Archives for posts with tag: procrastination

Not too long ago, a dear friend and I were chatting online. We covered a lot of conversational ground; it had been a while since we’d been in touch.

We checked in on some serious subjects. “I felt better when I was writing” she remarked. “Me too,” I replied.

I had been writing sporadically, when I wrote at all.  I had abandoned drafts waiting here, and subjects I wanted to explore elsewhere. I had more than enough time, so what stopped me? Me.

So I sat down and faced my lonely blog, and chose a topic. I wrote and I posted. And I did it again and again. And I did it some more. Guess what?

I feel better.

It starts so early.  Several years ago, I identified an undercurrent of shame as one factor that seems to hold me back. Trying to unravel its source has been tricky, and uncomfortable.

I can’t really remember a time in my life when I did not feel shame about something. My father died when I was very young, and I felt shame about being in a family that was so different than my friends’. Irrational, I know, but rationality is not a characteristic possessed by most kindergarteners.

My mother and her mother compounded my feelings. Mom and her sister had different fathers, and there was some suggestion that my grandmother had not been married to one of these men. ( I will never know, because the involved parties have all gone to their graves with their secrets.)

I got older, and taller than almost everyone else. And my hair was wildly curly. Different again, and shameful, in my mind. I was repeatedly ridiculed in elementary school for being singled out by my teachers for being smart.  And on it went;  right up to my current under-employed present- just another reason to feel shame.  Shame was a magnet for other reasons to feel it. I never stopped to question whether my feelings were valid.

Shame can be useful. Applied properly, it helps us function as a society. We should feel shame when we harm one another by lying, cheating and stealing, or worse.

Shame that only hurts ourselves is no shame, just waste. The real shame of this shame is that it is also very context-specific. Had my grandmother lived her same life in another time and place, right now, for instance, no one would blink at her less than conventional family life. It pains me to think of all of the emotional suffering that would have spared her, my mother and my aunt.

That kind of shame keeps us from taking our rightful place in the world; I know I dialed down my efforts in school to fit in with my classmates, (a real shame with permanent effect.)  More recently, ashamed of my lack of  employment-related identity, I have hesitated to make social overtures, an obvious waste of free time I will never have again, not to mention opportunities to make connections that might help me find work!

Going forward, I promise this:

1) When I feel ashamed, I will ask myself whether I have caused anyone actual harm. If so, I will do my best to right the wrong. If no, I will get over myself, and move forward.

2) When I see anyone around me feeling self-harming  shame, I will do my best to comfort and encourage them.

Imagine a world where we all felt shame only when we should, and never when we shouldn’t. We’d hardly recognize the place.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it all in this post. But I have spent a good portion of this year considering the impediments to what I want and need to do. Now I will address them in writing.

I will occasionally be dragging one out, holding it up to the light, examining it, and describing it before I decide how to dispose of it.

These musings will be posted under the category of “Baggage” so consider yourself warned if you would like to avoid the navel-gazing.

My somewhat under-filled schedule allows for too much procrastination. The little (and big) tasks on my list take on less urgency when I tell myself I have plenty of time to get to them. As a result, I don’t always accomplish what I should. 

The two bird feeders in my front yard are an example: I noticed last week that they needed to be filled. Today, as I walked to the house on the way back from an errand, I took the few minutes to take care of it.

After releasing Waldo from his crate and pouring myself a cup of coffee, I glanced out of the kitchen window. There they were: bright Cardinals, Goldfinches, and Purple Finches, dithering around the feeders with their more soberly dressed counterparts.

“You get more birds when you fill the feeders” I snarked to myself. The metaphor walloped me between the eyes. Well, duh…


I’d get a lot more done around here without my little feathered friends. I glance out of the window by my desk and spot a yard full of robins, most of whom are bobbing (seriously) up and down atop the holly bushes planted too close to the front of the house. They gobble happily at the berries until I lean in for a closer look, then fly off to the trees.

Now I notice a towhee (formerly “Rufous-sided,” now simply “Eastern”) on the ground under the holly. And a male cardinal, bright orange-red in the tree above him. Hmm, who else is out there? At the moment, just the robins, deciding whether or not I can be trusted.

I know if I decide to look harder, I’ll see more: nuthatches (brown and black), chickadees, titmice, catbirds, mockingbirds, thrashers, goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, pine siskins, juncoes, and my favorite- bluebirds. And those are only the guys I can name. Add in at least three different types of woodpeckers and all the various wrens and sparrows (I admit that I’ve been lazy about learning the brown birds) and it’s a wonder I get anything done. Because once I spot one, I have to watch for a while. Thank goodness I find the doves boring.

If the job search is progressing, it is at a pace indiscernible to the human eye. No word from anyone I’ve contacted recently, and I subscribe to the theory that most people do not care to be bothered on Mondays. That said, I am turning my attention this rainy Monday to something where I might see some progress.

We’ve got this chair. It’s a big, manly recliner we bought when TMIM embraced his codger status shortly after his 50th birthday. The chair was originally purchased in Durham, and came back here when he did. It’s been well loved and well worn, and it shows. In a demonstration of flattering but misguided faith in my ability, Dr. T asked me to re-cover it. Sure, I’ve made some simple curtains and pillows, and I’ve even re-covered a storage ottoman (talk about your learning by doing.) But a recliner? That’s complicated. My good friend Google said don’t even try.

I took time to consider. A lot of time. The chair had been in the family room, but we’d replaced it with a pair of smaller club chairs and ottomans, so back to the living room it went. And it sat there in its shabby glory, at complete odds with the rest of the room. Couldn’t we just kick it to the curb? Dr. T was clearly not emotionally ready to let go of his old buddy. I considered further. I will undertake any project if the “after” can’t end up worse than the “before.” The recliner qualified.

My favorite part of designing a room is the “if this, then what?” aspect. My this: a hulking mass of navy blue leather in a room otherwise populated by smaller, lighter furniture, including wicker and rattan. The dominant colors in the room are smoky aqua, turquoise, taupe, and a sort of olive-brown. Mr. Chair was not invited, but now that he was here, I’d have to help him fit in; he was going to have to lighten up and lose some of his macho.

I decided I could manage his transformation if I left the back and sides alone. The real wear was on the footrest, seat and arms. The footrest seemed straightforward enough, the seat cushion was really just a glorified pillow, and the arms…well, I’d get to that when I got to it. I knew I was not ready to deal with leather, so the trick was to find a fabric sturdy enough to withstand the wear, and to make sense with the leather. Rather than trying to match the solid blue, I  wanted to use a pattern that related to the other colors in the room. Fortunately, mismatched upholstery is kind of a “thing” right now, and it suits my style, which I call, “I dunno, but like it (or can’t afford to replace it.)”

We found and ordered the fabric. I’d carefully calculated and measured  before I ordered, but now I was afraid to commit by cutting. I am not a math person, and I worried that there wouldn’t be enough material for the job. Finally, I decided to at least attack the footrest. It turned out fine. Emboldened, I ripped off the seat cover. And promptly lost my nerve again. I will not tell you how long I have been staring at that naked cushion. Today though, I am prepared to go forward. Sometimes you have to really not want to do one thing before you can make yourself do that other thing you have been avoiding.

(not to be confused with my WordPress  Problem- not knowing how to insert a pic into a post yet!-this is not my original photo- looking for the  source to credit properly)

As I have piddled around on the internet conducted extensive on-line career research, I fell into Pinterest. Oh boy, a virtual bulletin board- I love it!  It’s environmentally friendly- no more magazines or catalogues! It’s a window to the world, offering glimpses into design ideas from countries whose languages I do not speak. It’s also home to the Ryan Gosling meme, an example of which appears around here somewhere. Don’t ask me why, but I find that hilarious.

I love Pinterest because it is full of attractive images and useful ideas, as well as the previously mentioned R.G. meme. I am fascinated by this cult of aspiration I seem to belong to.  Pinterest shows us a better way. You can follow or be followed on the site, which strikes me as both flattering and mildly creepy. Although I haven’t been “pinning” (that’s what we call it) for long, I have a few followers, some of whom are even strangers. Apparently, I have better taste in laundry rooms than in other area, since more people “follow” that board than any of the others. I follow a few folks myself- (Rosemary B., I will never have to look for another garden image anywhere- your taste is impeccable!)

I love Pinterest because of the self-aware humor demonstrated by its members, as in “Pinterest: a place for women to plan weddings to men they don’t know, decorate houses they don’t live in, and dress children they haven’t had yet.”

I fear Pinterest because it offers me the illusion that I have accomplished something by spending hours at a time looking at pretty pictures. I justify this by telling myself that I am slowly and deliberately  finding inspiration,which in time, will translate to action. On a small scale, this has turned out to be true. Fortunately, there seems to be some limit to my inertia- I can only look at other people’s projects for so long without being compelled to hang some shelves (ok, ok, get TMIM to hang some shelves), spray paint some office supplies and paint a vintage file cabinet. On a larger scale, I intend to create something of my own which is worthy of “repinning.” In that way, I will know that my time on Pinterest will not have been wasted.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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