M.E. Procrastination and Failure

Some days I feel like I should be saying, in the obligatory UK Big Brother Voice-over Geordie Accent: “day 263 of my writers block and the blank page remains undefeated”. Or perhaps I could open in the Original Series Star Trek style “Captains Log, Star-Date 02-05-5520, still we remain in deep space, no significant features, the crew are giving up hope and still nothing to report”.  

What I find more disturbing as my office seems to descend into chaos, is that neither my lack of creative motivation nor my lackadaisical attitude to my workspace has bothered me at all. In particular my physical environment, always supremely important to my sense of well-being as slid so far so quickly. I can say I was ill, but that is lame because it had not started something, got ill, and that project lay unfinished while other items arrived for other projects while I was ill, as the result of my plans disintegrating. Add the usual demands of having creative things and having a primary teacher spouse and it is not that difficult to get untidy, especially with my hoarding tendencies.

I think I am oversharing, or think I am oversharing because I am like everyone else I am procrastinating because I am concerned with what the opinion of “others” will be; more accurately in my case, I am concerned with being “relevant” and “authentic” which are concepts probably even more impossible to conquer. Relevant and authentic; two beautifully ill-defined constantly moving amorphous goal posts, absolutely guaranteed to make starting any project impossible. I can be really brilliant, at the wrong things perhaps, but I feel I display some real creative genius. I am suspicious of myself; I am in the middle of substantial life changes due to circumstances that lie out of my control and largely beyond my ability to foresee or make preventative decisions about. I control my reaction, however, even as I look forward to another large change, its impact on my life, or not as the case may be, is not decided by me, my role is at best that of influencer, secondary influencer at that when the situation initiates (sorry for being cryptic). I am aware that thanks to skilled and timely professional intervention I have not faced these changed alone anymore; I think suicide attempts can have that effect, people realise that you really are overwhelmed and unable to cope when you actually give up and try to check your chips out the game.

Creatively I am protective, I do not want to give myself escape roads, as I see them, down which I can slide as a way of excusing myself for not living up to my expectations, or in some cases not even trying to live up to my standards for myself. Which is where I am, I sit and think that on the one hand life has been mundane; it has been about reorientation to the new landscape. Yet that reorientation is something spectacular, my life is different in every aspect, emotional, physical, spiritual, intimate; in every dimension of my existence, health, movement, the way my brain operates, I have changed in two years. It is not only that I have changed as a process of going through what has happened and the life challenges, the becoming disabled, the M.E. coming after that, the nearly dying that preceded it, the altered function of the stroke (maybe more than one) and the ongoing issues of what I call brown-outs and power-outages to my brain that have changed my life, and the neuropathic and other pain management issues, medication issues that are part of life. Even something as simple as wearing a falls alarm around the house, and that little keysafe box for the emergency services so they don’t break down the door are reminders that the person whose horizon was dominated by “the worlds” and “all time” has changed a lot in a relatively short space of time.

This should be a well of material, the spring has not started to flow. There are times I wonder if I got scared, some sort of “Creativity Anxiety Disorder” where I fear that I have been robbed of my creative ability, which I never felt was my strongest talent by a long way, and that I have literally been left without any of the things that I had used to distinguish myself. M.E. has robbed me of my tremendous work capacity both physical and mental, the strokes have dulled the sharpness of my intellect and taken a huge chunk of my memory, both things I traded on heavily throughout my life, once as backstops then as selling points and ways to be unique. I have been told to not do my skills down, and so it was my ability to learn and apply quickly and while in flight, getting up to speed in days not months on projects made me able to be a useful person to have around. Now I feel much more of a blunt instrument, those around me, do point out, falling a quarter of the way down Mt Everest would leave you quite high up, I tell them, it still hurts when you hit the flat bit!

The result, I am struggling, struggling to write, even write about struggling to write is a struggle. I am struggling to do motor skills practice, and I am finding it devastatingly difficult to cope with the incredible exhaustion that pretending to be a normal person imposes. This weekend I dared to spend 3 hours at a modified car show on Sunday, have a hospital appointment of 30 mins in the afternoon and go to a 3 hour concert in the evening of the Monday. Now because both were at a town 45 mins away I stayed 2 nights in an Air BnB to cut down travelling. So it was 35 mins to car show, 15 mins to flat, 20mins appt, 20 back, and an 15 min taxi to and from the appt, followed the next morning by a 50min drive home, where I promptly slept, lights out for the rest of the day, and most of the next day too. Thursday, I have had one 1 hour appointment and I needed a 3hour sleep to recover from that. This is my crushing reality. That would not have filled a day, where I would have also trained and worked as well. My wife commented on my lack of camera and laptop for the trip. The truth is, I haven’t mastered doing my creative passions in chunks while enjoying my hobby events and a modified car show is very much kick back in my chucks and forget I am a responsible adult time, ask my tyres.

I am a little allergic to announcements and making plans public. I am not someone who shares goals as an accountability measure. I tell the players in the game how score is kept, and if I am chasing a goal, then I enlist people to help me. In my previous relationship that stopped being my wife because she was obstructive, negative and disempowering and ultimately successful in standing between me and any success. There is a little irony in the fact it was 2 years and 1 day after I moved out from her that I stood on the top step as British Champion. Instead of announcements, I hope that change becomes self evident; in my case that athletic endeavour is not possible, M.E. has seen to that for now, and my work, similarly, the level of commitment required, or even that I am happy to give as a consultant in my field, is again not possible at this time and so for now I am also retired from that. Although, I have not closed that door, because the best bit about being an outside contracted consultant is that you negotiate your contract and your service level agreements; and in all honesty I am still chatting informally with friends I have made and even a little public contribution now and again, old habits die hard I guess.

Focus wise, I want to shift, and this is possibly, the real heart of my procrastination problem, to creating art, be that written, drawn, made, because while I have always loved art and artistic expression in various forms, I have not been in a position to express that side of myself. The metaphor of a new landscape applies not only to life but also to art. I have been the passive appreciative consumer and now I am looking to be the active creator; I am obviously a little daunted by stepping into the bright new exciting unknown of expression and taking refuge in the familiar comfort of procrastination. The key of course is consistency, and now to focus on creation not consumption, however difficult that is in this age of consumption overload.

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