Actually, I have loved and appreciated deadlines, loved them for forcing me to work toward a moment beyond which lay the unthinkable – a missed deadline, failure. I loved the lie of external deadlines. The anxiety of needing to produce, the desperate, driven hours finally and inevitably relieved by the deadline’s being met. Yet without deadlines, procrastination becomes moot; nothing drives, nothing pressures.
My past working life was replete with met deadlines. Week after week for 13 years, The Narbonne High School newspaper staff and I sailed into Thursday deadlines for Friday distribution. Years went by that way. If and when a student staffer felt overwhelmed by a looming deadline, I could offer a tissue for the tears and point to the deadline. Enough said.
When that number of deadlines didn’t do it for me, I added the yearbook and its deadline requirements held over our heads by yearbook companies with whom the school contracted. If that wasn’t enough, both the newspaper staff and the yearbook staff and I with our chaperones headed off to national competitions in other cities where one-hour deadlines for writers and artists meant success or failure to win the trophy. More than rounding everyone up to perform at their utmost, I was responsible for 30 to 45 high school students boarding a plane on time. This on top of the regular hour after hour that students entered the classroom and exited at the ringing of a bell so that another group could take their place. The exigencies of the school semester further compelled the rhythm of my accomplishments.
I came away from that long time experience with gratitude toward deadlines. It took a while before I saw how habitual they had become, how much I relied on being driven from the outside to accomplish what I had the talent and desire to do – at that time to coach aspiring writers and to produce and produce. And now?
It is peaceful but not habitual to meet no deadlines, to require nothing of myself but to be. And to walk Foxibeau several times a day. So this past week I didn’t force the issue. When nothing is required, there is no unmet deadline.
Indeed, had Kate not paid “Go Daddy” for another two years of owning my name and I repaid her, I would possibly have “slip, slided away.” I construed that check to be deadline of sorts, an unspoken imperative to use the space I own for another two years.
On Sunday after a week not deadline-driven, I have decided to live meaningfully in the space that is mine with or without the aid of a deadline. It may not be as simple as paying “Go Daddy” for two additional years of owning www.spiritflowsthru, but it is me recognizing it is time to explore life apart from its old patterns. It is time to become the creative energy of my own life. I don’t see it clearly yet, but I know it will not be characterized by meeting deadlines through the habitual pattern of tension and dread despite its being so familiar. I think it will take courage to live in this in-between time of letting go and trusting what will come. May it be so.