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PROCRASTINATION

It’s six o’clock on Sunday morning. The dogs have been let out. Everyone else is still sleeping. The house is still. It’s the perfect time to write. I can no longer put off until tomorrow what could be done today. It must be done today. I am out of time. I am done procrastinating.

Occasionally, after reading David Whyte’s essay for the word of the week in Consolations, I know exactly what I want to write about, and the words flow from my fingertips effortlessly. But more often than not I struggle. And I procrastinate. A lot.

What may seem like a great direction to go in, at times, brings me to a screeching halt and the delete key. I must turn around and go back, only this time deeper into the dark to allow my memories to take me in the direction they want to go, reminding me I’m not always the one in charge. It takes time and patience and yes, procrastination, to get there.

“Procrastination when studied closely can be a beautiful thing, a parallel with patience, a companionable friend, a revealer of the true pattern, already caught within us; acknowledging for instance, as a writer, that before a book can be written, most of the ways it cannot be written must be tried first, in our minds; on the blank screen on the empty page or staring at the bedroom ceiling at four in the morning. Procrastination enables us to understand the true nature of our reluctance.” – David Whyte Consolations

The true nature of my reluctance comes from knowing that people close to me, friends and family as well as complete strangers, are reading what amounts to my diary. The strangers I’m fine with, but for the people that know me, I am often reluctant to follow in the direction my writing wants to go precisely because it’s so personal and makes me feel so vulnerable.

I remember when I was younger and still in high school, I would often be criticized by my English teachers for my reluctance to write anything too personal. I could tell a story well enough, but the reader would be left unsatisfied. My stories were like a bland meal without any interesting or juicy details, leaving the reader still hungry.

At the time I didn’t care. I didn’t see my writing as I do now – as a way in – as the key to unlocking doors that have been locked my whole life.

“What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and the central struggle with the realities of any endeavor to which we have set our minds.” – David Whyte Consolations

Looking back at the whole of my life – almost fifty years – I see a pattern emerging. My whole life can be seen as an endeavor. All the (many) times I procrastinate, put things off, lack commitment, or am just plain lazy, were times when for whatever reason I just wasn’t ready.

Like a tight bud, I needed time to unfurl into flower and be pollinated by life before becoming fruit, only ripening when I had something ready to offer.

And like the ripe fruit that falls to the ground, my seed has also been passed on to a new generation, a generation that given enough time and patience and maturity may germinate and eventually give away its own fruit one day.

Often I am impatient with this process; impatient for an imagined future to arrive. Impatient to see my kids walk down the aisle someday. Impatient to bounce my grandbabies on my knees and hold them close to my heart. Or, instead of focusing on whats right in front of me, I might dwell in the past to a time when they were young and playing in the hot sand at the beach or picking ripe round apples at the orchard.

Thinking about life in this way by extension makes me think about death. It reminds me of how fragile it all is and how quickly it all passes by.

It also makes me think of my sister, Karen, who died unexpectedly more than five years ago from complications of MS.

She was a nurse who gave everything she had to give to everyone who ever knew her, her family, her friends as well as her patients. When she became sick, she suffered in silence. When she was unfairly let go from her job two weeks before Christmas due to physical limitations from the progression of her disease coupled with the hospital’s bottom line, she never let on how devastated she must have been.

After learning that she had lost her job, I began thinking about her every day. She only lived about fifteen minutes away, and I wanted very much to set aside some time to go and see how she was doing and if there was anything I could do to help her out even if it was just to spend time together in an attempt to brighten her spirits.

For whatever reason, I kept putting it off. I kept procrastinating.

I remember coming across this poem and copying it down for her in a letter. I should have delivered it to her in person, but for some reason, I opted to mail it to her instead.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

It said what I couldn’t find the words to say. It said that she shouldn’t lose hope, that the situation she found herself in was only temporary. That as much as it sucked to have been betrayed by the people she worked so hard for, for so many years, something better was waiting for her in the future. That maybe she was being cleared out for some new delight.

Every single day after I sent her that letter there would come a moment when I would stop whatever I was doing and think to myself – I should get in my truck and go see her right now. I felt a weird sense of urgency coupled with fierce resistance.

“Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead.” – David Whyte Consolations

Reflecting on this now is still difficult. It is my single greatest regret.

At the heart of my delaying going to see her, of procrastinating to the point of self-hatred for my unwillingness to confront what made me deeply uncomfortable, was knowing in my heart that I could do nothing to make her better. I was too scared to come face to face with her pain.

She died unexpectedly about a week later. I had waited too long. I would never feel the warmth of her beautiful smile or get to spend another precious moment with her again.

My reluctance to face her illness and bear witness to her pain had me procrastinating about going to see her for weeks, and now it was too late.

But as painful as this story is for me to tell, reliving it through this particular lens has gifted me with a new perspective on it. I cannot rewrite it. I cannot go back and edit anything. But perhaps now I might finally be able to forgive myself.

It’s what my sister would have wanted.

 

NEXT WEEK: REGRET

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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