A little while back, I had sent out a short story to a bunch of journals. A little while after that, I got a response from a journal, and they said good work! We’d like to publish this! I think I was actually in the Las Vegas airport when I received the email from the editor, and I believe I got a little shrieky in my excitement. Being accepted has always done this for me, sent me spiraling up over the moon with a sense of accomplishment, of validation, of squiggly, happy-time glee. You have to wonder why I don’t send off stories more often. I think the answer is: because I am kind of a dipshit.

I frequently don’t do things that I am perfectly aware will end well, will have nothing but positive consequences in the end, that will make me happy and my life fulfilled and my dreams all come true. What kind of idiot psychological issue makes you afraid of being happy, afraid of treating yourself well and kindly and doing good things that will cause rejoicing and glee and satisfaction?

I can understand, I think, knowing that you shouldn’t do something not
good. Knowing that you shouldn’t be acting–eating, for instance, a
gallon of tin roof sundae right out of the big plastic tub because
you’re going to feel sick, because it’s going to do terrible things to
your gut, because it is a whole lot of fat and a ridiculous number of
calories to ingest in one sitting, a nutritionally awful way to spend
forty-five minutes, because sugar can screw you up physically and
mentally for hours, but doing it anyway because it tastes good. There
is logic, there. It’s stupid logic and won’t win you any Hey, Good
Thinking! awards, but there is a certain satisfaction in enjoying a
whole lot of ice cream after you have considered and then ultimately
dismissed all the possible consequences of that whole lot of ice
cream. I might even suggest that blowing off the responsibility and
the very likely end results makes it all the sweeter.

But to not act is absolutely nuts. To waste those few free moments between obligations, to give into inertia in the face of potential, bone-deep contentment for no good reason at all, that’s just absolutely nuts. That is nothing I can justify, and nothing I can forgive, because
it is purely and certainly dumb as a stump, a bag of hammers, a sack of
hair, a big wet sock. That is a waste of so much–time, energy, talent,
happiness. That is letting the world get away from you, even knowing
that you’re never going to get it back, which makes it all the more
terrible and all the more sad.

Does knowing that it is so foolish, in so many ways, to squander away
moments with ordinariness and listlessness and laziness make it any
easier to stop pissing them away? Does it make it any more
comprehensible? Does it make you angry? Maybe, and no, and oh, I hope

5 Replies to “self-sabotage”

  1. One, you’re too hard on yourself.
    Two, maybe consider that it’s not laziness so much as fear.
    Now, you might reject that as silly. I can hear it: “What’s to be afraid of? Rejection? But at least I took the chance, and without taking chances I may not face rejection but I certainly won’t experience success either!” That line of reasoning makes perfect sense, it’s perfectly logical.
    But fear is not about logic. Sometimes it’s just plain ol’ human nature to let chances slip by because it seems safer than exposing yourself, making yourself vulnerable.
    But for your own sake, I hope you fight the fear, if that is part of what holds you back. You’re talented and you deserve to give yourself all the chances at the great opportunities that are out there.

  2. I am so with you, Anne – used to chalk up my tendency to stop doing the things that gave me joy to a general mistrust of joy itself, since it’s certainly safer to assume that no good will come of this and here comes the big anvil out of the sky as soon as I stop expecting the worst. Don’t have a solution (I am learning to rally and with exercise at least, am consistent), but I so appreciate your bringing this up. I LOVE this blog.

  3. The fact that you come up with something clever to say five days a week on this blog is a clear demonstration of the fact that you’re not a slouch and that you do know how to get things done. So if you’re beating yourself up about not submitting for publication more frequently, at least you can rest assured that it’s not because you’re apathetic. Of course, that opens the door to any number of neurotic reasons why you sabotage yourself, but, hey, at least being a lazy pants isn’t one of them.

  4. I am glad I’m not alone in that ice cream mindset. :) When I’m trying to decide whether to eat something or not, too often I decide that I don’t care about the consequences that I am fully aware of. How do you beat that?? :(

  5. Steph, I have the same problem. I will stand in my kitchen staring at a jar of peanut butter and thinking about whether or not I need five or ten tablespoons of it… everything can point to “NO” and I will consciously and happily say “Oh yes please!” in complete defiance of the rules I set for myself. I need to figure out how to work around this too.
    Anne, your writing is phenomenal and I heart reading it every day.

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