I keep a pretty close eye on myself.
At this point in my life, there is little reason for one day to be much different from the next unless I want it to be, and I like it like that. I like that each day has promise and possibility and that I can wallow in all of it. I look forward to every day, anticipating what each will bring with a sort of giddiness. Yes, I’m fortunate, and I’m grateful for the life I enjoy knowing others do not have the same simple joy.
So I recognize the heaviness of old signs of behavior, but not until I have given in to a compulsive desire to get each and every dust bunny from under the sofas or the patio swept clean of fallen leaves. Appliances and cupboards freed of water marks and fingerprints. Counters perfectly shiny. And I’m not fooling myself, because these tasks are something that need daily attention anyway. But I’ve been moving furniture, vacuuming crevices in the wood floor and wiping the summer dust from the baseboards — dust I can’t see unless I bend over and put the readers I keep on top of my head on my face where they really belong. Once in focus, I relish the thought I’ll be able to return those base boards to a white, shiny state with a spray and a wipe. Well, most of them, anyway.
I’ve sorted through a large basket of old magazines to toss some and organize those with tags for recipes I’d like to try. If I settled down with it, that task alone would take hours because I’d want to get my notebook and write everything down, organizing it so I might type it into my calendar and make a schedule. Worse? I’ve been looking at the storage racks in the garage and have a hankering to reorganize them, just because. Oh, my.
My old friend Avoidance has definitely been in full swing lately. I know it.
He shows up when there is something I truly don’t want to deal with. Hints of acknowledgement have quietly nagged me, but I’ve brushed them away while slowly but surely losing my productivity. He was omnipresent when I was a single mom with two little boys and trying to finish my degree, swamped with the have-tos of studying and holding down a part time job. There were no dust balls in my little apartment then and the floors were shiny, but I knew that the cheap rent didn’t make it the best place to raise my boys. I worried endlessly about finishing my degree before having to move, but couldn’t pull it off.
Avoidance was also alive and well when I was up to my ears in 180 students’ journals to read and respond to, or essays to review. Progress reports to write. There was never a better time to go out into our yard and pull weeds, rake leaves, or start a new flowerbed, but a beautiful yard didn’t disguise the fact that I was experiencing very clear signs of complete burnout and didn’t know what to do about it.
You might argue and suggest procrastination is more likely what I’ve been dealing with, but no. Procrastination feels different than avoidance.
When I’m procrastinating, it’s because I need think time and I’ve either come to a point where a decision needs to be made, or whatever I’m working on has gotten tedious, or challenging, and I need time and space to work things out. Procrastination is often a productive, restorative diversion. Constructive. I am usually back on track after that break and ready to get something done.
Not so much with avoidance. When I’m avoiding something, it isn’t a conscious thing. I engage in activities that keep me busy, but also keep me from thinking about what I should be thinking about. I can say it’s just dandy to have organized cupboards or a floor with clean cracks, but I’m not Martha so when I realize I’m onto myself, I have to stop and think about what I’m avoiding and why.
I’ve never been one to shy away from controversy or stress. I’m usually more comfortable meeting either head on unless I physically or mentally cannot deal with it, and it is rare than I cannot. Give me a soapbox and I’ll stand on it and rage against the injustice in the world. I’ll wave my arms, stand my ground, breathe fire over it all while prodding others to do the same. Going about menial tasks or the daily grind never kept me from expressing myself when I felt an argument coming on.
But there is no daily grind to contend with any longer. I’m even complacent letting the menial tasks go because they’re not important enough to keep me from doing something I really want to do. I know they’ll get done at some point or another. So when I find myself in a situation that simulates the daily grind when one doesn’t exist, and am caught up in caring far more than I ever have about menial tasks, well, something is up.
There have been other times in my life when I had the sinking feeling that something has had to give, and I am not fond of that feeling.
Realizing the humiliating abuse dealt by my stepfather over a ten year period of my life would stop if I told someone about it.
Understanding the high school sweetheart of six years I was engaged to marry wasn’t someone I should marry after all.
Abandoning my college education after completing nearly seven semesters because it was preparing me for everything but what I really wanted to do.
Confessing to my first husband I couldn’t picture us growing old together, and that outside of our two beautiful little boys, we had absolutely nothing in common.
Exiting a career I’d invested a lifetime in five, or perhaps 10 years before we’d planned for it, drastically cutting our family’s income in half.
There are other occasions, but this list should qualify me as an expert in knowing myself well enough to recognize the signs of wanting to jump ship. To pull the plug. To walk away.
To not put up with it any longer.
Thank goodness it’s nothing as serious as any of the other times I’ve felt this way, but everything is relative, isn’t it?
My avoidance has more to do with something that inserts itself into all aspects of my life and keeps me from doing anything else without interrupting. It distracts me from just about everything else I want or need to spend time doing. I relish the times I have to do something else because it’s like being on vacation. I’ve figured out “IT” is the poster child for all of my petty woes in life right now. The reason I’m not getting out more, the reason I can’t write, can’t focus, can’t…succeed.
Succeed at “IT.”
So what is this Earth shattering realization that at least has gotten me to write something in this neglected space?
My food blog.
What the hell. I’ve been wanting to write — needing to write — about so many other things, and it’s inserted itself here as well. How sad is that?
My husband leveled a question at me a few days ago in the way that only he can. It usually stops me in my tracks and if I think about it, that is when avoidance kicked into high gear. He tolerates my inefficient, ineffective food blogging obsessiveness, providing unbiased advice when I need it. I know his guidance is designed to leave me with something to think about — putting responsibility for my issues back on my plate where they belong. But he posed an unexpected question the other day.
“What do you have to lose?” he asked after I casually said that sometimes I was so frustrated with all of the repairing I’ve been doing, I thought of just starting over. Perhaps reinventing my focus. Beginning anew.
“What do you mean, what do I have to lose?” I replied, not realizing fully what I’d said to him, because it is usually like an uninterrupted stream of consciousness he is able to neatly sort through.
“Starting over. You say you aren’t making money, and that most of what you have been doing is fixing what’s broken. Why not just start over?”
And that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Starting over.
But I feel like I’ve been starting over all of my life and have convinced myself that embracing change is the best way to cope with it. Bring it on! Smile through it all. Grin and bear it. I’m so over that for something like this. My life doesn’t depend on it.
You’re thinking is she serious? After all, it’s only a food blog. Really?
Yes, really. But it’s far more complicated that that. Far too complicated to choose the perfect words and organize them into meaningful sentences right now because the fight or flight impulse is very strong. In blog speak that means I’m teetering on the edge of pushing the “delete” button at the same time I’m wondering if I can rework much of what I’ve accomplished into another place. It’s more than five years of work, but it’s even more than that. It’s five years of life — of laughing, learning, making friends, losing them…of sharing my family’s lives and experiences. It’s as if I’ve pulled a chair out from our dining room table and invited you to have a seat to share a meal with us whenever you’d like.
The sad part is, it doesn’t often feel that way any longer because I’m trying to figure out where that idealistic perspective fits in to what food blogging in general has become. When you’re like me — someone who is compelled to write — then blogging provides a good outlet for that, but so much has changed. It isn’t just about providing that outlet any longer, after spending most of my life working — working very hard — I’m wired like most people to expect monetary payment for my work.
When I began spending more time with my food blog, I regretfully spent less time here. When one’s first thoughts each day begin to fill with dinner menus, vegetables in season, farm to table restaurants, carbon footprints, organic this, local that, nothing — absolutely nothing else can get a glimmer of a thought in edgewise. I potter around on my patio snipping and watering in the morning, enjoying the quiet, and as enjoyable as that is, it doesn’t shut the incessant clamor of everything food up to allow me to want to write something else.
Often, many months have passed before I’ve settled in to write something here and all the while, I was cooking up a storm, taking photos, and working hard to post them to share. Projects begun waited to be completed, our refrigerator became a giant project in and of itself. The garage grew racks to stack the dishes and things I couldn’t keep in my kitchen any longer. It’s ridiculous.
Along the way, I lost not only my voice here — a place that also contains bits and pieces of my life equally as important as those I’ve put alongside food — but I’ve lost my voice there as well. There is no personality in my writing, I doubt my presence. It feels like cardboard.
I’m not sure about how to go about it, but I need to. I just don’t know where to begin.
Perhaps I’ll procrastinate.