My friend Johnny, besides being a lights-out barista, compassionate human, kind soul, and hilarious conversationalist with an infectious laugh, is a dispenser of practical wisdom that belies her youth. Violet and I have a standing appointment with her on Tuesdays, when we catch up on life, share funny stories, complain about the ignominies of the past week, and gossip. It is a necessary part of our routine and one that we miss only at our own sufferance and with regret. Our Johnny visits are time when we validate the universal truths that govern our time on this planet. It is a lot like getting deep with a bartender, but age-appropriate and I can remember the conversation in its entirety the next day.
During one of our recent sessions, the stress of drudgery was the salient topic. This stress is self-imposed by the fact that we often spend more time dreading our quotidian chores than it takes to complete them, sometimes by orders of magnitude. It is a relatable problem in that almost all humans, lying awake at night, torture ourselves with the to-do lists that allow us to function. We may spend hours thinking about having to empty the dishwasher, when the storing of dishware and silverware may take ten minutes, at most. This mental process, repeated every time that the dishes need to be done, is such an insane waste of time as to render us even more irrational than we first believed. I credit Johnny for illuminating the absurdity of this conundrum.
This self-limiting behavior is easily extrapolated to undertakings with more at stake than laundry or mowing the lawn. The ratio between the time that I have spent thinking about writing another book (yes, I wrote one; it remains unpublished) and the time that I have spent actually writing it is extremely unfavorable to my potential career as a novelist. Perhaps you have an incredible business idea, but are terrified about putting it to the test such that you think yourself in circles instead of writing the business plan, forming the entity, and seeking funding. Paralyzed by over analysis, it is disturbing when you see someone put your idea into practice and make it work. It is a shame when our dreams remain internal; that is so much worse than failure.
For some reason, I have an easier time engaging in physical feats without getting stuck in the infinite loop of diagnostic doom. Even though the pain of crushing out a huge bike ride or a massive ski tour is explicitly tangible and torturous, that suffering is apparently easier than the psychological burden of a deep mental endeavor and the commensurate fear of disappointment. But just like I can hop on the bike with little forethought, I should be able to sit down in front of a computer and pound out the stories that are largely preformed in my head. Or, since this isn’t all about me, you should feel empowered to do what you already know you can do, but are afraid to try. Wondering what could have been is a terrible legacy, definitely not headstone material.
Action is the antipode to stasis and also its antidote. While some forethought of any worthy venture is necessary, it should be just long enough to make sure you are not doing something objectively stupid or dangerous. And even then, we are still probably giving things too much consideration. Some of the best ends come when we give them only fleeting attention and when they are seemingly idiotic or risky. The only way to know for sure is to do it and then see what happens. What could possibly go wrong?