I do a good job hiding it, but I'm bit of a procrastinator. It's very rare that I actually won't do something, but the longer I have to dawdle on something, the longer I'll take to do it. If anything, I'm better in a crisis, managing events that require rapid responses. This is a weakness of mine I'm aware of, but it does get me into trouble from time to time. In law school, I developed a bit of a routine to keep up with things. Monday through Friday I'd do my daily work, briefs, notes, etc. Friday nights off. Sunday evening for Monday's work. That left Saturday as a "free" day. Except it wasn't. To really get ahead and do well, Saturday needed to be an outlining day. For those of you fortunate enough not to have attended law school, outlines are like your own personal Cliff Note's for any given class. A brief summary of what's important and what you should study. The distillation of your notes. For me, Saturday was always a day for outlining, but as I mentioned, I'm a procrastinator.
The result typically was that every quarter after my first few (when I was too terrified to skip anything), once I thought I had the hang of it down, I'd occasionally skip outlining for a week or two. Like taking a second cookie or a second helping mashed potatoes, it's not something that bothers you at the time. Do it enough though, and eventually it adds up to a problem. So a few weeks in I'd find myself facing a particularly punishing Saturday, set up by my own laziness. Slowly, a sense of panic begins to set it in as you realize just how much work you've put off. I'd let it fester for a day or two, but always at some point it would end with a moment when I just decided to do it, to go in, kill a day, and just get it done. This decision was usually preceded by a little mental pep talk along these lines: "Pull it together Sikes. You need to calm down, relax, and get your stuff done. This is a waste of time. You will get nowhere doing this. Get it together. Now." For some reason my internal monologue calls me by my last name when I'm angry, much like a gym teacher. It always worked once I made the commitment.
The "pull it together" advice line is something I've used in other circumstances. Ones more important than my procrastinating on a few outlines. The first day of the bar exam, the kid on my left trembling, his fingers a nervous tap tap tap on the side of his laptop. My grandfather's funeral, sitting straight up in the pews with my eyes fixed on the casket, frightened that I'd miss the minister's cue to give the eulogy, even more scared I wouldn't finish it once I started. Before each and every one of my surgeries, fighting the nagging conviction I wouldn't wake up afterwards, even though I always did. A minute or two after we found out about James. I stepped full away from the doctor, knowing he didn't have any answers I wanted to hear. I stood by James' PICU crib, resting my hands on the railing and staring right at him, certain if I let go I'd fall down. Most of the time, it worked. The pep talk came and went, I got through it, and everything was fine.
The pep talk doesn't work anymore. Actually, that's not true, it works just fine on a lot of things. Not for James though. It's almost as if there's nothing to pull together, no core to form. The memories I have are scattered, woven together with everything and too distinct to coalesce into something I can hold together in a single moment or by an act of will. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to. I can't summon willpower and finish this off to move on the next thing. It's been five months and I'm functioning. I've come a long way from the first few days and weeks where everything beyond my nightstand seemed too far away. I just haven't moved on. I haven't pulled it together and conquered. Maybe I won't. That's what they say in all the pamphlets, the ones the hospice sends to you once or twice a month. You don't "move on." It's more a reconciliation process. Or so they say. I just know that this isn't something I can will away.
Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers. The holidays are hard, and it's good to know we have people to lean on.