[Editor's Note: When I returned home from work this evening (March 23rd), it would seem that some jokester in my family, and all signs point toward my Daddy, placed a Mason Jar, complete with a lid, in front of my keyboard. Cute Daddy, but you were never one of the mice people I metaphorically lifted by the tail and tossed in the jar. You've just never been obnoxious - nor has anyone in my family been placed in there. Good try, though and I'll keep that Mason Jar on my desk as a reminder to shut out those "others" who've earned a rightful place and need to be shut up from time to time. Thanks!]"
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission" ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Who can't relate to that? C'mon, how many of us have had what feels like a billion things to do and only a million minutes to accomplish it? May I see a show of hands? I thought so.
This past week has been a challenge. There have been moments when I felt as if a few of these challenges were getting the best of me, but I'm so stubborn that, while I might have felt a little dizzy by it all, I wasn't about to grant that permission. I couldn't control every situation that felt threatening, I was reminded time and again by dismissing those "stinking thinking" tapes that I did have control over what my reaction could and should be. Thank God for tapes that allow us to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I have had quite a few assignments lately and several editors to answer to, all of whom I enjoy working for, but there are instances when I can be my own editor, particularly when feeling a bit on the overwhelmed side, so I just called for a rewrite. And it worked. In fact, it worked very well.
Right now, I feel like I'm working several jobs and of all the "bosses" I have, I'm probably the most difficult and perfectionistic of the lot. I sometimes find that I'm harder on me than anyone else. When I am difficult with myself, I don't even have the decency to send myself flowers with a gracious note of apology, as one of my bosses did this past week when, following a tense moment, he sent me a vase of tulips with a note of congratulations and expressing, "sorry you have to work for a jerk". I had to admit that it took a pretty big person to do that and I appreciated the sentiment. Being the compliant, eager-to-please employee that I am, I didn't try and tell him that his assessment of himself was wrong. I called and thanked the man and, I even kindly pointed out that he's not a jerk...all the time. I mean, he spends a great deal of time out of the country and I've never found him to be a jerk when he's overseas.
This weekend, after completing my series of interviews for a feature story with a deadline that was fast approaching, I got up Sunday Morning to try and add all of the ingredients together and do what I was being paid to do which was, of course, something I passionately enjoy very much, especially when I get paid to do it. It was time to write.
That's when those annoying tapes started playing in my head. You know, the ones that tell you that you have no business sitting down before the keyboard and hammering out sentences that will no doubt be completely stupid and nonsensical and only provide final proof that you shouldn't be allowed to even write your name, much less a feature story on a very important topic.
My "pre-writing" exercises are wildly productive. I do every single little job that I would be loathe to tackle at any other time. I clean my keyboard with Q-tips and alcohol (Purell). I turn my CPU off and get all of the dust that's covering the pretty colored wires snaking through the guts of my Dell Computers. I take everything off my desk and actually dust it and then rearrange it all, usually placing everything in exactly the same place, but for some reason it feels more orderly. Probably for no other reason than at least the dust is cleared and I can't "finger dust" on the surface.
I clean my coffee maker, taking pains to make sure all of the stains are removed and restoring it to "almost new" condition.
I surf the web and visit all of those sites that I think to visit when I'm busy doing other stuff, you know, internet sites extolling the joy of jasmine tea, or maybe looking for great rates for weekend getaways that I'll never take and, were a deadline not looming, would probably never opt to go anyway. Sometimes I finger my passport, look longingly at the French Customs Stamps and that leads me to check on the current temperature in Paris and imagine French people sitting down to dinner as I sit down to a steaming platter of fresh fear before my flatscreen monitor.
I go back and read old E-mails - some that make me laugh and some that make me angry - anything to get my mind off the real task before me - the thing I'm trying to forget that I have to do. I work about 20 Sudoku puzzles, many times without even cheating or clicking the "hint" button - and then I wonder if I have an addiction to Sudoku and, if I do, is it healthy or unhealthy? Should I be worried?
I read passages from David Sedaris books that I could probably recite without even looking at the pages. It still elicits a giggle. And then I wonder if I should have exposed my children to quirky writers like David Sedaris, Jack Handy (Deep Thoughts) and I seriously become concerned that too much Al Franken might not have been in Katie and Justin's best interest, but then I quickly dismiss that concern because, let's face it, it's too damn late and even though he's way too liberal for my middle of the road tastes, he's just so "laugh out loud" funny.
I clean out my wallet and arrange everything in almost perfect order, with the full knowledge that I'll mess it all up within 36 hours after the deadline has passed and I've submitted my assignment. But that's OK - it's proof that the act of cleaning can sometimes unclutter my mind even more than it unclutters my desk.
I'll decide that we need a new comforter - one with daisies on a blue background, and I'll surf all of the websites that pop up when one enters the words, "daisy comforter with blue background" in the google search box. I never for one-second entertain the thought of actually buying one. I just like to surf-shop.
Then I'll get really irritated because I'll look at my walls and wish someone would have given me a framed copy of one of the most beautiful prints I've ever seen - "Daisy on Blue" by Jennifer O'Meara. I first saw it in the ladies restroom of "Howard's Pub" on Ocracoke Island last July. I love that poster and I have to believe that just gazing at that exquisite print for a few minutes might have inspired me to the point I wouldn't have to waste time surfing the 'net to see how much it would be if I just bit the bullet and ordered it.
I make a couple of phone calls, usually to people I wouldn't really think I had the time to call under normal circumstances, but suddenly feel compelled to ring up because it buys me more time to procrastinate.
FINALLY, after I have gone through my litany of time-wasters, I reach for my faithful, and most favorite, Anne Lamott book, "Bird By Bird", and I turn to the same pages I read everytime I hit a writer's cement block.
Maybe you can relate to this. I KNOW I can. It's aptly placed in the chapter entitled, "S***** First Drafts"