Right now, I should be doing something else—the something else someone intends for me or the something else I meant to do some time ago and pushed off and back and over and under and out of sight.
Everything feels like procrastination. I could be philosophical and ask, “Isn’t life procrastinating—living to avoid the alternative?” But that’s exactly what we procrastinators do, dwell in abstractions to wiggle out from under anything pressing.
In another context, any task can be diversionary… or essential:
- Continue working on a painting when I ought to help clean the house, procrastinating.
- Clean the house to avoid opening e-mail, procrastinating.
- Answer e-mail to avoid writing my blog post, procrastinating.
- Write a post on procrastination to avoid the stack of papers pulsing in my satchel…
If I’m too weary to go on, that’s procrastination too. Once I overcome the inertia to begin, just short of the finish line, I stop to wonder what pen this cap might fit and go looking. I stack fruit into a tower. I remove “that” from my prose or take notes on not procrastinating.
Ambition is procrastination of the worst sort. I can rehearse jigsaw solutions down to the last piece or devise Rube Goldberg solutions that turn every step into seventeen. Each task takes hours because I know everything about work but nothing about the pleasure of completing. I believe any insane excuse before I believe finishing will feel good.
I’m hypersensitive when, with growing insistence, people illuminate how little I’ve accomplished. How easy, non-procrastinators say, to stop thinking and begin doing. “If you put in half the energy you do into grumbling,” the well-adjusted begin…
All true. I have no believable defense. Psychological reasons for procrastination—perfectionism, fear of failure or success, thrill-seeking, passive aggression—all neurotic. Try to come up with reasons—”pressure motivates me” and “never leap without looking”—and the well-prepared sense your talent at delusion.
My defenses can’t be trusted. I’m the boy who cried, “Later.”
You recognize my guilt. I’d like to celebrate not doing, but can’t. Those pleasurable respites—the cups of coffee, the movie I’ve seen, the leisurely floats in the jetsam of the web—are never as deserved and enjoyable as I mean them to be. They might be, if I could be happy with now, giving myself wholeheartedly to the present with no pesky, shadowy obligations lurking.
Impossible. I might always give myself to what I’m avoiding, seek pleasure in those tasks, in that present. If I could enjoy what’s required, I’d be cured. I ‘d deserve dessert at last.
I mean to. I mean to see time as a field for cultivation, not an infinite jungle.
But my procrastination is unreasonable and unreasoned, a faith in time’s plenty, an unshakable belief that odious tasks will always be waiting… no matter what I shouldn’t be doing right now.