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.