Beware of “The China Syndrome.”

Highly polished table set with elegant chinaYet another cadged idea from my Top Three Sources. I could probably do a post a week based on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast that she does with her sister, “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” Before I get to the above subject let me encourage you to listen to this week’s episode and, if nothing else, start at about minute 19 and listen to Liz explain how she gave a very tactless gift to her mother-in-law. Gretchen just loses it. I would challenge you to keep a straight face during this segment. I had to ask myself, Didn’t Gretchen know that Liz would tell this story? Don’t they plan the podcast out in advance? It sounds completely genuine.

Anyway, be that as it may, what’s the “China Syndrome”? It has nothing to do with China the country and everything to do with the china that you put on your table–or, as so often happen, the china that you keep on the top shelf of your kitchen cabinets. It’s the idea that by having something you’ll automatically do something. If I have nice china, then I’ll automatically give great dinner parties, with a beautiful table and great food and fascinating conversations. (Not to toot my own horn here, as I have lots of China Syndrome failures in other areas of my life–I actually do this dinner party thing sometimes. Not as often as I should, but sometimes.) Guess what? You have to plan the menu, and do the shopping, and drag that china off the shelf and set the table, and figure out when to cook what, and oh yes, invite some people over, and then sit down and enjoy the occasion. (I write in the “procrastination” chapter in my book that there have been times when I couldn’t do that last item because I’d had so much to do at the last minute and was so tired that all I wanted my guests to do was to go home.)

The China Syndrome is alive and well in every area of life. Right now I have one of those big spring mix containers sitting in the fridge. I bought it Tuesday, telling myself, “If you buy this you have to commit to eating it up.” How many salads have I made from it? One. Every single time I buy one of these containers I end up throwing most of it away. Just having the stuff in the fridge doesn’t mean that I’ll go to the trouble of making a salad and, you know, actually eating it.

Pretty trivial to worry about a few bucks’ worth of salad greens, right? It’s a symptom, though, of a bigger problem: failure to execute. We make all these grandiose plans but we don’t carry them through. We think that buying something, or joining something, or even just getting older, will mean that we’ll actually carry through on whatever it is. “I’ll buy this book on marriage and my marriage will be better.” “I’ll join a gym and get fit.” “Next spring I’ll turn ____ and then I’ll be motivated to ____.” Right now I’m going through my usual procrastinating about learning the music for our upcoming Cherry Creek Chorale concert. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to buckle down and do this, since I love being in the Chorale so much. I really want to know the music well; I’m particularly aware of my need to learn the clapping pattern in our arrangement of “Get Along Home, Cindy.” That sort of thing just drives me nuts! And if I don’t learn it, and I’m the only one up there who’s off, it’s going to be pretty embarrassing. (There a video of the Parker Chorale on YouTube that shows me being off four times in the course of a few measures in our performance of “Age of Aquarius.” Two of my nephews watched it with me and just about fell through the floor laughing. Thank goodness it’s only had 79 views. But if you want to watch something really funny I’ll embed it below even though that may mean upping the views. Hey, if it brightens your day I guess it’ll be worth it. This concert was back in the early days of that Chorale; they’re now in a very snazzy venue at the Parker Arts Center and a much bigger and better group.)

Well, better quit and make myself some salad for lunch. Where in your life to do you see the China Syndrome?

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