Perfectionism, Procrastination and WTH

This past spring and summer brought me experiences I felt deserved inclusion in my book, Inheritances, and my recent illness has placed me in front of my computer more hours than time spent outdoors on landscaping activities.  October 1st was to be end of landscaping/gardening and the beginning of writing, reading, website and crafts season.

I’m ahead of schedule, it seems.

I admit to being stuck.   As I add the new thoughts to the existing manuscript – I re-read the old and think, “Why on earth did I think this book needed published?”

A question I’ve asked a thousand times over the past 7 years.

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My years spent as a so-called efficiency expert (my real job was to find efficient ways to collect and disseminate data – a database builder with a glorified title) taught me one huge and important lesson:

I have monumental issues with ‘Scope Slippage.”

If you’re not familiar with this term, I’ll give you an example:

“Tamrah, go on over to Unit D and fix them up with a tool to more efficiently report on what they do.”

An hour or three days pass

“So, Tamrah, how’s it going?  Any idea on when you’ll have them up and running?”

“Yes, most likely next week.  However, I have discovered that Units A, B & C actually have already collected 97% of the data that Unit D is responsible for reporting – they are not collecting their data in a manner that is easy to share, so I’m building their tools, so they can electronically share the data with Unit D and all they’ll then need is a way to add their two cents to the data.”

“Fabulous, keep me posted.”

Another hour or week passes

“Tamrah, where are we at on the tool for Unit D?”

“Coming along nicely – I found out that if we added in a couple of fields to collect a few other stats, we could greatly cut down on the work needing to be performed by Units F, H & I.   I’m implementing that and building the tool to receive the data for the affected Units.  We should be ready to go by next week.”

Twenty minutes later, in the bosses office

“Honestly, Richard, the whole damn show, Unit A through Unit ZZ needs to all be in one grande database.   I can map the entire thing for you and it is the most efficient way to approach this – the $$ saved will ginormous and with cooperation, it can be built quickly.”

“Sure, I hear you.  But there is not budget for that and, can you please, please, just build the tool for Unit D?”

This example is what some people dub perfectionism – enough never being enough.

Or procrastination – finding something new to do to avoid doing something you already signed up for.

I dub it the height of laziness – why do something twice or multiple times, when, with a little thought, planning and up-front work, you can save hours of labor later?  I know how to track Return on Investment – I can spend hours on designing something that will be easy to maintain, later….if I ever finish it…

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Inheritances started as a way to communicate the gifts we receive when a loved one is terminally ill.   The blessing of knowing time is limited and grabbing all the time we can, while we can.   I started writing it as my dad battled first lung, then brain cancer.

It was a small project and quickly completed.   Then my oldest son died. Quickly and unexpectedly from bacterial meningitis.

And I thought about how different the grieving process was for me between the two.  And added those thoughts to the manuscript.

Then my marriage and financial health started slipping away – I lost work, husband and home in a short time – I recognized the signs of grieving and realized how grieving takes place anytime we lose something from our daily routines…

Into the manuscript the ideas, coping mechanisms and gifts went.

Then, feeling as if I had lost nearly everything, I had a stroke and lost much of what I thought of as me.

And though I did not write for more than a year, post-stroke, my brain pondered upon the new lessons I was learning, knowing they, too, must be included.

See?  Scope Slippage.

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Nothing in my book is new – people have been grieving ever since we learned to love and form attachments.  We all, to a certain degree, carry the scars of our losses, the wisdom gained from those trials and we trod on, doing the best we can with what we’ve got and where we’re at.  Why on earth would anyone need to read about it?

I spent two hours on the phone recently, with one who is a designated beta reader- who has yet to read a single page of the manuscript.

And another 30 minutes or so today.

We talk often on a myriad of subjects, but quite some time has been spent recently discussing the reasons I’m resisting printing it out and delivering the manuscript for perusal.

I know it is not because of perfectionism – this beta reader happens to be one of the most well-adjusted folks I know, whose opinion of my work, whatever it may be,  I will accept – good or bad.

I have no fear of delivering what I deem to be a final draft and my reader declaring, “worst first draft, outline or idea I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

Not because that may not happen, but because I know I will be enriched by the experience no matter what the verdict.

So scratch fear of criticism, failure or less-than-perfectionism from the list of whys.

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I’m well known for my procrastinating ways – I always have a myriad of projects in some stage of completion.   Soon, I will pull out the quilt I started 3 years ago in the attempt to have it ready for Christmas gifting this year.

There are those in my circle who will tell you I never finish what I start.  This is categorically untrue.  I finish everything I start – sometimes decades after I started, and sometimes, finishing is accomplished by, “This project no longer contains any functionality for my happiness nor does it add to my daily routine.  It does not benefit anyone else, and will not detract from anything if let go.  therefore, letting it go is finishing it.”

I am a master at letting go.

To this end, I will admit, I’m not letting go of Inheritances, and cannot see ever doing so, though I’m sure I will go through the entire “Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?” test many more  times before birthing my creation to the public.

And so, procrastination seems a no-go, as well.

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The past few years have taught me that if I’m resisting, there is probably a very good reason for doing so.   Case in point, I resisted getting out and pulling weeds from an area this past spring – always finding something else I’d rather be doing, all while the litany of “just get out there and get ‘er done” played through my head.

Thank heavens I did not listen to my own internal nag, for into the weed pile would have gone the seedlings of wild poppies that I would not have recognized as being something I wanted to keep, rather than throw away.

This is just one example in a lifetime of many that have proved waiting (or procrastinating, if you insist) often pays off for me – the deepest troubles I’ve found myself in over the years were the times I pushed to ‘make it happen’ because “I Should” rather than I Must because I simply must.

So here I sit, doing my part by self-analyzing my reasons for resisting hitting the ‘Print’ button and delivering it to another set of eyes.

If I cannot, soon,  come up with a character flaw to explain my resistance, I shall wait, for obviously something else is going on.

Or I might not – maybe I’ll quit editing, print out the pages and deliver them.   Just to see what happens.

Maybe, just maybe, that which is needed to become un-stuck is only a beta read away…

Just ain’t ever happy, are ya?

This morning, as I switched back and forth between various outdoor activities, I had to laugh at the train of thoughts chugging through my head as I tried to get as much done as possible before the heat of the day sent me indoors.

“Wow, shoveling this dirt really wears me out fast.  Be glad when I get my stamina back.   Guess I’ll ask the child-unit to shovel for awhile and I’ll go clip the weeds out from around the cactus and sharp, pointy soap weed.  That will require me to slow down and I’ll get rested enough to shovel some more.”

Not too long after arriving at the aforementioned weeding site, I observed this thought racing through:

“Oh – the tedium of picking out individual weeds to pull or clip, being careful of the cactus – do I really like cactus this much?   Maybe it would be faster and easier just to weed whip the whole area.   No, the cactus and soap weed will be blooming soon – don’t want to miss that – quitcher bitchin’ and just soldier on.  Yes, but it’s less tedious to just fling dirt around – maybe I could use the bucket instead of the shovel…”

At which point, I laid everything down, sat myself upon a tire, closed my eyes and started tapping to the tune of,

“Even though I’m frustrated by my lack of stamina and hate repetitive, detailed tasks, I am completely grateful to be well enough to work for whatever time I can.”

“Even though I’m irritated with those who keep commenting on the lack of progress regarding my projects , I’m grateful for the ones that are done and the ones that are coming along quite nicely.”

“Even though I forget to immerse myself in a project and engage in mindful meditation, I’m grateful that I at least have knowledge of the concept and shall strive to do better.”

I returned to work on the weeds, immersing myself in the task and came up for air only when I realized my right hand was shaking from the exertion and heat.   Putting my tools away, I slogged back to the house and realized maybe my constant thoughts were there to keep me from overdoing…

(Yes, I’m good at making up stories to turn my flaws into assets….)

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In the past, I’ve been accused of never being happy.   Of procrastination and not finishing projects.   There is one project I never finished because of my own choice – a latch hook rug kit, received as a Christmas gift when I was in my teens and finally donated to Goodwill when I was in my 30s.   It stayed with me through 15 moves and I finally realized I was never going to finish it.  Because I had no use for the finished project…

Everything else is in some stage of completion.   Many of my projects are my version of learning something new, so often, a project will sit partially done, while I ponder on how to incorporate something else (I’m a big fan of killing two snakes with one stone) or stopped short to avert some problem that wasn’t apparent until after I had already started.

My dad taught me that taking a break to muse is often the only difference between success and failure when taking on new tasks – thus, my life is full of Bent Pyramids.

I have to say, for the most part, accusations of ‘never being happy’ are false.   I’m perfectly happy taking my time, working on a variety of projects.   Keeps me busy, I always have something I can be doing, no matter what my health, state of mind or financial situation.   I’m never bored and rarely restless.

Nope, I’d have to say the only time I’m unhappy is when one of those neat, organized personages shows up and feels it their duty to keep me on track and finish one thing before starting another.    I know they are loving me the best way they know how, but it really puts a damper on my happy-go-lackadaisical nature…

I’m off to clean the kitchen now…or maybe, I’ll start digging the sloping grade for the south western section of the house — would like to get more flowers planted…but first, maybe I’d best get the laundry done and hung on the line, so it can be drying…

🙂

Grateful for Troubles

Okay – as you know, I always strive to see the  silver linings – mainly because they clue me in to the humungous dark cloud approaching.

And these past few weeks, I’ve not been at my best.   Health, multiple set-backs regarding my plans and schedule, due to other people’s schedules, the weather, full moons and such have left me feeling that perhaps I’m not on the right path, after all.

But last night, the child-unit, recently returned from visiting his dad, hollered at me to come quick.    I tread out in stocking feet, wondering what catastrophe has happened now.

I gazed where he was pointing:

What Happens when You're behind schedule
What Happens when You’re behind schedule

These beautiful, unidentified-at-this-time flowers are located in an area scheduled for weeding and re-planting.   Had I not been distracted from this area by a host of other troubles, the short, spiny weedy looking things would have been pulled three weeks ago and I would have missed out on knowing the beauty already planted there.

Would have ignorantly ripped from the earth a perennial that apparently, really likes it here and flourishes.

This latest discovery has reinforced my belief that procrastination is not the horrible thing it’s made out to be…

And made me grateful for all that kept me from completing this area’s project ‘On Time’.

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This morning, I also looked at an area that was completed on schedule – I was told I most likely would not get any blooms this year, but that come fall, I can dig, separate, replant and maybe next year…

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!   First bloom appearing!

Don't tell me which year I can bloom!
Don’t tell me which year I can bloom!