by Elise Seyfried
If I spoke Spanish (which I don’t), my favorite word would be mañana (tomorrow). I put everything — and I do mean EVERYTHING — off until later, often much, much later. This goes for planning Confirmation class and writing children’s sermons (which I’ve been known to do on the way to church), also grocery shopping (I hold off till the only edible thing in the refrigerator is ketchup) and laundry (there’s a reason we own 312 towels). I’ve never gone to the doctor or dentist when I should; the way I figure it, no news is good news! The final day to register for a class or program without penalty is the day I do — often at 11:59 p.m. And sometimes, I have to pay the penalty, which is galling, but clearly not galling enough for me to change my ways.
You see, I live in the Procrasti-Nation, and in our family I have a fair amount of company. The Seyfried motto: It’ll wait! Husband Steve can write an entire play in a couple of days, which is good because the first performance is usually only a week away. And as for the kids? Sheridan stays in bed until 6:40 and can still catch a 6:47 train. (I swear to God, and this includes getting fully dressed and eating something.) Evan has vastly improved, thanks to his Naval Academy training, but I still remember the quarter-long high school Biology project done in five days. (This involved various types of bread and how fast they grew mold, so it was quite the challenge!)
Back in the years of her baking business, Rose mastered sticking the hot cookies in the freezer so they cooled fast enough to wrap for a customer who needed them a half-hour earlier. And what can I say about PJ? He is the president of the Procrasti-Nation, a man who never orders replacement contact lenses until the last pair (the pair he’s wearing) has been in for weeks. Julie is a chip off the Seyfried block, as her fish swims in a bowl full of murk, and her room gets so messy she has to sleep upstairs on the sofa.
Sometimes we procrastinate when there’s a chance that whatever we’re supposed to do will just go away. Yard work leaps to mind here … eventually it’s winter, and those weeds and unraked leaves disappear under a thick layer of snow. And if we wait to respond to that awkward email long enough, it will fall so far down in the queue that we can honestly say we’ve forgotten all about it.
Sometimes, we’re just addicted to the adrenaline rush of delay, the extra spice those zero-hour saves give to life. Let others start the project on time; let others plan ahead. Promptness is for wimps. We need to bump up against the absolute deadline to get the juices flowing!
I hate to admit it, but I am personally a faith procrastinator as well. It’s so easy to tell myself I will pray later, read Scripture tomorrow, love my neighbor next week. There will be time, right? I’ll get it done — at some future point. Just not today. There’s only one little problem with this plan: we none of us are promised tomorrow. We can’t afford to put off any opportunities to talk with God, learn more about Him, show His love to others. Now is all we have for sure. I tell myself this, and I believe it, but it’s just so hard to renounce my citizenship in the Procrasti-Nation.
I don’t make resolutions in January (of course not! I put them off till August!) Well, I think I just found my #1 resolution. I will seize the day, THIS day, and try to put my spiritual house in order. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to dealing with the rest of my undone life as well.
So here I sit, telling the tale of our tardiness, as all around me my neglected household chores scream for attention. “Mañana!” I yell back to the dusty furniture and dish-clogged sink. Whatever it is, it’ll wait!
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She is the author of a self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays. It can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com.