Unfinished Business and the Zen of Cheez-its

I have discovered one of life’s sad, awful truths.

When I open the Cheez-it box in the pantry, I’ll find only two sorry crackers lingering at the bottom.

Theoretically, when I spy the box on the shelf, it exists in multiple states of fullness, like Schrödinger’s cat.  I’m buoyed by the thought of a snack, though I should know better.   I know for a fact, there are two Cheez-its in the box, four Oreo cookies with the cream removed left in the package and absolutely no marshmallows left in the Lucky Charms.  I also know these items will stay this way forever until I deal with them myself.

The corollary?  That second box of Cheez-its?  The one right behind the almost empty one?  That one is almost empty too.  Perhaps not as empty as the first, but it’s open and partially consumed.  And when I ask if I need to get anything at the grocery store, my husband and son will say “nothing.”  Actually, my son will say “nothing” and my husband will say “tea,” because he always says tea despite the fact that he has a three-month supply in the closet because I take him at his word far too often.

My son and husband aren’t trying to hide anything.  I don’t care if the pantry items are gone–in fact, they get far more grief from me about the empty box still being there.  They don’t like to finish things.

I don’t like leaving things half completed.  I’m pretty compulsive about it.  It’s like the clean plate club extended beyond the dinner table.  There is no halfway for me. I will drive everything through to its natural conclusion, even when reason would suggest I shouldn’t.  I can’t abandon a book midway, even if it’s awful.  I like to watch the credits, even if I know there will be no Ferris Bueller type payoff at the end.  I like closure. Put it in a box, tape it shut, tie it with a bow closure.

My husband and son have the traipsing syndrome.  They start things, get distracted, and then abandon them, leaving a trail of papers, tools, books and clothes in their wake. Their favorite drop-off points are places I’m most likely to find inconvenient, like the kitchen counter.  Needing space to work, I’ll cart the tools down to the workshop and put the papers on the desk and the hoodie in the closet.  And two months later my husband will ask if I’ve seen his needle nose pliers.  I tell him to look in the Cheez-it box.

The compulsion to finish doesn’t always serve me well.  I will pursue an argument beyond its productive life, I can be terrible nag (because I’m not satisfied just to have my own projects complete–everyone else’s must be as well) and I’m dogged by the feeling that there’s something I should be doing.  A friend of mine has a Zen saying–the laundry is never done.  It’s true.  Making peace with life’s unfinished business is something I need to work on.  At a minimum, I need to apply my efforts to my own universe and leave the rest of the world alone.

Which is why I keep an extra Cheez-it box hidden in the back of the pantry, just for me.  It’s easier to overlook the detritus of traipsing syndrome on a full stomach.  So I’ll go through my post-weekend ritual of gathering orphaned items and putting them back in place, put Cheez-its on the grocery list and be glad I have these two awesome people in my life.

Until I go to the bathroom and realize the toilet paper roll is empty.  I knew there was something I should have done.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Drew Bennett

15 comments on “Unfinished Business and the Zen of Cheez-its

  1. […] Why can’t he do what I do every day and graze on lettuce and Cheez-its?  Because the box is empty, that’s why. […]

  2. Sounds familiar. I always say my hips didn’t come from childbirth, it came from finishing snack and it all started with the fish sticks. Recently as I dragged myself to the drugstore to get some meds, I peered the cabinets for what we already had. Later one when I went to get an alka-seltzer I picked up the box only to discover that there was none in there. WHY?! My husband doesn’t remove the empty box and never tells me anything we’ve run out of. ~TALU

    • We’ve tried everything from spreadsheets to phone apps, and have yet to find one that solves the age-old issue of “what do we need at the grocery store.” I finally said that if no one has told me, their on their own. 🙂

  3. Anne Kimball says:

    Love it, Jeannine. Don’t wish away that compulsion! I think the majority of our race (human, that is) falls into the category of the traipsers, and we wish we had hat stick-to-itness that you seem to possess. Be proud!
    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!

  4. Katia says:

    You’re a smart lady and this is what I call an inspirational post. Keep a box hidden just for myself. Love it. And when I get my hands on it, I won’t leave things half completed. I relate to the topic, loved the post. 🙂

  5. Kerry says:

    I’m totally with you! I will NEVER understand why people put things back with two things left. I also MUST finish whatever book I’m reading, even if I hate it. I guess that’s motivation to get through it so I can move on to the next one!

  6. I think the mostly empty box thing must be genetic – it comes wrapped up in that Y Chromosome passed on to the male species. In our house, it’s cereal boxes … one after the other, I’ll pick them up and find about a half cup of cereal left in the bottom of each. Cracked up at your commend about looking for the pliers in the box. 😉 [#TALU]

  7. veggieval says:

    Oh, thank you for naming the syndrome that seems to affect the other adults in my household: Traipsing Syndrome! I guess that is why I became proficient at using up the last bits of foods. Love this post. Found it via Anne’s TALU, but know you best from Wordsmith Studio. Peace, Love and Veggies!

  8. Joell says:

    I had to chuckle as I read this. How many cereal boxes and cheez-it boxes and bags of chips have I taken out of the pantry only to see the bottom of the box? Or better yet, my people will put empty milk jugs or tea pitchers back in the refrigerator!! “But Mom, it had one more swallow in it.” Well, if it had one more swallow, honey, why didn’t YOU DRINK IT? LOL. Oh, how I have to laugh at these things, because before long, these sweet ones who drink my milk and eat my cheez-its will be grown and gone. Great post. TALU

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