Task Paralysis & A Snake In The Podium

The summer months have been hot, and I have been taking a small break from the pots to do tasks that I could not get caught up on around the house during the busy season. The hard part is knowing what jobs to do, when, and which might be necessary. What might seem important may not be, and switching things around can change a priority. I was never diagnosed with ADHD, but I have all the symptoms. I try to live as usual to avoid the victimization mindset that can give me a reason to easily give up and not even try.

Task Paralysis

The sense of dread of having too much on your plate can also cause paralysis across multiple areas mentally and can activate an overwhelm-shutdown process. You may read more about it by clicking here.

I have read plenty of great books on how to organize tasks and do first things first, books on motivation and creating good habits, and books on procrastination, task and project management, and each one was helpful in some way. I started journaling and writing each morning to reflect on what might be necessary. But even organizing those things can get overwhelming at times, and when I look back after journaling for two years, almost every entry, I was beating myself up on not using my limited time productively.

I came to realize that I had goals, core values, and guiding principles for pottery as a business but not for myself. And all the while trying to build the pottery, I neglected to build my own self, and when I did take time, I would beat myself up for not making the pots and getting the workout. When I would take time with my wife or visit family and friends, I did it grudgingly at times, even though I knew right well those things were far more important than any unmade mug. The book Man’s Search for Meaning. by Victor Frankel impacted me so much; each day, I view life with the end in mind. How lucky am I to live each moment and have the opportunity to tell my story to the world on my own and impact those around me in positive ways. That is, if I can get things organized. I decided to throw out all the worries of tasks and reevaluate what was actually important.

Working my manufacturing job at the paper factory seems far easier to manage. Their tight structures and processes are put in place for everyday tasks, and each thing is planned out. If there are issues, then there are plans for that and steps to follow while troubleshooting; if that fails, we call someone. Each process followed guarantees the correct outcome almost every time, and if you are creating a quality product without getting hurt, that means you followed all the steps and processes put in place. But on my own here at the pottery, creating handmade, not much of that structure exists. Many of the management systems I used at work I put in place in my own business and artwork, but mass production is far different from handmade, and here I am on the hook for testing, designing, and creating, and not everything will work out. I decided to do what I felt was important. Some may say here I’m running the place on emotion, maybe, but today it worked yesterday and today so far.

Going easier on myself, I decided to be sure to make time and schedule the pottery as it was just another part of me. Besides pottery, I do love family, research, reading, writing, religious studies, philosophy, history, and outdoor activities. And like in the book Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. by Stephen Covey, I now allot time for all the things, and it seems to be working. These blocks of time do not need to be in any certain order but more or less exist, so I know to give each section time. If it helps me to make things more organized in my head, as if I get distracted, I can make a note to look into the distraction when the time comes for that role or event when I give it time.

With the pots scheduled in with everything else rather than taking over my whole life, I now feel less anxiety and feel I have enough time to do all the things that make up who I am and, ultimately, what comes from my hands in the form of artwork and story I hope to tell the world. And while at the time of writing this, if I live to be eighty-six and have only 13,710 days left, I now see it as an opportunity for each day and feel lucky to get each day and have more gratitude.

Will this fix my problem of feeling overwhelmed at times and being late with orders or making pots? It may not, but I have already felt better in the last few weeks. I even have enjoyed helping my wife with a few cleaning projects around the house that long needed to be done. I have been attending a Jewish-run book club, and they let me attend their services. “Just show up,” they say. And overall, it might be that easy, as showing up can be half the battle. I still am here. I still am the local “pot dealer” and “pottery guy” to the locals on the trails. I still have that blue glaze. I still pay miserable taxes as the business of Creek Road Pottery L.L.C. to the government.

In the end, I still have loads of things to complete before winter. I still need to get the big wood kiln taken down, dismantled, and moved here to the pottery. I still need to get work ready for the big Fall show on the October Pumpkin Trail with other local businesses, and right after work for the Christmas show. But my pottery business is in year seven, and as long as I am selling one pot to someone who cares, it means I’m still doing the work even though things get a bit frozen up in my mind at times. I was not the only one who froze up some with completing tasks. The good preacher at the Baptist church in town had an issue ready to strike.

A Snake In The Podium

Pastor Mansfield had to play things calm and cool as he preached the Sunday sermon that hot July day, as the congregation fanned themselves with their Sunday school papers and others dozed off from the heat. When he first heard the rattle, he thought it was coming from outside the church window out by the tracks. Usually, the trains and all the rumbling kept the rattlers back on the other side near the river, but other times a few would pay a visit. Rattlesnakes were a bit different than the other snakes that came to town. 

The other snakes were the human snakes that made deals on the back steps of the Wright Choice Diner with Big Jimmy. The whole town knew the little diner was just a front for all types of shady things the owner and cook, Big Jimmy, was into. But they all looked the other way as Big Jimmy was sure to spread all that dark money around. And as long as Big Jimmy paid his tithe on it all, even the good preacher Mansfield felt inclined to look the other way. After all, it was big Jimmy who paid all cash for the nice new bell they had up in the church tower. Big Jimmy had a heart of gold, but everyone knew to take a flashlight with them if they wanted to shake his hand, as he was so shady.

A wire ran from a button under the lip of the podium through a hole in the floor and out the side wall just under the stained glass window and over to the Wright Choice Diner. The preacher felt he needed a way to call for help if anything strange went down since the state of the world was heading for end times each time you read the news. If the preacher needed any help, he could hit the button, and a light would blink in the kitchen of the Wright Choice diner signaling Big Jimmy if anything went sideways. 

 It was soon found that the light would blink by accident each time the good preacher Mansfield would bang the podium with his fist to drive home a point or to wake up milkman Dan in the back pew dozing off. And more than six times, Big Jimmy rushed over to the Church, ready to fight and have guns blazing to a false alarm. So Big Jimmy and the preacher agreed that the signal should be the Morse Code S.O.S. to avoid confusion. 

And so every Sunday, while Big Jimmy cooked in the hot Wright Choice kitchen, the light would be blinking away at different intervals. And for sure, you could tell when the preacher was being a bit more charismatic than usual as the light would be twinkling like a Christmas tree.

” Must be a powerful sermon today at the Church. Those folks are going to be hungry, Davy!” Big Jimmy would say to his dishwasher, laughing.

This Sunday, the was no light blinking, which made Big Jimmy a little suspicious, but not enough to be worried. After all, it was a really hot July day, and Jimmy thought maybe the preacher was giving the congregation a break from the hellfire while trying to curve global warming. Also, there was no S.O.S. signal.

Folks in the congregation thought it strange that the preacher was staying back from the sacred desk, and even Sister Rodgers, who sat in one of the last small a-men pews in America with her bible on her lap, thought it strange the good preacher was not expounding as he normally would. She also thought it might be the heat.

The snake lay curled up on the second shelf of the podium, next to the Praise and Worship songbook. While he preached, pastor Mansfield had to work out a plan for S.OS. Big Jimmy for help without causing a panic in the sleepy church. In the midst of it all, he did find it ironic that today’s sermon was on the Garden and the Fall of Man.

Then a thought so sweet washed over the good minister, a thought that may have come from the divine heavenly realm itself. Darrel Cline, who used to work in the television towers, was a recovering Pentecostal snake handler who went Baptist. There he was, Darrel Cline, sitting where he always sat every Sunday since he moved to town, aisle side row three. 

If the plan worked out, things might go off without a hitch. It was then that the good preacher decided to bear down hard and rain down fire from heaven with passion and conviction and follow it up with an altar call to repentance with every head bowed, and every eye closed. And then, if heaven permitted, he would call Darrel up for the closing prayer and see if the spirit still worked on his side to remove the rattler curled up on shelf two of the podium. 

So the preacher went to work implementing his plan, telling how it was not the eating of the apple that man was thrown from the garden but the blaming of others and not accepting personal responsibility. In no way did the woman Eve force Adam to bite or swallow the forbidden fruit, nor was she forced by the serpent herself. But each made a conscious decision. And the fires of hell burn hot with those soles who failed to take responsibility for their own sins and transgressions. And had the first humans eaten from the Tree of Life in such a sorry state, they would have lived forever, blaming others for their sins and transgressions. Just to drive the point home and to instill fear, he went over the shortness of life and expounded once more on just how hot the fires raged below and how one could turn back and repent at any time to save themselves from an entity of fire, brimstone, and gnashing of teeth.

Everyone in the congregation was awake now as they took the heat in the heat of the hot July Sunday. The good minister landed the sermon how he planned and like the congregation was used to, with every head bowed and every eye closed. The rattlesnake’s head was now hidden behind the songbook, which gave the minister the opportunity to tap the button and signal Big Jimmy S.O.S. He then called Darrel Cline up for the closing prayer.

The preacher turned off the pulpit microphone and whispered to Darrel as the organ played another round of “Just as I am.”

“Darrel, you still got the spirit in you?” asked the preacher

“It’s been a while, but maybe.”

“What do you mean, maybe? I have an issue up here!” said the preacher, pointing to the rattlesnake in the podium.

“Do you think you can grab him and carry him out?”

“Well, you just can’t grab him, preacher; things need to be done in a certain way, you need to be in the spirit and all,” said Darrel.

‘Come on! Stop messing around! You told us all big stories about all the snakes you took up and have the bite marks to prove it. Why care now? The guys at the rattlesnake round-up are never in the spirit when they grab hold! Come on, Darrel! Don’t go totally Baptist on me now! I need you to be Pentecostal and grab that thing!”

“Okay! Just give me a second! Mercy! You’re stressing me out!” Darrel whispered back loudly.

Darrel went for the big grab just as Sister Rodgers, from the a-men pew, peeked a little from her squinting eyes like always. She gasped a little as Darrel, relieved that the Lord was still on his side, pulled the big rattler from the podium. He carried the snake, now wrapping around his arm, down the center aisle, passing the town-drunk Chuck Miller on his way to the mourner’s bench to repent. Darrel was almost to the big swinging doors when Big Jimmy busted in with his 20 gauge shotgun. Everyone in the congregation turned to look, wondering if Big Jimmy was finally called to repentance. 

“Everything good here, preacher? Davy, my dishwasher saw your signal and let me know. Darrell, what the hell do you have there?” asked Big Jimmy

“Ohhh, don’t mind me. Just doing the Lord’s work! Just let me get this thing off me down by the tracks so you can get a shot.” said Darrel, keeping his eyes on the snake as he held it behind its head.

The preacher took a sigh of relief no one got hurt. No task paralysis today. Things were pretty straightforward. It all worked out, maybe by accident and maybe not. At any rate, he preached a good sermon, he thought, and even had the drama at the end to prove his point and, on top, won a soul to the kingdom in all the commotion. All everyone had to do was show up. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Now there may not have been a snake in the podium, a preacher, a Darrel, or a Big Jimmy, but somewhere, someplace, someone was taking responsibility and just showing up without working at it too hard. Take responsibility and be proactive. Do justice and love mercy, and just maybe, things will work out. This is my town and my story. So I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.

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