Welcome to my brain.
This is an old, old habit. It’s one of those habits where I can’t recall when it ever began. It is so deeply woven into my behavior, and so automatic, it’s now just an indistinguishable part of my character.
Here’s what I do: I hold my “fun” projects hostage. All the stuff I really want to do, all the creative tasks, all wild ideas, all the projects that would make me happy…I avoid doing them.
I hold them hostage to other, less-fun things that also need to get done. All the boring, tedious shit. Like bills, tax stuff, accounting stuff, household projects, cleaning up, etc.
I’ve created an internal reward system so that all those fun projects are delayed until I get all the crappy stuff accomplished. It’s like eating all my yucky, gross dinner, like canned peas, mushrooms, brussels sprouts and liver, so that I can get dessert after. Which would be like, ridiculous chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
Do you do this? It nearly sounds virtuous, doesn’t it? Save the best for last. It sounds goddamned industrious. Except I’ve taken it to compulsive, unhealthy levels. Where I so dread getting the boring stuff done, I procrastinate the hell out of it. Procrastination is another deep, immutable flaw in my character. So my little reward system, which sounds so great on paper, and maybe I could write a whole damned self-help book about it, actually creates a smoking pile of wreckage on a near daily basis. Nothing gets done.
I see my sunshiny, far away, happy projects languishing from lack of attention, and they too nearly become another burdensome obligation that hangs over my head. Over time, the enthusiasm bleeds out, and the fun stuff becomes just another uncompleted list item.
I googled “delayed gratification,” because I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world to do this. I imagine other people must certainly play these elaborate, self-defeating games with themselves. But from the quick 30 seconds I read in the first page of search results, delayed gratification is deemed to be a good thing. Good impulse control. Long-term goals. Self control. It seems mature people actually defer gratification and lead perfect lives. Great.
I’ve had a bit of a shock to this wonderful routine of mine because I’m now actually working with a hard deadline. At some point of another, in the next six weeks or so, we’re going to have some babies. And all this time, I’ve been holding off on finishing up the nursery, because of all the other steaming-pile-of-shit projects I need to get done. And we’ve been thinking forever, we have months and months and months before the babies get here. We had so much time, it felt like they’d never get here.
Now we have six weeks or less. Holy shit. Now I have curtains to up, paintings to finish, little tiny baby clothes to wash and put away, and gifts we need to assemble. I have to go buy butt wipes and butt wash and butt cream. We have to get ready.
I’ve been holding all these fun things hostage, because it felt like I was eating dessert first. I do still have all my awful, yucky items to finish, but now some of the fun stuff has priority. It’s screwing up my whole self sabotaging system.
It’s kind of nice. Eating dessert first is awesome.