Last week, my mother showed me a New York Times article that extolled the virtues of procrastination. Entitled “To-do lists and the art of procrastination”, it stated that researchers had “identified the phenomenon of positive procrastination.”
It might seem at odds with the whole concept of procrastination, but philosopher John Perry argues that to be more productive you simply need to make more commitments and approach them methodically. In other words, tackle those tasks that represent the lesser evil. And of course, you need a tiny amount of guilt to take the process seriously. (Guilt is certainly a currency that soon-to-be mothers should become familiar with.)
In my case, I’m quite comfortable buying those last few bibs as long as it means I don’t have to call the hospital about my health insurance… yet.
But pregnancy can challenge even the most disciplined procrastinator. And in my third trimester, physical and mental inertia have made it even harder; the day goes by quickly when I move so slowly. These days, it’s no small feat getting me on my feet: Some days, I need a set of pulleys to lift me out of bed; other days, the act of putting on my socks feels like it’s some sort of fitness bootcamp. In fact, getting out the door can be such a chore that my mother probably thinks I’m agoraphobic.
And my procrastination has only gotten worse after my run-ins with French bureaucracy: Even though I understand that these protocols are necessary, I don’t feel like dealing with them. (That said, what would the French complain about, if not their administrative processes? We all have our national gripes, whether it’s Canadians lamenting the NHL lockout or Brits grumbling about the weather.)
It’s also possible that I’ve become paralyzed at the thought of giving birth to another human being.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do if she can’t strike a balance between procrastination and productivity?
I don’t see myself as a procrastinator; in my case, action is precipitated by urgency: If I have an appointment today, then I will prepare and translate my questions that day, if possible. My “winning” argument (which my mother also calls an excuse) is that it allows me to retain information more readily and too much preparation makes me fussy.
But my mother disagrees: By being proactive, she feels more organized and is able to avert disagreeable surprises.
In fact, my mother is endowed with many qualities I did not inherit: a talent for packing (she can reduce the contents of a suitcase to the size of a pocket square), an innate sense of style and a neatness that verges on fetishism.
This has resulted in no shortage of discussions about how I turned out the way I did. In more flattering terms, I’m somewhat of an anthropological mystery; in reality, my taxonomic category is more vegetable than animal these days — I’m a couch potato.
The antidote to my procrastination is being under the same roof as my mother. She’s a whirling dervish, armed with to-do lists and an indefatigable disposition.
I, on the other hand, exist at the other end of the energy spectrum. My mother must wonder who this sullen creature is. I resemble her daughter, albeit a rounder version, but my personality has been reconfigured: Like Frankenstein’s monster, I’ve been rebuilt with a stiff-legged gait and hypersensitivity.
I’m fortunate that my mother has taken on the role of supportive partner and sidekick. She pushes me to do more while I push her to do less; together, we reach a happy medium. By doing a little each day, we’ve managed to scratch several items off the list. And quite unconsciously, we’ve managed to adhere to the principles of positive procrastination.
In fact, this philosophy fits in perfectly with my feelings about the baby. Now that I’ve reached my saturation point for information and my physical limits keep shrinking, my delay tactics can no more cloud my final month than postpone my happiness about our baby.
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