Thursday, June 14, 2012

Most meticulous, bar none

The title you see above is not really about me.

For someone who is in love with order and enjoys having things planned out and prepared so far in advance that the stability freaks other people out, I'm actually not very meticulous at all.

Today, I was hanging out with my grandma from the early afternoon into the evening. It is during these adventures - yes, any moment spent with my grandma is an adventure - that I realize quite how much I pale in comparison to her in regards to our respective tolerances for disorder.

At school, my life is pretty well organized. My room is, as I like to call it, an organized mess. By this I mean, everything is in its rightful place, but there's really no rhyme or reason to it.

A good way to explain this is in the packing process whenever I leave school for the year. For the ends of my freshman and sophomore years, I packed up boxes and boxes of my stuff, labeling each container with a tally of every single item I'd put inside it. But unlike most people who pack boxes according to category - i.e. Bedding, Clothing, Bathroom supplies, etc. - I pack according to where things fit.

In my most recent collection of boxes, there was one container which held both my shower caddy and a set of electronics. Other boxes made slightly more sense - with magnets from my refrigerator packed alongside other decorative items like posters and stuffed animals (okay, this is starting to sound less logical again). But for the most part, the groupings made no sense. To others at least. They made perfect sense to me.

With my grandma, though, order takes on a whole new meaning.

For today we had made plans to go out to lunch together (partially to spend time together and partially because she wanted to use a coupon, gotta love grandparents!). After we were done eating, she started complaining about not being able to make it to the local Jo-Ann Fabric store because a major road was under construction.

Since I am such a doting granddaughter, I guided her past the construction (which actually didn't interrupt the drive except to slow us by merging all the cars into one lane) to the fabric store. When we got into the store that is practically wall-to-wall fabric, we wandered around for at least 20 minutes before she figured out what she wanted.

Literally just an excuse to use a photo of Zach Braff on my blog.
Along the way, she took me through every aisle in the store. She needed a yard of solid blue. But not just any blue. A dark blue. But not navy blue. And not sky blue. And not J.D.'s scrubs on Scrubs blue (that's how I describe the color). But something somewhere in between.

Finally we walked out of Jo-Ann with what we needed. I thought we would head back to her home and relax for a little bit, but by the time we got there it was ready, set, sew-an-apron time.

It's a small project, she told me. It will only take a day, is how she put it. I assumed that meant a couple of hours.

That was 2:30 pm. By 7:30 pm we were still hard at work finishing up an apron.

I've sewn with my grandmother before. In fact, I credit her with teaching me how to sew in the first place. My mother tried to explain the ins-and-outs of sewing machines to me when I was a wee little tyke, but I didn't catch on until last summer when my grandma and I made my first sewing project conquest - a red-orange linen dress with 3/4-length sleeves and a full skirt fit for twirling.

But not without blood, sweat and many many tears.

Because, as I said, the title of this blog isn't referring to me. It's referring to my grandmother.

Let me preface by saying that I love my grandma. I love her very very much.

But then let me say that our work methods differ astonishingly.

She will spend two hours hand-stitching and re-aligning fabrics to make sure that everything is in perfect shape before putting needle to cloth. I will do everything diligently, but as quickly as I can muster.

In the end, our end products don't differ markedly. Granted, I've never worked on a sewing project alone without her meticulousness pushing me along, but in other aspects of life I've always felt the slowness only hindered me - at the very least by giving me a headache.

On my first sewing project, the two of us went from calmly cutting linen to angrily bickering over who was responsible for sewing up various parts of the dress. If I ever took the initiative to do something on my own, she'd follow up by explaining how I could have done it better. If I let her do the work, then she'd do it very slowly and we'd both be frustrated.

Today was different, however. With every step of apron-sewing, she asked me to help her. And with every ounce of effort I expended, she offered praise for my attempts and we didn't fight once. But this was a unique case.

There's something about meticulous people that always puts them at the throats of their less meticulous counterparts. It happens a lot between my dad and me (though in my defense, he could benefit from being slightly more thorough). And it happens even more often between my grandma and me.

Because there's something about our levels of meticulousness that aligns with our levels of patience. It's an inverse relationship, it seems.

The more patience we devote to our tasks, the less patient we are with people who don't devote patience to their tasks. Our frustration and angst goes out to those who are just a bit more free-spirited than us. Maybe it's because we can't stand that they make life more trying when we're being ultra-OCD, or maybe it's because we wish we were more carefree like them.

I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm not my grandma - in that I can't sit around and sew a guideline on fabric for an hour before actually creating the final product with a machine. I'm not my father - in what ways I won't say because I want to protect his reputation as best I can (but in the most general terms he just doesn't spend enough time on projects).

I also like to think it's my place in the middle that makes me see my faults on either side. I wish I didn't have the attention span of a gnat that keeps me from being as hard-working and devoted as my grandma. And I wish I didn't care so much about the order of my life so I could instead live like my dad does.

But I'm also happy just being me. The kid who doesn't necessarily do everything perfectly well, but at least she has some of the patience necessary to try. I mean, I made an apron with my amazing grandma today, didn't I? If that doesn't speak to my patience, then nothing will.

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