We all have our pitfalls–little traps that if we allow a certain amount of mindlessness to creep in we find ourselves stepping in. Avoidance behavior is a biggie for me. We are ancient enemies, our conflict spawned fairly early in my time here. At times I get the upper hand, but instead of learning from the past and remaining watchful, I tend to get satisfied and lazy and the next thing I know I’m hollering for help from the bottom of some metaphorical hole while fiendish Procrastination grins evilly down at me.
So today, trying to claw my way to the top of the most recent pit, I found myself getting a bit “put out”. Not angry in a way that leads to irrational lashing about, but angry in a way that lights a fire. Angry in a way that asks important questions about why I am where I am and how not only to get out of the hole but to stay out of it for good. So in asking and reflecting and considering past victories and defeats I came up with a few things. They are helping me formulate a plan and perhaps they can help someone else out there.
Basically, to defeat this monster for good, I need (at least) three things. The first is I need a pose. Specifically a meditation pose engaged regularly. I’m not gonna bore you with all the science behind meditation. There’s a mountain of info out there. I will say that meditation is not some weird and vaguely “spiritual” thing. It isn’t hocus pocus or sorcery or an attempt to talk to spirits. It’s very much a thing of the physical brain and has definite and measurable calming effects that provide a clarity to life situations. So, not surprisingly, when I regularly sit I find myself seeing with more clarity and acting and reacting with calm, balance, and purpose. So for me, a first for “doing” something positive is to do “nothing” with positive purpose.
Second, to avoid avoidance one needs a plan for the day. Just today. Not every day. Just the one, single, day we actually are living at the moment. I don’t mean every second legislated in stone but just an idea of things that truly need done and a real intent to do them. Front-end loading works really well. That is, do the hard things first. Just like when my mama made me eat my asparagus as a child. I could wait until the end, eating all the pleasant stuff first but that asparagus would still be there, taunting me, knowing I wasn’t going anywhere until I forced it down. It was better to attack it first and be done with it. When things arise that actually need doing, we aren’t going anywhere until they are done, so we might as well get to them.
And lastly, we need a good question to confront our tendency to avoid. That question is a good one to ask ourselves anyway from time to time, so why not make a habit of it? That question is “What am I afraid of?” Somehow, we often manage to step into some warped cosmic reality where what we should be afraid of doesn’t scare us and what should doesn’t. Instead of considering the difficulties we create and the non-life we engage in by avoiding distasteful or unpleasant or just plain hard things, we think only of the pleasure momentary escape brings us. But momentary escape is just that–momentary. The beast is still out there, waiting for us to come out of our tiny hiding place. And the hiding place has to be tiny because it is that smallest version of ourselves that needs to hide.
So what ARE we afraid of? Strangely, when we ask that question of ourselves in a substantive way, it actually has no substantive answer. What’s the worst that could happen? I suppose the very worst thing is you could die facing your personal beast. Guess what? That’s gonna happen anyway. We may as well live a little before it does, and we will NEVER live encased in fear. Cowering isn’t life, it’s just cowering.
The pleasant discovery I have made over and over again–and apparently keep forgetting over and over again–is life isn’t in avoidance, it’s in engagement. My mom used to have to force me at gunpoint (ok–she never actually used a gun, but I’m sure she was tempted) to force down that asparagus. But today asparagus and I have an excellent culinary relationship. Somewhere along the line I realized it is pretty good stuff and quite good for me. Often, so is that thing you are dreading. And even if it isn’t. Even if it is just plain old unpleasant and no fun there is one more question to ask, a trump card of sorts to play, and that question is “What will delay really get me?”
The answer to that one isn’t “nothing”. Delay will get you something, but not a positive something. It will get you dread–the Undone will always be lurking at the edge of your mind, no matter how many games of solitaire you play. It will get you soured relationships, more work, more stress, more pain, and less life. No one in their right mind wants that, and that my friend is a solid indication that we are not in our right mind at all when we engage in avoidance behavior.
So there you have it. A few arrows in your quiver when avoidance comes calling. Fire away.