Procrastinate, and Do It Now!
This column is two days late. How did this happen?
Honest, it wasn’t my fault. Well, not entirely....
I knew just what I was going to write, I told myself confidently as last Wednesday rolled around. I would have no trouble the following day sitting down, as I try to do every Thursday, to get the column written and ready to go for Monday.
Except that Thursday was an unexpectedly busy day at work. And then Friday was also busy, though not in a working-every-minute way; more of a hurry-up-and-wait way. If I’d had my laptop with me, that would have been the perfect opportunity to bang out Monday’s column. Instead, I worked out the details of what I wanted to say. Right after work, as I’d had to do on Thursday as well, I was obliged to rush off to see a play.
Saturday was an all-day rehearsal with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. We have been rehearsing a slate of fun songs like Adele’s "Someone Like You" (altogether more poignant when belted out by 150 gay men, with slightly changed words that talk about how the ex has "found a boy and you’re married now"), but we’ve also been preparing "For A Look or a Touch," a beautiful, grim, haunting, unforgettable piece of music about two gay Jews separated by the Holocaust--separated forever, because one of them was murdered by the Nazis in the camps.
I interviewed Reuben M. Reynolds III ("Oh my God," he sighed, when I labeled the recording by his full name) about the suite of songs, which the BGMC commissioned together with the Seattle Men’s Chorus. (Seattle performed it last year; we had originally intended to perform it then, as well, but then changed course and performed Jay Kawarsky’s "Prayers for Bobby" instead, as a response to the wave of media attention to the suicides of gay teens and the "It Gets Better" project.) I would, I told myself, get the interview transcribed as soon as I got my column written, and my column would be written as soon as I wrote the review for the play I had seen on Friday night.
All of that was supposed to happen on Sunday, and that might even have happened if... IF... I hadn’t had two glasses of scotch while attending the latest Ryan Landry spectacular, "The Little Pricks," on Saturday night. Landry’s new opus is a take-off on Lillian Hellman’s comedy of Southern manners and the exploitation of the working class, "The Little Foxes." Landry, of course, stars as the scheming belle at the heart of the potboiler, and if there’s one thing the towering actor knows how to do it’s fill an elegant gown. (If there’s another thing he knows how to do, it’s over-act in the most juicily audacious manner possible.)
Sunday morning, needless to say, was a wash, while Sunday afternoon was dedicated to yet another play. I promised myself that I’d get the column done Monday morning...
As soon, that is, as I was done with some work that had to be done first thing. By which time I was feeling the early, but distinct and icy, fingers of a cold starting to grasp at me. Then a bunch of other stuff came up.
That’s how I came to find myself facing Tuesday morning with a guilty column-related conscience. By now, of course, the cycle of procrastination, shame, and diversion from shame, leading to more procrastination, had set in. For an OCD individual, any self-reinformcing cycle is an invitation to damnation and doom, and this is one of the hardest such cycles to break.
Even for non-OCD people, researchers have found, procrastination is a misery and a mind-twisting treadmill of anxiety and fear. The chore that’s being avoided looms larger and larger in the mind; the emotional charge associated with it becomes sharper and more jolting; whatever project one’s supposed to be doing (and isn’t) becomes a psychic third rail, and forget about grasping the nettle and just getting on with it. The merest approach to the dreaded task is enough to put one on the brink of a panic attack. The mind goes blank. The heart starts to pound. The limbs go numb and the eyes start to register whirling sparks. Suddenly, everything goes white and then, somehow, hours have passed and you find yourself in front of the TV with crumpled potato chip bags all around and scattered DVDs of "ER" all over the place, their shiny silvery surfaces marred by greasy fingerprints.
Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?? Why, God, why?!
There’s only one way to break the cycle, aside from a barbituate-fueled lost weekend in Barbados that lasts for six months, and that’s to throw oneself into the grinding maw of mental chaos and duke it out with the primal demons of the psyche. Only, good luck. They come tough, those mental demons.
Armed with determination and Day-Quil, I rose on Wednesday, prepared to do battle. I grabbed my laptop and plunged in--only to be whisked away instantly by the cyclonic forces of a howling void. Specifically: I found out from one air carrier that reservations for a trip I had booked for March had, well, vanished. It took some time to locate my errant reservation, but in the end all was well.
That’s when I found I no longer had access to the EDGE content management system. A flurry of emails later, I was all set for action... Then a friend contacted me to say a close relation of his was on the verge of death. Then a second airline sent word about a trip scheduled for July... more itinerary madness. Confounded, with a raging sore throat and running nose, I sank into an exhausted stupor.
It didn’t help that I started having doubts about the column I had wanted to write. I’d gone over it so often in my own mind that it was reduced to hash and gristle, boiled and tenderized into mush. Indeed, I’m not even sure what I had meant to write about.
And to think, if I had simply written it during that free couple of hours last Wednesday, I could have avoided all this horror and dread. The thing that makes me most puzzled and desperate is that I spent so many hours working on that one last thing I wanted to get off my plate before tackling this week’s essay.
"Sometimes," my husband consoled me, making me hot miso soup, "the column just has to get skipped."
Even if that’s true, it’s easier by far for him to adopt that rationale. And oh my gods, tomorrow is Thursday once again. What am I gonna write?
You know what, screw it. I’m just gonna wait until Sunday night and do it then. I’m just gonna blog the Oscars and beat the demons of anxiety and dread to death with a succession of gold-plated figurines. Is this more procrastination? Well, yes. But this time it’s triumphal and deliberate. My motto: Procrastinate--and do it now!