Every day when I use the shower I am reminded of how similar to me the tiler that installed it must have been. You see the first time that I used the shower it looked pristine with its immaculate white tiles and chrome fittings. However, after a few days I began to notice black marks on the tiles that wouldn’t wipe off and eventually I worked out what was going on. We use a rubber squeegee to dry off the walls after a shower and it turns out that the tiler hadn’t bothered to clean the excess grout off the tiles when he did the installation. The hard grout was getting blackened by the rubber squeegee and confronting it every morning made me aware of two things about myself. The first is that I am really bad at finishing jobs off properly and the second is that I’m really bad at getting round to doing things. (Like cleaning off the excess grout and with it the black marks). I’ve done it now, it’s all clean and white again and now I am left thinking, ‘why didn’t I do that weeks ago?’
I admire people that see a job through to the final detail but I’m afraid I’m not one of them. I know from experience that when I put away the paint and brushes promising myself that I will get them out again and touch up that bit behind the radiator, I never will. The bit behind the radiator will fade from my memory and from my view and it will never get done. Does that matter?
There was a light hearted feature on the radio the other day suggesting that messy people live more interesting lives than tidy ones. On first consideration I would agree that while the tidy people are dusting, vacuuming and sorting, the messy people are having fun and making memories. Nobody is going to remind us, just before they pass away, of the day they cleaned the whole house from top to bottom or removed the radiator from the wall so that they could paper and paint behind it. Are they? But maybe it isn’t as simple as that.
I am one of those people who won’t bother to take the radiator off the wall so the decorating will take me less time and in theory I will have more time to do more interesting stuff. The problem is that having created all this extra time it’s just too easy not to do anything interesting or worthwhile with it. I may as well have done the decorating properly and at least have the satisfying glow of a job well done. Then again, I could just stop beating myself up for not being neat and tidy and not being interesting either.
Surely the only thing that really matters when we get to the point of departure is whether or not we are able to look back and say we were happy. Whether we feel content and ready to throw in the towel or whether we desperately want to go back and have another go at it. It doesn’t really matter if we did nothing more than paint behind the radiators or if we cycled round the world in the end. All that matters is that we enjoyed it. I’m not sure where that leaves me. When I open the shed in the morning do I get the bike out or the paint brush?