The sun is shining. The grass is green. The leaves are letting in dappled light.  The kids are playing.  “Mommy, let’s play family. You be the Mommy.”

OK, done.

“I’ll be the baby.”  She starts this whining cry that is her imitation of a newborn.  Ah, sigh.  Here we go.

“Oh, come here baby, and I will hold you and keep you safe.” I think I’ve lived this scene fifty times this past month.  Playing make-believe can get old.  I start making grocery lists and work schedules in my mind.  I pick up a kids book and begin to be “the teacher” who wants to read to her.

I’ve learned a strategy to extend my patience–imagine loss.  I imagine that my kids are all grown up and don’t live here anymore.  I imagine missing them terribly, wishing I could remember what they were like at 2 and 6.  And bingo, here they are!  I get to remember vividly right in front of myself.  If I’m feeling a bit morbid, I might even imagine that one of them has gotten hurt, and I long to see them whole and unencumbered.  And presto, here they are!  Perhaps growling like angry werewolves at each other, or crying, but here and whole nonetheless.  I savor the look of their arms and legs, the dimple on their chin and cheeks, the way they approach me expecting a hug.

I even do this with my spouse when he’s annoying me.  I imagine him gone and starting to miss him.  The imagined loss makes me wonder at the present moment.

So, I write all of this in order to ease me into academic writing.  How can I take this strategy-for-living-thankfully and apply it to my writing?  First, I can imagine the loss of time.  We know that procrastinators avoid the task because making the choices required by the task is unpleasant because one fears one might make the wrong choice, i.e.procrastination is related to a fear of failure.  Procrastinators write only when the time limitations make failure more certain if one puts the task off longer.  So, when faced with an unpleasant writing task, I might take a moment to imagine the loss of time, the deadline approaching with nothing completed.  Even though my deadline is fluid–have something published in 16 months–I need to face it squarely in order to be thankful for the opportunity to write today.

On a more immediate scale, I need to realize how quickly my time today will fly by.  If I make a schedule for all that I want to get done today and take a minute to imagine the kids needing to be picked up at school at 3:00, I can remember to be thankful for this time to write and, hopefully, actually do that writing. What other loss can I imagine?  The loss of intellectual community.  Really, this is something I’m just starting to have, so I have to both imagine having it as well as imagine losing what little bit of it I have.  The more I write academically, the more I “join the conversation” among colleagues about issues that really do interest and energize me. First task today:  making the schedule for the next five hours that includes writing, filing papers in my office, biking for 20 minutes, and writing some more.

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