Hominy & Hash
PROCRASTINATION IS NO LONGER AN OPTION
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When poor, bedraggled, Scarlett O'Hara looked at the ruins of Tara, her childhood home destroyed in the Civil War, she was resigned to never again having the glory that was, and faced building a future - a formidable task - with equanimity. "After all," she said, "tomorrow is another day."
Obviously, that mind set was so firmly in the makeup of "Gone with the Wind" author, Margaret Mitchell, she titled the book "Tomorrow Is Another Day," only to have it changed by her publisher, MacMillan Publishers. I wonder what she was planning to do "tomorrow" the day she died in 1949 at the age of 48 after being hit by a taxi in Atlanta.20
No, there comes a time when it finally sinks in: procrastination is no longer an option. If the next dozen years go by as quickly as the last dozen, I'd better hurry up and get busy. I have places to go, people to see, things to do. Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date, can't stop to say hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late."
My mother used to say, "Procrastination is the thief of time." She had such a knowing look in her eyes ... sometimes a faraway look. Was she thinking of the things she didn't do and then reached the age where she wouldn't be able to?
I'm at the age where I can wonder where that thief of time put all my stolen moments. Time is here somewhere ... but, where?. I look behind my chair; it isn't there. Is it on the shelf? No, the shelf only holds the things I have to do when I have time to do them. When I do locate an odd moment to clear the shelves, I find them stacked with things outdated: Columns I snipped to send to a friend and the subject is longer pertinent - or, the friend is no longer with us . Always a sobering thought.
Procrastination will not steal another moment of my time. It simply is no longer an option. If I say that often enough, I know I'll get the message. I will no longer follow Parkinson's Law and stretch every task to fill the time I have to do it. And, I will not let Murphy's Law govern me acknowledging everything that can go wrong will go wrong - and, at the worst possible minute.
We're full of platitudes, those many common expressions that lose their meaning, becoming trite remarks we toss off for a laugh or an excuse, while ignoring the truths within the words.
Sometimes I don't have an answer; I have nothing to offer but a shrug. The question I have trouble with is "How did you do it?" raise seven children, that is, when asked by friends, family, strangers alike - and the children themselves. I guess raising seven children in the sixties, seventies and eighties seems as formidable a task as rebuilding Tara was for Scarlett.
My answer is a smile, a shrug and "one day at a time," which is a non-answer but all I have to offer. The trouble with "one day at a time" is that they add up. And, here I am. I'm told this is "my time." Well, maybe it is, and it's no different from dividing a chocolate layer cake into eight slices. Somehow, I got the smallest piece and even had to vie for scraping the frosting from the edge of the platter while little fingers got in their swipes..
There's not much left for me in "my time;" but I fix no blame on anyone but myself. Time is always there, and we always have choices. Just as I was the one slicing the cake; I was the one dividing my time; I was joyfully having the children and filling our lives with love - the kind you can't buy for time or money.
I would like to know the answer to "how I did it," myself. My mother had nine children; my grandmother, 11. How did they do it? Well, you "just do it," to steal another platitude. Or, along the same tack, "just say No," to anyone in your charge wanting those wrong things all those little charges whine for.
When we were cooing over our third child, and busy, busy, busy all the time, I asked neighbor, Terry Duerkle, mother of seven, how she did it. Her answer was the best I've ever heard: "Twice a day, I lock myself in the bathroom and scream."20
Through the years, I've thought of that answer and yielded to a "virtual scream" by keeping it in but allowing myself to feel the cathartic effects while "not" letting it out. (Actually, it worked at times. I didn't have to go into a locked bathroom, the kids could tell by my face that I was screaming, and, things quieted down.)
Edvard Munch, a prominent artist of the 1860s known for his "dark" side, painted "The Scream." That's the exact outside look I'm reaching for when my insides are screaming during some of the moments I've lived "one day at a time." There, that feels better!
And now, here I am, marching along, marking time, making each minute count. If there are still moments where coping is a problem, if there are still injustices in the world that I can't make right no matter what, if I don't always see the philosophies learned at my mother's knee blossoming and bearing fruit in the lives of some of my children, well, I can still storm Heaven with my virtual scream ... and feel cleansed.
All those "ifs." If I had followed Rudyard Kipling's advice when first I'd heard his poem of that name ("If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds' worth of distance run"), I wouldn't find myself a few laps short in the home stretch.
By the way, time itself fascinates me; my husband has a clock on every wall in the house, feeling just as I do about time, precise time, Greenwich time. I like to know what time it is. I like to know how long it will take. I like to say time flies and "tempus sure does fugit."
But, I don't ever want an hourglass or I'll scream loud enough for the glass to break - it's so fragile, and it really tells me when time is running out.
AR recommends http://www.nelson-atkins.org/tempusfugit/default2.htm for further elaboration of this theme.