I need to get my head on straight here. I have been procrastinating all morning. Watching various videos. Leaving status updates on Facebook. Posting drawings on Instagram. It is 12:03pm and I am still wearing the clothes I slept in. Why am I doing this? What is it that I am looking for? It certainly feels easier than dealing with all the things I need to get done.
My toilet has been wobbling for weeks. Need to bolt it to the blue tiled floor. My bathroom walls have holes that need to be patched up. I have closets and a garage that are filled with junk and in desperate need of being organized. I have yet to return phone calls that are days old. I have several unfinished novels and short stories begging for my attention. I need to pay bills and call the financial aid office because I am in so much debt that I have not even bothered thinking about paying it back. For years and years. I could go on and on with the things that I am not taking care of but this doesn’t sound like fun.
There is currently a public service announcement on the college radio station that I have on, which is recommending taking deep breaths as an antidote to the epidemic of stress that fills all our jam-packed lives. Instead of breathing, I seem to have chosen retreating. The more that I must get done it seems that the less I want to do. I am like a person who eats a lot to lose weight. It is reverse logic. I realize that the more I retreat the heavier my life will get. But for whatever reason, a large part of me is all right with this.
There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who are pro-active and organized. These people usually are very good at doing things that do not have an immediate benefit but require being fully committed, effort and consistency. They are not afraid of hard work even though it may not be fun. It seems easy for them to work hard at something that they are interested in for long periods of time. These are usually the people whose films we watch, houses we buy, books we read, classes we take, restaurants we eat in, planes we fly on, surgeries we subject ourselves to and on and on. Then there are those people who do just enough to get by. The only thing they really stick with is not sticking to things. They give the minimum amount of effort to just get by and then when things get hard they retreat. They go take a nap. Read. Drink a beer. Read. Go on Facebook or Instagram. Read. Listen to music. Nap. Read. This second kind of person is me.
Isn’t a blogger someone who wants to do the minimum amount of work in order to still remain a writer? This would be me. As soon as working on a novel or a short story gets tough, I become frustrated and bored and want to do something else. In fact, whenever anything gets boring or frustrating I seem unwilling to put in the work it would require to get it done. Instead, I go do something else that feels more fun even if this means sitting on my couch and staring out my window for hours. I do just enough to get by and it is only when I reach a crisis point or things get urgent that I will do more.
Isn’t this what the status quo means? Doing just enough to get by and then enjoying your life (or not) on your off time? Go work on your car, take out the boat, work in the garden, listen to records, clean your home, go to a movie, hang out with friends, read a book, watch a Netflix series. You work your job because you need the money and then when work is done you just hang out. To answer my own question, yes- this is the status quo. What would not be the status quo would be putting consistent effort into something that you are interested in but may or may not work out down the line. Even though I am not happy about it, I seem to have chosen the status quo. Life just feels easier this way.
I know an older man who feels like he has failed in his life. His life has been filled with anxiety, worry and despair. He has worked hard at his job as a social worker for thirty plus years but he told me that when he is done with work all he thinks about is resting and chilling out. “This is how I avoid stuff,” he tells me. I see him sitting there with his large belly, his marital problems, his expenses, his dislike of his job, his tired face, his head filled with stress and worries and I can not help but feel terrified that this man might be me in ten years. But how does one change this tendency to make a hundred excuses for why they do not have to fold the laundry, keep working on the novel, stay in the relationship, pay all the bills, exercise or call the financial aid office right now? I am a psychotherapist and I have no idea. Some bad habits seem hard wired so deep in our brains that we will do just enough, make the bare minimum effort to try and figure them out. Then when this feels like no fun anymore, we will drop it and go do something else.