by Roxanne Tellier
When it comes to excuses, I’ve got a million of ‘em. Even now, as I should be writing this column, I am thinking of two dozen other things that I should be doing first – like alphabetizing the vitamins in the bathroom cabinet or swinging up to the grocery store for some spices that I won’t need until Halloween.
Successful procrastination doesn’t just ‘happen’ – no, you have to work at it. I’ve made it into such a fine art that you can still find unpacked boxes from our 2017 move, marked ‘important’, underfoot and unopened. A tall bedroom dresser squatted in the living room from last November to last week. There are two shelves in the middle of the kitchen that desperately need to get gone, and I can’t decide where they’ll go. I mean, who’s gonna see it anyway, amirite?
The struggle to actually complete the multitude of tasks I set myself every day is real. Quite obviously, the smart thing to do would be to tackle one job, and keep at it until it’s done, damn the torpedoes. But there are so many other, more interesting things, I’d rather do.
I honestly thought that the pandemic and subsequent ‘lockdowns’ would do the trick, finally forcing me to knuckle down and get stuff done, but no. Turns out, no matter how much time I have at my disposal, I’m capable of finding a multitude of unimportant, frivolous time wasting activities to steal that time and then, for those little niggling skivers to demand that I give them even more attention, ensuring that the timely arrival of this column, or indeed, trifling matters like taxes, is backburnered until sirens are blaring and the police car’s strobe lights are scaring the cats.
My lack of discipline has cost me tens of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, but apparently, I can’t be bribed or fined into completing tasks in a timely fashion. Nothing seems to work, though many have tried different tactics, from cajoling to yelling to threats of bodily harm. Nope. Unmoved. It’ll get done when it gets done.
My heel dragging and lolly gagging on some issues is in sharp contrast to my almost manic approach to fresh projects. If I’m fully immersed in a new venture, I’ll work 16-hour days for weeks, to birth this new interest as quickly as I can. Everything will be everywhere, but I’ll make sharp progress ….
Until the day I decide it’s time to take a break. And at that point, sorry, but I just can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to finish – or tidy – the mess that I started. Many times, I’ve considered speaking to the Pope about canonizing my husband for his saintly ability to simply dwell within the chaos, uncomplaining
On the other hand, he’s also long been the beneficiary of my need to “do it all myself,” AND to do it in the hours when he’s elsewhere, like at work. Thing is, since he retired, I tend to get a lot less done, because there never seems to be a time when what I’m trying to do won’t be a disturbance to what he’d like to do. And I really don’t like or want observers when I’m constructing or deconstructing a ‘thing.’
Between a retired husband and two incredibly spoiled cats, I’m run ragged before I even add on any projects of my own that will take up time, space, and sound. It’s always something. Phones are ringing. Cats are yowling to be let out or let in. Delivery people pound on the door with packages for neighbours. Memes must be shared across a crowded room. It’s madness, I tell you!
And living in a very tiny cottage with barely enough room to swing a cat, if one dared to risk the cat scratch fever, or could lift the weight of either of these spoiled felines, isn’t much help. All the articles on how to live in increasingly small spaces advocate using vertical space, but when you’re already surrounded by tall, filled to the brim, book shelves, it appears that the ceiling, rather than the sky, may indeed be the limit.
I really did think that having all sorts of spare time during COVID, what with the lining up to get into some stores, and the downright closure of so many places where I might have whiled away the time being coiffured, manicured, or massaged, not to mention the lack of places to dine, drink or dance, would have freed up so much time that I’d be able to finally set all earthly things to rights, while tossing off a magnus opus or two, without breaking a sweat.
Sadly, I was very wrong.
As it turns out, living through a global pandemic is a little tiring. Worry, fear, and depression can wear the edges off even the nicest, most positive, non-whining person you’ve ever known, so why would you think that someone like me could keep their sunny side up indefinitely? Have you met me?
We’re living through some really rough times, and even Canadians, some of the most easy-going and long-suffering people you could ever hope to find, are on their last nerve. They’ve had it up to their tonsils with poor leadership, restrictions that are often nonsensical and seem more punitive than effective, and the sense that those nominally in charge are in fact spinning completely out of control. Patience wears thin as Year One morphs into Year Two (second verse, same as the first.)
Even a mild form of depression will have an effect on what you’re able to accomplish, even if all you’re trying to do is just limp along doing routine tasks. The world is not easy to cope with, these days, and the things we used to do to cope, like going to a movie, hitting the gym, or enjoying meals with friends, aren’t there to relieve the pressure.
Hey, if this ‘pause’ has allowed you to learn a new language, write a book, or start a business, more power to you! But for many of us, in a world filled with grief, depression and anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other, and remembering to shower occasionally, is all we’ve got left in the tank. And that’s okay too.
Realistically, we’re in unprecedented times, and we need to cut ourselves some slack. You’re allowed to slow down, rest and reflect, and to just say ‘no’ when someone asks you to take on some of their burdens to lighten their own load.
Sometimes we have to let some things go, in order to soldier on in difficult times. Can’t bear to wash another dish? Buy paper plates. Ignore the dust bunnies – they’ll still be there when you’re ready to vacuum.
It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that you make room for a little joy and self-care in your day. You can’t help others if you’ve let all of your own energy drain away. Take the time to pamper yourself a little, even if it’s just having a spa day in your own bathroom with those little face, hand and feet masques you bought for a rainy day.
Just as when, in a flight emergency, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, we’re in a time and place where we have to find ways to put our own mental health first, lest we be in no shape to help those we love when they need us.
In the wonderful “Time Enough at Last” episode of the Twilight Zone, our hero, Mr. Bemis, becomes the last person on earth, with all the time in the world to read without interruption. But he stumbles, and breaks his glasses, leaving him unable to do so, and in so doing, he learns that having time enough can be a curse, not the blessing he’d hoped for. He wanted solitude, not isolation.
This planet is in kind of a similar place right now. We’re discovering that there’s far more to life than we thought, and that time off the grid comes at a cost.
Give yourself a Mental Health Day. Take a load off. Relax in a bubble bath. After all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Be good to you. You deserve it.