On being ... fixated

By Ingrid Sapona

I’ve had my condo two years this month. The woman I bought from was the original owner. She had the foresight to buy two storage lockers. The locker room is quite nice -- it’s clean, dry, and well-lit. I had a storage locker in the basement of my apartment and I used it, but I always dreaded going down there. It was dark and dreary, and the boxes of mouse poison in every corner reminded me of things I didn’t like being reminded of.

When I moved, I promised myself I’d make better use of my storage lockers, especially given the luxury of having two. So, I bought big, see-through stackable bins for things like holiday decorations and craft stuff and proper file storage boxes for my business-related things. All the plastic bins and file boxes went into one locker.

My second locker was a different story. Because one of my bedroom dressers didn’t fit in my new bedroom, I put it in the second locker. I figured I’d keep my summer clothes there during winter and visa versa. But, it turned out I had enough closet space in the condo for all my clothes, so I didn’t need the dresser for them.

I kept some sailing gear and linens in it, but that was about it because little else fit easily in the drawers. Over time I ended up piling things on top of the dresser and leaning things against it. Soon the locker looked like a closet you shove items into and quickly push the door closed before something falls out.

The fact I was wasting the extra space I was so excited about when I moved in was weighing on my mind and, in some respects, dragging me down. So, with the second anniversary of the move coming, I decided I should do something about the situation. I knew the first step was to get rid of the dresser.

It took some hunting, but eventually I found a charity furniture bank that picks up larger items (like dressers). Finally, this past Monday I phoned them. I was caught off-guard when they offered to pick it Thursday morning, but I agreed. Suddenly, after two years of dithering, it was full steam ahead on getting organized. I had to move all the stuff out of the locker to get the dresser out and I had to figure out how I’d store things once it was gone.

I decided shelving for storing bins and boxes would be best, but the locker’s an odd shape, so not just any shelves would do. After lots of shopping around, not to mention measuring and sketching out possible configurations, I chose some shelves from Ikea. Getting them home took a couple trips and -- given where I bought them -- some assembly was required. Luckily I had the right tools.

By Friday night the dresser was gone, the shelves were in, I had sorted through my stuff, getting rid of many items I didn’t use, and I had organized what remained. It seemed like quite a whirlwind, but when I was done I felt as though a load had been lifted from my shoulders. Sure, it took me two years to figure out what I wanted, but once I decided, it all came together quickly.

On Saturday a friend called to see whether I had a particular tool. For about a month she’d been looking at different ways of storing her bike. Apparently she finally decided and bought a rack. She had started installing it in her garage but ran into a problem and she needed a particular tool. Unfortunately, I didn’t have what she was looking for. She mentioned she’d ask other friends.

On Sunday I stopped by to see how the installation went. Though she didn’t get her hands on the tool she thought she needed, she had gotten a bit further with the installation. She gave up, however, when she thought she might break the rack if she continued trying. Then she berated herself for becoming “fixated” on the idea of putting up a rack in the first place. Realizing she was just frustrated, I went to look at it. When I saw it, I realized I had just the tool she needed -- a wrench I had used to assemble the shelves.

I offered to go home and get the tool but she told me to forget it because it wasn’t important and it didn’t need to be done right away -- if at all -- because it was just something ridiculous she got in her head! Though I reassured her she’ll appreciate the rack once it’s up, she was too exasperated to agree.

Understanding the urge to implement a decision once you’ve finally made it (especially if you’ve been thinking about it for some time), I went home, got the wrench, and headed back to her house. When I arrived with a smile on my face and the tool in my hand, I simply said I had a bee in my bonnet and I was anxious to see whether we could finish it. Well, ten minutes later we had the rack up and the bike hung.

Afterward she thanked me, but again chided herself for fixating on the rack in the first place. I said I thought she was being a bit hard on herself. I reminded her I had spent the better part of the week “suddenly” attending to the storage locker that I had done nothing with for so long. Sure, I got a bit stressed out about it as I was putting the shelves together, but I kept focusing on the end result, which I saw as a triumph. (Maybe just a triumph over indecisiveness, but a victory all the same!)

The next day she called to tell me that she likes the bike rack -- it was her way of saying thanks. I was happy for her and I know it’ll come in quite handy. Now, if I could just convince her to stop seeing goals as fixations, I think she’d enjoy more of life’s little triumphs.

© 2009 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... too much fuss?

By Ingrid Sapona

A girlfriend’s father has been in and out of the hospital lately and she’s been helping her folks out quite a bit so, thinking she deserves a bit of TLC, I invited her over for lunch. Though she jumped at the invitation, she stressed that she didn’t want me to go to any trouble. I told her that I thought she deserved a break and that having her over would be my pleasure. Before we agreed on the date she again reiterated that she hoped I wouldn’t fuss. To be honest, I was a bit irritated at her insistence because I welcomed the opportunity to fuss a bit. But, I contained my annoyance and told her not to worry.

As soon as we hung up I began planning the meal. I love cooking and, for me, having people over presents an opportunity to try something new or an old favourite that I don’t make too often. Part of it is that when you live alone there are some things you just don’t make for yourself because there’s a limit to how many days you can stomach something (even favourite foods lose their appeal by the fourth evening) and there’s only so much space in the freezer for leftovers.

Besides enjoying cooking, I love entertaining. It’s a chance to pull out the proverbial “good china” and there’s always decorating the table and the challenge of creating an atmosphere that’s welcoming and relaxing. (Truth be told, it’s also a great excuse to splurge on a little something in bloom for the table!)

A couple days after making plans with my girlfriend, my godparents phoned to invite me over for dinner. I hadn’t seen them in awhile and I was delighted at the thought. I always enjoy our visits and I know that they both enjoy entertaining and fussing over things. Joe, my godfather, loves to cook and I figured, like me, he welcomed having an excuse to put his formidable talents to use. We quickly settled on a date.

It turns out, I was right. My godparents knocked themselves out with an Asian-inspired three-course feast. Not only was the meal delicious, it was fun to share Joe’s enthusiasm. At one point, after asking him about the sauce adorning the fish, he popped out to the kitchen and returned with the recipe. He then described how he varied it a bit because he wasn’t sure I would like one particular ingredient. Later on my godmother let it slip that for days Joe had been contemplating the “menu he’d serve Ingrid”. I was honoured and happy that they know I truly appreciate the attention to detail and the effort they put into the meal.

Now, back to the get-together with my girlfriend. As it happens, the night before the lunch she phoned to ask if I’d mind postponing for a week because she wasn’t feeling 100%. She asked if it would be a big inconvenience and I reassured her it wouldn’t be. The truth was that by that point most of the meal was ready (I do as much as I can in advance so that when I have a guest I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen), but that was ok. You see, I really didn’t mind because I had enjoyed all the preparations – the fact that I might have to re-make some of it later didn’t really matter.

So here’s my take on fussing over things. I think everybody fusses in their own way over things that matter to them. Some people fuss over cleaning their car, others fuss over dressing up. I happen to fuss over food and entertaining. The way I see it, fussing can be a form of self-expression and even a creative outlet. So long as your fussing is self-motivated (in other words, you’re not fussing because it’s expected of you) and so long as your fussing doesn’t rise to the level of an obsession or compulsion, I say go for it.

So, next time someone you know starts to fuss over something, I say sit back and let them. Afterward, be sure to revel in the outcome with them -- you’ll both be happier for it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to looking for a new stuffing recipe -- the holidays are around the corner and I’ve got some things I’d like to fuss over …

© 2009 Ingrid Sapona