Why Do I Keep Getting In My Own Way?

Tomorrow is January 1st and the start of a brand spanking new year.  Some people make resolutions of one sort of the other.  I have yet to decide if I will make a resolution to deal with the title of this blog.  I keep getting in my own way.   It’s as if I stick one leg out in front of the other purposely to trip myself.  Frankly I think I’ve done this for a long long time.  

When visiting friends years ago he was remarking how when they had visitors and there were immediate tasks at hand she would decide to “dust the wheels on the fridge” instead.  In other words she would take on tasks not directly related, or on the ‘critical path’ as project managers would say, to getting ready for visitors.

Is this something you do?  There is some large task or issue sitting there in your mind.  It is something you must tackle or manage but instead these other non-critical, unrelated maybe irrelevant tasks jump out in front and you say to yourself “Hey, let’s do that instead!”

If you observe your behaviour somewhat dispassionately and from a distance, then perhaps you can take steps leading to improvement.  I know, for example, if I am going on a trip, particularly a trip that involves air travel instead of packing I will undertake tasks that should have been completed months before.  I will go renew my library card, those batteries get taken to the depot to recycle and I tackle that far corner of messy stuff in the basement.  Meanwhile the packing time grows shorter and shorter.

These past few weeks I’ve been getting in my own way  a great deal.  We were having a lovely party about a month ago and would be blessed with family coming to stay with us.  Instead of making beds and setting out towels, buying groceries and doing some cooking, I decided it was crucial to re-finish the front hall bench.  The bench was picked up at a neighbourhood garage sale and has been sitting in the front hall with its original look for 8 years and now I decide to re-finish it.  And I either can’t or won’t stop myself.


The old look
The old look
The new "distressed" look
The new “distressed” look

I get the bench done and decide instead of getting the house ready and such, well I decide to make marmalade and chutney.  Marmalade and chutney???  Why do I need to make marmalade and chutney right now?  But I do just that as the time for guests draws nigh. Even as I’m doing it I know I should direct my attention elsewhere.

Marmalade and chutney
Marmalade and chutney

And then this week I decided I need to untangle some chunks of yarn that have, as yet, no useful purpose.  They may never end up being incorporated into a project but I sat down and put in a good 2 to 3 hours untangling that yarn.  I’ll spare you a picture of untangled yarn.  

Amongst the many sayings our mother ingrained in us was “everybody has to have a purpose”.  And like all her sayings, there’s truth to it.  Perhaps I’m expecting too much.  Not everything you do has a great or higher purpose.  Most of us will never receive Nobel Prize, be awarded the Order of Canada or Citizen of the Year or find that every task we undertake is of great import.  

One way of looking at it is family coming to stay was an impetus to re-finish a bench that  might otherwise stay in its original state.  While we never got to sending Christmas greetings this year, the marmalade and chutney were nice gifts from the kitchen and that yarn might never be used but it gives me satisfaction not to see it sitting in a tangled mess.  Maybe it’s more about giving oneself a (sometimes misguided) sense of purpose in the smallest of tasks.

For example, writing this blog this morning, has questionable purpose.  I haven’t been blogging much lately and no one is clambering to read bits of wisdom from this keyboard.  But I’ve done it anyway.

I think I’ve just talked myself out of one potential New Year’s Resolution.

Tell me, do you get in your own way?

11 thoughts on “Why Do I Keep Getting In My Own Way?

  1. I think when one gets in one’s own way it is a sign that one works well under pressure. That would be the same reason why I would put off the essay writing until the last two days before it was due, buy Christmas Presents the last week before the 25th, and iron my clothes just before I left for work. The Horror of the Pressure is what some people seem to thrive on…and in your case it seems to be quite a productive scenario.

    Happy New Year to You and Yours Always.

  2. Loved it! So glad you decided to tackle this issue. I do it all the time, especially before packing to go away. It is as if I am not sure I really want to leave on this particular trip…or is it because I am anxious about traveling or being away from home and want to reduce that stress by focusing on mundane things that as you say, need doing at some point, after all.

    I am busy thinking through how I will be a different person next year, ie. more organized, find time every day for my fitness and yoga, take a deep breathe rather than getting in a huff over tiny things, become more technically savvy with all my devices and stop going to Gene all the time for help, and stop drinking so much wine! These plans and resolutions have never worked before in changing me…..but maybe 2015 will be different!!!

    Have a wonderful celebration this evening of the year that has passed and the newborn one ahead. Give Mick a Happy New Year Hug from me and best wishes from Gene to both of you.

    Thanks for the wonderful gift of your friendship over the past year. It has meant a tremendous amount to me


    P.s. Please note new gmail address above. My Xplornet address will be defunct as of tomorrow!

    Sent from my iPad


  3. What a great topic to contemplate on the eve of a new year Barb! I am wonderfully skilled at getting in my own way (as my boys love to point out!!) and relate very well to your story. Recently I’ve been working on focus, focus, focus and not distracting myself with ‘dusting the fridge wheels’. These days we all seem to thrive on busyness and stress – to counter this I’m practicing this – pause, stop and pay attention to what’s going on inside me – no easy task as it can bring up all kinds of ‘stuff’ usually related to family patterns and expectations. With perspective and support, personal growth can be rewarding!! I’m here anytime you want to vent about getting in your own way!!

    A very Happy New Year to you and your family!

  4. I bet Mick was distressed when he saw the paint job on that lovely bench.
    Procrastination does not begin to describe me when I have something important to do. As to changing, should have done that 60 years ago. When Voltaire was asked on his deathbed if he renounced the devil and all his ways, he replied to the effect that at this stage of the game he didn’t need any new enemies. At this stage of the game self-improvement would be both uncomfortable and unproductive. Live it, Barb. Distress benches and husbands, make preserves and whatever else. Company came to see YOU.

    1. Good advice all around. As you well know it is distressing to Mick to have me tackle household DIY projects. By merely stating my intentions it’s often enough to have him do the job himself.

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