I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.
Suffering through those things I don’t want to do in order to get to the ones I want.
Problem is, by the time I eat said frogs, I’m usually too damn tired to do the things I want, which never really were obligatory anyway. Or, I take so long staring down the frog or pretending I don’t hear him croaking that I have just enough time to gulp him down hurriedly before the sun goes down; it’s time for dinner; time to pick up the girls from the bus stop.
Procrastination and perfectionism are not mutually exclusive.
When, pre-move, I described how I was failing to meet my goal of packing five boxes per day, an acquaintance pointed out how I couldn’t possibly be an overachiever and a procrastinator. Luckily, another such duality came to my defense. She concurred, that, oh yes, it is possible to be so worried about doing something perfectly that it stops you from attempting it at all.
In college, I grabbed a pamphlet from the career center on procrastination. I’ve since thrown it out – though it took me quite some time ; ) – but it laid out similar terms. I didn’t necessarily agree with it. I am not one obsessed with the pursuit of perfection. At least not overtly. I understand the human condition and all its frailty. I like to think I empathize and can forgive our various faults.
But do I refuse to start projects until I have sufficient time to complete the entire task? Yes. Will I stay at that task far into the night or despite my husband’s repeated attempts to beckon me to the dinner table until it is finished? Yes. Will I avoid beginning a task until I know exactly how to execute it? Yes. Do I fail to commit to a task until I know I can fulfill all the obligations that go along with it? Yes. And regardless of all reasons not to start, do I place an unrelenting sense of guilt heavy upon my breastbone until I do start? Yes.
Hmmm . . . maybe I threw out that pamphlet because I was not ready to see myself in its words.
What is it with these freakin’ frogs? And why do they all float on lily pads obscuring what murky depths really cause all this angst: ANXIETY.
Because that’s what it really is, isn’t it? I worry about getting things right because I’m anxious. I put things off because they make me nervous. Or I’m worried about getting it all done. Or I’m worried I’ll run out of time. Or it’s an unpleasant task. Or it’s out of my comfort zone. Whatever hue or size these amphibian friends and foes come in, they’re all from the same frog mother. And what a mother-f*&%$#@ she is.
The more I learn about myself, my reactions, feelings, and disposition, the more I realize how much of my life has been colored by anxiety. I don’t know if I’ve ever known what it is to live without it. There was a time when I didn’t know I was living with it, but looking back, now I can name it unequivocally.
A very talented writer friend of mine just shared a story wherein a character and her mother try to pinpoint the exact origin of the mother’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. They realize that not only is it impossible, but it is a form of obsession in and of itself. What does it matter where it began? One must learn coping mechanisms to take forward with her. I find myself doing this repeatedly with my anxiety. But why? When did it start? How? What purpose does that serve beyond making me more anxious? Why roll back the reels over those years over and done – and with a pretty good measure of success? Why create suffering where there may have been none? Or where there was some, but where I had the wherewithal to function despite it?
Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I feel that the fact that I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t hack it when I previously could makes me a failure on some level. I know this is my masochistic overachiever unrealistic hair shirt-wearing self, but it is still part of me and I can’t turn it off no matter how hard I try to push with my rational self. And all that croaking just reminds me of it. Why do I get a mental block when I assess my to-do list? Why can I not complete tasks that I know will reap rewards?
Guess the only way around it is to choke the frogs down before they choke me.