Procrastination

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Procrastination

The doctor sat me down.
Grave face.
No smile.
Burdensome news to share.

“We have run the tests,” she begins.
She pauses to clear her throat.
“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. For this we should be grateful.”
She pauses again, straightens her papers, finds a pencil with a sharper point.

I, of course, feel ill.
Worse with each ticking second.
I have become like the doctor: grave face.
No smile.

“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.”

I am silent.
Numb.
Heartbroken.
Tentatively, I ask, “Is it terminal?”

Grave face.
No smile.
Burdened with the honest answer.
“Yes. You may delay, but time will not.”

“There are treatments,” she continues.
“Great medical advances have been made in this area.”
Her pause gives her time to sip her now-cold coffee, adjust herself in her chair.
“It goes without saying that the treatments are not a cure.”

“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.” still rings in my ears.

I am no longer silent.
Or numb.
I am angry.
“What about my children?” I blurt.

Grave face.
No smile.
Burdened with the honest answer.
“Sadly, it is hereditary.”

“But that means…”
I trail off.
Thinking.
Forming the perfect response in my mind.

“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.” And now implied: you got it from your ancestors.

“Some,” the doctor continues,
“inherit gene mutations that cause cancer.”
She scratches her head, flips through a medical journal, glances at her watch.
“At least you don’t have that.”

Dumbfounded at my diagnosis I do what every patient does, imagine the what ifs.
What if I did more?
What if my parents did more?
What if my ninth great-grandmother did more?

Where would we be?
What would we do?
Who would we have become?
And the worst: why didn’t they?

“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.” And now implied: you’ve given it to your children.

The doctor stands and walks to a bookshelf.
Scanning the titles she talks to the books.
“I studied Procrastination once in college.”
“Started to write a paper on it, but…” she trails off.

“What happened?” I asked.
“What did you learn?”
She turns, picks lint off the carpet, adjusts the paperweight on her desk.
Grave face, no smile: “I never finished it.”

“There are treatments,” she continues.
“Great medical advances have been made in this area.”
The doctor surprises me by pulling a chair to sit in front of me, holds my hands in hers, looks me in the eye.
Grave face, no smile: “Do less.”

“We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.” And now implied: I am the only one who can save me.

“Do less!?” I shout.
I back my chair away from the doctor, removed my hands that have been cradled in hers.
“Do less? I thought the answer would be ‘Do more.’”
With hanging head the doctor sighs, “It’s both.”

But how?
But why?
But what?!
How can it be that the answer is both “do less” and “do more”?

She searches for her prescription pad, scribbles with three pens before one writes.
I wait.
Handing me my prescription she says, “fill this” as she walks slowly out of her office.
I begin to understand now that I read what she wrote:

We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination. To save yourself and your children you must do less to do more. Do less of what doesn’t matter. Do more of what does. Everyone’s less and more is different. Just be you. Do less of what doesn’t matter to YOU. Do more of what does matter to YOU. When in doubt, just do something. Doing something is the best medicine. It’s the only medicine, in fact.

Nineteen years have passed since my diagnosis.
Though terminal, I press on.
Choosing less when society chooses more.
Choosing to do something when nothing would have been fine.

More is done only because other things are left undone.
Not the medical advice one would ever expect to hear,
But there are fewer grave faces and more smiles
Now that the choice has been made.

My annual follow-up exam is approaching.
Amazingly, I have never put off this appointment.
A phone call just now from the doctor’s office requested to reschedule as
My doctor has resigned to finally do what she’s always wanted to do.

No time in my life has been more transformational as when the doctor said, “We have run the tests and the diagnosis is clear. You have Procrastination.”

Amen.

 

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