This post was written in collaboration with Marie Williams whose remarks are highlighted. Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.
“Most of my life has been spent circling or avoiding important things that I need to do and I get very frustrated with myself. Sometimes, I find myself trying to locate passports or important papers at the 11th hour, when I’ve had ample time to deal with matters like this.”
Procrastination and perfectionism are patterns of behavior well familiar to abuse victims, twin destructive forces that have deep meaning for those who have suffered abuse.
We invest the necessary (the “shoulds” and “musts” of life) with the power to annihilate us, or at least demolish the fragile image we have of ourselves. Then we defer, delay, and defer again – certain that we will fail to meet our own expectations.
Failure is a foregone conclusion, given that our expectations are, by definition, unattainable.
Let’s unpack that dynamic.
Real Deadline/Chaotic Life
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” (Eccl. 3: 1 NKJV).
Federal income taxes are due April 15. This is a real deadline – not a secret and not a surprise. Still, we delay gathering our tax receipts and other records together.
“You live in a state of confusion, and therefore mundane ‘every day’ matters become muddled and murky. You cannot quite get to grips with simple but important tasks. You know that you have to present your driving licence for identity and you know it’s in a box somewhere, but it really is too much trouble trying to locate it in good time. So you (at the last minute) hunt around like crazy trying to find it – it happens not to be in the box you thought it was in, and you have to turn everything upside down to find it – and all this adds to the chaos of your already chaotic life.”
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down…” (Prov. 12: 25 ESV).
We may dither over whether to rely on our long-time accountant; visit a less costly tax preparation agency; or use one of the computer programs which now allow us to do the taxes, ourselves. We may put off making copies or doing something else insignificant, related to tax preparation. What that is does not matter.
We, in other words, create the dilemma.
“I think I first became aware of procrastinating in my teenage years. I had real difficulties around disciplining myself to settle down to the matter in hand. I would cast around hopelessly trying to fill the time with small unnecessary activity which bore no relation to the task that I had to deal with.
An example of this was my attitude toward school work. I would leave homework to be done until the very last moment. Say it had been issued a week before, the thought never occurred to me to do any preparation during that week. That was far too simple. The thing to do would be to engage myself in a book (Enid Blyton was a favourite author at that time) and get completely lost in other people’s lives.”
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 7 ESV).
Perhaps we have neatly labeled envelopes for our tax deductions: business expenses, charitable donations, medical and prescription charges, etc. Perhaps we simply have piles of documents – one on the left side of the desk, one on the right; another on the floor; still another out of sight in a folder, at the back of the closet.
Either way, vague fears begin to circle like buzzards over a carcass.
Do we have enough documentation? How can anyone dig through all this paperwork? What if we have overlooked something? What if the accountant overlooks something? What will we do if the IRS audits us?! Is there a chance we might actually be jailed for tax fraud? After all, Leona Helmsley was. The comparison with her does not strike us as funny.
“Feeling panicked, anxious, worried, afraid, uncertain, sure to be punished was part of the fabric, the essence if you like, of my being. Those feelings were familiar. I felt ‘safe’ feeling panicky. I felt cushioned by my anxiety.”
The longer we delay, the more menacing the choices, documents, envelopes, and piles seem. The task begins to feel overwhelming, as if the future of mankind depended on it…or our very lives were at stake. Keep that in mind. It is a clue.
The Twins, Part 2 – Perfectionism will be posted next week
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