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Wednesday
Oct032012

Getting It Done

Our youngest child is, shall we say, a reluctant eater--so much so that we sometimes wonder how it is that she shares our genes. ("Perkinses eat a lot" is not our family motto for nothing.) Anne will dawdle over a meal literally for hours if I don't coach her, wheedle her, and (often) hand feed her.* Left to her own devices, it's simply not worth the work to her to finish the food on her plate. 

Sometimes she'll just sit on her chair, a wad of half-chewed food in her cheek, an exasperated, defeated expression on her sweet face. When she does, I encourage her to keep going. "If you chew it and swallow it, it won't be in your mouth anymore," I say, secure in my logic. Or, "The faster you eat it, the sooner you can go play." Or, "You don't have to like it. You just have to eat it." She's heard these words thousands of times, and she still does what she does. It defies reason, I tell myself, and I can't understand why she can't just get it done.

But the other day, it hit me: my daughter is exactly like her mother. Let me explain.  

I was hired several months ago to work on a secret creative project. It's a bit out of my wheelhouse, and I've had a fairly steep learning curve to mount, but I've never in my life been able to turn down an adventure, so I took it on. The project is cool, I've learned a ton, and my collaborators are fun, interesting, and very smart. And the money? It's fantastic. 

Yet. For months, I have wasted a ton of time NOT working on this project--procrastinating, fretting, regretting--even though whenever I turn anything in, my work is praised and valued. I've encountered more Resistance on this project than on any other I've ever begun.

Every day, I tell myself I'll complete a certain portion of the job. Almost every day, I find a way not to make my goal. In effect, I am like my daughter, sitting on my chair with half-eaten food in my cheek. Unwilling to continue, unable to leave the table. I could complete my assigned tasks in a fraction of the time I spend consciously avoiding doing them.

Can I apply my own smug logic in pep talks to myself? Can I cajole myself through the rest of the work that needs to be done? "The only way out is through," as Cathy says to herself in Dispirited. I need to make myself believe that.

*There are diagnosed reasons for this. We employ therapeutic methods with her. I'm on it, people.

Reader Comments (9)

Geez, so fascinating, this secret project thing. Hey, remember when I said my next heroine was going to be named Luisa? . . .

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi Ashworth

I have those sorts of epiphanies with a worrying degree of frequency. So often I am frustrated with my children over issues that mirror my own, and then ever so embarrassed when I realize the fact. Many thanks for the reminder that this is normal. This is parenting. This is life.

That said, you've inspired me to take things up a notch, and to watch and applaud as you do the same (because I know you will - you're amazing like that).

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

Great analogy, fellow Resistance fighter! Next time I facing Resistance (like, oh, every day), I'll think of your sweet little one and her chewed up food in her cheek.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette

Oh gosh this was a little too reflective of my own resistance. The last two weeks I have had to force my way through and my realization has been "this wasn't so bad." Interesting. And good luck with the secret exciting project, sounds intriguing!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosi

This is such a good post! I can relate so, so much. In the time spent worrying about doing it, it could have been done five times over.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Campbell Allen

Oh. That's what I've been feeling today. Resistance has me by the throat today. I'm being amazing at creative avoidance.

I'll think of that cute picture too. I love all the bows!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEowyn

Yes! Here's to getting it done!! You're amazing!

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenna Consolo

This post reminds me of something from my own childhood that has carried over into my parenting life: When I finally finished a chore or task that I had resisted (i.e., whined over, cried about, procrastinated the doing of) my mom would say, "There, now. Was that so bad?" I. HATED. IT. She was always right! It wasn't so bad, but it made me so angry to admit it! Now, with my son, I find myself occasionally saying the same thing. Half of me is still annoyed, hearing the words even out of my own mouth. But the truth is still there, just like my mom always knew. I do try to change the wording, a little, to try not to perpetuate the hatred of such a simple phrase. :)

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRhi R.

Cathy's bravery in Dispirited is utterly thorough and moving. When I read it, I felt something of you in it, and maybe something of what you aspire to. But this whole thing about not doing certain things because the motivation just isn't there is quite deep. Sometimes I wonder whether one should be kinder to oneself, pay more attention to one's deeper desires. Sure, there are some things that just need to be done, and one has to get them done. But sometimes, it's not that simple. Son #3 hates fruit and vegetables. I hate most pulses, and I avoid certain foods because (or so I thought) I don't like them. But guess what: most of those foods, it turns out, hurt my body inside, causing ulceration. Son #3 leaves the room when someone peels an orange. Do I insist he eats oranges because fresh fruit is good for you? No.

What is the central thing in one's life? What is the real work one has to do? I think we should seek the tasks that make us feel most powerfully ourselves.

October 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLemongrass

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