The whys and wherefores of putting stuff off

Chinese abacus. [Wikimedia Commons]

I’ve been working on taxes today. It’s an activity I dread, although once I start on it, it never seems so bad.

Like most things that put me a state of high anxiety, it’s the anticipation of not-good-enoughness that arouses fear that arouses anxiety that arouses the desire to procrastinate.

You’d think after all these years it wouldn’t still be this way.

Anything related to money is a trigger for me. It makes me want to bury myself under the covers and sleep, so I don’t feel the panic … and that’s no matter how much or how little cash money I have in the bank.

But that’s a story for another day.

I read an article recently in the New York Times about the whys of procrastination. (It’s worth reading. You can find it here.)

The good news is: Procrastination isn’t about laziness.

I guess that’s something.

However, an interesting finding of one study was that procrastination is more about “‘the immediate urgency of managing negative moods’ than getting on with the task.”

In other words, people who procrastinate (my hand is raised here) experience some scary emotion around the task. It could just be that the task is not a pleasant one. For me that’s definitely cleaning my house … and doing my taxes.

But it could also be self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, insecurity, self-blame, shame or the like related to the task for whatever reason. In this case, escaping that powerful feeling — even if we know that in the long run putting the task off could make the feeling worse or be damaging to ourselves in some way (“self-harm” in the psychologists’ lingo) — is more valuable than just tackling the task. Avoidance trumps get-‘er-done.

I guess I’m making progress in that I actually began tax prep yesterday … although truth be told, I’ve been thinking about it since January. And here it is, one week until April 15.

I’m doing it, but it’s uncomfortable AF, because those pesky negative emotions are full-on my companions. I just keep reminding myself that a week from today taxes will be behind me and I can worry about something else.

Like scrubbing that bathroom floor.

Oh joy.

Get your butt in the chair and write already!

I went to a writing conference today.

Because It seems to be my nature to approach things from the negative (yeah, I know; I’m trying to get better at reversing that), I was a little disappointed. I thought, I already knew most of what was presented in the sessions.

(Plus I was operating on two hours of sleep and 16 hours on my feet at work. Under those circumstances, maybe nothing would’ve met my expectations.)

Then I thought … Hey! I already knew most of what was presented in the sessions!

The moral of that story is: Get your butt in the chair and write already! You’re a writer. You know this stuff!

That and no matter what sessions are offered, and how much I do or don’t know, the camaraderie and energy is worth every minute spent with other writers. Enthusiasm and self-confidence is contagious these days, rather than threatening.

How’s that for a positive spin?!

Now I’m going to get some sleep …

Where the red pines stand

The temperature was in the 50s today, so I took my dog for a walk through the neighborhood across the road from where I live.

The subdivision was cut out of a huge grove of red pine. While some of the properties have been totally cleared, several are banked by clusters of these tall, lanky trees, standing in straight rows. “Majestic” is the word that always comes to mind.

As we — my dog and I — walked along this road, the wind picked up. There is something very prehistoric — primal — about the sound of breezes blowing through the tops of these pines. It immediately took me to the wilderness, somewhere far from here, from traffic and houses, from the small riding mowers buzzing around yards as residents do their spring clean-up.

The rustling makes me, always, turn my face up to the treetops and the sky to take in that sound that is almost a sad moan but not quite. Mysterious might be the best way to describe it.

We were there but also a hundred miles away, up north somewhere, alone in the forest, but connected to everything.

On the edge of this stand there is the most lovely tree, like a queen guarded by her protectors. I was happy to see she was still there. More trees are being cut down with each new house that is built.

Progress, some would say.

Call me cranky

It’s April Fool’s Day. I’ve never been a fan.

My friend, A, called this morning to pull a prank. Hahaha.

I wondered aloud if there are certain personality types that enjoy that sort of thing, you know, trying to fool someone into thinking something is true that isn’t and then laughing at them for their gullibility.

It’s even more fun, apparently, if there is a group of onlookers to see it, say, friends or co-workers. Hahaha.

I have a sense of humor, but I just never saw public humiliation and being the butt of a joke as funny, no matter how “benign” it’s intended to be.

Wikipedia explains that “A practical joke, or prank, is a mischievous trick played on someone, generally causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion, or discomfort.”

Call me cranky, or no fun, but what’s hilarious about that?

Not to mention that such things can too easily cross the line into harassment and bullying.

I got to thinking. What if, instead of pranking on April 1, we all did something to benefit others that we might not ordinarily do — hence the “fool” part?

Like, I don’t know, give a buck or two to that nonprofit we’ve been wanting to support but “don’t have the money” for, or volunteer at a senior center and try to make someone laugh or at least crack a smile, or make reading fun by tutoring at a local literacy program.

There’s just too much mean-spiritedness in the world today. Do we really need a holiday to encourage it?

Let’s save laughing for those times when we can do it together, and not at the expense of someone else.