Monday, June 11, 2007

Procrastination: Reality Sets In

We've talked a bit about procrastination here at the SC blog. I even wrote an article about it for Writer2Writer. But sometimes procrastination means more than missing a deadline or not obtaining a goal.

Almost four years ago, one of my neighbors and I gave birth to our youngest daughters. My neighbor, Karen and I would run into each other every once in a while and we always talked about getting together. During the spring, I would often walk up the street pushing my infant daughter in her stroller. If Karen happened to be driving by, she would stop and say hello. We would chat and it would usually end with one of us agreeing to call the other, so that we could set up a time to walk our daughters together.

Well, time moved on--as it always does--and our infants became toddlers. Every once in a rare while I would make my way towards Karen's house with the girls or she would see us playing in the cul-de-sac and she would travel down to my end of the street. I always enjoyed these conversations. Karen was lovely to talk to and she never had an unkind word to say about anyone. You couldn't help but feel happy when you were around her.

This past December, Karen was diagnosed with leukemia. She stayed in Boston until March because she had a stroke from the chemotherapy treatments she was receiving. I never went to visit her. It was difficult to make such a trip because I would have to make arrangements for my girls and driving around Boston makes me sweat bullets. Once she was moved to a local rehab center, I figured I would see her there. But again, I put it off. I was embarassed and ashamed I had never made an attempt to call her prior to her illness so that we could get together. And she was only there a short time, so I decided to wait until she came home.

I did make two attempts to see Karen and her family, but both times Karen had been rushed to the hospital, so I never got that chance. The day before she went into the hospital the last time, I saw her outside her home, in her wheelchair. She was getting some fresh air. She looked great. If it weren't for her wheelchair and the turban around her head, you never would have known she was sick. I could have stopped to say hello, but I was in a rush to get my grocery shopping done. And I had two kids in the car. So, I waved and made a mental note to call Karen once she was feeling up to it.

Unfortunately, Karen died two days later. The cancer had returned and it quickly consumed her body. In addition to the grief of losing a neighbor, I wept as I thought of all the lost opportunities. What if I had dialed Karen's number or rung her doorbell just once in all the time we knew each other? Would she have become my best friend? I don't know, because I never did it. I put it off and now it is too late to find out what could have been. I sometimes wonder when doing housework and running errands became more important than spending time with family and friends.

It's been a tough lesson--one that has changed my life forever. Think about all the reasons you come up with to put off writing. I'm sure they sound pretty reasonable at the time. But what have you given up just so you wouldn't have to sit in your chair and write? Was it worth it in the end? What if the one thing you have avoided writing is also the one that turns into your next sale? Think about it. Then plunk yourself down in your chair and write it.



Jean said...

What a thought provoking post. It's sad when we think back on missed opportunities...whether dealing with real life or things we let take us away from our passions.

At a past conference, the speaker talked about saying no. That we shouldn't feel guilty about saying no and taking time for ourself.

That also applies to life. Sometimes we need to say no, stop adn take time to smell the roses or chat with a friend.

Thanks for reminding us.


Anonymous said...

I came to this site to view some writing of a friend. I haven't yet located it, and will look in a moment. Your blog is the first one I saw, and the word "leukemia" caught my eye. My husband is in remission from lymphoma, and he, too had a stroke from the chemotherapy. Thank goodness his was mild, and he suffered no permanent effects. Your story moved me to tears.

Cheryl said...

Thanks Speck. It was something I felt I needed to say and I hope it motivated someone to sit down and write. No need to miss more opportunities in life. Sometimes you just have to grab the bull by the horns and hope for the best.

Anonymous, I wish your husband well. May he continue to live a long, healthy, and happy life. Thank you for your kind words. They are greatly appreciated.


Tricia said...

Such a said story. I have procrastinated on such things. Perhaps the worst was my own father. Sometimes it is important to slow down and make time for the important things and sometimes it is hard to know which things are important.
Hugs, Tricia

Tricia said...

Ugh, I meant sad story, obviously.