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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Scarlett Syndrome

I’m suffering from chronic Scarlett Syndrome, aka: procrastination.  The symptoms are easy to identify. When pesky tasks nag for completion, the words of Scarlett O’Hara echo in your head, “I won’t think of it now. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Memory indicates that the Scarlett Syndrome must have infected me when I was a youngster.

“Marcia, did you mail that thank you note to Aunt Mary for the birthday present she sent you last month?” my Mom asked for the umpteenth time.

“No problem. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”  One week before my next birthday, Aunt Mary held my note in her hand.

The syndrome reached epidemic proportions in my academic years. For example, a months-long book report assignment, now due in a few days, necessitated my spending an entire weekend reading three Pearl Buck novels in Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and missing a date with the senior class president. I never forgave Pearl Buck and never did understand what was so Good about The Earth anyway.

Over time, you’d think I’d have recognized the symptoms and consulted a specialist on how to cure the syndrome. But, like Scarlett, decades later I’m still putting off until tomorrow what I should be doing today.

“Did you call the washer repairman? I’m running out of clean underwear,” my husband Garth asked six days after the machine stopped working mid-wash cycle.

“No problem. I’ll take care of it tomorrow. And don’t worry, push comes to shove, you can always wear a pair of mine.”  I try to be helpful.

It’s not that I don’t want to handle those annoying tasks. More important things seem to crop up in the mean time - like plucking my eyebrows or clipping coupons.

Then it dawned on me. The reason I haven’t cured myself of this perverse syndrome.

I work better under pressure.

Back in the day, I could finish my kid’s science project (complete with exploding lava), bake six dozen brownies for the school sale, type up three months of PTA meeting minutes and pack my husband’s suitcase for a week long business trip, in one night with time to spare. No problem.

Of course, I was much younger then and operated at warp speed on three hours sleep. Now it takes me a lot longer to accomplish something as simple as going to the supermarket once a week.

 “Uh, Marcia, when are you going to the store? We’re down to one box of tuna helper and a stalk of wilted celery.” Garth nags for no apparent reason.

“No problem. I’ll take care of it tomorrow. Have you checked the freezer?”

At long last, I’m proud to announce that things are gonna change. I’ve taken a vow to rid myself of that nasty Scarlett Syndrome once and for all. I’m swapping my “World’s Greatest Procrastinator” badge for one that reads “Do it NOW.”  I’ll clean the house, wash the clothes, read my book club book and finish my to-do list on time and on schedule. No problem.

But I’ll take care of it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day.”

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