Mark Ballard

Life’s got me all tangled up

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Looking out the window, I can almost see autumn driving into town like a friend I haven’t seen in a while. The year seems to be flying by, and the end of it is quickly coming into view. I get overwhelmed at this time of year because there is so much to be done and so little time to do it.

My wife, Debra, is the biggest cheerleader for making lists and prioritizing tasks according to importance. After living with her for well over 30 years, you would think some of her organizational skills would have rubbed off on me. If they did, I must have washed them away by accident.

Post-it notes and tiny pieces of paper call out my name, practically begging me to use them. One note turns into two and before I know it, my “list” is really more like a pile. Like the leaves of fall, sometimes the paper reminders blow away into thin air.

I have to take a deep breath before I tackle each of the projects that lie before me. With the holidays following closely behind autumn, things are really gearing up for me. These projects keep me awake at night as they swirl frantically around in my head.

Just when I think I’ve got one of my ideas corralled, another one pops up and pushes that one away!

Recently a bulb blew in a lamp that sits on our large desk in our home office. The lamp is unusual and requires a special bulb. What should have been just a simple bulb change turned into an ordeal — as many projects in life sometimes do.

Neither Debra nor I could get the bulb to release. Try as we might, it wouldn’t budge. Fearing we would break the entire lamp, I opted to use Google and see if I could find a tutorial. Indeed I did — the internet is more than willing to show you how to do anything.

The geeky looking man on the video said that the first thing we should do is unplug the lamp to avoid possible electrocution. After hearing that, I looked at Debra with horror across my face. What we both knew was that under and behind our desk an entire subculture of cords, plugs and extension cords exists. Each cord belongs to a very important electronic device sitting on our desk. I knew what I had to do: I had no option but to go under the desk into the tangled and twisty conglomeration of cords.

My first thought when I approached the wires was how much it reminded me of what I think all the thoughts and ideas swirling around in my mind would look like if I could actually see them. The mission in front of me was to identify the lamp’s cord, follow it to where it was attached and carefully unplug it.

All of us have been in this situation and know it’s a two-person job. Being under the desk, I gently gave each cord a little tug until Debra saw which one was connected to the lamp. After we identified the cord, the real fun began. I had to become a contortionist to unplug it and, to Debra’s dismay in the process, unplugged the computer, its screen and the printer.

Basically dislocating my shoulder, I finally got it unplugged and then re-plugged in everything else that I had undone in the wiry maze. I felt as if I should have received some sort of trophy as I proudly held the lamp’s plug in my hand.

I try to learn something from each daily encounter that comes my way, and this blown bulb experience was no different.

I realized that maybe if I use the same approach I can attempt to get a grasp on the swirling and uncontrolled thoughts that are tangled in my mind. Instead of looking at them all at once, I need to grab one, resolve it and then move on to the next one.

Each year, autumn’s falling leaves and cooler mornings warn us that the end of the year is clearly in sight. In fact, the last few months seem to come even more quickly. Fall gives us that gentle nudge to remind us we all have to get our acts together to accomplish what goals we’ve set for the year.

Just like all those tangled cords, we have to take it one at a time.

More with Mark

▪ Stoke your creative fires with Mark! Introduction to drawing and painting/drawing classes begin this week at Hobby Lobby in Macon. Email or call Mark for details.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.