Tag Archive for procrastination

Making Procrastination WERQ: Links for March

I’ve always been a hardcore procrastinator. No matter how much time I give myself, I will find a proportionate amount of things to fuck around doing in order to make any deadline right under the wire. No amount of planning, good intentions, or attitude changes have changed this core pattern. So finally, here in what seems to be my most accepting time of life so far, I have come to a place where I believe something about the adrenaline of a close call must be an ingredient in my mysterious Productivity Stew. I have surrendered any kind of attempt to change this quirk after years of honest and deep exploration. Instead I’ve decided that if I am going to procrastinate about a particular assignment: laundry, running, writing, billing, grieving, bathing suit shopping, cooking, email or any manner of perfectly acceptable details in life, EVEN THE ONES I LOVE, I’d at least make my avoidance materials dynamic and engaging. I didn’t want this to be mere throw away aging. That’s what the DMV is for. I thought I’d start keeping track and sharing some of my favorite scenic routes with you each month. Because avoidance need not be a vapid waste of life. It can rule.

LET’S NOT WASTE ANY MORE TIME!

I’ll always share 8 things because 8 is my lucky number. I tattooed it on my index finger. Numerological speaking, 8 it the moment of calm and clarity that settles before great upheaval. I like that part in a song, too. A beat of rest and then mayhem. Do not think I am functioning under the delusion that 8 things are enough to fill procrastination time, as of course there are many more. Nevertheless, here’s 8.

1. EmpireLook, I fucking hate Fox as much as the next feminist lesbian but it has a few things going for it. Kevin Bacon, one of my lifetime favorites (although I don’t watch his show because it’s too creepy) and it has EMPIRE. Cookie Lyon is one of the best ladies that has ever graced the television screen. Timbaland produces the music and right now the soundtrack anchors my running playlist. This is what you get when you one part take Ilene Chaiken’s dyke drama (the L-Word) add a side of Shakespeare, and watch Taraji KILL IT as Cookie dwarfing all other things that are already awesome about the show and finally cap it off with a shot of Courtney Love.

2. Amy Chaplin. I know I already told you about this book, but I’m still obsessed. Sometimes the great thing about upping your procrastination game is that even the sidelines become generative and inspiring. So while I’ve been toiling with this book proposal myself, I’ve used some of my fear to practice a self-forgiveness and also cook my ass off studying the wonderful food this woman shares. The thing I love about this book is it works from the pantry through the everyday, through process steps that can make healthy eating so much EASIER and tastier for all of us. Then it still has time to get fancy at the end. Its such a great book. My copy is sitting in the kitchen studded with those colored tape flags like a summer party favor. 

3. Watercolor. I started making photographs in 1997 because I had a combination of writer’s block and painter envy. I was 27. Now 18 years later I finally went to CVS one day, got some shitty paints with questionable “pigment” and bad paper and just started playing with them. Since then, nice pals have sent me some good paint and really beautiful paper. With the materials already so lovely, it’s easy to make something beautiful without being an expert. It’s fun.

This is me meeting Jon Miller. My heart is flopping all over and I am in full nerd mode. It felt so incredible. LOOK AT HIS FACE!

4. March Madness/Spring Training. You don’t have to be crazy like me and take time off to go to Arizona to watch your favorite team lose a few games and have the best time ever. You don’t have to sneak into seats behind the home dugout to get close enough to see the pores on your favorite pitcher, Tim Lincecum. You don’t have to wait in line at the press box to go meet your Hall of Fame announcer and oddly blurt out, “Jon Miller, you are cute as a bug!!” BUT march is a great time for sports procrastination. Even though the NCAA is basically an evil pimp getting rich off the sweat of it’s athletes, bringing in a billion dollars (A BILLION) in revenue on the high tops of it’s basketball players during March Madness  my god, it’s incredible to watch these men and women play. I am actually lucky enough to go see part of the women’s tournament live in 2 weeks with my Pop. He even got us matching UCONN hoodies.

5. Jigsaw Puzzles: I love the way it feels to find the right piece and slide the grooves together perfectly. I especially love 1000 piece puzzles so I can do that 999 times.

6. Claudia Rankine: I read Citizen and am still both recovering AND in a state of utter gratitude. Just a breathtaking journey of feelings came for me as I read. This book really had me take stock of the very notion of citizenship for me as an American. Specifically as a white American. There is no way to experience this lyric and exit the same person who began reading it. The prose is a transformative spell of honesty, a mirror, a knife, the fiercest act of pure love I’ve seen by pen.  INCREDIBLE.

7. gluttonforlife: I can’t even count the ways this website by writer Laura Silverman is inspiring. The photographs are gorgeous, I love the writing, the themes compel me and forget about it with the creativity around foraging and food. I’ve been following this site consistently for a few years now and it just gets better. It never fails that if I feel stuck or I need a break from my own writing or words, Ms. Silverman’s voice comes on like a daydream, a soothing and beautiful place to go where every cycle of perception works together. Then I often want one of her cocktails.

8. The ReadI love this podcast. Two friends, Kid Fury and Crissle, get on the mic and just shoot the shit. They talk about popular culture, clothes, music, stars and anything that annoys the shit out of them. These two really get into it and it feels a lot like hanging out on a couch with them. Maybe with snacks. When they disagree is my favorite.

So there are some nice things to do to pass the time instead of having time pass you. May all your toils be interesting and your mind at peace when it hits the pillow. ALSO: Please comment with your favorite links, sites, and procrastination WINS!

The Walking Dread

I used to make lists of things to do for the day. I’d find them all over the place: crunched into dehydrated balls at the bottom of the dryer, in coat pockets from last season, and at the bottom of my purse with stray hair clips, pennies and the odd sugarless gum wrapper. I’d jot things down on scraps and stuff them down into my pockets and then forget to look at them. Later, if they weren’t annihilated in the laundry, I’d find the lists with shorthand on them standing in for some lighting bolt idea I had at the time, and I’d have no clue what the hell it meant. Little stray pieces of would-be genius littering corners of my life, physical refuse of what could have been and the loss of each idea that might have brought me a nice essay or a great client or a recipe to thrill people with. Detritus of what never was.

And the thing about these lists is that conveniently losing them or forgetting them let me see  that I tend to carry bullet points around in my mind, pinballs of things I should be accomplishing or mastering. This luggage brings with it a sensation of dense dread like a Pig Pen cloud following me. I watch people bob and weave around my anxiety as if they’ll get sucked into the fray like a smoothie in a blender.

DREAD.

It is almost always so much worse than whatever the thing is we are dreading. Since here we are in April, let’s take taxes, for example. I can put off doing taxes as well as the next guy. Something about all those rules, all those numbers, all those facts that tell me things about my abilities, or lack, as a new businesswoman. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to watch the little calculator at the top of Turbo Tax telling me that after all that toil, I still have to send the government MORE MONEY. I don’t want to face the hours of sitting. The resentment of spending time doing taxes while I could be LIVING MY LIFE.

And there’s the rub. Dread is about tricking ourselves into believing that we are not CURRENTLY living our lives. We think that if we put off doing our taxes (or breaking things off with our date, or going out for a run, or quitting smoking, or, or, or…) that we are staving off the discomfort of the bane of this event.

The reality is that putting it off keeps us in the dread itself, torturing us with our own worst fears about the impending unwanted event. It keeps us in the cycle of loathing a fiction of a thing that has NOT EVEN HAPPENED YET. In addition to the experience of that dread, it also does the work of withholding the possibility that the thing we are dreading might, in all actuality, turn out ok. Or might be an experience that we can bear or grow from or laugh at or tolerate. Or it might suck even more than we think it will but at least it only has to suck while it is actually happening rather than the hours of dread leading up to it PLUS its attending real-time suckage.

Dread is a thief. It robs of of our peace in the moment of the life we are actually living to rake us over the coals of a future that may be nothing like what we are living through in our imagination. That’s two problems at once. The present is given over, and the creative power we possess is being used to hurt ourselves.

So. What to do?

Take the object of this dread and break it down. Splinter it. Do your taxes for ten minutes. Set a timer. Maybe the first ten minutes isn’t so bad. Do another ten. Put them away. Now you have 20 minutes of taxes under your belt with the added victory bonus of having spent 20 minutes of doing your taxes and not having anything be uncomfortable yet. You are now armed with a triumph going into day two. And since taxes, in this example, are something we’ll do again and again (if you believe in that kind of thing, but feel free to substitute a dread you relate to) we are also rewriting the story of how they actually feel. Turns out, the first 20 minutes feel fine. Maybe the first hour does. Maybe then it gets horrible and it feels clearly worth it to hire someone to do it next time or to start 4 days earlier or WHATEVER.

This experience of eradicating dread isn’t about curing our lives of discomfort, but it is about alleviating pain and struggle we create for ourselves around fictions that we create to haunt ourselves. The world is going to serve up plenty of real struggle for us. We don’t have to help it. And so when the real discomfort comes, we can show up for it in our lives and experience it as an honest and actual kind of difficulty. And the other thing is, we might just be wrong. I spent my whole adult life dreading the eventual truth that I would have to live in a body I wasn’t that psyched about.

Turns out, I was wrong and I now have the great pleasure of making amends to my body each and every day for the rest of my life. Even on days like today when it really didn’t do what I wanted it to. Maybe especially on days like today.

It’s like Mr. Whitman says,

“There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”

So be here now and not with dread.
And good luck on your taxes, everyone.