It’s that time of the year when I can feel myself falling into one of my most destructive thought patterns. New Year’s resolutions are the bigger, more glamorous versions of the “some day really soon” brand of procrastination that undermines all my attempts to take back control of my life from mental illness.
The thought process goes like this. “I should make a nice healthy dinner. But it’s 5:25pm on a Thursday and I’ve been eating junk food all day. I can make a completely fresh start tomorrow morning; do everything right, beginning with a good breakfast.” Friday morning rolls around and I start thinking that it’s kind of silly to start a healthy eating and exercise plan on a Friday. There’s still junk food in the cupboards and the fridge. Monday would be the logical choice, after I’ve had the weekend to indulge.
More often than not, the Monday morning thought process just picks up right where the Thursday and Friday thought processes left off. “Wednesday is the first of the month. I could have these last two days and then I’ll get really disciplined.”
The list goes on. I always use the logic that because I’ve tried and failed so many times to start healthy habits, the best way to succeed is to wait for an auspicious date or event to really “kick start” things. Give myself an extra edge. The irony, of course, is that one of the biggest reasons I fail is because I always make excuses for today not being the right time to start. And if I do start a new habit and fall off the wagon, instead of getting right back at it I always subconsciously give myself permission to just screw around aimlessly until some new auspicious time for a fresh start occurs to me.
Combining the apathy of chronic depression with the rituals of order and comfort that are so intricately linked to anxiety disorders and you get months, years, decades of guilt-riddled procrastination.
I’ve been doing it with this blog, which has been doomed to the “I’ll start everything fresh and really stick to it on the first of next month!” limbo. Same with a novella, two or three novels, and untold numbers of freelance articles and short stories.
The reason for this post, however, is not even the backlogged writing projects. I caught myself doing the exact same procrastination rituals with simply reading books. I mean, procrastinating when you’re attempting to write books is one (albeit destructive) thing. But how lazy does a person have to be to put off just siting in a chair and reading a book? I swear, I can never just do things without convincing myself it needs to be a Very Important Project, preferably documented in some way.
Recently I came back from the thrift shop with six books. Books I’m genuinely looking forward to reading. But I’ve been dawdling* because I feel as if it’s been too long since I’ve read regularly I should do the GoodReads pledge! I can tally the books and write about them! So…obviously I should wait until January 1st. Otherwise I’d be, like, wasting these books, right? So instead of reading the books, I’ve been watching YouTube videos by book vloggers. This is the sad circus that is my existence.
Today I decided today to get started on all the things I’ve been adding to a list for the past few weeks as New Year’s resolutions. Just because I ate complete and utter crap all day today and didn’t exercise (hell, I’ve only worn pants for a total of 15 minutes** today) is no reason not to have a healthy dinner. I got sucked into one of those books I recently purchased and I’m enjoying it instead of worrying about adding it to a GoodReads profile nobody else will care about anyway. I picked three writing projects to work on and have been hammering away at the keyboard.
And do you want to know the most ironic part of all this nonsense? I always justify these rituals of waiting and project making because making lists and elaborate plans is my instinct when I feel anxiety. But I frequently seem to forget that my anxiety is quietest after I’ve done something actually productive, even if it isn’t perfect.
I’m making a December resolution, because I cannot and will not continue the habit of waiting to start important habits. And it’s honestly just one resolution: no more waiting for the “right time” to do anything. The only right time is the moment I acknowledge what I should be doing, whether it’s 11:30am on a Saturday or 11:57pm on a Tuesday.
*I just stopped writing for several minutes to look up synonyms for procrastinating. Thesaurus.com should have just left that page blank except for a frowny emoji face and an admonition to get back to work. Sigh.
**I mean, I’m wearing pajama bottoms. I’m not nude blogging. That’s just pointless without a webcam and a tip jar***.
***Note to self: buy webcam and set up a tip jar.