Thursday, January 07, 2010

Details, Shmetails

I have been called detail-oriented.
I have been praised for being detail-oriented.
I have been hired for being detail-oriented.

I often count that quality among my greatest strengths.
I am beginning to wonder whether it is actually my kryptonite.

In my 20s I delighted in remembering which flowers my mother-in-law loves the most so that I could have a vase of them ready in her room when she came to visit. I was known for making sure that friends of mine who had special dietary needs had something to fill them up at any dinner party I threw. Bubba's clothes were always ready for him to pack for a business trip at any moment. My files were organized at work so that if I called in sick and someone needed something, it would be clear where I left off.

In my 30s I have steadily begun eliminating crevices that need constant care and attention. That chandelier that takes special light bulbs (12 of them!)? Replaced with another that is simple and pretty and takes normal CFLs. The pile of clothes to be ironed over the weekend? The dry cleaner has become Bubba's last stop of the day on his way home. The one and only gluten-free granola bar the girls like to snack on? Sometimes we run out and they have to eat an apple or a handful of nuts.

I can recall walking past houses with the dog that caught my eye because of the clever details - windowboxes and cobblestone driveways. Things that set this house apart from the others in the neighborhood used to thrill me with possibility. Now I just feel tired. Who fills those flowerboxes with geraniums in the spring and ornamental kale in the fall? Who decorates them for the holidays? Who seals and cleans the driveway? Either they're paying someone to do it or the homeowner has a lot of time on his or her hands. If there are details like this that I, a perfect stranger walking by, can see readily, I imagine that there are season-specific fingertip towels in the guest bathroom and fresh flowers on the entry table. Someone has taken the time and care to make sure that the linens are fresh in the guest room and all of the can lights in the kitchen have working bulbs.

Like a multi-faceted crystal whose faces, each and every one, need to be free of smudges in order to throw rainbows all around the room, I see each of these details in my life as work. Something to be maintained. Where before I would have taken that as a challenge and a purpose, I now wish my life looked more like the river rocks I see next to the creek. They sit quietly among others like them, edges smooth, some of them pockmarked, not casting colors about or shouting, "Look at me!" They are solid and sturdy, worn by time and cool to the touch, fitting softly within my palm. There are no corners to clean, no sharp edges to take care with. The only detail to tend to is the slight bit of mud stuck to one end. That, I can handle and get back to my walk.

1 comment:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Sounds like some good self-awareness is taking place! I was fussing with my window boxes this week and wondering, "Why were these such a good idea again?"

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