Notes From the Edge

Procrastinating, From Mallorca to Marbella

April 09, 2010

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Procrastinating, From Mallorca to Marbella

The longer we postpone things we must do, the harder it becomes to accomplish them, don”€™t you think? Take letters: guilt at not having written them compounds the delay”€“thus the guilt”€“until you convince yourself that, being no longer expected, it’s no longer important.

Ten days ago, back to Mallorca where I have been living for ten years. Off to Marbella tomorrow—and for good. No sooner had I arrived than I divided two pages of an A4 notebook into neat columns, determined to respect the plan and sequence and to tick off every obligation as days went by. Wishful ticking. I crammed the whole lot into the last twenty-four hours.

Exhausted, I went to Bar Pedro’s a while ago for what Bob euphemistically calls “€˜a refreshment”€™ but I, a serious drink.

Bob could have stepped out of a Somerset Maugham story. Cliché or not, his is a “€˜medal face”€™—not so much from the Antique as from the British empire. Silver-gray hair combed backwards, cuffed sleeves, noble demeanor, and anachronistic good manners make it easy to picture him running a polo club in Mandalay rather than own a bar on Mallorca.

When I mentioned the above to him he had, as on most subjects, an articulate opinion.

—Pro means for; crastinus means tomorrow. Most procrastinators are extremely busy, busy with lots of irrelevant things, providing a pretext not to do what really matters. It’s so much easier to deal with mechanical tasks: one knows what to do. Cleaning a house or walking the dog require no big effort and even less creativity. Routine is reassuring.

I arched an ironic eyebrow.

—Perhaps not your idea of daily tasks, Bob smiled.

We looked at each other with affection. Can”€™t think of many people emanating such kindness, or being so intelligent without ever being patronizing. Pedro, his companion who unfortunately passed away last year, had been a lucky man.

—Another trait common to most procrastinators and not precisely applying to you either (wink) is an unassailable optimism. They do believe there time is so elastic and plentiful that losing it makes no difference. The sense of urgency is therefore alien to them. Parallel to this, an unassailable self-confidence: they”€™ll deal with the postponed challenge in due time. The combination is a des-accelerator “€“ does that word exist? Anyway… not perceived as a halt, stalling is shrugged off as a temporary slow down.

—You seem familiar with the problem! I teased.

Bob let ice-cubes clink against his glass, then laughed with a hint of sadness.

—No. Pedro was. I never pushed him, you know me, but probably should have—without bullying of course. It would have given him more moments of satisfaction. More self-esteem… As you said, less optimistic people feel guilt-ridden, especially when realizing that the process is self-perpetuating. Right?

I raised my hands heavenwards.

—Don”€™t know. Due to internet, mobile phones and some such, people have become so used to instantaneous problem solving that they tend to dismiss long-term self-management—or whatever discipline is called nowadays.

Bob reflected. Not for long, for a nasal voice I recognized with irritation interrupted us. King Sneer (can”€™t reveal his real name, as reprisals could be dire), in full regalia, meaning designer-torn jeans and a woodcutter’s shirt, sauntered towards us.

—Sorry guys, but I personally think that internet and the like further the quickness of the mind and train us to tackle matters at hand without delay. What’s virtual about that? Instant gratification is one hell of a motivation to get on with life, frankly. Perfectionism is nothing but its inverted extreme.

What?

To my dismay, he slumped on a stool, closing the debate in his usual hectoring tone.

—If the ratio between postponement and realization is right, so is one’s life. Like with most bottom lines, balance is the golden standard. Now Bob, would you mind fixing me a gin and tonic?

Kenneth’s tone, suggesting that Bob’s job was to serve drinks and not to philosophize, made me cringe. Sometimes I regret not being able to punch someone in the teeth, especially someone looking like his pitbull—fittingly called Caligula.

It’s now ten in the evening and I still have to pack… But of all the things to be done, I actually did the most important one in less time than anticipated: I finished my third book. Well, kind of; now comes a month of re-reading, meaning re-writes. That’s what people in Marbella do!

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