In Need of a Deadline

March 13, 2021

It was the vacuum cleaner.  I pulled it out of its closet home to do a thorough sweep of my living room, dining room and stairwell.  Set in an area between the living room and dining room, it would surely remind me throughout the day to vacuum the place.  I live by myself in a one-bedroom condo. 

That was in August 2020, well into our COVID lockdown, but it wasn’t until October that I finally decided to use it.  The vacuum cleaner was stoically telling me, “Use me!” but I couldn’t hear it.  In fact, I told it consistently, “Tomorrow!” 

Since mid-March 2020, my sense of time has gone to hell.  I thought I would have large swaths of time to accomplish all those things I have wanted to do for years—like clean out my closets, de-clutter my kitchen, go through boxes of old photos, letters, mementos and reconnect with friends of long ago with long meandering conversations.  All that and more didn’t happen. 

Starting Off with Goals

I had started the year with three goals:  complete my taxes, redo my will, and renovate my kitchen.  Goal #1 was achieved.  I had no choice unless I wanted to break the law.  I had a deadline.  Goal #2 was a bit more challenging.  To complete my will, I had to meet with a lawyer, which I did in early January, well before the shutdown.  She told me exactly what I needed to do.  Once I completed those steps like identify beneficiaries. power of attorney and advance medical directives, we could meet again, sign the papers and wrap it up. No problem.

I did do the work of identifying beneficiaries and changing the names on various accounts.  I did identify my power of attorney, got agreement and put her name in place.  I did review the medical directives and figured when I am ready to go to the great beyond, life support will be removed.  I was accomplishing what I set out to do in 2020.

The Inability to Move

Then came COVID-19.  The world sunk into a cloud of abeyance and I felt cloaked in lethargy.  Not knowing what to do, I did nothing.  Instead, I danced with the denial of my death.  That denial was probably more subconscious than conscious.  I knew I would eventually get to the will.  After all I paid the lawyer a bunch of money to write the thing.  I wasn’t going to leave it hanging indefinitely, but tomorrow seemed like a good day to get all the details in place. 

Months elapsed, and the papers stayed in my folder.  My vacuum cleaner came out of the closet and waited.  No friends stopped by, no classes held in my living room, no activity except grocery store-runs…no deadlines and no reason to do much.  And my decision to renovate my kitchen (Goal #3) was put on hold.  No vaccinations, no kitchen redo.  Life turned into ZOOM meetings and phone conversations, but only with those close in.  I had no energy to engage with those friends of long ago.

The Awakening

Finally, it clicked!   I had to set my own deadlines.  I had to decide what and who I was willing to give my energy to.  I was the only one to do it.  My vacuum cleaner tried to send the message, but I wasn’t receiving it.  Now a year later after the initial COVID lockdown, my tax information has been submitted to my accountant.  I am about to put my signature on the final papers of my will next week.  And I am beginning to find contractors for the kitchen.  I give all the credit to my vacuum cleaner!