I have a problem. It’s time I own up to it and confess it. I’ve known about it for some time but only lately has it become a serious issue. This problem affects my communications with others, it hinders my ability to be effective at work and at home, and it causes me a good deal of anxiety and guilt. I have considered getting help for the problem but I don’t know where to turn. I suffer what may be an addiction.
I refer to it as ERD — email retention disorder.
My son called the other day to see why I had not responded to an email he sent the previous day. His wife said, “Well, John, he probably has 1,001 emails to deal with.” Actually, at the time of his call, I had 1,003 emails to process and do something with (and yes, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, something Mrs. Massengill would have disapproved of. Darn, I did it again.).
I have no difficulty disposing of the spam and clutter that comes to me via email. I am very familiar with the delete key. However, when the email is from someone I know or someone who has a pressing question or issue, it is another matter.
It was only a few months ago during a day in Chicago with snow on the ground and no place to go that I dealt with 832 emails and got the count down to 20. And now here I am back to 1,003 emails — well, 1,008 now.
I may have inherited this condition from my parents, who never owned a computer but suffered from SRD — Stuff Retention Disorder.
My parents grew up during the starvation years of the Great Depression and the lean years of World War II. While the house was always clean and uncluttered, the basement was a different matter. Dad and Mom saved everything that might, somehow, someday — however remote the possibility — be used.
There were screws, nuts, bolts, washers, nails, jars, rope, twine and tools of every imaginable type from every era.
“Why do you guys keep this junk?” I once asked.
“Because we might use it some day and if we need it, it’s not junk,” replied he.
When they passed away, the prospect of cleaning out the basement rivaled the possibility of scooping the water out of the ocean one teacup at a time. And there were plenty of teacups, coffee cups, plates, and glasses in the basement, too.
But, I can’t really blame them. I just need to do something about my own problem. I’m sure there are replies I should have sent and decisions I should have made lost somewhere in the incoming email bin.
I do read them all — I just don’t always dispose of them in a timely or efficient manner.
I could just delete them all and start over but what if I get rid of something truly important? Like an email from a wealthy benefactor offering our church $10 millions if I respond quickly?
As far as I know there are no Twelve Step programs for email retention addicts. My secretary always ends the day with a clean email in-box. Which makes me wonder what else important she throws away at the end of the day. There goes $10 million.
I know I need to do something, though, because things are about to get totally out of control. And now I have 1,011 emails sitting in my mailbox mocking me. No, it’s 1,015 now. Dang, 1,023.[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org) He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]