It’s annoying, but you can often get somewhere by asking yourself honestly why you do the self-destructive things you do. After all, even if the payoff is atrocious, we don’t tend to do things we don’t get something out of.
Procrastination: what am I getting out of it? Chasing a low-rent version of luxury, yes. And, to be honest, avoiding something I fear. I think I fear being completely free. The longer I procrastinate, the longer I have this kind of comforting monkey on my back of something I should be doing. It’s like a blanket. An itchy one, but it’s something.
Why the fear? There’s this weird sense of emptiness at the thought of being done, with nothing I “have to” or “should” do. I don’t think I’ve been done in years. There’s always something next on the agenda. It’s often as petty as a library book I need to furiously read before it’s due back, or a little project around the house that I just thought of twenty minutes ago but suddenly seems urgent.
What would it be like to have truly empty time, without that itchy blanket lulling me into a procrastination daze?
I had a glimpse of it one morning: work was strangely light (which is disturbing in the same way that a quiet toddler is disturbing). I was taking a walk. When I got back from the walk, I was going to do a bit of writing for fun and prepare for a meeting, but otherwise I anticipated a free afternoon. All my tasks were temporarily in someone else’s court.
I almost felt afraid. How strange. A huge part of me craves nothingness, silence and emptiness, but most of me puts up a huge fight and finds things to do. Anything to avoid what I’m craving. I’m the dog who fears catching the car.
I think this is part of why 3 a.m. is such a difficult time. There’s only one thing on the agenda: unconsciousness. The brain, unused to this kind of nothingness, decides to keep doing what it’s used to: racing.
The only cure is to face it. To lie down on the floor for five or twenty minutes. To stare out the window. To sit on the couch with nothing entering my eyes or ears, like those incredible people who just exist on the plane without a book or a screen or a nap to file down the time. To get my brain used to the idea of just living. To actually do nothing, not this Potemkin nothing that is the procrastination dawdle I’m so familiar with.
At least, this is the idea. I haven’t really gotten there yet. I did lie down on the floor and just rest my limbs and eyes for two minutes today between meetings and I’m calling that a start.