The difference between me and most people is that I don’t believe laziness exists. I’ve thought that for years. This is partly because every busy person I know constantly refers to themselves as “lazy” and will fight you over it.
Whatever you do, never try to convince someone that they are not actually lazy!
There are a hundred million unfinished tasks in the world, each one of which is driving someone slowly bonkers, most of which are chalked up to “laziness.” I know better, though.
That thing you haven’t done? That thing you are procrastinating that is darkening your days one after another?
You just don’t know how to do it, do you?
It’s not done because you don’t know how yet.
This idea of not knowing how to do something goes beyond basic skill level, although that is certainly part of it. It extends to not knowing how to make the emotional arrangements.
I will give two examples of things that are on my list. One is a skill issue and the other is an emotion issue. See if either of them remind you of something on your own list.
The first is something that a lot of other people might write off, and yet a few might understand why it haunts me so badly.
We were in Scotland, and we spent my birthday in the town of Aberdeen. We had tea in a cafe, and I got a slice of vegan banana bread. It stuck in my mind that there was an issue with my credit card, and it looked as though perhaps the payment had not gone through. The cashier said he’d risk it.
Well, it turns out that that payment indeed did not go through after all. The cafe did not get paid, and the cashier did not get a tip, and I unintentionally absconded with the banana bread.
One thing led to another, and now it’s closing in on two years, and I am still haunted by the bad karma of this unpaid debt, especially since it happened on my birthday.
[what if all the bad things that happened to me in the last two years - and there were rather a lot of them - were because I did not close the loop on this debt? *gulp*]
The trouble is, I’m not really sure how to send money to this cafe. If they had a Venmo I could have taken care of it in 2019 as soon as I went through my accounts and realized that I was in arrears.
That is my example of a thing that I want to do, that I cannot simply bring myself to cross off my list and forget, but that I do not mechanically know how to accomplish.
[My plan is to go to a local bank, exchange some cash, and mail them twenty pounds with an apology note. Alternately, it occurred to me to try to hire someone - a student? - in Aberdeen to walk over there and pay my tab, but I couldn’t think of a way to verify that it had been done].
*** Do I… have any… actual readers in Aberdeen? If so, and if you fancy a nice walk, reach out and I will cheerfully treat you to whatever looks good at Cup on Little Belmont Street. ***
I share this story because I know that other people are equally bothered by equally petty and maybe even dumb things, and they matter immensely because this is where we put all the mental bandwidth that we could or should be using to solve larger world problems.
The answer is, of course, to ask someone who thinks differently than you how they would solve the problem.
This particular tactic is why I got married the second time. My husband and I overlap only slightly on the Venn diagram of strategic thinking. His problems always seemed straightforward to me, unless they involve satellites, and mine always seemed transparent to him. I am very poor at convergent things like using maps or seeing the obvious, and I make up for it by being world-class at divergent solutions that nobody else ever thought of. It seems like a fair trade.
There is something about bringing your darkest and most embarrassing problems to another person that can be so liberating. Inevitably the other person also has at least one mortification to share along those lines. Being vulnerable with the right person can be the start of a great friendship, especially if your scenario is intrinsically funny.
Okay, so I was going to tell you my other issue, my emotional one. I still have not finished clearing the leftover belongings of my poor little parrot.
!!! Someone actually brought up the Monty Python “extinct parrot” sketch to me today, and can someone please explain to me what in the ever-loving sideways striped Hell is wrong with people?? !!!
If you are laughing, you suck, and also I understand. Life is so stupid that sometimes you have to laugh because it can’t be helped.
Mechanically, practically, I do know what to do with the stuff. I pick it up, and I wipe it down, and I put it in bags, and I make a couple of calls to local bird sanctuaries, and I ask if someone will drive over and get it.
Emotionally I am catatonic over this. Paralyzed. It is not happening.
I did what is the correct thing to do. I told the truth about my feelings to someone.
In this case it was my husband. He said that he would help me. I know he will because I was the one to help when we had to do the same thing with our dog’s stuff. I hand-carried bags of it to the animal hospital across the street (the one that does not treat birds).
Fortunately most things are not as emotionally fraught as the grief cleaning that I have been doing this past week.
That doesn’t necessarily make them any easier!
Almost everyone is stuck on something like: cleaning out a car, cleaning out a refrigerator, organizing a filing cabinet, emptying out a storage unit, making a financial balance sheet, resolving a bureaucratic mishap, canceling an account, hiring a plumber, or scheduling a scary appointment. It’s totally okay - it’s universal. Every person who has ever lived has been stuck at least once on at least one of these, and maybe all of them, and maybe at least one every single day.
The great thing about being stuck on something like this is that a lot of other people will know what to do, because they’ve had to do it at some point, or they actually enjoy it, or maybe it’s even a routine part of their job and they don’t care.
Once upon a time, they didn’t know what to do either, and now they do. Might as well use that hard-won knowledge for something useful, right? Helping you figure out your next baby step toward freedom is easier for them to do than it will be for you to ask.
Just because you don’t know how yet, doesn’t mean you never will. It’s good to learn new things. Now cut yourself a break and go figure out what to do next.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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