Haven’t we all been there? “I’ve GOT to get this done!”… “What’s wrong with me?”… “I can’t believe I’ve put this off for so long!” “I’m such a procrastinator!” If any of these expressions sound familiar or speak to you in any way, please read on…
I found myself saying these words recently and feeling, as a result, guilty and ashamed. It has been months since I have put off organizing our storage units. They are jammed , hard to work with and it’s time. What’s up with this?
As I thought about my lack of action, I felt a sense of failure and berated myself for putting something off that was important to me and needed to be accomplished. How could I have let this happen? How many times did I search for a garden tool or some item I knew I owned but couldn’t find? While I had plenty of reasons for the busyness I had been experiencing over the previous months, still the project had been procrastinated for a long time, causing stress and frustration.
And then I came across this piece of work by David Whyte, the renowned poet and writer who has touched my life many times with his words. In this particular composition, he writes about procrastination and how it can be a beautiful thing. What can be beautiful, I asked myself, about neglecting useful projects for so long? What could possibly be respectful or even acceptable about procrastinating?
Procrastination, David writes, enables us to understand the true measure of our reluctance (to use his very words). It helps us to become friends with our own waiting …to learn from our hesitation…and to allow what is truly worthwhile to simmer and become rich and ripe within us (no matter how long it takes). For me, it was my limited view and relationship with time itself that was my distress…not the absence of organized storage units. Even with a simple organizing project, it would have been a surface endeavor: something completed for the sake of completion, lacking in heart-fullness and sincerity and encouraging a “get it done” mentality.
So for me, this short essay on procrastination is my beginning step into a larger, more spacious, and more honest aspiration: making choices that speak to me and invite a sincere commitment. Perhaps the gift is being invited to leave behind “list driven urgency” and mindless accomplishment for listening to my heart and taking action that is timely and worth my time and focus. It can start with something as simple as a storage shed: paying attention to when the time is truly right to take action.
So I ask you: is there something in your life, as there is often in mine, that might be happening at just the right pace? Something that is inviting a deeper exploration or a richer experience before the final result happens? Is there a grander calling that is speaking through hesitation and asking for patience? And can you, along with me, allow procrastination, as we know it, to be a beautiful thing….a companion, a friend? Or, as David Whyte suggests: “a revealer of the true pattern within us”?
While a storage shed may not seem like a big deal, tuning into myself, asking myself “is it time?” and listening to my own reluctance as a teacher is a big deal. Learning to trust my own inner timing and letting go of “I must get it done” invites patience, wisdom and whole-heartedness. And such trust cultivates more trust, leading to a life lived from the inside out – one of meaning, connection and truth.
I invite you to read David’s composition on procrastination, as well as some of his other insightful reflections in his book “Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words”.
May you enjoy peace and patience with your life as it is right now, in this moment.
With the imagery of a poet and the reflection of a philosopher, David Whyte turns his attention to 52 ordinary words, each its own particular doorway into the underlying currents of human life. Beginning with Alone and closing with Work, each chapter is a meditation on meaning and context, an invitation to shift and broaden our perspectives on the inevitable vicissitudes of life: pain and joy, honesty and anger, confession and vulnerability, the experience of feeling besieged and the desire to run away from it all. Through this lens, procrastination may be a necessary ripening; hiding an act of freedom; and shyness the appropriate confusion and helplessness that accompanies the first stage of revelation. Consolations invites readers into a poetic and thoughtful consideration of words whose meaning and interpretation influence the paths we choose and the way we traverse them throughout our lives.