Friday, October 2, 2009

The P Word

There’s this habit that I’m really good at—that lots of people I know are good at. It’s such a common thing, almost a joke most times. It’s procrastinating. “Oh, you know me, I never get anything done on time.” “Well, I work best at the last minute.” These lines aren’t even funny, because they’re so clich├ęd, so overused. We hear “procrastinate” and we think immediately of deadlines, of long nights filled with coffee and blaring screens and the sleepless drunk that settles on a room full of students/workers/creatives when a project is due.

But the procrastination I’m thinking of is a different beast. It’s the supposed-to kind.

I like keeping a blog, or I wouldn’t have started one. I obviously set no specific deadlines for myself. Some friends I know want to post once a week, or three times a month, or even once a day. They set themselves goals and they generally meet them. Sometimes I meet mine. But most times I don’t. There’s this strange self-doubt that creeps in on something so simple as writing a meaningless blog entry (to be seen by, at this point, maybe only five people). Who cares? I tell myself. Why doubt myself on such a moot point? It must be a symptom of something greater.

And indeed, this step-by-step process of excusing the supposed-to’s crops up often in my daily life. I can’t write a blog because nothing funny happened to me today, because I’m too tired, because I have to get ready to go out, because I have nothing positive to say. Each step presents its own logical reason. I can’t take out the trash today because it got too dark and now it’s cold. I can’t apply for that job because my cover letter needs a fresh set of eyes. I can’t finish those dishes because my stressed out body won’t take another second of being on its feet.

The main problem, I’ve realized, is that I ALWAYS have tomorrow to take out the trash, to wash the dishes, to give that cover letter another look. Being unemployed does strange things to people, and this endless wash of time has made me lazier than I’d believed possible. If I’m only supposed to do something, if it should get done today but could probably wait til tomorrow, I’m in big trouble.

Because here’s the thing about procrastinating: once you start, you cannot stop. The trash will sit perfectly well at the top of the outside stairs today because it did yesterday. That job went unapplied for yesterday and another day won’t hurt anything. Then, two weeks have passed, and even though you got the trash in the dumpster, the cover letter still doesn’t exist. And by this time, the job has been posted for a month, and why waste the energy applying for a job that is probably closed by now? Just like that. You are still on your couch, and another job will appear on the website for you to apply for and never hear back from.

I have gotten lucky. I had one interview, then another. A ripple in the routine is always a good shock. And now I have this collection of words, the first one I’ve bothered to create in awhile. I’m lucky on this one because I had someone call me out directly—get back to your stupid blog. (Well, she didn’t call it stupid, but I did. Stupid is OK if it gets you typing.) Now if I could only get back to yoga, I think I’d really be in business…