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Wednesday, May 13, 2015


My husband loves the expression “Anything worth doing is worth doing well”.  He thinks it is a credo of meticulous effort toward a pristine result.  Due in part to the fact that it takes my husband FOREVER to finish a project, I think it is the subtitle of “The Procrastinator’s Handbook”.  Ha.   But I dismiss it mostly because I, who to the outside observer might appear a little uptight and controlling, have actually been half-assin’ it since 1967, to steal a friend’s motto.  Half–assing is my natural state of being and truly the only way I can multi-task with any success. 

Fortunately, I am not a brain surgeon and don’t have much come up in my life that requires precision (like being a Rockette) so my half-assed efforts produce quite passable results on many, many tasks.  And occasionally a good job, when the mood hits.  But I am never at the mall Christmas Eve or stressing a last minute birthday gift or turning underwear inside out to re-wear because as a result of the relative ease of my half-assed efforts, I am generally speaking ahead of the curve.  And that is just where I like to be.

I think this may all go back to my status as the quintessential middle child.  Not the oldest or the youngest or (in the case of my family) the only boy, I didn’t really have a role assigned to me to play.  I was what I think they call in office-speak “a floater”—the one who kind of goes from job to job and shift to shift within a company as need demands.  I had no true alliances with my siblings—they all had their defined places and would pass me around as their circumstances demanded. 

I was my little sister’s protector…unless she and my brother were ganging up on me.  I was my oldest sister’s baby…unless she was busy and then I was the older one who “should know better”.  Because there was no clear path and I never knew ahead of time what my “assignment” for the day would be, I had to learn how to play both ends against the middle and be flexible enough to jump from role to role without transition time.  So in order to do all of this and keep my head above water, I started half-assin’ it.  And it just kind of stuck.
Now, that part of my personality that causes others to think I am uptight and controlling is the other piece of my successful life as a non-procrastinator:  I think anything worth doing is worth doing yesterday.  In Arnold Lobel’s brilliant series of children’s books Frog and Toad Are Friends, there is a great tale called “Tomorrow” in which Toad refuses to get out of bed to do his many chores, insisting he’ll do all of them tomorrow.  Until he realizes that by putting them off he is now absolutely dreading the next day.  That’s how I am. 

If I know something is hanging over my head, I just can’t enjoy myself; it’s “out there”, in Harry-and-Sally speak.  And so I enthusiastically roll up my sleeves and do a half-assed job because A) half-assed jobs are much easier to do than jobs well done and B) now I am looking forward to tomorrow.  I half-assedly vacuum, iron, garden, you name it and nobody has ever said to me, “Gee, your clothes are a bit wrinkled and there is still some dog hair on the floor and what is up with the clover in your garden?”  Because, as with most things in life, NOBODY CARES if you did it perfectly or not.  They just appreciate the effort.

Of course with any rule, there must be exceptions:  for me, the most glaring example of this is my closet, which is on FEMA’s watch list.  Every spring and fall when the time comes to rotate out cold weather clothes and rotate in warm weather clothes (and vice versa), I procrastinate like a pro.  Not to make excuses (well, maybe a little) but this is partly because of the climate I live in, where cold weather clothes often need to be accessible until June.  But also…I just dread it, really I do. 

I’m not sure why, because intellectually I know that it never takes as long as I think it will (because obviously I will do a half-assed job) and I always love the week or so afterwards when I actually have a (relatively) neat, organized closet.  I also have a bad habit of letting junk mail and magazines accumulate to a point where going through them becomes a Herculean task instead of just dealing with them as they come in.  But for the most part, when there is something that needs doing, I jump on it.  And rarely do I ask my husband to do ANYTHING I want accomplished in a timely manner.  Which is most things, frankly. 
Procrastination may feel luxurious in the moment but I promise you in the long run, like crime, it never pays.  It is MUCH more luxurious to be a half-ass, like me.  Before my son was born my husband and I lived on Long Island for a few years; we had a neighbor who let weeds and wildflowers take over his yard and he posted a sign that said “Serendipity” as his excuse.  When I look at my slightly wrinkled clothes and kind of hairy house and subtly weedy garden, I think:  “Serendipity”.  Even my monstrously chaotic closet gets this label. 

It is a fortunate happenstance to be here, half-assing it since 1967.  And in the midst of the understated disorder that is my life, I truly look forward to tomorrow.  A tomorrow rarely hinged on obligation and deadlines, but instead on bustling, cheerful disarray and the time and space to engage with the people who bring me joy.  So I will keep on half-assin’ it as long as I’m here and rely on serendipity to fill in the gaps.

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