Like many people these days, I found myself with more free time on my hands than I knew what to do with. And again, like so many other people, there had always been so many things that needed to be done that many of them just didn’t happen.

It’s like that because those sorts of things pile up over time until the sheer volume of what needs, should, or even has to get done simply doesn’t. We let the list grow too long to even begin or the pile is too high to climb, much less see beyond. This situation can lead to an emotional undercurrent of frustration and can leave us feeling as though we are drowning in a sea of unresolved commitments.

So, I decided to build a bookshelf.

This may seem as though I simply decided to check one of the items off my prodigious to-do list — which would have been an excellent place to begin — except it wasn’t. Nowhere on my long list of things to do or anywhere in the mountainous pile of things to fix, paint or cut (yeah, my grass is calf-deep again) was there the line-item of “build a shelf,” book or otherwise. Nowhere in my budget was there an allowance for boards, brackets and screws. But all the enforced proximity to my list and pile, combined with the frustration of a situation beyond my control to resolve, was driving me to my wit’s end. Some would say that would have been a short trip anyway, but I needed something practical to focus on that I could affect.

So, I decided to build a bookshelf.

Here begins a week-long saga of epic proportions. First, there was choosing the location. In this case, since I am fortunate enough to be able to continue working from home, I chose what I (loosely) consider my home office. The room already contains a desk (three, to be exact, because I am fixated with office furniture), a computer, and then everything else in the house we don’t know exactly where to put. So, I began boxing in something loosely resembling order and moving everything away from the wall where I wanted the shelf to take up residence. Not an easy task because I am something of a packrat, but after a week of working around deadlines, article, and such, I was able to make room for the new addition.

Then came the quest to find the proper materials because bookshelves don’t grow on trees, and it’s not like you could buy them just anywhere (shh, I’m on a roll here). Fortunately, there is a home improvement store close to me that offers free delivery, and they even carried the materials into the garage, so I maintained the whole social distance thing. Once the materials had been secured, it occurred to me that I would first need to build sawhorses so I could measure, cut the boards to proper length and assemble the shelf.

Needless to say, “horses” were built, boards were cut and screwed together, and brackets were anchored. I even finished it off with a fresh coat of white paint. And for good measure I painted the wall behind the shelf as well. Then I spent another two days, working around my actual work, and loaded the shelf with books, DVDs, CDs and such. To finish it all off, I took two of the smaller desks and arranged them into an “L” shape and hung some pictures. Then I sat across the room at my primary behemoth of a desk (almost the size of a twin bed) and admired my handiwork.

I invested a lot of time and a little money in the project that yielded a two-shelf bookshelf mounted on the wall against the ceiling. I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of it, or the pointless necessity of it all. Yes, I did need to box up the things in my office/spare room, but it was something I would not have taken the time to do even a month ago. There were always other, more important and immediate things which needed done. And I would like to say that I have used my time during social distancing wisely and well, but there had been indifferent results, mainly because of the overwhelming volume of things I could have done made me sort of get lost in it all.

But the real irony of it all was that I didn’t actually need a bookshelf.

I guess sometimes we need to begin something new to jumpstart the battery on the old project bus; and sometimes it takes something new to remind us that we can get things done. All those hours spent on the bookshelf could have been spent worrying over things beyond my control. I could have spent the time watching television or getting on my wife’s last nerve, maybe for the last time. Or I could have spent every day of that time frustrated by things I knew needed to be done, but not knowing where to start. I could have ended up in a really bad mood, and that mood could have only gotten worse. But I didn’t, and I’m not in a bad mood.

And I only have my shelf to blame.

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