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Monday, May 8, 2000

I'm not great about accepting help, but I'm learning. I've lived here for two weeks without getting around to putting away my kitchen. So when Mom and Suzanne volunteered to help me with that chore, any reservations dissolved. They came by this afternoon with lunch, and then went to work.

Even I realize that I've been stepping around those boxes long enough. I think the last time I took something out of a box was about a week ago. Since then, everything I've used has been on a randomly selected shelf, and the only things left in the boxes were items that will probably remain unused for a long time, like the cheese grater and the turkey baster.

I suppose I'm perfectly (or imperfectly) capable of unpacking, but other things kept getting in the way. I could say that I've been working overtime, writing my journal entries, moving furniture around, or keeping the yard up. Some of those are even true, but it's all still left me plenty of time to lounge around reading or watching a ballgame.

Unpacking the boxes in the kitchen was just one of those things that I wasn't going to get around to because I was intimidated by the scope of the assignment and the possibility of screwing it up. I didn't really have the will to get started.

Mom, May 8, 2000That's how it is with a lot of household chores for me, which is why I've always treated my living space as a big playpen, with toys strewn wherever they happened to land. Gradually this would turn into a sort of filing system, the kind that makes no sense to anyone else. I knew how to find the screwdriver or the salad tongs or the Ensenada sweatshirt, even if utter illogic and disorder ruled their arrangement. The schematic imprinted on my brain rarely failed me, in the place I lived for the last twelve years.

At first, when I moved here two weeks ago, I thought I could impose the same system. It should work even better, shouldn't it? I have so much more space to fill here. I could spread things out into more and smaller piles, making them easier to find. Right?

No, not right. All I did was spend too much time searching through boxes for whatever I needed at that moment, until that moment passed and I'd either found it or moved on to the next quest. I felt violated, in a way, as if vandals had rooted through all my belongings and disturbed the layout, making my inner map obsolete. I never knew for sure where (or even if) I would find something, even something that I could put my hands on with my eyes closed, back in my previous life.

Suzanne, May 8, 2000So it was with deep gratitude that I greeted the arrival this afternoon of my mother and sister, with sandwiches and shelf paper, prepared to do for me what I've neglected to do for myself. I may not deserve this kind of treatment, but I've learned how to justify it to myself. All I have to do is remember that if the situation were reversed, I would be first in line to help either of them. Because, you see, it is so much easier for me to pitch in and do that kind of work, as long as it's for someone else. It helps if it's someone I love, but that's not even the point. I can't imagine turning down a request from anyone I know to help them do something I'd rather not do for myself.

In a way, that's too easy to say, because I don't know many people who would even think to ask me for help moving, or painting, or hanging drywall. I've managed to maintain a convincing air of incompetence that scares them off. If you want a job done well, you probably wouldn't call on me anyway, so I can volunteer to be at your beck and call, secure in the knowledge that you'll find a way to survive without my input.

And who can blame you? I wouldn't want someone with my ten thumbs to get too close to anything valuable or breakable. To be brutally honest, I'd prefer not to be put into a position to add to my long list of failures. I've proved I can botch anything, and I don't need to prove it again. But that doesn't discount the sincerity with which I make the offer.

So thanks, Suzanne. Thanks, Mom. If there's anything I can do for you . . .

Meta note: Congratulations to Patrick and Saundra and all the other Diarist.net award finalists for the first quarter.

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