A few years ago, my basement was ripe with conditions for mold: dark, dank, moist; basically a five-star hotel for the furry growth of minute fungal hyphae. To alleviate the situation, all I really had to do was pop over to the store and get a dehumidifier, but for some reason I found that task extremely challenging. Instead, I put it on the To Do List, the To Buy List, the Must Do Before Europe List, all of The Lists, and avoided the act of completion every chance I got. I knew the longer I let it go, the more mold was likely to collect; that the solution was quite easy now and would be more difficult later, but nope. I simply pretended it wasn’t a real issue, though it so obviously was. I refused to face it, to admit it: the mold, the task, the truth, all of it. Finally my friend Christina, who was staying with me at the time and had stored a thing or two in the basement, brought home a dehumidifier in justifiable frustration, bringing my avoidance dance to an end. Guiltily relieved, I crossed it off the list(s).
So I’m a procrastinator. But not about big things. About stupid things. I kind of have this thought if you ignore something long enough, it will just go away. For example, the more cat poop that piles up, the less I want to empty the litter box. I know there will be even more poop tomorrow. Logic tells me I should just clean it today. But I don’t. Because, you know…tomorrow. I’m actually what you might call a master procrastinator. I often disguise the act in such a way I don’t even know I’m procrastinating.
Somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail, I decided not to worry about writing until I reached Canada. It was stressing me out, I never had service and rarely had time. When I get home, I said, I’ll pick it up again. This is the longest I’ve gone without writing in over four years. And just like the mold, it’s on all the lists, jostling for attention, but something else always purposefully takes precedence. I’ve cleaned my house from top to bottom, purged all the closets, done all the yard work. I’ve visited family and friends in other cities, other states, people I haven’t seen in a decade. I’ve avoided my laptop entirely, because it just reminds me of what I am not doing with it. I even went as far as to get a job. Anything to avoid being alone in my house with my computer, because then I’d have to get real creative with my excuses.
Maybe my avoidance tactics look relatively normal from the outside. I mean, who doesn’t want a super (duper) clean house, to see friends and family (especially babies named Henry!), and (this is a stretch) a regular income? But I can see my underlying motive poking out from the inside.
I mean, why do people procrastinate? Maybe the task appears too great, too big, too difficult. Maybe it’s the fear of failure, or the thought you won’t be good enough. Other times you just really don’t want to do it, whatever it is (cat poop). In the mold situation, who knows, maybe I was embarrassed to admit how long I had let it go, so I looked the other way, hoping it would solve itself. Which it did. Kinda.
And now? I don’t want to face my feelings, obviously. I love writing, I need to write, it brings me to a place I feel at home, connected, whole, a place where shit starts to make sense. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write, it’s that I have all the things to write. But if I’m being honest, I don’t want to be honest. While some people feel all the feels while doing something big, like hiking 2,650 miles across the country (or at least they pretend to), I struggle to feel things in the moment, like really feel them. I’m one of those weirdos who lives for the anticipation and the reflection and I’m all like, meh, during the big show. And I’m not ready to unravel all the packages I so neatly bundled up and sent myself to open later.
But I have like 8,432 metaphorical boxes blocking my every move, so I have to start somewhere. Thru-hiking is the worst. And it’s the best. It’s all the things. All the different things to all the different people. And I thought it would be okay this time, because I knew how it ended. I’ve been on both sides and understood what was waiting for me. But sometimes you walk deep into the wilderness at total peace, thinking you got it all figured out, and when you walk out you’re all like, oh my, I think I need a therapist or something. Shit gets real out there in the woods.
You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to remember a word? Or recall the name of a person or a place? It’s just on the tip of your tongue, you can’t quite grab it, you can’t hear it, can’t see it, but you can feel it somewhere inside, you know it’s there…yet…it feels so frustratingly far away?
That’s how I feel right now, but with life. I’m so close, but equally far away. In reference to what, you ask? Good question, I say. I have no damn clue.
And would you look at that. I’m procrastinating writing this very moment, by writing about procrastination. Master procrastinator.
Time to sort through this mess in my head. You’re in for a reeeal treat.