I have a magnet for the absurd. I always have. No matter how mundane my day starts out, there is very nearly a guarantee that something bizarre will happen. Even the tragedy in my life has been marked by it – deep, biting irony loves me.
When I was a child, I used to pen my stories and have teachers rave about my imagination. In high school, my friend Troy, upon seeing me, would clap and say, “Lynnette, tell me a story!”
And I nearly always had one. Not only did I have a story, life almost always provided me with a punch line on the funny stories and a moment of lesson or poignancy on the not so funny ones.
But it is exhausting.
Some days, I end up sitting on the floor, just laughing.
The alternative is crying, and I try to avoid that whenever possible. I am not a pretty crier, no demure tears trailing down a porcelain cheek for me. I get the red, splotchy face, swollen nose and tiny, squinty pig eyes.
And always, I find myself asking, “How?” How can this stuff keep happening to me? Do I invite it in? Do I set myself up for these things? Is there a hidden masochistic self-sabotage switch hidden deep within?
Admittedly, sometimes the answer is in the affirmative. I have perfected the art of procrastination – I work best under a close deadline. My organizational skills are spotty, at best. And I am a pantser – living, like writing, by the seat of my pants rather than plotting out my story, planning each new stage or stop.
A few nights ago I was batting this concept around with my friend, Steph, after spending nearly an hour filling her in on a day, one day, filled with so much absurdity and so many punchlines that we were both laughing like hyenas by the time I was done. And that day? It was a trip to see several medical specialists in Boston to see if any of them could help my mother, who has a rare disease.
Really, there should have been very little funny in that. But it began with a cow in the middle of the highway and ended with one of my Magellanesque traveling companions not knowing how to direct me to his own home when we were less than 3 miles from it.
When I was done, I showed Steph the punchline – the itinerary that arrived in that day’s mail that literally could have saved me 2 late appointments and close to a mile’s worth of wheelchair racing.
And so I asked her – why? Why do these things keep happening?
She was very matter of fact. These things happen because I am supposed to write them down. I am supposed to write.
I argued. No, no. If I was supposed to write, I’d have time.
She just shook her head. If you had time, you wouldn’t write.
Son of a bitch. She’s right.
If I had plenty of time in which to do it, I’d procrastinate, there would be no urgency to it.
For me, that means I would begin. My computer and notebooks are filled with beginnings, works in progress that haven’t seen the light of day in literally years, from back in the time that I could devote entire days to hammering at the keys, turning my head inside out, onto the page.
But now, my time is precious. And it is fought over like the last scrap of food tossed to a pack of starving dogs.
My husband snaps at it, my job snaps at it, groceries and bills and the mediocrity of life swallow large chunks. My son wants more than his share, as does my mother, stuck in a nursing home claiming her bit with the wounded waving of the guilt card.
So I steal time. In the mornings I get Quinn breakfast and park him in front of the computer to watch his list of Humpty Dumpty videos and cram out a few hundred words.
If I client cancels, rather than playing catch up on paperwork, or squeaking in a household chore, I stay ensconced in my office, hammering out a bit more, hoping my family doesn’t notice the unusual quiet seeping under the door.
And for some reason, this sneaking, this theft of time make me more productive. Somehow it’s more mine because I stole it. Can’t procrastinate, it’s now or never, so the pressure is on to produce.
And so, Steph is right – if I had plenty of time, it would never get done. If I had time, the first thing I’d do is think. And this would inevitably bring me to other things. There’s always laundry to fold, calls to return, dinner to prep for and the dog to walk. And given time, I always feel obligated to do those things.
This means that in a weird, twisted sort of way, I’m better off to procrastinate to push all of those other things through until I am left with only those short, stolen windows of time where I can sit down and churn out more work in 30 minutes than I can in the entire afternoon my husband occasionally grants me.
Knowing this, there has to be a way to use it to my advantage, to hammer and shape procrastination and the resulting pressure into a tool to help me write more, to get all this stuff down.
This bears more consideration. But right now, my stolen time is up – Quinn just walked in, wearing his breakfast.