Procrastinate the day away, so there’s no time left for making lemonade.
Yeah, well … As mottoes go, it’s not a classic, is it? This has been my life of late. I get into this vicious cycle where I know I need to do things. Lots of things. I know, if I get these things done, I will feel ever-so-much-better about myself and my life and the universe, in general. Heck, I can even go so far as to say I really and truly WANT to do these things.
And yet … Things do not get done. Procrastination happens. And then, it happens some more. And even some more. And, after all of that … a little bit more, still. Until I find myself smack up against a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, and feel panicked about not getting everything accomplished on time and, thus, letting myself and others down.
I feel overwhelmed by life, much of the time. I find myself unmoored and floating free, surrounded by things I can’t control and, often, don’t understand. There is this rational part of my brain that tells me things will be all right; that all I have to do is hunker down and push through whatever unpleasant thing awaits me. But, when things pile up too much, and when I find myself without the proper support, hunkering down and pushing through are the last things that happen. Instead, panic happens. And with panic comes my old friend, procrastination. It’s almost like I believe whatever deadline or mental calamity I’m trying to escape can’t find me if I go about my business as if said deadline or mental calamity didn’t exist. It’s sort of the mental equivalent to the deer in the headlights thing. Or, maybe, one step above sitting in the corner and rocking back and forth as I hum to myself.
I wasn’t always like this, you know. I used to be organized and on time and “together”. I was a maker of lists. Even better than that, I was a crosser-offer of lists. I got things done. I was the one everyone counted on. I was responsible. I had it together, whatever “it” was. I used to think, if I was perfect, I would be more worthy of love. If I did everything just right, or if I was a “good girl”, I would prove, to myself and those around me, that I deserved to exist. That I was a real person, with real feelings. I know this doesn’t make much sense, and it’s very hard to explain. It has to do with how I grew up and how I learned to cope with different things from my childhood.
Anyhow, I’ve spent a great deal of my life feeling horrible for who I am and believing that I didn’t have the right to feel or dream or think or even exist. During all that time, it looked like I had everything together, at least on the outside. It looked like I was a well-adjusted, responsible adult. I was very, very good at hiding things, even from myself. I didn’t exist for myself. I existed only for others, and I spent a great deal of my time and energy doing things for other people, without ever stopping to consider what I wanted. Or, even, if I wanted to do these things at all. I feel like I left bits and pieces of myself out in the wasteland along the way. This emotion or that dream or that thought would drop away because it was too painful … Until, finally, there was very little left.
It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to be responsible or to constantly put others first to the exclusion of my own happiness and satisfaction. Often, I used shame and guilt to goad myself into giving up my free time or my desires. I would remind myself of what a useless, horrible person I was — BUT, if I only did “x” (whatever “x” happened to be at that particular moment), I could feel better about myself. I could feel good because I was giving others what they wanted.
Now, I have reached my middle adulthood. Or, as I have lately come to think of it, my second childhood. And I find the coping mechanisms I used to employ no longer work. They haven’t worked for quite some time. What’s more, I have come to realize I have a hard time making myself care about the stuff I’m supposed to care about — the stuff the world around me says I should find important. Like sending out Christmas cards in a timely fashion, for example. Or getting stuff mailed on time. Or making doctor’s appointments. Or calling the dog groomer. Or running errands. Or buying groceries. Or getting my overstuffed office cleared out in time for it to double as a guest bedroom in less than a week. And on and on and on. There are a million-billion ways, every day, that the world pokes its nose into our lives to remind us we are supposed to be responsible adults. And I find I can’t summon up the energy to care about any of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel bad when things don’t happen on time. I feel bad when I panic because my husband will be upset with me or, maybe, people will think badly of me, or … whatever. I feel bad and guilty when I make life harder for my hubby. But that panic and shame and guilt aren’t enough, any more, to get me off my ass and accomplishing whatever unpleasant task I am supposed to handle.
Am I being childish? Am I being selfish? Probably “yes” to both of those questions. But I have spent a lifetime doing things I don’t want to do. I have been a “responsible adult” pretty much since childhood. I never was a child. I never had the freedom to let go in that way. Maybe it is selfish of me. And maybe it is childish. But … just maybe … I already used up all the “responsible adult” I have in me.
Honestly, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m still stuck back on the whole, “So who the hell am I?” issue. I do know it’s a good thing I don’t homeschool my child. I love her, but I am not responsible enough to stick to any kind of schedule at this point in my life. And, maybe, that’s all right. Maybe it can be a beginning, of sorts. Maybe it’s OK to realize my limits … to know I have limits and to acknowledge them.
And, when life gives me lemons, maybe — one day — I’ll learn to make lemonade again, instead of drowning in the expectations of those around me.