A Letter From a Swamp

Posted: September 12, 2010 in a lonely journey, mind, motivation, what makes us tick
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As I have recently mentioned in my rather spontaneous Tumblr post, my approach to everything in life can be described in three simple words: Feel. Think. Do. I’ve also mentioned that occasionally I skip a step or two before getting to  step 3. Which is why I’m writing this post. At first, I felt like writing it, and without giving it much of a thought, jumped to the final step. Then the thinking part of me woke up and yelled, Whoa!! Are you nuts?? And so the writing process got stopped before it had a chance to begin.

Why? Because unlike other posts it wasn’t going to paint a pretty picture of me. Pretty ugly, maybe, but certainly not pretty. I’m hardly a narcissist, but usuallyI prefer to project an image of someone strong, smart and decisive. This post would do exactly the opposite. So I almost decided to label the whole idea as stupid, when it suddenly hit me. Wait a second, I thought, have I just turned writing as Unmaskd into a PR exercise? Have I just decided not to write a post just because it would make me look bad? The very point of going Unmaskd was to be completely open. Plus, something useful may come out of it. Actually, that’s I wanted to write it in the first place. So here I am, writing this post.

We are all familiar with the dreaded P-word. Procrastination is like sex: even if you have never had it, you have heard about it. So let me share another secret of mine: when it comes to procrastination, I’m not an expert. I’m The Expert. There are so many people who would procrastinate over little things, clean up their desks frantically every time they need to write something simple, postpone chores and do other stuff like that. Amateurs. The real procrastinator is above these petty attempts. I can go on for weeks or months plowing through unpleasant tasks like a bulldozer. The real procrastination is about something else. It’s about hitting the bottom. And a rock bottom it is. I can go on for a very long time. But then one day, one moment I face something I just don’t want to do. It could be the same task I’ve done before, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I just don’t feel like doing it. And then it happens. All it takes is a single moment of weakness. A single let-me-do-this-thing-first action. And the next moment I’m gliding down the slippery path to hell.

One by one useless accomplishments fill the time. They take the same time it would’ve taken me to accomplish that task I didn’t feel like doing. Then they take more. Then much more. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is with every minute I feel my will being taking away from me. It’s like watching sand flowing down the hourglass hole. I can feel it. That sensation is almost physical. It’s almost like feeling your brain being slowly wrapped in soft cotton wool. Round and round. Layer by layer. Until even thinking itself becomes a serious effort. And I although I know I can stop this, in fact I really can’t. It just goes on and on, leaving me with less and less willpower.

Of course, as it happens I’m still functioning. Of course, I can have a conversation and I appear to others just like my normal self. But deep inside I know that my will is almost gone. There’s just small part of it left somewhere in a dark corner of my brain, while it goes on its autopilot. And I let it go. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for days. And I tell you, I hate these moments.

You already know when happens next. Yes, I find strength to stop this. I always find enough will to get me out of that mental swamp. And I get out it, and I accomplish that stupid task that had sent me into that procrasti-state, and I do whatever I decide to do. Once I hit the bottom and I actually jump pretty high out of the water. But I know that one day, it will hit me again.

The saddest part of all this is that once I find strength to fight off the p-bug, I am really good at whatever I do. I accomplish things that are pretty much off limits for many less fortunate people. And people look at my accomplishments and go, “Wow! This is great, how did you do that?” But I’m hardly proud. I know that had it not been for these moments I could have accomplished things that would make whole world go “Wow!” I’ve known this for a fact since I was a kid. But this doesn’t change anything. Because one way or another I always find way to that swamp. It’s like trying to become the running champion of the world while having concrete blocks chained to your feet.

So that’s my procrastination story. Now if you excuse me I have to get back to a little task I have to accomplish…

Oh, and one last thing. In case you have ever experienced procrastination yourself, here’s a question for you. A question that probably will send an icy chill down your spine, especially if you really think about. When you find yourself procrastinating it’s not you anymore who controls your actions. Right? At least it’s not your consciousness, not what you associate yourself with. Yet, you still take some actions.

So if it’s not you who is in control, then who is it?

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Comments
  1. Jen says:

    I used to call it procrastination… now I call it surfing. Should things be done in a certain amount of time, or done in your time? The object at hand is the surfboard, and you balance between the need of satisfying the time of others and the time of yourself. The end result is always the shore, it’s just how lovely of a ride to get there. I’d challenge you to a procrastitation-domination day, but I’d rather just play on tumblr ya know?

    Like

  2. Diane_Can says:

    ….and the “slippery path to HELL” is made even worse because we can be incredibly hard on ourselves for not living up to our own expectations. The “inner critic runs rampant.

    Like

  3. Danielle says:

    I can totally relate with this…its a vicious circle…I think I procrastinate the most when things aren’t going the way I want or when I really want to be doing something else and also when I am not completely sure how to do something…and sometimes I just give stuff up completely thinking I will go back some other time and finish only to dump it all together because it probably wasn’t the right thing for me to do…I think its the yang of ying’s being good at many things…I wish I could learn how to only do stuff I know I can get away with, but then I always want to try new things…maybe I get a little better the older I get, but sometimes it also gets me in deeper shit and I should know better…Nice Post!

    Like

  4. Shan says:

    Procrastination why do I do it so often?? My mom calls it lazy but I say it gives me that extra adrenaline to finish the said task ahead of me. We all procrastinate just some do it more than others don’t you think??

    Like

  5. j.m. says:

    It’s true. It can be a horrible cycle if you don’t keep on top of yourself.

    And, as to your ending question, I believe you’re still in charge, as you always have been. You’ve just talked yourself into believing you’re not. 🙂

    Like

  6. Jen says:

    One more quick thing:

    “When you find yourself procrastinating it’s not you anymore who controls your actions. Right? At least it’s not your consciousness, not what you associate yourself with. Yet, you still take some actions.”

    wha? When exactly are you ever NOT the one in control of your actions? I think maybe when you leave room for an outside source to “control you”, that’s when you simply stay with the current of your environment instead of moving forward in your own personal life. Procrastination is an art, really it is… and control over that procrastination is key. We just have to own up to the fact that WE are always the ones with the power. So to answer your question…

    If you’re not in control… who is? … answer… Bob Saget as the Voice of the dad in How I Met Your Mother.

    Like

  7. Carena says:

    What controls my procrastination? Laziness. The part of my brain that says, “Hey I feel overworked whether I’m doing something or not, so I’d rather you just lay down and wait til closer to the deadline when you have JUST enough time to finish what you have to do”. But when that deadline’s up I reach another stage of procrastination to which my brain goes,”Well, I hope this will end well in the grand scheme of things. Hope I don’t fail this course for this one bad letter grade” It’s a numb feeling I get when I’m walking into trouble like that. It’s not nice, but it keeps me from crying. In the end, if I’m still alive, it’ll be alright.

    Like

  8. In my job, it is the URGENT that is in control of procrastination. The urgent tasks will always leave behind the important tasks.
    At other times of day-to-day, I think it is laziness that controls my actions …
    And in specific cases, I believe it is the FEAR that is controlling the situation …
    We are not programmed to accept a NO for an answer.
    We don’t know how to deal with rejection.
    We don’t want to expose our life at the mercy of critics.
    We are our biggest critics. We charge ourselves what is right.
    So we prefer to leave that for later…
    We postpone important decisions because of FEAR.
    We postponed the life out of fear of a NO.
    We stay arrested the same doubts that we create in our minds.
    We forget that when we went wrong is that we learn to live.
    That the error of today can lead to correct tomorrow.
    We forget that we are not perfect …
    And that life is given to us so we can live in such a way that hearts unto wisdom …
    And even many NOT listening while walking, we can’t give up living and being happy!
    GOD is in control of our lives!

    Like

  9. Leigh (Not_Broken77 aka Rock_Angel77) says:

    ohhhhh bloody hell *face palm*
    I can relate to a fair chunk of this blog! D:
    I am in a MENTAL SWAMP BIG TIME!!!!
    I feel like I am in quicksand, panicking constanlty, trying to get out, trying and trying and I can feel it pulling me further down.
    I am seriously hanging by a moment.
    I can only take the shit I am going through DAY BY DAY, sometimes MINUTE BY MINUTE.
    I just want and need the strength to stop my tears from flowing, I want and need the strength to scream, the trouble is, I doubt the person I want and need to hear my screams will actually hear it.

    Like

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Didier Leclaire and Didier Leclaire, Unmaskd. Unmaskd said: A Letter From a Swamp: http://bit.ly/swampletter […]

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  11. psychicsarah says:

    Hey *Swampy* ! Hohoho

    Sorry …I know its not funny….no laughing matter…

    Mm Y don’t U just call *P* your *down time*?!

    But I guess most of the time *P* doesn’t feel even that productive.

    My psycho ex (who had a fixation on Tenessee Williams whilst @ university) used to quote *P* is the thief of time’ at me the whole time…

    and he wasn’t exactly an advert for the avoidance of *P*!

    Soo…I would think that *P* has its place in the scheme of things…

    Indeed mayb *P* is a kind of psychic *coasting*…an ultimately productive *Quagmire*

    Anyway…whilst experiencing *P* U always have the sense that U R eventually going to get *IT* done…

    So *P* is a kind of metaphorical stamping of the feet….a sense of indignation rather than laziness…a feeling that U R not going to allow your unconscious to dictate your actions that quickly to your conscious…A little rebellion if you like…which emphasises your autonomy and independence from the ticking clock…

    Like U R saying 2 yourself…’ I actually Doooo have all the time in the world’….Except…of course you know that you don’t…

    *P* is really just the reaction to that internal pressure cooker which is likely to explode in your face at some point…if U don’t let off the steam which *P* surely provides…

    Lets just call *P*a treading of water…

    its pretty exhausting, unsatisfactory N’ doesn’t get U anywhere…

    BUT done at the timely moment it could just save your life!

    When you don’t feel like doing that *Thing*… P finds a myriad of ways to distract you…

    Y? Well U could say Y not!

    The occasional bout of *P* is actually not really that important in the scheme of things…

    U know U R going to get it done eventually…

    Indeed *P* contributes to the satisfaction of actually *doing it*….when U eventually doooooo….

    Maybe *P* is just a device to compound your sense of achievement sometimes (Ironic…

    Sssssssh don’t mention the *P* word…

    it really doesn’t get you anywhere!

    Like

  12. psychicsarah says:

    At the end of the day….its all *timing*

    Like

  13. Danielle says:

    No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness.  ~Aristotle
    I like what everybody has to say, I can see some truth to it all!

    Like

  14. Alexandra says:

    Hi,

    My procrastination is staying in my current job until the end of the year so it’ll mean Ive been at this job for 2 years and will look better on my CV. Im not learning anything from my current job any more and even if they promote me – I wont learn much else – just get paid more – which isnt my main goal. I want to learn and grow and with everyday at my current job it feels like the real me is wasting away. But to answer your question I guess its all me.

    Alex

    xx

    Like

    • It sucks to have to go to something that makes you feel as if you’re “wasting away”… Hopefully if your job doesn’t challenge you, the people around you will challenge your character and get you ready for what happens after 2 years.

      Like

  15. Alex says:

    Hi,

    My procrastination is staying in my current job until the end of the year so it’ll mean Ive been at this job for 2 years and will look better on my CV. Im not learning anything from my current job any more and even if they promote me – I wont learn much else – just get paid more – which isnt my main goal. I want to learn and grow and with everyday at my current job it feels like the real me is wasting away. But to answer your question I guess its all me.

    Alex
    xx

    Like

  16. Anonymous says:

    It’s great to find that balance, and it’s nice to know there are others who once they plow, they go, yet it’s finding that way past the starting point or better yet, simply being ready to go when it’s time to start! It doesn’t necessarily take the physical action always, as it does the mental. Being in the mind is a powerful action, that will then propel what takes place on an outer action, even if it may appear to be procrastination. Always keeping the mind active is key to knowing that any physical appearance of procrastination truly is temporary 🙂

    Like

  17. Diane_Can says:

    Hey, there’s always http://procrastinators-anonymous.org/ . Enjoying, reading your posts. What a great way to stall off unpleasant tasks. Back to business.

    Like

  18. 1step says:

    Lazy is the reason I avoid procrastination like the plague. I’m lazy.
    I would much rather have fun than do what I have to. The joke is I get called an overachiever.
    The uncomfortable truth is that I’m running away from the desire to procrastinate. It’s not running “to” anything most of the time, it’s running away. Why? That’s worth some thought. The answer is usually found in a look back through childhood.
    If you show promise as a child, do you then find yourself marching to the world’s expectations, not to your own?

    Like

  19. Jolanda says:

    A very good letter.
    In the end it all comes down to accepting the fact that you needed a little time out, then kick yourself out of the slump, stop hiding behind deep thoughts, and just get on with it. But I’m in the amateur group, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about 😉

    Like

  20. Aliciahr says:

    Your post definitely hit home.
    (Although I still think your title of “The Expert” may actually belong to me. 🙂 )

    I think this post ties into the one about ‘being yourself’ at all times, with the car analogy. It is you.
    It’s just a feeling almost like denial that hits you when you see what you have to do. You give in to the foreign feeling, you think that you lost control, but in all actuality you relinquish it. It feels good to avoid, so you do it (almost instinctively), and then slowly it becomes almost druglike. You have relapses, but it is possible to quit.
    It’s always you, and it’s the version that succumbs easily.

    Like

  21. Ashley says:

    I think the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Why is there a ticking clock?”. Obviously we don’t know the task(s) you have at hand. But I think you also need to ask yourself who you’re doing it for. For you or for someone else? It almost feels to me like you’re not fully doing it for yourself or else you wouldn’t feel so pressured and dread it so much (?). I know just what you mean. I’ve lived my life pleasing others. I let other people’s timelines and ideas for me stress me out. I’m my own worst critic as you also seem to be. I get it..truly I do. However, I always appreciate that person or circumstance that smacks me around a little. There is no doubt you have a great heart. If you didn’t, you’d just say “screw it” and not think about things like this. You wouldn’t be doing this. So let me just tell you to try to ease up on yourself. You’re clearly a hard worker. Procrastinating comes to every human at some point, you just need to find out what the origin of yours is. We all do. Are we clocking in and out on someone else’s timeclock for any reason? Or is the task truly something that is time restrained? You know you can do it, we know you can do it..so do it 🙂 It might not be pleasant or easy but only you know. Go get em!
    Oh and don’t ever be afraid of what portrait of yourself you are painting! Not here, not with us. Last time I checked, none of us know who you are so just be 🙂 You are human among fellow humans. Be free.

    Like

  22. alessandra says:

    Actually, I think that you are always in control but fear takes over sometimes. Fear of what? Failure? Leaving your comfort zone? Success?
    I can relate to the mental swamp but I just have to have to remind myself to return to the present moment & take action. Its like dreading exercise but the feeling once you’re done is very satisfying.

    Like

  23. psychicsarah says:

    If U R Indulging in some *P* then your Heart’s not it in…

    Agreement of Heart Mind N Spirit leads to action!

    Like

  24. psychicsarah says:

    Either that or *Fear* is dictating the dithering…

    OR some unconscious as yet unrecognised impulse….(that can hold us up…BIG time)

    Like

  25. bkbelanus says:

    The fact is that you can control procrastination. You mentioned that you can ‘feel’ it happening. It is in that moment that you must recognize the slide and stop it. You have control over all your actions. By removing blame from yourself and saying your not ‘conscious’ when this takes over only allows you to fall into a deeper hole. You have to accept the things that you can change in your life. You have control. Procrastination is letting go, it’s giving up, because you’re too afraid or too lazy to hold on. It’s a personal triumph to over power procrastination. If you and I strive to control our lives and take it back from procrastination then we will no longer be ‘controlled’ by it. Procrastination only takes over because you let it.

    Like

  26. Dawn says:

    I am a procrastinator without a doubt. I work really hard trying to avoid those tasks that are the most unpleasant. I also try to avoid doing what’s actually best for me because it’s not the “fun” thing to do. I would much rather enjoy myself then do what’s best for me…exercise for instance…I have no problems finding reasons to avoid the gym. We all know exercise is important to our health, but how many people actually look forward to it? Not me. We all have that “it” that we avoid but we also know that “it” catches up with you at some point and you have to deal with “it” whatever your “it” may be. I know that it is easier and less painful to just take care of those unpleasant tasks and get it over with because when I do that, I usually feel like a weight has been lifted. Unfortunately I can’t always make myself follow this principle. If I was smart, I would take Nike’s advice and “Just Do It” but I generally don’t. As for who is in control, well that’s me. It’s just the procrastinator in me that’s controlling my actions.

    Like

  27. PersephoneInsde says:

    My thoughts are not profound on this subject, quite simply because I have not wrapped my head around procrastination myself. The only thing that seems to ring loud in my (lazy) mind is “Let A Man Be Lost.”

    Like

  28. PersephoneInsde says:

    The best part of this post, is the finished but unedited, raw emotion that is left unfiltered and exposed.

    Like

  29. Jacqueline says:

    I can definitely relate to this one…Mostly the part about the fact that if you didn’t put things off, you could accomplish really great things. I’m in high school, and I pull good grade, like 80’s+, but all of my teachers get frustrated with me because they say I can do so much more, and I can identify within my self the potential to do so much more, yet I’m always faced with the thought of “yeah, I could do this now, and really nail it, or I could leave it until midnight the night before, or the morning of, and still do enough”. It seems like such an obvious choice to go with the easy way, but I’m always left regretting it. I think who’s in control, is us, but like, a subconscious, selfish us. You know? I mean, I wouldn’t label myself as selfish towards others, but until this moment I’ve never really thought about the idea of being selfish towards myself. I guess in procrastinating, I’m holding myself back, and that’s selfish…Or maybe I’m just over thinking this whole thing.

    Like

  30. Mike says:

    Statement of my life…The worst point in when you actually become aware of your accomplishments, while then being able to take advantage of those who will say “Wow! This is great, how did you do that?” Through 5 years of college I dragged my feet because I knew that in the end, I would get it done and it would be good work. This required countless late nights/early mornings and the all too seldom all nighter, even though, I knew that I could have done a better job and slept a lot more had I not procrastinated. I really don’t know who was in control…Physically, there’s nobody to place the blame on, but mentally, I really don’t know.

    I mean it’s impossible to place the blame on anybody else, but I also believe those who are close to you play a key role in who you are, how you act, and how you think. My procrastination got worse over time, as did those around me. During high school I was close with a very academically motivated group of people, but in college I was close to a very athletically/socially motivated group of people. I was fortunate that I could almost always obtain a wow compared to those I was closest to throughout my entire schooling career, but I wonder if I had been closer to the more academically driven individuals in college if I would be any different.

    Like

  31. Ozlem Berg says:

    RT @unmaskd A Letter From a Swamp « Unmaskd http://wp.me/pTK0q-4I
    As I read your words about Procrastination, I found myself listening me from you. I felt what you are saying deeply as I was Procrastinating about my, I don’t want to do thinks. And lucky me, reading this topic just got me out of my own swamp. Because my P was “writing”, “calling” all the friends, people… who wrote me months ago, still waiting just a “Hi” from me. So, thank you after reading your post, I felt like writing about this. This is the feeling also how my Procrastination starts, all the sudden!.
    I will like to share w/you what I feel when this moment starts with me. First of all, it doesn’t happen that often but when it happens it goes for a while. Years ago, I was feeling really bad about it, I asked myself, why I was acting this way?, It wasn’t accomplishing anything but trouble. Now, I thing little different, I feel like that is my freedom to choice what to do and when to do it, If I don’t feel like doing anything I don’t. For example, when I feel like writing to my friends after months, I tell them that there was noting to say at the moment. I think they understand. Because all I’m doing actually is keeping the silence. Only effort I put to timing to not affect anybody else negative in my life. And all the sudden everything changes and I’m back to the rat race:) I try to reason and understand, every action I take in my life. I do things very responsible and if I think it is not going to work the way it suppose I sometimes not to do it. Matter a fact they could be just a waste of time. All this depends on subject of course.
    So answer to your question, for me will be, It is still myself that controls me because I am aware that I simply don’t feel like to do it until I feel like doing it. I rather not do it than do it dishonest way. And this is my self respect to myself but society sees as Procrastination. If it helps, don’t pressure yourself and try to understand your feelings when you are in this moments. People, who live with many responsibilities need a break sometimes and maybe it just a way to spoiling our self once in a while and since it is society already made a way of living for us, when we don’t feel like being on their time we learned to feel guilty. Thank you, reading the post made my to be more clear to myself. I hope my perspective help you to feel good about this subject. Overall we didn’t born with many rules, we just born in to it.
    Sorry, I couldn’t tweet this many words, thats why i wrote here. And sorry about my English.
    Good Luck.

    Like

  32. Zuie says:

    Just re-read this and I’d like to say thank you for this (and all) your posts.

    🙂

    Like

  33. Sunshine says:

    Ever since I became a mom, I have struggled with an unorganized office (okay, that’s the polite word for saying a messy office). I hate to admit this as it is quite embarrassing. When I worked at an office, I was very organized and then when I started working from home, my home office was organized but after I became a mom, my office has been messy. My husband has been more than patient and tolerant since he has asked me to organize my office for 9 1/2 years now. I always manage to find a way to not accomplish this one task. If it is organized when selling our house (we moved several times), it isn’t organized for very long after we move into the next house (which I hope we don’t ever have to move again!). When our realtor saw my office before putting our first house on the market, he kindly said that a messy office is a sign of genius. Sugar coated words don’t cover up the reality of the situation. Prior to becoming pregnant, I worked really long hours in a different division that was exciting and I enjoyed my job but life shifted and so did my heart and eventually I requested to move to a different position so I wouldn’t have to be away from my babies. My office has become a bit of a catch all…”mom, where should I put this”–“put it on my desk chair” is heard often. I am embarrassed that it looks like it does and it probably wouldn’t take more than one to two hours to find a home for everything and get my office in tip top shape but obviously I’m not embarrassed enough to organize it. I think my procrastination in this instance is a form of rebellion of really wanting to do something else but feeling stuck (i.e., wanting to raise my kids and then when the kids are grown, I can pursue my passion). Well, if I did that10 years from now, time would not really be on my side so I’d have to switch gears sooner. I hope that maybe in confessing this stuff, I’ll do something to change but in a marriage with children, you don’t just decide to not work and instead go to school or change jobs unless you can financially do so and I carry the insurance for the family. I am so blessed to have the job that I do especially in this crazy economy. I don’t have to put on make-up or wear shoes that hurt or dress up all professional every day (although I do like to have a polished look once in a while). I go to my office in shorts, a t-shirt, baseball cap and gym shoes with my almost 12 year old dog who has been my office mate since she was 10 weeks old–how great is that! I don’t think I could ever go back to corporate America for that reason alone. Yet, day after day, year after year, I have an unorganized office. Even with this 1001 Hours tracking as a group, I have purposely set out not to organize my office because I know I would have to say “Oh snap” every minute. I need to get over this hump and in doing this 1001 Hours project, I know I will freak my husband out at the end of it—it will be the 999th hour I decide to tackle the office in order to finish with a crescendo. No one would want to have to say, “oh snap” and start from the beginning at the 999th hour! In the meantime, I hope to be refreshed tomorrow since writing this catharsis and appreciate the good things about my messy office and mundane job. I do like being able to feed my brain with interesting things to listen to while I do work that doesn’t require much brain power. So I guess all jobs have pros and cons and I really have more pros in my situation. Maybe the next best thing for happiness and satisfaction doesn’t have to be about pursuing what makes you tick if your first dream is your reality, in my case, being a mom.

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  34. […] Manifesto Rules, Facts and ConfessionsAwakeningYour Life Is Your Most Important LegacyA Letter From a Swamp @unmaskd on […]

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