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December 30, 1999

That Clutter-Free State of Mind

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/that_clutterfree_state_of_mind_19991231

I have got to get my car registered before I collect any more tickets. But before I do that, I really should get around to changing the filter in my Brita water pitcher at home because I've noticed some black, metallic specks floating around that are probably doing my liver some long-term damage.

Once I do those things, I'll have that elusive "clean slate," a clutter-free state of mind that will free my neurotrans-mitters from the shackles of mindless errands. With my affairs neatly in order, those brain cells will suddenly transform from task-doing drones to bon vivants, just toasting each other in the Algonquin round table-like atmosphere of my newly liberated frontal lobe.

Novels and plays will be written. Philosophies of life will be mulled over, honed and tested.

Then again, I have to call Wells Fargo about the mysterious new checking fee I noticed on my statement. Grandma needs a thank-you note for her annual Chanukah check. My hair hasn't been cut in six months and it's pretty hard to clean up that slate with a head full of split ends.

Speaking of which, my whole person needs tending to. There's that weird mole I've been meaning to get checked out on my forearm. One of my wisdom teeth is coming in and I should really get it removed. Come to think of it, isn't it time for my annual check-up at the doctor?

These things must be done. And when they are, there will be time for me to find some sort of volunteer program and commence my weekly tutoring of under-privileged children.

Of course, I'll have to return some calls first. There's my beloved former teacher I've been meaning to call back. If my mom doesn't get her weekly call, she'll immediately assume I don't love her before having my face plastered on a milk carton. I've got to call my aunt to thank her for having me over for dinner last month. And if I don't return the vacuum cleaner to my building manager, he'll come knocking at my door with his creepy Coke bottle glasses at some hideous time of morning.

I know that if I could just trim down the to-do list, I would have a chance to kick back and read some George Eliot. I've always meant to read something by George Eliot.

Sadly, that will have to wait. I've run out of vitamin powder and must replenish my supply at Trader Joe's. It wouldn't hurt to pick up some spare gallons of water and batteries in preparation for any Y2K problems that may arise. Which reminds me, I have nothing to wear for New Year's eve. Maybe while shopping for a suitable frock, I can finally end my quest for a comfortable bra.

Once I find a comfortable bra, deep thoughts are soon to follow.

And how can I delve into the far reaches of my mind when there's a mound of clothes collecting on my easy chair that need to be hung up in the closet. That easy chair will be a perfect place for George Eliot reading, that is, once I finally buy a lamp.

High on my to-do list lately has been seeing to the task of figuring out why I can never seem to check everything off that list. The list is like a cell that keeps dividing, an ever-regenerating mutant beast that leaves it's mark in the form of scattered Post-its, torn envelope scraps, several pages buried inside half-used notebooks, list upon scrawled list in a tattered day planner, a computer file, a legal pad clutched by an unforgiving clipboard.

The thing is, life just gets busier. I don't even have kids yet and I can barely breathe for all this drowning in details.

I suppose the brain's job is to just keep coming up with demands, to just relentlessly impose them without giving us a chance to stop and divide them into levels of relative importance. The only way to stop this barrage of details from governing our lives and blocking out more spiritual ideas is to give the mind a rest forcibly. I've really been meaning to do this. There's just no way I'm going to let a water filter stand between me and enlightenment.

That's why I've had "meditate" on my to-do list for months now, hovering between number eight and ten but never really breaking into the top three.

Once I bleach that bathroom sink, though, I'm sure I'll get to it.


Teresa Strasser is a 20-something who writes for The Jewish Journal.

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