broken parabolic



The Shadow and the Chair

18 May 2011

It's been a long silence, I know.

'Busy' barely describes the past few weeks. It's all a bit of a blur, punctuated with clearer recollections of moments or events. Madly working on the 'Pin-the-thagomizer-on-the-dinosaur' poster for my boy's birthday party on my lunchbreak, still in my coveralls. Megan's haunting soprano as she chanted Psalm 22 while the altar was stripped on Maundy Thursday, and then again as she delivered the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil two days later. The general runaround that always accompanies doing our taxes. Making a paper flower with my son while my wife still slept upstairs on the morning of Mother's day. A series of orchestrations to pull off something for her birthday, involving staff at camera stores and restaurants.

And yet, in all of this, the sense of being buried under all of it has been strangely absent. For all that's gone on, I would have expected to feel like I was falling behind. That's what I'm used to feeling when things are busy: the growing shadow of things left undone.

But these past few weeks, I actually feel like I've been keeping up. Not, mind you, getting much further ahead, but keeping pace with the cloud, holding steady, keeping momentum and not tripping over my laces.

Being busy is not something I'm naturally good at. Getting things done on time, remembering things, planning ahead, are all skills I somehow failed to acquire in my youth. My mother always used to tell me to make a list of what I had to do, and I never wanted to. I think I always wanted to feel like I didn't have to, which is to say that I didn't want to feel like I had to do things the way she did them.

The years have demonstrated, sometimes painfully, that I do, in fact, have to make lists. I have a daytimer now, and things that don't make it into its pages typically don't get done at all. I've used daytimers with some success over the past four years or so, but it's always been an on-and-off sort of affair. The stupid thing didn't have a regular place where it was kept; sometimes it was in my lunchbox so I could use it at work, sometimes on the counter, sometimes in a bag in the basement or the mudroom. And even when I had it handy, never did I really have a space to sit down and look it over. Why the kitchen table wasn't good enough I'll probalby never know, but it just wasn't.

I have an office of sorts in the basement. It's a nice finished room, and my bookshelf, rifles, and tarantula all live down there. It even has a perfectly serviceable desk, and I never really did much work down there because I didn't have a stupid chair. I did, actually, but it was a cheap little task chair with no arms, and its backrest had long since broken off, making it more of a swivelling stool than a chair, and not at all comfortable to sit on for any length of time.

So I bought a chair.

Not just any chair. I scoured Kijiji for a deal, and came across one that caught my eye. It looked old, made in the stainless-steel-tubing style with arms and a high back, upholstered in leather. The description said 'one of a kind' and something about a flap, which I didn't completely understand from the ad's text. But it was 25 bucks, and the seller was in the neighbourhood, so I checked it out.

This was the coolest office chair I've ever seen. As the story goes, the owner loved the chair, and though it was still very comfortable, it had become a little ragged. At the same time, he had had a long, chocolate brown leather coat, which, though it had gone out of style, was still in good condition. So he got out his sewing machine and reupholstered the entire chair with the leather from the coat. So now, just to the right of centre on the high back, one can see the distinctive shape of a breast pocket flap, sewn shut, right about where the pocket would be on a person sitting in the chair.

Suddenly it's a pleasure to sit at my desk, which I've cleared off; it had been covered in junk for months.

Yes, I'm busy. But I'm not floundering. For once I feel like I'm steering the ship instead of drifting along aboard it, and that's refreshing. The leopard is learning. It's simple things, sometimes, that get in our way, like not having a stupid chair or keeping the alarm clock too close to the bed or not having shelves for your shoes. Sometimes things actually are more complicated than that, too. But less often than we think.

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