Thursday, 15 October 2015


The Importance of Being Girded

Life is a series of tasks. They are too often awkward, mundane or downright unpleasant. They may involve personal relationships, assignments due for school or work, or home maintenance and renovation. They cannot be avoided. Efficient action requires steeling yourself for the chore, building up to it, or, as we say around here, girding.

Girding is different from procrastination. Procrastination means putting things off indefinitely or never even getting around to actually doing anything. Girding is pre-planning, planning and formulating a Plan B. Girding is thoughtful contemplation of a project. Girding ensures tasks are completed, and commitments and deadlines are met, eventually.

The simplest form of girding is saying, ‘One more cigarette.’ This basic technique buys me four minutes’ delay; sometimes double that because often one cigarette can lead to two. If I’m going to smoke two cigarettes, what the hell, I might as well have a beer. A cold one expands girding time to about 20 minutes. At this juncture something akin to the Theory of Special Relativity immediately comes into play: girding time will now double or triple because never in my life have I ever consumed just one beer.

Ann is the same way with her coffee. Ann has embraced utterly my concept of girding; another cup of coffee with the milk pre-warmed is to be enjoyed before she goes buzz-saw on her allotment of daily tasks. She’s bought in. Ann, like me, gets things done, eventually, and perhaps a tad more swiftly. Together we have been girding for a month to investigate the mousetraps secreted on the joists above and beyond the panels of the basement’s drop ceiling; the cats have been yowling about something down there.

My mother is nearing 90 and she is better off than most of her contemporaries. Yet she is royally pissed off with the infirmities old age has wrought. Phoning Mom in Montreal from Edmonton requires girding. Cutting the lawn always poses a dilemma. ‘Do I want vertical or horizontal mower stripes? Must smoke on this.’ Winter storms are equally vexing. ‘Shovel the property three or four times quickly or gird for the deep and heavy, one-time long haul?’

Recently and pretty much on a whim Ann and I decided to renovate our guest bathroom, essentially a cube measuring seven-feet by seven, albeit with angles and cabinetry. We would have to choose a floor covering from a specialty store that offered too many selections. We would have to choose paint colours from a specialty store that offered too many selections. And then our nightmare tasks of spackling, sanding, taping, and brush and roller work would begin. It seemed all too much, so many tasks. I determined it was critical for us, me especially, to gird for girding. That process took a few days.

Earlier this week Ann spent the hottest part of our shortening days in the yard, emptying pots and cutting back plants. She’d been girding since sunrise. Once the chores were done she allowed that perhaps 20 minutes with the novel on her night table or even a quick siesta might be in order. But first, maybe half a cup of coffee and a revisit of the morning’s papers or even a snack, or all three. Ann was now girding for a nap. I realized then that the student had surpassed the master. I slipped outside, smoked four cigarettes, drank two beers and thought about calling my cranky mother.

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