Sunday, February 15, 2009

all of this has happened before...and it will happen again

Many moons ago during the heyday of my procrastination, whenever I had a big deadline--after all the socks had been rearranged by wool content and the bathtub tiles got a good scrubbing--I would suck down some coffee, pack up my stuff and sit at a computer in the most quiet, lonely, boring place I could find. The plan was that I wouldn't allow myself to get up from that spot until I'd at least made a dent in the big project. Which was nearly always due the next morning.

The situation was pretty straightforward: No music, no cable, no interesting friends to distract from their own work, not even any cute boys around to wonder about. I should have been able to sit down, pound out the project and still have time for a couple re-runs, eight hours of sleep and a balanced breakfast. Right?

Not even once.

So I'd sit there in the lonely place rattling my imaginary chains and try to concentrate. And without fail, I'd start writing rambling, off-topic letters. First came the obligatory journal entry detailing just how screwed I was, how YET AGAIN I'd waited until the last moment to even begin figuring out the requirements of the assignment, how I'd once again banished myself to the depths of Grainger (the beautiful library full of studious engineering types, very few of whom I knew well enough to conversate with) and how this time, yes this time for sure, I was in a mess from which not even an all-nighter could extricate me.

My journals from 1996-2000 are bursting with taped-in looseleaf sheets documenting the struggle between what I knew I should be doing versus the sheer agony of actually taking a step in the right direction. But regurgitating the same impending doom at least once a week got old. So I decided to channel my pain into a warning to others: Do your homework in a timely fashion or you could find yourself wishing you were watching the latest episode of your favorite dramedy instead of staring at the inside of a carrel wondering how you let time get away from you. Again.

The notes detailed how doing this paper/project/assignment/take-home exam was the equivalent of being repeatedly hanged, drawn and quartered. I'd suggest all kinds of things I'd rather be doing, such as sweating in a desert filing camel hooves or hanging outside the 93rd-floor window of the Sears Tower washing windows. And somehow I always found someone around me in the computer lab area to describe. There was the bug-eyed kid who looked like he'd skipped fourth grade that I was sure figured out a way to access dirty pictures on school machines. The weird broody kind of guy who gave me the feeling he was hiding an uzi in his big backpack and waiting to take us all out for high crimes of procrastination. The girl with the twitch I kept catching in my peripheral vision. The sad-looking person who seemed a little too relaxed, like she had already finished all her work and was just in there for fun. Beeyatch.

But I needed that venting--nothing gets you primed for productivity like the sleeve-rolling-up exercise of describing how much the impending job makes you want to throw yourself off a balcony. And apparently people enjoyed reading them. When I graduated, several people told me how much they'd miss the frenetic warnings against waiting until the night before the exam to start the assigned readings or stories of how a computer-lab stranger can really do you a solid by banging on the table when he noticed you drooling on your psychology book. Some friends even mention those 3 a.m.-emails when I see them now, all these years later. It's almost as if those missives were the precursor to this blog. Especially because this isn't the first post I've written about my tendency to procrastinate.

Two weeks ago I got a small assignment. It's due tomorrow. And while it really should NOT be a big deal, I have been completely unable to even get started. The ideas are whirling around in my head, but I have not been able to get more than a sentence down in eight full days.

So here I am, sequestered in the lonely, silent conference room of my building. There's a menacing-looking med student taking up the big table with books, each thicker than my thigh, and some people watching what looks like an awards show in the enclosure with the bigscreen tv (I'm glad I'm not aware enough to realize what I'm missing). I have been sitting on this couch with my laptop since 3:30 p.m.

It is now 9:30.

I made some headway after a peptalk from cc, but I'm nowhere near getting the job done. I told H I wasn't coming back until I had made some serious progress, and I'm pretty sure he expected me back hours ago. This sucks because he has the day off tomorrow and we have plans to catch a matinee. I'm sure he'll worry about my falling asleep in the theater if I pull an all-nighter, but I don't usually get tired until two days after staying up all night. He didn't know me in college, but it won't take him long to figure out how this cycle of insanity works.

Writing this post got the juices flowing. Now I feel like I can get down to business for real. Unfortunately, that's not all that feels like flowing; I hope H comes down here to check on me soon, because I really have to pee.

Monday, February 09, 2009

apparently it's not about a ring or a piece of paper

"Thanks for taking me out to dinner, mom and dad."

"No problem, beta. But you barely even ate anything, just the side of rice."

"I know, but I couldn't totally enjoy it because I know H is at home eating leftovers and he doesn't get to eat out very often."

"Ah, I feel that way when I go out with my girlfriends and your father is at home."

"It's crazy, right?"

"No. That's what's called being married."

Friday, February 06, 2009

which is why i have an eye appointment this afternoon

Last night EB called to say her dad needs to have surgery next week to repair the hole in his heart. I attempted to reassure her by saying my brother has about four or five foreign objects tacked onto his ticker, including some GORE-TEX to make up for his lack of left ventricle, and he's as much of a smartass as ever. But I know there's little you can say to put someone at ease when a person they love is going to have his ribcage sawed open. I'm sending them good vibes.

Then my mother called. She's been having some eye issues for months (big black floaters, flashes of light, sometimes a sharp pain), but because someone told her she "really didn't need it," she opted out of eye insurance coverage for 2008 and couldn't see a doctor until January. Upon seeing her, the eye doctor freaked out, yelled at her and immediately sent her to a specialist.

The specialist did an eye angiogram (!) and referred her to another specialist. He was not happy she had waited, said that she has a "macular hole" in her right eye and should have surgery ASAP. She downplayed the severity of the situation and even told H she'd be angry with him if he told me what was going on. So while my mom was getting injected with dye, I spent the day beating myself up over a coverletter that somehow disqualified me for what would have been a perfect job instead of worrying about something way more important. I guess that's why she didn't want me to know.

This is just the latest in a long history of my mother being a great nurse but a horrid patient. She was supposed to have some other procedure for months, but has put it off for some ridiculous reason. Even though this is the perfect time: Unemployment means I can come home, drive her to appointments, pick up medicines--and most importantly--smack her around if she doesn't comply.

But it doesn't matter what I have to say. I think what got her in gear was the specialist telling her with certainty that this eye thing could render her completely blind. She ran home and made an appointment for the very next day. Because for as much as she likes to whine about not being alive to see her grandchildren, being alive but not being able to SEE her grandchildren may very well kill her on the spot.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

me, Gandhi, Darwin, Clinton...and Duff

Yesterday Ri was telling me about a segment on Good Morning America about this book Why Him? Why Her?, and she said there was an online quiz that would reveal your personality type. So I took the little test.

Apparently, my primary traits are of a "Negotiator" and my secondary traits are of a "Builder." Normally on these quiz-type things there are one or two bullet points that I disagree with, but I had zero beef with this one. Aside from the generic "friendly," "sweet," "empathetic," "trusting" types of adjectives, it picked up on the more specific "you almost always seek consensus and harmony, and are willing to give up some of your pleasures to build an orderly, harmonious home and family life," and even "when you feel betrayed you can be unforgiving and hold a grudge too long." Yep. But I'm trying to work on that last one.

At the end, the assessment told me that I naturally gravitate toward Director/Builders. So of course I asked H take the quiz when he got home. I'd say it targeted him pretty dang well, too, with the "analytical," "logical" and the "You are also calm, efficient, quick to make decisions and remarkably self-disciplined." Naturally, he is a Director/Builder.

None of this revealed anything I didn't know before--while we do our fair share of bickering, H never makes me feel like yelling until my throat feels torn or hurling inanimate objects at his head; we usually just talk it out. But when you've been feeling frustrated and useless, it's a nice consolation for an unbiased third party to confirm that something you did actually works.

Here are some celebrities who share our personality profiles:
Famous Negotiators

Oprah Winfrey

Leo Tolstoy

Katie Holmes

Bill Clinton
  • Hillary Duff
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Charles Darwin

Famous Directors

Albert Einstein

Hillary Clinton

Bill Gates

Nicole Kidman

It's a pretty impressive list. However I must not be caught up on all the stuff Hillary Duff is doing lately that makes her especially noteworthy.