Wandering through the (dis)comfort zone

I hope I’m not the only one who procrastinates and avoids things…it’s a not very helpful habit, and keeps having unintentional side effects. I hate this about myself, but it’s a work in progress as far as getting rid of it. It was a long time in being built…I suppose we all seek out things that are soothing or pleasant…I just tend to avoid certain things until, say, it’s the night before a paper is due. That was for sure my college M.O. – and it typically had mixed results.

Those mixed results eventually taught me that I needed to strategize better at that type of work (it hasn’t spread acorss the spectrum yet) – but I remember professors at UNC giving me a gimlet eye a lot of the time. I was a laissez faire student once I got there (after hammering out a 3.8 gpa at my CC, it was zeroed out by transferring – a little depressing) – putting in effort precisely where needed, and not a ton more. But I remember my damned Poli Sci class (the one and only I had to take) – American Political Theory – the prof was just a little older than we were (and was let go after our term) and wrote on my massive term paper, “You proved your point, but I disagree with it.” And the grade to go with it was Depressing. At a university the size of UNC, you quickly find that you can’t fight the system too much – it will either bite you back, or ignore you.

Now, fifteen years later, I’m still doing that night before thing. What is it, the burn of adrenaline and fear, is that what makes you able to set to and pound out something right at the wire? Sweaty palms, upset stomach, eyes stinging…here we go again…. I’d like to have everything tidy and under control, for once in my addlepated existence.

My sister is good at doing what needs to be done, when it ought to be done. She’s got the opposite issue – the burning need to just do it, or not be able to sleep until it’s done. Well, except for a scientific paper she cowrote with her boss…but he kept changing things along the way, so I think that wasn’t entirely her fault. Which is more challenging to deal with, though, or is it the same effect – is there no real escape from that sense of panic – I guess getting it over with probably is a tiny bit better, if only by virtue of not prolonging the agony.

I’m sorta stuck there right now with the book – I need to finish it – I want to finish it – but there’s something hanging me up. I shouldn’t be too afraid by now…except I still haven’t seen any mediocre or negative reviews on the first book, and I feel like I’m waiting for a shoe to drop. I also need to put the first book onto the other sites still. I’m my only dictator of deadline – which doesn’t go well for an ADD procrastinator like me – but I guess I can overcome that. *sigh* Time to take the car to the repair shop.

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Defying gravity

My husband made an observation about me the other day…I was a little surprised that he hadn’t either noticed or noted it before, I suppose. He observed that I thrive with my back to the wall – which is to say: I love proving people wrong, I procrastinate and produce (things that sometimes amaze me) under the gun, and when I only have myself as a critic, I start to unravel.

It’s probably good then, that he was doubting whether I’d be able to get this particular agent person to take me on – (note: he has clarified and said he was referring to this based on a short story that I had written, that he thought it would be a bad idea to send it to this agent, I guess he feels it was not one of my better moments in writing....) I shall refer to this particular agent person as just that, or maybe, “this P.A.P.,” at least until I have unleashed myself and my mountain of wordiness onto the poor soul. I had been secretly worrying about it all, but once the Husband voiced his concern, I could feel the tiny little fire – even if now I find that it was a focused concern, on one particular thing (this was the story I sent off to this Glimmertrain submission process – I don’t have extremely high hopes for it. My short stories sometimes don’t seem to do what I want them to – I guess that’s why I tend to focus more on longer fiction – more narrative to engulf myself in. I’ll post it after I find out whether it was rejected, I guess…!)

This is the wee flame that propelled me from community college into UNC, as a junior transfer. I’d originally applied as a sophomore, and they called to say, jeez, you have too many credits for that, and not enough for junior…I don’t know what came over me, but I pounced. Maybe it was the thought of being in Jordan-land. Or the look I’d had at the campus, with its old, old atmosphere. I just rounded the corner, contacted a few people (thanks again to my high school AP English teacher!), and fought my way in. I had to do that a bit at UNC, probably because it’s a 50k student population, instead of a tiny liberal arts school…but yes, I managed to get my degree, even after being told I was two courses shy of graduating, mere months before I was due to hit OCS for the USMC. Again, under the gun, right, yessirree.

Sometimes, it hasn’t panned out 100%, but by and large, I find that I can really gear myself up when a deadline is looming. I recently found a paper I wrote for an astronomy class, under the same pressure. Somehow I had absorbed all this data about theoretics, quantum mechanics, and wrote about wormholes in a way that was clear I knew what the hell I was saying when I wrote it. Rereading it, however, holy cow…I could barely make sense of it.

Not just academics, either. After our first child was born, and shipped to a NICU out of state, I fought with everyone over the bill we were sent by a private doctor who saw him during that time. In the end, the doctor decided to write it off, and the whole thing was resolved peacefully.

In the past few years, my skills have slipped, though. I guess life got a little stressful, and I bundled myself up in the shell of protecting myself and our kids from the big bad world. It sounds ridiculous, unless you’ve been down our road. When you have a child with a major disability, you tend to be either really reactionary, or else, like me, becoming like a tank, heavily armored, and ignoring everything.

This past year has dumped me on my head here and there…and I was really starting to be stressed out and unhappy over everything…but, of course, bottling it up until my guts hurt. And then, I started talking to whatever it is out there that might be watching over us…I don’t know what to call it right now, obviously that is a whole different story (I grew up a “PK” – a priest’s kid)…but I was asking for a signpost, basically something to tell me in which direction to head. If it’s to be writing, that’s where I would love to go, but I don’t want to be selfish and do it if it’s not the right thing for me to do. And, when and where I least expected it – that was when my dad jumped out of his seat the next time I saw him, and he dug out a business card from his date book, and handed it to me, with this particular agent person’s name on it. If that’s not a signpost, I don’t know what is. Anyone could have given me a name, but this came from my dad, and it’s someone he has known for a long time. And this person’s family are a truly amazing bunch. I could hardly ask for a clearer roadmap, I guess.

So that lit the first fire of “gotta do” under me, and thankfully, my husband and his tiny expression of doubt have pushed me quite a bit further down the line. Where to now…?

The runaway train

Yes, so I keep getting derailed. This time was my own fault, for agreeing to put together the 5th grade “yearbook” for the PTO at my son’s school. I guilted myself into it, because the co-presidents have energetically manhandled every other task and event at the school, while I, the vice president, have responded to the jobs I’ve felt capable of managing. Somewhere in this year, I have realized how little energy I have for doing multiple tasks. Watching other parents, I can only assume that this must be an inborn capacity; this seemingly boundless, bottomless wellspring of energy that they have and I do not.

I can only see that this has been one of my longstanding problems. It was a huge problem during college, but I still graduated, mostly due to dogged determination. But I sit and wonder now whether it’s purely because of ADD, never diagnosed, they didn’t have that label when I was in school: I know it’s there. Or is it a function of something else? My guess is the ADD, which leaves me trying to figure out how the heck to defeat it rather than the other way round.

I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, from date books, to-do lists, midday coffees…I would never consider meds, but there has to be a better solution than my current one of: procrastination, or panic, or being overwhelmed and never able to think straight. *sigh* Some days I can really get focused, hammer out a task, and feel like I’m seeing the whole day and how it should go. Usually it works better if I have a plan from the beginning of the day, or a partner 🙂

Through the years, I have tried to be less rigid than I used to be about schedules – because it seemed to irritate everyone that I had expectations for when, where, how, et cetera. I didn’t want to fall into the type A, micromanaging, control freak zone that…ahem…some persons (I share DNA with) have always been like. Perhaps the deal is finding a happy medium. But again, every time I try to plan, and things go awry – as they tend to with kids in the mix – I get someone like my husband reminding me to stop trying to plan. So what do I do? I like being able to roll with the punches, but it seems to feed into this little weakness I have. And I think I’m talking in circles now…probably another sign of that which afflicts my feeble mind.

And while I’ve been editing photos and going mad, slowly, I had another book idea pop into mind. Something else to cloud the magic mirror of the mind! I may get this right someday, probably when I’m 103 and it’ll be the night before I drift off into the ether….