2011.01.05 No more mindless acts of avoidance

Written by David Green.


If I were to make any resolutions for 2011 the first would be to perform random acts of kindness instead of the slew of senseless acts of avoidance I’ve found myself doing lately.

These acts of avoidance are not really limited to year-end—I succumb to them pretty much year ’round. But the New Year is a time to examine one’s life and consider improving upon it. And, in the last couple weeks, I noticed myself slipping into avoidance behaviors—something I’d really like to avoid. 

Even though I engage in them when I should be doing something else, I engross myself in them unwittingly—I don’t really set out planning to waste time. And then, I suddenly snap to, pulling myself out of the mesmerizing trance I fall into when, for example, picking out the little loops of lint that collect at the base of the wood bristles on my Widu hairbrush.

Widu hairbrushes are ridiculously expensive, but I love mine almost more than life itself. If you read the text here from a product description, you’re going to want one, too.

“The non-treated wooden bristles gently massage the scalp, moving natural oils through the hair. The combination of wood and natural rubber (the bristles' base) inhibits static and helps prevent flyaway hair. When exposed to a blow dryer, the brush stays cool; when the hair is wet, the wooden bristles glide easily through the tangles. Made entirely by hand in an Italian family business, it is easily cleaned with mild soap and water.”

I’ve had flyaway hair since I was a kid; the only reason it hasn’t all flown away by now is my Widu brush. After years of looking like a science experiment, I now possess a static-free head thanks to my Widu. Not only that, the bristles are so gentle it’s almost like getting a daily head massage.

I experience that same mindless absorption in lint-picking when trimming the brown edges off long-neglected spider plants and wiping the dust off the leaves with wet fingers. And, sometimes when I have a whole house to clean, I enter a near-Zen-like state cleaning one kitchen faucet while the rest of the house screams for attention.

But there’s something about removing lime deposits from the base of the faucet and rubbing a vinegar soaked cloth along the spout until it sparkles that just captures my attention. I can go weeks barely even noticing the faucet’s existence, but once I do, my attention is undivided.

These mindless acts of cleaning are things that should be done eventually, but there’s no great urgency to do them. It’s like other activities I engage in that have no great impact—working the jumble puzzle or sudoku.

I’ve lived with myself long enough to know that I’m really just avoiding the things that need to get done when I instead do the things that are of little consequence. But sometimes doing the little things kicks me into gear. That odd sense of satisfaction that comes from transforming a neglected houseplant into a happy, perky, dust-free pot of vegetation sparks me into doing what really needs to be done.

Like deleting old e-mail...I wade through lots of e-mail every day on my library account. Usually it’s vendors offering specials so I don’t want to immediately delete them. Then, of course, they pile up. It’s just so cathartic to search “Quill” and delete all the Quill messages at once. Or Borders or Gaylord Bros. or Kipp Brothers...which then makes you stop and wonder why more sisters don’t go into business together.

But Microsoft Outlook pulls me back in with its daily reminders.

“Your mailbox is almost full,” it tells me. 

And so is this space. Almost.

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