productivity and cans of worms

I admit it. I’ve spent the last several months ignoring this blog and others, feeling unable to commit to a direction or purpose. I enjoy thinking and writing about projects, planning, creativity and productivity, but it is hard to do when I am not personally being very creative or productive. It rings false – to me if to no one else. As part of getting back into the swing of things after the black hole of the holidays, I have been making and revisiting lists. I am a life-long listmaker, and there is still nothing quite as satisfying as the feeling that even if everything is far from “done” it is all down on paper somewhere.

Since I’ve been in productivity limbo for so long, I started by doing some rough mind-mapping around goals in certain areas: home, career, finances, and education among others. I quickly realized something that should perhaps be a no-brainer. I avoid my lists because I fear the cans of worms hidden in them.

There are some items that must be done that I simply don’t want to do, like making some sort of contingent payment plan for the creditors I have been ignoring. It isn’t that I don’t want to pay them – it’s that I don’t want to face the situation. Especially when I still have no stable income and can’t predict my ability to pay with any accuracy.

There are other items that I want to do but which require a whole cavalcade of subjective decisions, like applying to grad school. At 38, I still don’t want to commit to a single path – especially one that requires a likely increase of about $50K to my personal debt. But once I open the can of worms it leads to at least a huge amount of research in order to make a decision, if not actually to grad school.

Every single item on my list of dreams could take over my life if I let it. And so I get paralyzed. I am unable to make any kind of decision. If I didn’t have the same smoothie for breakfast every day I would probably be stuck in the middle of my kitchen for hours after getting up.

This condition is at least partly to blame on not having paying work. With projects and clients and deadlines, I know exactly what needs to happen each day, even if I make the wrong breakfast choice. And the paying work will come back, giving me structure and income, even if not fully realizing my personal dreams. The economy is burbling away, and the splatters are landing nearer to my plate every day.

But the cans of worms are still lurking. The big decisions, the small decisions, the unpleasant realities to be faced. All I can do is open gently and take one worm at a time.

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