Hello again Dr. A!
Sisyphus and his rock had nothing on me. This week is my daughter’s second wedding anniversary. I’m embarrassed to admit that for two years, I’ve had two (empty) photo albums I’d offered to complete for her (plus 600+ wedding photos) sitting in a big basket full of (expensive!) wedding-themed scrapbooking embellishments in the corner of the living room, all of it reminding me every time I pass that corner of the room that this task is HOW long overdue?!?!
I know, I know, I know – if I would only pull it all out onto the dining room table and just get started (as you point out in #2), I could polish off this creative project in due course – and probably actually have fun creating it.
I do have a beaut of a procrastination excuse, however. On her wedding day, her Dad became very ill. He managed to walk his only daughter down the aisle before one of our guests (a physician) insisted that he needed to go straight to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and stayed in Intensive Care for over two weeks, seriously ill. So instead of leaving on her honeymoon, our daughter sat vigil with her new hubby at her Dad’s bedside for those two weeks.
As you can imagine, when we look at those wedding photos now, it brings back a nightmarish memory of a day that started off so beautifully but ended with such high drama. Hundreds of photos of her smiling a frozen little pasted-on smile, trying bravely to get through the reception, the dinner, the endless speeches, the party afterwards – when really all she could think of was her Dad who wasn’t there. I dread looking at those photos of her – and let’s face it, she’s in almost every one!
The timing of your post is near-perfect – just the boot in the bum I need. Thank you for this!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I sincerely hope your daughter’s father is well and able to enjoy her second wedding anniversary with the family.
What a doozy of a procrastination excuse! That’s how sneaky and devious that Anxious Avoidance Voice can be. It can hit us where we live so that we’re convinced that avoidance is the right thing to do. Reading your story, anyone with a heart would say, well, of course you don’t want to look at those photos! Put them away! Don’t suffer looking at them. A lot of us can identify with your situation. I spent well over a year avoiding cleaning out my father’s clothes closet after he passed away and felt terrible about it every time I walked by.
I am so happy that the Avoid Procrastination article inspired you! It sounds like you’re determined to get your project done now! I came up with a few more suggestions (see below) that I hope will make your Sisyphean task a bit easier, not just for you but for any of us who are faced with a similarly painful, long avoided project.
Warmest wishes, Elvira
1. Know that getting started is the hardest part. There’s this thing called entropy. It’s a physics thing but I believe it applies to emotional energy as well. When NASA needs to blast a satellite into space, it takes massive amounts of rocket fuel to push out of the pull of Earth’s gravity. That huge effort then dissipates once the satellite is in orbit. Procrastinating anxiety wants us to think that the same huge effort it takes to get started will be needed throughout the execution of the task. That is just too much for anyone to bear! The truth is that once you are out of the sticky pull of doing nothing, the energy needed to keep your momentum, to keep on course, is nothing compared to the initial, getting-started effort.Read More...
“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~William Butler Yeats
Friendships are a big factor in health and happiness. People with active friend circles apparently live longer and report higher levels of life satisfaction. Sure, that makes sense.
But as we get older the usual routes to making friends peter out. How hard is it to make friends when your kids no longer need you to help out with school field trips or to accompany them on play dates where you could bond with the other moms?
Really, really hard!
How does a person no longer in college make friends?
Last year this was a big thing on my radar. With my youngest in her first year of college I was officially an empty nester. Without my daughter’s presence available as an easy distraction, the absence of a solid girlfriend circle was obvious. I wanted to actively do something about it. This is what I came up with:Read More...
What if Sisyphus wasn’t being punished by the gods? What if he was an avoider? A chronic self-saboteur? What if Sisyphus rolled that huge boulder almost to the top of the hill and thought, “Screw it, this is just too hard!” and he steps back and lets it go?
He’d feel instant relief. “Oh, man, that feels so much better!” He’d stretch his back, roll his neck, maybe sits down to enjoy the view from the top of the hill, watch the glorious Greek sunset.
Then, when he walks down the hill, all la-dee-da, whistling, he sees the dreaded boulder, waiting for him at the bottom of the hill, mocking him.
When something makes us anxious, avoidance works to lower anxiety. All procrastination is avoidance. And it’s a damn hard habit to break because avoidance works to lower anxiety. So is thinking everything else is more important than the thing that makes us anxious. We’ll do anything but not the thing that makes us anxious.Read More...
Reap the Benefits of Physical Exercise!
What? Go for a run when I have a million other things to do? Who has the time for that!
This is a typical thought that passes through my mind more frequently than I would like to admit. However, I am aware of it and I refute it with a positive statement to motivate myself to go such as “I will feel better after, I always do, so just do it.”Read More...
Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, is full of bits like that. The paragraph below opens her chapter entitled ‘Perfectionism’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not, if you are reading this blog I think you will find what Anne says here totally relatable.Read More...
Years ago I heard Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, speak at a psychotherapy conference in L.A. He was there to demonstrate Imago Therapy, a couples therapy model that teaches deeper communication to enhance mutual understanding and compassion. Basically, if a couple really uses the Imago techniques, they will still need to work out their differences but they don’t have to butt heads over it so much.
That’s all cool, but what really caught my attention was Hendrix’s theory of why we marry the people we do in the first place. Why do we make that particular choice?Read More...
Self-care is essential for any care-giver. Vacation is wonderful but it’s usually only a once in a while thing. We all need time to float, by ourselves, on a daily basis. Whether it’s simply time to take a nice long, hot shower, which for the new mother is nothing short of heaven, take a walk or finding respite care for aging parents so that you can take a day to go to a spa or just sleep-in. These are not selfish indulgences. Self-care is essential like food or oxygen.
What it boils down to is giving ourselves permission to be alone to do what is meaningful for us alone, permission to drink from the well by ourselves. Permission to take care of ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us.Read More...
Now that my kids are young adults, my son is twenty-one and my daughter 19, (Yikes!) I felt it was safe to ask them if my way of parenting worked for them when they were growing up. Of course I wouldn’t ask this question if I wasn’t fairly confident they would say, “You were a great mother! I wouldn’t change anything! When I have kids I’m going to rear them in exactly the same way!”
Ha! Woman plans and God laughs.Read More...
While we do not have a choice of the family we are born into, we can choose the people we call our family.
And that is okay!
Last night I was at dinner with my Dad and he introduced me to a man who he has known for a long time. As I talked with this man I noticed that he seemed sad. He was not sad about his life choices, he was sad about not having a relationship with his family. He felt betrayed by his family.
This left me thinking: What is family? Is it your “crazy” Uncle that makes everyone at dinner squirm and leaves you with your anxiety jumping from a 2 to a 10 within a matter of seconds? Or is it your best friend who calls and leaves you a voicemail, knowing you won’t pick up, because they know your day is filled with stress, but just wants you to know they are there for you.Read More...
Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Nicole Newcomb.
Eating disorders are plagued by twisted thinking. In my business we call this twisted thinking cognitive distortions. You know, those thoughts that all sound right in your head but you would never say them to someone else. These distortions can tear down self-esteem, chip away at our identities and lead us to believe we are failures.
How many times have you told yourself you “should not” eat anything above 100 calories or you “should be” exercising multiple hours daily? How many times has someone given you a compliment and you say something to deny it like “Oh thanks but I’m really not skinny, I’m fat.” Thinking errors like these can lead down a dangerous road to anxiety, depression and possibly an eating disorder.Read More...