Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is there such as thing as wasted effort?

Last night, I went with a friend to see The September Issue. The documentary was a fascinating look at the behind the scenes life at Vogue, and its infamous editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

While I never quite "got" Vogue (I'm more of a InStyle reader - easily accessible - put a blue shirt with these pants), I realized watching the film how much art truly goes on in those pages. And the main woman creating the visual stories is called Diane. It is clear from the film that she sometimes has a hard time with her relationship to Anna, but she has stayed at Vogue over twenty years now. And she explains somewhere in the film, "If you don't have a place to showcase your work, it's not really valid is it?"

I'm paraphrasing her line, tempted though I was to whip out a pen and jot it down on my popcorn bag.

But I remember thinking that was a good question. If we never get to "showcase" our efforts, are they still valid? And as I'm looking at waste this week, what are wasted efforts?

Have you ever cleaned your entire house, shopped for some special snacks, and then had a friend cancel at the last minute? Have you ever taken on extra duties at work, but not been paid? Did you ever play on a sports team that never won a trophy?

I went to the estate sale of a neighbor a few years back. He lived in a fairly small duplex and at the estate sale there must have been thousands of Christmas decorations. It turns out he owned a small house in a neighboring town and every year would decorate it to the hilt inside and out. Clearly he was never paid, and I doubt the people who enjoyed driving by sent him thank yous, so was it wasted effort?

He took on this endeavor because he wanted to do it. I've often read the idea that it is a mistake to work only for end results and not for the joy of working. Because if the results we want don't come, we're disappointed.

In the book Being Happy, Andrew Matthews writes that if we can put in the effort to any endeavor and see it as a privilege and a joy to learn, to test ourselves, to experiment and experience, we will succeed.

"Getting to hung up on results takes us out of the present moment. It is possible to be always focusing on what is ahead and not on what we are doing. This approach removes us from the enjoyment of the present moment. As we detach ourselves a little from the results, we can enjoy what we are doing for the sake of it."

Or as Emerson put it,"The reward of a thing well done is to have done it."

Writing this blog is similar. I often find the writing a joy. But if you wonderful, more appreciated than you'll ever know fourteen followers hadn't given me the encouragement that your little profile icons do each day, I'm not sure I would have the inner pep squad to keep typing. If we ever make it to Oprah's book show, we're going as a group!;-)

In closing, my goal for today is to do at least one task for the sake of the task itself and not for some future reward (I plan to start with something easier than say, an annual pap exam). And to find at least one opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of others.

P.S. Today is Saturday and Kai and I ran to the libary, the park, picked up a boy scout application at the city pool, then walked past the post office. Pulling in, having just finished his route, was our postman, a truly friendly guy who always smiles and takes the bigger packages right to our doorstep. I flagged him down to give him a quick thanks - just in case his inner cheerleader was out sick today;-).

Have a great day! Eileen


  1. Eileen,
    I am new to your blog and last week was about to post a comment telling you what a fine writer you are and how much I enjoy your writing and the topics you are thinking about.For whatever reason or distraction shifted my attention, I didn't follow through, but your post today was the impetus for me to let you know that I have bookmarked your blog and check it daily, with a cup of tea in hand for a quiet moment, eager to read what you have to say.

  2. I say this to my kids: "Goodness is it's own reward" the little ones don't get it and the teenager doesn't want to get it. But the rabbi in my head nods solemnly.
    And then this, "I know why the caged bird sings". My mother was reading the Maya Angela book around the time I was born (I learned this through our photo albums), I looked up and read the poem she titled her book after as a middle school student. Those words resonate deeply for me. One should do things for oneself, for the joy and the release, for God and for the universe or possibly because of God because of the universe. Is despair not illuminated through song? It goes even further than that. But I can say I know why.

    There is always a way to turn an effort into a lesson. Value does not have the same counters as money or time. It may have it's own secret measure.

    I, too, wonder about my own blog, but I remind myself that I initially started it for my sisters, who egged me into it, and ultimately I keep it up for myself.


  3. Nay, Thanks for your kind message. I made my husband pause the Iowa Football game (TIVO) so I could read your comment aloud as it was my treat for the day;-). The teapot is always on and I'll start stocking some baked goods for all the lovely souls like yourself that stop by.

    Antoinette, I really enjoy reading your comments and didn't catch that you had a blog as well. I thought only your sisters did, so I will definitely be stopping by there for my own cup of tea tonight. Your inner rabbi has lots of good thoughts;-). Eileen

  4. Antoinette,
    I saw the Watching Ants reference, but is that your sister's? Would you mind posting a link to your blog - no worries if you'd prefer not, I'm not sure if it's public? Planning to sneak up to bed with a garden book as both boys get to stay up late tonight with Dad and the Iowa Hawkeyes. The family room is mighty noisy! Goodnight! Eileen

    is mine, my sisters are "my people" on the gadgets section.
    Suddenly I am worried... I am actually very lazy about the blogs. But
    you are very welcome to come by and visit it (me)...

  6. Eileen,
    I like Nay enjoy your blog and have been silent. I found out about it when you posted about plants on the thriftyfun site. I have gone back to your first entry to the present and have enjoyed reading all the entries. I love the knowlodge + action quote, I have tried to list 10 ideas to earn extra cash in a notebook and liked the idea of your listening to tapes during the day as an encouragement and to stay focused. I am going to start doing that myself. Like Nay, I have bookmarked your page and check it everyday :)
    Thank You for Blogging :)

  7. AB, Will plan to stop by tonight via the internet. Thanks for the invite!

    Sib, Many thanks for the encouraging note! It means a lot. Have you done any extra cash ideas yet? I haven't done this in a few weeks and I'm planning to work out in the yard today until my husband's two brothers get here. Your note reminded me that I could be potting up quite a bit today as I putter about for some future plant/garage sale. Best wishes on the tapes. I really do believe that has had a big impact on me along with little notes on the fridge and in my room. Without these reminders that most of my life is in my head so to speak (i.e. we're about as happy as we choose to be (Abe Lincoln)) I let my inner worrywart have far too much reign;-).

    Best wishes and many thanks again. Eileen

  8. Eileen,
    The book you mention about in a previous blog "Love is letting go of fear" by Gerald G. Jampalsky reminds me of one I read a few years ago named "Battlefield of the mind" by Joyce Myers. This is where the devil works on us in our minds.
    I'm glad you felt encouraged by my post,I feel encouraged by reading your blog :)
    My hubby and I live in cajun country in La., in a very small town. For our list of cash ideas I'll post a little about us first. I own and operate a small beauty shop about 10 steps from my front door. It is sort of like the beauty shop in the movie "Steel Magnolias" alot of my clients become friends. I do cuts, colors, hi-lites, facials, manicures and pedicures. My hubby is an automotive instructor at a community college about 35 miles from home. Our childern are grown and we have 1 grandson who is 2 yrs old. All live within 5 miles of us. We have one son who we are putting thru college for computer programming and one is going to school to become a helicopter pilot. Our married daughter went to college to be a dietician (she changed majors 3 times :) ) she is almost finished but is taking off to raise her son :) This is why we are looking for ways to earn extra cash to help pay for college bills and to help our children out as much as we can but, not to a point where they are financially dependent on us.
    Our list is one that my hubby and I worked on together. So, some are for me and some are for him.
    I love to make homemade soap and bath crystals and gift baskets to sell in my shop for the holidays so, one idea is to make it a year long event make them year round.
    I saw a video the other day on the computer on how to make little girl hairbows. I use to make these for my daughter when she was a little girl so, I thought I could make some of these to sell in my shop also.
    I could carry another line of hair products in my shop as another.
    As baby gifts for my neices I have made diaper cakes and diaper wreaths and the decorated wet wipe cases. I never really thought about doing these to sell so that was another to my list.
    I'm not much of a gardener like yourself. My thumb is brown :) but I have a few plants that I haven't killed off yet. I was thinking of repotting into small pots to sell off ( I have a huge aloe vera plant that is doing well) and a huge rosemary bush.
    I was thinking of a garage sale also.
    As for my hubby's list he at times buys fixer uppers to fix and sell. We are talking about doing these again.
    We have in the past bartered off servies or merchandise. We talked about doing some of this again also.
    Sorry for being so long winded. These were some of our ideas. Thanks for asking.
    Have you come up with more ideas?
    Best wishes to you also, and know that I will be reading everyday :)

  9. Sib,

    I really enjoyed your list. You and your husband are definitely not only multi-talented, but must have oodles of energy! How fun to enjoy so many projects and a bonus to have them as extra income streams.

    Looking forward to your visits. The electric teapot is always bubbling away on the kitchen counter, green tea these days as I get enough caffeine from Diet Coke.

    And thanks for the book suggestion.

    I imagine La is a LOT warmer than WI where the high today was 55;-). Eileen