This Elul, my focus seems to be on things I’m doing less than well, and how I can improve on what I do and move closer towards a goal of being closer to God, to who I want to be. So, when I saw the word ‘begin’, instead of thinking of all the wonderful things that are beginning – from school to shul, from family growth to personal, I thought of all the things that needed doing that I haven’t even started yet. There is so much more to do! There are courses and blogs to write, people to invite to things, areas to clean and organize…the list seems endless.
I really should just begin. I should start somewhere and continue on working until I finish, but above all, I should start. I don’t, though. I discover hundreds of tiny ways to avoid doing the next thing, from open time wasters like computer games that accomplish nothing to secret time wasters like sorting the pens by size and lid colour. I swear I’ll stop procrastinating one of these days – maybe tomorrow…
It’s amazing how many things I’ll get to tomorrow. I’m going to be way more efficient, not waste any time and just start all the things that need to happen, one by one. I’m going to balance them all and divide them into small manageable portions and tackle them with vim and vigour, and of course, none of it will overwhelm me – tomorrow.
It can actually be physically painful to make myself start doing something I don’t want to. Every pore of my body and every thought in my head join in to fight the starting, to distract me. The busywork starts seeming very necessary. The need for a rest is evident. I simply can’t – it’s impossible for me to start this today. Surely, you can see that? It’s impossible!
Oddly, once started, the work itself isn’t bad. I’m good at writing and inviting, organizing and all those other things I simply need to focus on and get done. I may be slow as molasses in January, but I keep plowing forward, and sooner or later the work gets done. Usually, it’s even something I enjoy – a lot of the tasks in my life are tasks I like to do. I love writing, for example. I like the doing. I like completing – I like the feeling of success when I’m finished. The starting, on the other hand – that’s an uphill climb every time.
Why this reluctance? Is it that I am fundamentally lazy and think I won’t have to do it if I just keep from starting it? Is it that I’m a lump and just don’t want to move? Is it a short-circuit of the brain, that when things get too much, the brain shuts down and I can’t think past “pretty bubbles – pop the pretty bubbles”? Is it that I prefer to sabotage my every effort than admit that I can’t actually do all that and I’m better off with less? Frankly, I have no idea, but there’s a key word somewhere in here – fear. It comes down to fear, I guess. Starting stuff is scary. It’s new. What if I do it all wrong? What if I do it well and then can’t again? What if a bear eats me because I went and got off the couch? It’s just not safe to do anything big and new and scary! Sorting pens is safer.
Mostly, I try to trick myself into starting. I offer prizes for overcoming laziness and inertia. I write lists of tiny tasks to circumvent the inertia and I tell myself (often) that I’m doing fine as a way to limit the fear. Sometimes, however, if I can recognize the fear and look at it and make friends with it and laugh at it – then that seems to be the start, and once I’ve started – well, frankly, I’m a-ok. I can keep going and be successful. It’s just that looking at fear – well, who wants to begin with *that*?