Persistence

Breaking the procrastination cycle one day, or moment, at time.

20140821_103102

There was a time when, if you looked up procrastination in the dictionary, you’d find my picture right next to its phonetic spelling. Even now, I succeed in accomplishing my goals in spurts, like a sprinter. But, I want to be more like a marathoner because, after all, this is a long race we’re running.

In my younger years, I would often wait until the midnight hour, literally and figuratively, to do things like laundry or that 40 page term paper on the redemption cycle as represented by earth elements in King Lear. True story.

Then, as it so often does, life caught up with me and my mercurial ways. Certain things just didn’t flex into my creative scheduling. Bills, work, grown up chores, and the eventual realization that, whatever I wanted to accomplish in life, I was responsible for putting into play. I have an expiration date, and contrary to what most of us so-called visionaries were taught to believe by other so-called visionaries, so do our dreams and aspirations.

After a few (okay, MANY) unladylike stumbles and outright epic failures, I realized that my goals were more important than my perceived freedom of spirit. I began to prioritize, whittle down, and focus. None of these actions come easily to me. I can’t even call them habits yet because, even as a 40-something, I still struggle. Daily.

I make to-do lists, lose them, and start over with a new piece of paper (sorry, trees). Between my full-time job, being a mom and (trying) to be a homemaker, sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in freelance work before 9pm. Then, there are my working manuscripts: my memoir, my novel, and my fantasy trilogy. Oh, and those short stories. . . *sigh*

It’s unrealistic to think I can do it all, and yet, I feel like a failure for not being able to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, etc. etc. (If you’re under 40, you probably won’t get that reference. Sorry.) After beating myself up for not living up to my own expectations (or delirium, maybe?), I usually come back to reality with a clearer vision. I count my blessings and remember to be thankful. I remember that, yes, tomorrow IS another day and sometimes I remember that the rest of the day – the afternoon or even this next hour is fresh and unspoilt.

Then, instead of making the day’s to-do list on paper, I email it to myself. Instead of attempting to write 3 chapters between the hours of 9 and 11pm, I tell myself to do one page. One page is good. One page is great. One page is freaking FANTASTIC!

Can I bake 3 dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale this Thursday? No, but I can take home some reading pull out pages and collate them over the weekend. Can I clean out the car, weed the garden, and make a batch of cookies between getting off work and taking my son to his piano lesson? No, but I can grab a few things as I get out of the car, water the mums, and look through the cookbooks quickly with him to pick a recipe to bake together on Saturday afternoon.

Can I say no? Yes.

Can I compromise? Yes.

Can I be patient and forgiving, with myself? Yes.

And so can you.

There are many reasons we procrastinate. Only you can look inside yourself for your unique answer. For me, my reasons vary. I’m tired. I’m afraid it won’t turn out the way I want. I think I’ll have more time later. But, I challenge each of us to look at our lives and realize we’re on a one-way trip. What do we really want to accomplish while we’re here? What will bring us joy? What on our list is worth making a priority? What can we let go?

When you decide what’s important to you, revisit it daily. Spend time with your goals if you want to make them realities. You might stumble and fall, but keep getting back up. Move forward a little or a lot everyday, and you’ll make it.

 

 

Advertisements

The Perks of Persistence

My five-year-old son is a Skylanders rock star. We bought him the system when he was 4, even though it’s recommended for ages 6 and up. I was skeptical. My husband was hopeful. My son was ecstatic.

In a single Saturday, he had mastered the controller, XP’d multiple levels-up, and knew his characters’ full bios and credit histories. Okay, that last part is a joke. But seriously, he threw himself into it, taking my “we never give up!” mantra to heart as his characters fell off the ledge or into the lava. Again. And again.

That was quite a while back, and in the last few months, my heart and my family have taken a few blows. We’ve known need. We’ve known loss. And, we’ve known grief. That last part needs to be put into present tense, doesn’t it? We know grief. Grief is the unwelcome guest with a one way ticket to your innermost being. You don’t outgrow your grief. You learn to bear it; to live with it. Over time, it becomes a companion, and the relationship you share is the one you make it into. I learned this once. And now, I find myself retracing my steps as I walk the path once more.

The days and weeks and now, months, since my mother’s passing have been exhausting. In an ideal world, we would be allowed to be alone in our grief, to wrestle it out in our hearts and minds. But, that’s not realistic. We’re given 3 days, or 5, filled with planning a party you don’t want to have to give, sorting through baubles and valuables while you have a chance to do it  with family, cleaning, packing, visiting her favorite restaurant one more time, then it’s back to work. Back to the routines of the life that carried on while you were out with a shattered heart. As many of you know, it’s not easy.

Ten weeks after my mother passed, my brother and I locked the door on her house for the last time, finally done with the sorting and packing and cleaning. I remember closing my eyes and sucking in a deep breath, hoping to capture any stray memories that lingered, wanting to take everything with me.

The next Saturday, I spent home with my son, greedily soaking him in. “Mommy, will you play Skylanders with me?” His blue eyes, so much like hers, shining at me.

We sat side by side, and played, laughed, and laughed some more. Then we got to a hard part. Like, a really hard part that challenged even my coordination. Our characters had to jump onto a series of rotating gears that were spinning in orbit around our destination, which held the switch that when flipped, would defeat our enemy and reward us with treasure.

It just so happened that my character was the only one of our two that was equipped with the special ability required to take this challenge to task. So, I went for it, and failed, plunging off the third gear or so. (There were a lot of gears.) Each time I tried, I fell off. Sometimes it was early on, and sometimes I would be sooo close, and fail. I was tempted to give up, but that’s not something I wanted to do in front of my son. I tell him that we never, ever give up. So, I kept trying.

I was frustrated. I felt like a dork. This is a kids’ game. Why is it so hard?

Somewhere around my 19th attempt, I made it. At first, I didn’t realize it, but my son started jumping up and down, and screaming, “Mommy is AWESOME!” and it sunk in. I did it!

“Wow!” I said. “That was really hard! I had to do it so many times!”

“Yeah,” my wise-beyond-his-years son replied. “But, the last time was easy!”

Boom.

It’s easy to give up. We’re tempted to every day, aren’t we? We’re tempted to give up on our dreams, on our futures, on keeping up with, well, everything. Oh, and we have good reasons, don’t we? We’re tired. The world is cruel. Our dreams don’t seem to come true. We hurt. We grieve. When we fall of the gear, we don’t want to try again, and again. Experience has taught us that we can try, but we’ll fail. Epically.

But, what if?

What if we’re not done? What if the lesson Experience is trying to teach us isn’t a one-time lecture. What if our professor is more complicated and intellectual than that? What if he is trying to get our attention with an object lesson, and if we skip out of class before he’s done, what will we have learned?

Never give up. Persevere. Our challenges don’t go away. Life is full of them. But, as long as we keep trying to navigate, seeking a path that will get us through, we’ll make it. The journey won’t always be easy, but the victory will be sweet.

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Hang in there. We’re all in this together.

Walk it one step at a time. Just keep walking.