June 9, 2008

Desk of Lies

My desk is frequently an unholy mess. When I'm on a writing or workshop deadline, or working on several different projects at once, or traveling, I tend to put off the things I want to do the least (for example, logging my expenses, or anything having to do with math). So, my closets and bathrooms are really clean and organized, my handouts are written and printed, but my paperwork is all over the place...which makes it more difficult to deal with the "priority projects."

There's nothing inherently wrong with messiness unless I say so...and eventually everything that needs to get done gets done. The problem lies not in the messy desk, but in the lie I tell myself--which is that I intend to get to the tasks I'm avoiding just as soon as I can, when the truth is, I could do them right now. I rationalize that the things I need to get to first have to be in my face (or on my desk), otherwise I'll forget about them.

I tell myself, "There is method to my madness." That's a lie, too. There's madness for sure, but the method is one of avoidance, which only serves to keep me mad, as in "crazy."

Truly, after awhile I have no idea what's in that pile; I only know that it's all stuff I don't really want to pay attention to, which includes bills that really do need my immediate attention if I don't want to pay late fees...ideas for articles I "want" to write...reminders of events that I "ought to" attend...and names and addresses of people I meet with whom I "should" keep in touch. When it's all piled together on my desk that way, none of it gets taken care of in an efficient or timely fashion, and some of it just gets lost until it's too late.

I'm not writing this in order to tell you how to organize your desk. There are many wonderful professional organizers in the phone book and on the Internet who can tell you about that kind of thing. I've consulted them myself, so even I know how to do what they'll tell you to do. I also know how to eat well, budget my time, exercise my quadriceps, and spend less time on my email. That doesn't mean I apply my knowledge regularly.

If I've got the systems down, why do I ever have a messy desk (or an overflowing email in-box, or weak thigh muscles)? Because no system works if you don't use it with any consistency. You can hire someone to help you get your life in gear, and if your head is not in gear, you'll find reasons not to use your system. A cluttered desk may be more symptomatic of a cluttered mind than an out-of-control workload or a messy personal style.

The unquestioned mind can feel a lot like a messy desk. Sometimes it seems like there's no good reason to get down to this work of inquiry on stressful beliefs. "I don't have time," we may think, and turn our attention to something else in the name of priorities...or "That issue I thought I wanted to work on isn't up for me now."

Later, when the issue is "up for me," I'm not as clear-headed as when it isn't. I may give it short shrift, preferring to put my attention on re-arranging the closets.

"I'll log in those receipts later." Meanwhile, more receipts appear, and the neat little pile gets bigger and bigger until eventually, it topples and takes over the desktop. "I'll do The Work later." Meanwhile, mental detritus continues to accumulate until eventually, when it feels overwhelming, we get around to cleaning up some of it. Even if you've worked with a facilitator, or attended The School for The Work, it's like everything else: you have to use the system or it ceases to work for you.

Once I actually sit down and begin to log my receipts (or organize my calendar, or toss some of the notes to myself that turned out to be not all that important or compelling), I come to see that the task I was stressing over wasn't so difficult after all; in fact, it feels great to finally take care of it.

Dealing with our pileups of stressful thoughts may also prove to be entirely manageable, and even enjoyable, when we pay attention to them in the same way...one at a time.

I think I'll begin with "My desk is too messy..."

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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