In my previous post, I wrote about change and how difficult seasons of change can be. Change can be disorienting as it often results in a breakdown of typical daily rhythms and routines. I am someone who thrives on the expected, so the upheaval from a lack of consistency in my daily schedule usually results in unpredictable emotions. Additionally, change requires a lot of energy, and not just because there’s often a lot to do in preparation (which there is), but because there’s also a lot of energy that goes into waiting. And, depending on the change, there can be A LOT of waiting.
Waiting, of course, can produce many additional issues. For me, one of the biggest problems with waiting is that it enables procrastination. My mind will flood with assertions, like: “I can’t really start this project until we’re past this season of change;” “It makes the most sense to tackle those to-dos once this transitionary waiting period is over;” “The timing just isn’t quite right to pursue that goal.” I already deal with procrastination on any given day and a season of change further enables and exacerbates my perpetual struggle.
During my most recent season of change, my family remained in relocation limbo for four months. Throughout that time, I was constantly confronted with a sense of procrastination on my goals. I struggled to come to terms with moving to a new community, which was emotionally draining in and of itself, but adding the lengthy in-between season was almost more than I could stand. I’ve described in past posts how I love to organize and plan, or more accurately, I prefer to be in control of every situation. In the midst of a transition, especially relocating to a different town, the ability to plan and control all the variables is near impossible; planning for life on the other side of the move feels presumptive and logistically difficult, leaving various plans, to-dos, and life goals, by necessity, up in the air. To compensate for the unpredictability, I typically create very lengthy future to-do lists, naively believing I’ll have the energy and ambition to tackle said (overwhelming) goals once the transition is complete.
It is probably not surprising, but completing a long to-do list is not that easy after a big change. Of course, once the move has been completed, and the season of change transitions into a “new season,” my energy and focus is taken up by tasks involved in creating new routines. This leaves my list of I’ll-eventually-tackle-those-to-dos on indefinite hold. It occurred to me that no matter what season I enter, it seems that life continues at a fast and dizzying pace and, with a sinking feeling, I realized that focusing on certain personal dreams always seems perpetually out of reach in the cycle of now’s-just-not-a-good-time-to-pursue-that-goal. Therein continues my journey of navigating my increasingly predictable pattern of procrastination.
Thinking through this procrastination loop in the midst of transition reminded me of the start of the COVID pandemic. I remember there was a mindset that people should use any newly freed up time to learn a skill, hone a hobby, or do something productive. The subtext read loud and clear: if you don’t, you’re doing life wrong. I struggled for a long time to accept that just because I had more time in my day, due to canceled plans, didn’t necessarily mean I had more energy. In fact, I had less; the stress of the pandemic completely drained me. And, isn’t that the case in life, especially in the seasons of change? The journey continues despite various roadblocks and unexpected detours, there are new things to deal with in addition to necessary maintenance of basic daily chores; sometimes routine is difficult to establish and the lack of expected consistency can be draining.
This drained feeling is why I found myself navigating my most recent transition stage humming my usual procrastination rhythm, “I’ll start my goal of establishing a regular exercise routine once we’re past this particularly unpredictable season,” “I’ll do better in my day-to-day schedule to protect more undistracted time to interact with my kids once I’ve had a chance to figure out a better chore-life balance,” and, my ultimate refrain: “I’ll start really relaxing and enjoying life once I have all the things on my to-do list accomplished and I’ve reached my perfect balance on all goals.”
Except it’ll never happen, the completely predictable day-to-day routine with a perfect balance. As disappointing as this reality can feel, it is a truth I tend to forget and relearn continuously in a bizarre cycle of defeated realization, begrudging acceptance, and renewed appreciation. The truth is there’s never a “perfect” time to start a new habit, to complete a chore on the never-ending to-do list, to tackle a life goal.
I often think back to the start of this blog. My family and I had just moved to a new community, Jessica’s family was navigating the transition to kindergarten. Both of our lives contained innumerous upheavals and varying degrees of chaos and change. For years we had discussed starting a blog and for months we poured over designs, possible names, directions, hopes and goals. We reviewed, revised, and revisited countless avenues before finally settling on The Unexpected Ever Afters, focusing on stories sharing our perspectives on the nuance of everyday life. And then, on a somewhat random and unceremonious date, we chose to make our blog live. Our lives were still busy, we hadn’t established a perfect life balance that allowed for extensive stretches of time to focus on blog creation, rather, we just decided to take the plunge.
Ultimately, I guess there’s never really a convenient time to start something new. Procrastination will likely always be a temptation in every life season, and there will always be some inconvenience that seems to delight in delaying the pursuit of a goal. However, as I navigated the procrastination cycle during my family’s most recent move, and as the waiting continued to stretch into its fourth month, I hit a point in the cycle where I realized I couldn’t put my life on hold anymore.
This shift didn’t happen overnight and I didn’t wake up and magically accomplish all of my to-dos. There are some goals that require certain conditions in order to successfully pursue. However, I was able to identify ways that I could take small steps towards my big goals, to continue living, even in the waiting. There are habits and routines, such as living in the moment, being kind to everyone, allowing space for spontaneity in the unbalanced rhythms of playing and chores, taking care of myself, doing and being, that can be incorporated into ALL seasons of life, even the difficult transitions and seasons of change.
Maybe that’s a part of growing up, accepting that I can’t wait for the conditions to be perfect in order to begin my life. Maybe sometimes I just need to take the plunge and start a new habit, even if it is Wednesday and I prefer the visually pleasing ascetic of marking a fresh start on the first of the week (first of the month or first of the year). Maybe sometimes, a Wednesday in a season of transitions is the best time to start, rather than waiting for the never arriving more settled season of life. And, just as true, maybe it’s OK to accept that there are times in life when starting a new habit, tackling a particular to-do, pursuing a specific goal are just not feasible. There are good reasons to wait, to take time, to plan and dream. The point is, waiting for the perfect day to begin may not be a reasonable expectation.
I’m sure I will continue to learn and relearn the ebb and flow of seasons in life; how each season contains within itself the possibility for completing certain to-dos while necessarily excluding other goals. In the end, it’s all part of the journey. While my family’s current transition season may not be the most feasible time for me to tackle all of the items on my to-do list, I appreciate remembering that my entire life doesn’t have to be put on pause indefinitely. I can continue to protect time to refocus on being kind to those around me, to breathe and just be, even if just for a moment, and to remember to enjoy the gift of life.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photos