“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
― Mark Twain
Greetings Dear Ones!
Before we begin, forgive me, but I must ask… Is there not some better use for your time right now? Is there something you are putting off doing? Shouldn’t you be mowing something, sorting something, or color-coordinating something? Is your electric bill paid? At the very least, maybe you should be exploring that junk drawer in the kitchen and asking yourself why you have so many dry-wall screws, mystery keys, and rubber bands IN A KITCHEN, for heaven’s sakes! Seriously…What gruesome little chores are you escaping through your feigned interest in stitch-witchery and sheep dung?
Don’t feel bad if reading this blog is your form of procrastinating. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I too am Procrastinating RIGHT NOW! PRO-crastination. Whatever “Crastination” is, I’m all for it! Especially if it means I can put off removing all the skin dander from this man’s jeans for a few more moments. What do Mr. I’ve-been-on-Keto-for fifteen-days, Ms. I-just-discovered-hot-yoga and Mr. I-just-had-a-bypass-and-got-close-enough-to-mortality-to-smell-it’s-breath have in common? Between the three of them, they have no less than 27 pairs of jeans that have to be taken in at the waist and tapered all the way through the seat—through all those many yards of decorative top-stitching that is such a pain in the arse to remove and never looks right again no matter how we try to replicate it. So this is a marvelous distraction from that…
I have been meaning to write about Procrastination for some time now; I just haven’t gotten around to it. If the good citizens of the Land of Procrastination ever got their act together enough to elect a Queen, it would probably be me. And, honored though I would be, I probably would arrive late to the coronation. No one knows more than I about the fine arts of Procrastination. I have been known to sit down and knit an entire sock just hours before hosting a sit-down dinner for forty people, with not so much as a carrot in sight. I could never get as much slacking done if I wasn’t also capable of extreme efficiency occasionally.
Ever since I wrote an entire college Honor’s Thesis in less than 75 hours (straight through two nights) thirty years ago, I have been telling myself I need to get a handle on my habits around Procrastination. Soon. Well, Someday…. The Good News is that this habit, maladaptive as it is, has served me well. I almost always manage to get away with it. It allows me to front-load my life with a myriad of things I don’t really want to be doing, and still get the Big Stuff done too. Mostly. Except when it doesn’t. But the steep price I pay is chronic anxiety. The inversion of “Playing first” and “working later” means that the playing never actually feels like playing. It comes with a bitter side-dish of guilt.
People scoff and say “You? Procrastinate? Tosh! You’re the busiest person I know!” Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s because I am also the sneakiest. Sneaky procrastinators look the busiest. It’s one of the ways we manage to get out of having you dare to ask us to do more. I tried to get a jumpstart on this Blog last night but instead trolled Ebay for green Doc Martens, juggled the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of three elderly incontinent Jack Russells, spun some alpaca fur, and tried to remember a fiddle tune I learned three weeks ago. Then I decided to “Get Serious.” This means I ate all the lime gelato in the freezer because “I work best when I am not hungry.” Then I decided to have a nap because “I work better when I am fully rested.” Then I decided to go mend the fence where the sheep keep escaping because “I work better when they aren’t trampling my Iris patch and devouring the Rhubarb” (which is toxic to them). (I definitely work better when I am not having to call the Vet!) And so it went…. I carefully and thoroughly made all the Appropriate Adjustments so that I could bring you My Very Best Work. Finally, all conditions were Prime. But I was exhausted. So I went to bed. After all, I definitely write better in the Morning…
Why do we procrastinate? (Admit it, you’re still at it right now!) Is it because we are just total Slackers? That we don’t give a hoot about these things that we say “Really Matter” to us? Is Prudence right? Is this just a dismaying lack of Moral Fiber? As I decide to have more tea before tackling a wedding gown encrusted with beads that must come off one by one, I realize it’s not that we don’t care enough—it’s that we care far too much. Fear is at the heart of what is shutting us down:
· Fear of Failure—what if I cannot do this? What if I take all the beads off this dress and never get them back on the same way? What if I make this woman resemble a tube of toothpaste that has been squeezed too hard at both ends? What if this ruins her whole wedding and she never gets the chance to take that honeymoon in Aruba and swim with the dolphins and she spends the rest of her life hating me for it?
· Fear of Decision Making—there are a number of ways I can tailor this dress—which one is going to have the best outcome? How do we define the “best” outcome anyway? Best for whom? Is this woman going to regain the weight she lost and want this let back out in six months? When is the actual date of this wedding? Should I not cut anything before the next fitting?
· Fear of Success—If I do a good job at [whatever this wretched task is], am I going to be assigned to [this wretched task] forever more? Will I be the new Queen of Wretched tasks? Will word spread and Peasants drag forth all manner of Wretched Tasks from their wardrobes and bring them and lay them at my feet, hoping I will do them perfectly, cheerfully, and in a timely manner? Will I never do anything else? (I think this is why my mother refused to learn to drive the tractor…)
· Equating Self-worth with the quality of work—If I do a bad job, I myself am Bad. Yep, here’s the proof. If I cannot make your awkward neckline curve around your lobsided cleavage just the way you want it, I have Failed as a human being. No amount of donating to Habitat for Humanity will save me now. It’s over. I’m done. I might as well take off RUNNING with these scissors until I come to the sticky end I deserve.
· Focusing on the Outcome instead of the Process—Instead of thinking “I’m so lucky! I love to sew and there is an endless amount of sewing to be done in this magical shop where people bring us more to do all the time,” I count prom dresses and moan “Two hundred and twenty!! Are you out of your mind?! We could encircle New England with that much horsehair braid alone…We can’t do that many!!!” (But we DID—and not all of them at the last minute.)
· Not equating the emotional impulses of Now with consequences to the Future Self—I tried to raise my children to self-moderate in ways that made them kinder to their future selves. I remember trying to explain to The Son that getting his school project done early, instead of going fishing with his friend, would make his future self grateful. “Future Son is not going to be happy when he comes home and has to do all this work when he is tired and full of bug bites. What do you think is the best choice?” He looked right at me and said, “Nah…screw him. He’ll figure it out. That’s his problem!” Hmmm….I wonder where he learned THAT?
I’m Curious. Why do we consistently choose Sabotage over self-regulation? (“Simple,” says Inner Child, “Because it means we get to eat the ice cream first!” “Because you are Fallen, Wicked,” says Prudence.) Why attempt to change the cycle of Avoidance-Anxiety-Shame now? It’s been familiar and predictable, despite the whopping toll in Alka-seltzer bills. I don’t believe it’s a mere case of Will-Power vs. Resistance. I have proved to myself many times that I DO have will-power. I have hiked mountains, run several half-marathons, and once even learned an entire fiddle tune in the key of F. I’ve even managed to keep this blog going until this morning…Though I am willing to concede that my sense of “Time Management” is, um… Optimistic at best.
One of the lies I tell myself is that I work best “under pressure.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Few things are as stressful as having a customer watch me thread a needle and then poke myself in the thumb and bleed all over her clothes because I am in a rush to give her stuff that is not quite done.
What is it that is really at the core of my Resistance? (Any time there is a Good Thing you know you ought to be doing yet you find yourself Not Doing It, there is Resistance at work.) It’s not the type of activity that makes the difference; I can find ways to procrastinate about anything! It’s about the sense of Alignment I feel while I am doing it. Unconditional Love is what creates for me the path of Least Resistance. When I release all those fears listed above and embrace a sense of Love for what I am doing (and who I am doing it for), I open up into a creative flow that jump starts momentum until I can’t wait to get on with it. I know this sounds corny. Here is where Prudence jumps in with one of her sermons on the need for “Sacrifice.” Sacrifice, it turns out, has the same root as the word Sacred. It is what we consciously forgo when we release whatever is standing in the way of us getting closer to what is Sacred. I’m pretty sure that means making us feel Lighter, Stronger, Freer, and even More Creative and Productive—but without the customary last minute Panic Attack.
What if We Who Procrastinate could just take a moment to gather ourselves in and ask what our Resistance is requiring from us? (Hint: It’s probably not more cookies, shoes, or booze…) Is it that we are not loving ourselves as we love others? Are we being perfectionistically impossible for ourselves to deal with? Who wants to work for a tyrant, especially the one in your own head? Is it that we don’t the love others? (especially if they have a tendency to buy pants with too much top-stitching?) How can we listen to the needs of the various parts of ourselves to rest or to rejoice, in order to renew our commitment to our mission? When we know what to do AND WE DO IT—great things happen. Joy ensues. Magic Manifests.
On the Bright Side, not everyone Procrastinates: My co-worker’s daughter texted yesterday to say that she had gotten through her fourteen day diet plan in about four hours. Good for her!
Well, the fun’s over. Time to get back to work! (after I check my email, of course, then the phone to see if anyone has texted me during the intervening seven minutes since I last checked it!) Be well my Dearies! Love yourself to itty-bitty-bits today! Your work will be so much the better for it.
P.S. You didn’t actually think I would get a blog about Procrastinating out on Time, did you?