Building castles in the air

I am prone to obsession.

This past winter, I became entirely bewitched by Little People, the darling squat looking children’s toys made to look like regular everyday folks as well as a range of superheroes and other well-known characters. As any doting parent would, (wouldn’t they?) I launched into an extensive LP acquisition program. I catalogued Ulysse’s collection and gave them each a name and bio of my own invention. He carried them around everywhere he went, sucked on their heads, occasionally tossing them through the deck railing as I considered the perfect name for each one. I envisioned all sorts of cool Pinterest worthy projects for the LPs (Such as this amazing video my college friend Dan made,) never mind the fact that I am not on Pinterest. I instinctively know that I can never join Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram, etc. if I ever want to accomplish ANYTHING besides spending all my time staring into the screen of an electronic device. It did eventually occur to me that my Little People habit was threatening my dissertation and thus, graduation.

I get obsessed easily.

Several months ago, in the throes of my Little People passion, (on behalf of my son, of course) I planned an elaborate scheme that involved lying to my husband about going to the library at school and instead driving almost an hour to buy a treasure trove of second hand LPs from someone on Craigslist. I would normally never imagine lying to my husband except for the fact that Fab thinks Ulysse has way too many toys already and I knew he would be highly dissatisfied with me if I bought any more…that he knew about. Yes, Ulysse has too many toys. Of course he has too many toys. But what about his mother?

In the end, my paranoia trumped my obsession with these sweetly androgynous little plastic personages. The Craigslist seller of the most amazing combo of LPs and their accessories for the low low price of only $15 was stubbornly anonymous and cagey. It was too good to be true. I started thinking it could be a trap for someone just like me – probably a woman, nuts enough for a silly toy that she would go to any length to get more, even if it meant meeting a perfect stranger alone in a parking lot far away from home. What if I had left home telling Fab that Ulysse and I were going to run a few errands only to be kidnapped and murdered and Fab would have no idea where to begin looking for our bodies? And if I had left Ulysse with Fab and then went to the rendezvous alone to be bludgeoned or human trafficked or some other god-awful fate, Ulysse would grow up without a mother and probably not even remember the song I sang to him multiple times a day everyday of his young life? And for what? Some molded plastic? Irresistibly cute molded plastic, but still.

While I am still on high alert for Little People at garage sales and consignment sales, my fascination with them is slightly less feverish now that Ulysse has a modest collection to sustain him (and me.)

I suppose I managed to temporarily transpose my obsessive tendencies onto the final stages of dissertation completion, but immediately after I finished it, I spent every free second working in the garden for three full days before collapsing into a stupor for a week or so.

As I have previously mentioned, I am designing a course for fall semester. I feel like I am spending an inordinate amount of time working on it, but the going is slow and very difficult to quantify. Will it ever be finished? Did the lessons of dissertation completion teach me nothing? It doesn’t help that I am onto a new toddler inspired infatuation, well, two really: building Ulysse a cardboard castle on the deck and making reversible capes for him and all his friends.

Notice a trend here? I hate having my attention divided by too many different tasks at once. Now that Ulysse has entered the scene though, my concentration is permanently fragmented, and for good reason. Theoretically, I like to be able to focus all my energy on one major thing at a time, and yet, whenever I have one major thing to focus on, to obsess about and allow it to push all other thoughts from my brain, what do I do? I sabotage my progress by self-imposing other imaginary high priority goals. Why can’t I just bury myself in my intellectual pursuits like a normal self-respecting adjunct professor of literature and be satisfied with that?

Apparently, I am a dilettante.

I want to do so many things. I want to design an interesting class and be a good, if not inspiring professor for my students. I want my son to have fun, imaginative things to do, not necessarily requiring the purchase of expensive and expendable commercial toys. I want to make things, write things, do things – for people other than just myself and my immediate family. I don’t think of myself as a classically ambitious person, but I long to do a lot and often feel overwhelmed at the thought of actually doing even some of it. I need to figure out a way to harness the energy I put into building cardboard castles and legions of Little People and apply it to building my career, my future, my legacy on this planet, perhaps…

How do you stay motivated to do big things in the long term?

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