Drowning in Accumulation


Last night I had one of those dreams where you wake up and realize: “That wasn’t just about billiard balls, was it? That was my life.”

I am about to start a game of pool with a friend. I rack the balls, but there are extras on the table. The extras look similar to the usual spots and stripes, but they’re a bit different – a rainbow colored stripe, or one size too big. I sort them out, and start to arrange the proper balls in the rack when I realize there aren’t enough normal ones, and still too many misfits. More sorting.

Next time I turn around, there’s a whole box of billiard balls to sort. Still too many wrong ones and not enough right ones. Pretty soon the dream becomes more about sorting boxes than about racking up a game of pool. The boxes are full of balls – some as small as marbles, some as big as grapefruit, and none of them the ones I needed. Then I’m pulling chess pieces out. Really? Chess pieces? I comment to a passerby about how ridiculous this got. And yet, I don’t quite realize it’s a dream, even though it has turned into a kind of biblical account of the 5,000 game pieces from one box.

Okay, enough back-story and wake up already.

As I laid in bed trying to shake the feelings of frustration, I realized that the dream was a reflection of the frustration I’d created in my life.

Too much crap and clutter. Not so much in physical objects – I’ve done a lot of clearing – but rather, clutter in my habits and distractions. I over-complicate the things I want to do. Buying a gift? It has to be the perfect gift, so I turn it over in my head a few times before taking action. I don’t like any of the options, so I keep adding more options. Then I set that aside, and go tackle something else, like a script for a stage play. Except I don’t have any fresh ideas, so I turn on a movie to look for inspiration. After I’m done the movie, I pick up a Neil Gaiman novel. Next thing you know, I’m in the middle of a Doctor Who marathon on Netflix. And there went my Christmas break.

My head gets more and more cluttered with ideas and unfinished tasks (not just the script and the gift now, but dishes and laundry and going for lunch). It keeps piling up. I’m never ready to start the game. More sorting. Ever more sorting, pondering, planning, rejecting, considering.

The only thing that will clear this clutter is action – to do the thing on the list, stroke it off and move forward. It might not be the perfect thing, the perfect gift, or the perfect paragraph of prose, but it will be a shot anyway. I’d rather take a shot and try to sink something than keep sorting the billiard balls all day.

Question for you: What’s one shot you can take right now?

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About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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