Sunday, May 21, 2017

Soft Urges: The Gentle Siren's Song

I go to Philly Beer Week each year with beer geek friends. It means four or so days of drinking all day - 15 or so glassfuls in a typical one. Since they're well-spaced, we never get drunk. But neither are we ever fully sober. It's grueling, to be honest, but great to sample so many terrific brews we wouldn't otherwise try.

Each year, after I get back home, in a moment of repose after a day of recuperation, a familiar voice in my head will pipe up to ask "Hey, why not have a beer?" It's no big deal. And, no, I never do have that beer. Fine! The voice is ok with that. And, a few minutes later, I'll have a great idea: why not open up a beer? I can again refuse. The compulsion is weak, though persistent. And so it goes for a couple of days. Gentle frequent urges, easily overridden. I recognize the route to alcoholism: capitulation to soft urges. So I don't.

Over the years I've come to understand most of the workings of my mind. This Slog is largely a registry of that. But one dark monster has persisted: once in a while there's a task I just don't want to do, and the longer I don't do it, the more of a sinkhole I fall into. It can get very bad. I can lose days/weeks/months. It looks like depression, but it's really more of a paralysis. The puzzling thing is that the task is never very fearsome. When I eventually get to it, it's no big deal at all. So why the aversion?

In fact, there's one such pending task right now. Again, it's no big deal. But the very gentlest of headwinds is enough so that, at any given point, I'll choose a different activity. For example, ten minutes ago, I took a deep breath and resolved to get over the hump - to do the thing I don't particularly want to do. And a familiar voice in my head piped up to ask "Hey, why not write a Slog piece about this?" It was a soft urge, easily overridden. Yet here I am, having given in to the gentle siren song.

Procrastination is complicated.

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