. I want my Fairy Godmother (where's that elusive chick hiding?!) to magically wash the dishes, organize my office and write Chapter 21 with the necessary-but-emotionally-taxing-scene-I've-been-avoiding...

It's just that I'm finding there seem to be no real shortcuts. To anything. Anywhere. That for me, at least, any accomplishment I value requires dealing with ALL of the steps in the process--in order, without skipping a single one, no matter how annoying or painful it is and no matter how long it takes.

I want there to be a health and fitness pill, and there isn't one (shocker). I want there to be a magical hair-care product that will once and for all get rid of frizziness and split ends (yeah, I know, good luck with that). I want a detailed checklist of everything I need to do (foreseen and as-yet unseen) before October...and, also, I want someone else to help me deal with all of the items on that list. But, unfortunately, that's not the way life--at least not in my experience--works. The most critical and necessary elements of any truly important thing in my life (not my hair so much, but my health and my writing career, for instance :-) require a sequence of steps that can't be skimmed over or done by anyone else. Others might be able to assist with a handful of details, but the BIG stuff--well, that has to be done by me alone.

But I guess the good news is that this forces me to prioritize, even when I don't want to. There may an activity I profess to value, but if I'm not following it up with action--if I'm not choosing it--then I have to admit to myself I don't value it as much as I thought. At that point, I then have to then decide: Am I willing to work at this without the excuses and the whining? Or am I willing to just let this go?

Ever feel like that about anything?


Ann Victor said...

oh too true! Since February I've been forced by circumstances to prioritize and it's amazing how much more efficient one becomes!!

But, as a vegetarian, luckily for me we have a store called Woolworths that sells define pre-prepared veg food (risotto to die for!) Saves an immense amount of time as I don't have cook two meals (my husband wants meat!) :)

Caryn Caldwell said...

Oh, Marilyn, I am so with you on this! I would probably be less frantic if I didn't sometimes take breaks to do something I really wanted to do instead of something I should, but what is the point of life if you spend all of your time just doing things you should? So, yes, it's a matter of priorities. I do wish, though, that I wouldn't feel so guilty when I choose wants over shoulds. It would make the wants much more fun.

Robin said...

Everything you just said, Marilyn, applies to me too! Phew, I'm glad to know I'm not the only frantic one. I'm always saying there aren't enough hours in the day, and why, oh why, can't I survive on four hours of sleep a night?

But we do get the important things done. WE DO. And I think we all understand how everyone just is busier nowadays.

p.s. If you ever find that fairy, will you send her my way? :)

Marilyn Brant said...

Ann~I wanna try that risotto!! We have a place called Trader Joe's and they have some really good vegetarian stuff, too. I know how much it helps having pre-chopped veggies :-).

Caryn~you're right, it's that guilt--ack! Sometimes we just *really need* breaks from the demands around us, though, or we (meaning "I" :) hit that slightly deranged zone...

Robin~LOL! I will happily share that fairy with you if she EVER shows up! I checked in the closet, checked in the crawl space, checked under my son's bed: no fairy.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great post- I really wanted to add my thoughts in the mix but I keep erasing them-why? Because you said it all perfectly. Please remember- you are not alone. We're all right there slogging through with you!


L.A. Mitchell said...

I hear you, Marilyn. I'm having a funky week myself. I love your line about wanting to experience all aspects of anything of value. So true. {{{hugs}}}

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy~Thank you :). It helps knowing I'm not the only one struggling with this...

L.A.~Thanks for the {{hugs}}--I needed that--and am wishing you good luck during your funky week :).

Brett said...

I'm convinced that we just have way more stuff to do these days & more things filling our time than we did back in the "simpler times"! It's so hard to stay caught up with all of the constant to-do lists.

I think the solution is to get a houseboy. :)

Nadine said...

Great point at the end about discovering what you truly value doing except for me, I honestly have never managed to eliminate anything except "cleaning".

I love to cook but I absolutely detest housework so for a few years, when I was working at a bank and could afford it, I had someone come in every two weeks and I was so happy I could have cried. Now I find myself having to add cleaning to working/writing/blogging/reading/keeping up with friends/cooking/showering/waxing/sleeping and very occasionally, taking advantage of island living. That's why I want to kill my mother when she berates me for using canned instaed of dried beans, or canned instead of fresh broth in my cooking. And for constantly reminding me of how lazy I am to her by comparaison since she raised three kids and I have none. It's brutal. Why do women feel the need to be Superwomen, and consider themselves failures with anything less? I don't know a single man who thinks like this.

PS - have you ever considered a relaxer? My sister has SUPER curly hair and recently had it relaxed. It changed her life. There are much better (ie: easier on your hair) options for that nowadays.

Marilyn Brant said...

Brett~HA!!! Oh, we are so gonna have to talk about this "houseboy" idea... :)

Nadine~you are NOT lazy for using canned products--jeez! I know how you feel, though. The women in my family are all these Super Cooks who spent years honing their secret recipes for everything and protecting their kitchen turf like a battlefield. Some of them get remarkably defensive about it...it's exhausting. (As for a relaxer--I haven't looked into it--guess I should. :)

Nadine said...

I've been wavering on the relaxer issue for about 10 years now... Most people I know who had it done love it. My hair is wavy/frizzy but I've been taming it with blowdriers for so long that it just cowers into obedience as soon as it feels a blast of hot air. So I'm managing without the relaxer, but if you hate blowdriers, it's a good option.

And yeah... my mom is pretty manic about her recipes too. Not that I don't love her cooking, but it takes her on average 2-3 hours per dish EVERYDAY. Where the heck am I supposed to find that kind of time ??

As for chicken shortcuts, I buy the skinless/boneless variety and poach in wine or packaged chicken stock for 20 min. It's not terribly flavorful, but it's quick and better than the pre-packaged "grilled" chicken you find in the deli section!

Erica said...

For her birthday, Ellie requested a robot that would do her chores. Astute, for an almost-6-year-old, hmn? For those of us who won't be receiving a robot any time soon, I think you've nailed it: the things we say are priorities often aren't borne out by our actions. Deciding what we value most is difficult, and also revealing. Perhaps that's exactly why it's so hard to do.

Vesper said...

I just don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I imagine I should doI know all about this, Marilyn, and about everything else you've mentioned in this post. :-(

It's just that I'm finding there seem to be no real shortcuts. To anything. Anywhere.I think of this quite often and I blame it, in my case, on an excessive sense of duty, of correctness, of conscientiousness that is so ingrained in me that I just cannot get past it.

We should speak words of wisdom, and just let it be... at least occasionally. :-)


Marilyn Brant said...

Nadine~oooh, I really like the chicken poached in wine idea--yum! Thank you...I'll try that this week. (p.s. I'm spending the weekend with my parents and have forbidden my mother from cooking--it exhausts me just watching!)

Erica~if I can't locate the fairy godmother by mid-May, I'm going follow Ellie's lead and request a robot. Bright kid :).

Vesper~I'm not surprised you understand this... What you said about the excessive duty, correctness, conscientiousness...YES, to all of it. Thank you.

Pamela Cayne said...

Marilyn, I have one word for you--rewards. Every time you do one of your tasks, reward yourself.

Cook something instead of getting fast food? That's a Starbucks visit.

Vacuum, dust or clean the sinks? Oh, that's an iTunes card or some new earrings.

Finish Chapter 21? Either dinner out at your favorite restuarant or an hour at the mall, guilt-free.

Yup. It's all about the rewards, my friend. ;-)

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, Pamela, thank you! You're giving me lots of good ideas--i.e. Finish the first draft? Borrow the fuzzy pink handcuffs (shh, don't tell Mistress Heidi :). Or, more seriously: Get to spend a whole weekend ignoring the mess in my office and reading just what I want... Right now I want this more than chocolate (although I think there's something to be said for your "threat" vs. "treat" connection--still working on the implications :-).

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

Morgan Mandel said...

I now how you feel. Everything takes longer for me than I want it to, so I never get it all done.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Brant said...

Thanks for commiserating with me, Morgan!