I glanced at my planner, open beside me on the table, and looked at what was next on my agenda for the morning. It read, “Run before it’s too hot- DON’T PROCRASTINATE!!!” I sighed.
I don’t love running in the mornings- I just don’t tend to feel great, it interferes with my coffee habit, and mornings are when I’m sharpest and most energetic in my creative work. But there are a lot of good reasons to do it, not the least of which is that Tucson is regularly hitting the 90s by mid-afternoon now and running in that heat in the desert is a no-go for me. So if I wanted to run outside, it had to be now.
Cue the internal dialogue:
“If I just work on this edit for another hour I’ll be able to wrap it up…maybe I should just do that…it’s March, it won’t get that hot…it’s already hot, so yes it will…I could run this evening just before I pick Justin up from work…but then I’ll have to fight for one of the showers afterwards and I wanted to get my running clothes washed today…no, I should go now…let me just answer this one last email…”
And on and on it goes.
It’s my favorite form of self-sabotage. Make a list of all the things I really want to get done today and then turn each one into such an ordeal, all wrapped up in hemming and hawing, that each task takes six times as long as it needs to with a whole boatload of unnecessary angst attached to it, and then end my day frustrated that I didn’t finish everything.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we make things into THINGS? I have no idea. It’s not procrastination in the classic sense, because I’m as likely to do this with tasks that I’m really excited about as I am those that I’m dreading. It’s ridiculous.
When I was in law school, I started seeing a therapist. She was possibly the most valuable takeaway from those years and the time I spent working with her radically changed how I function within relationships. One of the reasons I started seeing her was that I wanted to work on my tendency to let minor irritations or disagreements with Justin spiral out of control into full-blown irrational fights (example: 'he forgot to take out the trash like he’d promised' turns into 'he expects me to do it' turns into 'he doesn’t respect my time' turns into 'he doesn’t respect me' turns into 'this relationship will never work and I should just end it'…yes, I know this is crazy…thus the therapist, y’all). She blew my mind when she said these words:
“When you hear crazy shit coming out of your mouth, you should immediately stop talking.”
I began to argue and rationalize…I wanted to get to the heart of the “why” and the “how.” I wanted a mysterious and existential understanding of what was driving this behavior.
She was having none of it.
“This is not complicated. Stop. Talking. Mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-whatever. When you hear crazy shit coming out of your mouth, STOP. TALKING. That's it. Zip it. Leave the room or the house or whatever you need to do to quit running your mouth, because that mouth is doing nothing but getting you into trouble. Come back to the conversation when you can keep it on topic. Until then, shut. up.”
(Did I mention that she was the best thing that came out of law school? She really, really was.)
As it turns out, this was life-changing advice. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. Life changing.
And- go figure- it also applies to the crazy shit that I say IN MY HEAD. When I hear that internal dialogue beginning, the start of a conversation with myself that is sure to knock me off course- from my day, my goals, my self-care (because these dialogues generally only come up when it’s something important to me, not when I’m doing something for someone else…hmmmm)- I need to simply stop talking and proceed to the task.
It’s really not that complicated, and the “why” behind it hardly matters. What matters is that when it’s time to run (or write, or meditate, or whatever), I turn off (or just ignore…same effect, really) the dialogue and I put my shoes on and I go. The trick is noticing it. Noticing that I’m using the plethora of perfectly reasonable excuses to sabotage things that matter to me. That I’m making something simple into a thing.
And then to knock it off.
Like most things, this is just a matter of practice. A matter of work. It’s not reflective of whether we are “good people” or not and guilt around it is just one more way to make something into a “thing” that holds us back.
So let’s do it, you guys. Let’s keep practicing not making things into things. Let’s do the work of learning to “shut up" when we are talking ourselves out of doing what we need to do, what we really want to do, what will bring us closer to our goals (even when those goals are merely finishing the damn laundry).
We can- we just have to practice. And, you know, stop talking.
We found the sweetest bit of BLM land outside of Zion to camp one night. It was a freezing night that left ice coating the inside of the windows. But does coffee ever taste better than on such a chilly morning with a view?