Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How To Eat An Elephant

Last night I stayed up too late (again) and was semi-productive, but not on the things I'm supposed to be doing: catching up on work, sorting through my things in my apartment, or applying to jobs. Instead I wrote for a while, did some sit-ups (which isn't quite pilates but it's getting closer), and read some more of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. My book club meeting where we were to discuss the book has come and gone (I was not a good book club member this month), but I like the book and hate leaving behind a story before I have finished it, so I'm continuing to read it. It's quite dark, as you can imagine, and fascinating in its exploration of the main character's psyche. Far more compelling than my LF work, sorting through my things, or even applying to jobs.

Actually, that's not true. Dostoyevsky is not more compelling than applying to jobs. At least not in theory. It's just that when I start researching for jobs, I'm continually hounded by this feeling that I should be doing my actual work instead of applying for jobs. I end up feeling like I'm shirking my duty and will be caught out any minute. I'm pressured by guilt because I'm not doing what I know I'm supposed to be doing. I feel the same way when I think about leaving work early (before I have finished everything I was supposed to do) to go to the gym, or even when I contemplate doing a reseach project that I'm inspired by instead of my bread and butter (i.e. dull, monotonous, and tedious) LF work. Even though doing pretty much anything but my LF work would be far better for me in the long run. It's the short run that's problematic.

It's as if at the same time my LF work as become too overwhelming and unappetizing to do, I've also become too constricted by guilt and inactivity to do much of anything else productive - including taking care of myself and making progress on my long list of postive life changes that I want to accomplish. This happens sometimes when I put something distasteful off. It just boils and festers and grows, until it becomes too large and toxic to ignore.

I could start to solve this problem by breaking these tasks into pieces, and I know that's the approach I need to take. It's like my Dad always says: "How do you eat an elephant? Hoof by Hoof." No question that it's odd that a pescatarian would find some inspiration in a joke about eating an elephant, something I would never contemplate doing. I'm also not entirely sure that it's literally correct to describe elephant feet as "hooves." In any event, it's something my father has always said to me at points in my life when I'm overwhelmed and have so much to do that I can't really do much of anything. Like now. The absurdity of the joke and that fact that my father has always been there when I needed him to tell it to me, is comforting. Just thinking about it reminds me that that's what I have to do. I have to eat this elephant, however distasteful, tusks and all, hoof by hoof. Now, if only I could begin.


Bean said...

Dad never said that to me, he always said it was due to my procrastination and if I had done it right early on, I wouldn't be overwhelmed. I like the Elephant saying much better. I could have turned out much differently with the elephant story...Hoof by hoof..

Buttercup said...

I always took responsibility for my procrastination up front, so we didn't need to spend a lot of time on that. We could get right down to trying to calm down enough so that I could start digging myself out of from under the mountain I had created for myself (a lot of times just by being stressed about it).