A few weeks ago I listened to Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks. It’s about how much time we have to live on average, (the clue is in the title), and how to use it. Generally I have to say I found it more terrifying than liberating, but it was just before I started HRT so maybe I was peak hormonal midlife crisis.
One phrase stuck out for me at the time and has been swooshing around my brain ever since – it’s the idea of always trying to clear the decks.
Most of us I’m sure do this a lot. We literally clear our desks before we start work or we clean the kitchen before we sit down to relax in front of the TV. Sometimes it’s a procrastination tool, sometimes it’s a feeling that we have to do something we don’t want to do in order to earn the ‘reward’, whatever that may be.
Sometimes though it’s bigger. Sometimes clearing the decks can be a feeling of needing to wait until something has happened in order to do something else.
‘Once I’ve lost a stone I will feel better about myself and will start dating again.’
‘I just need to finish up this big project at work and then I can make time for family.’
‘The kids will be leaving home in a few years, that will be the time to pursue my own dreams.’
We’re scared of starting something, of taking a risk, of just enjoying ourselves, so we wait for the perfect moment. We wait until we’ve accomplished the things we feel we need to accomplish. We feel like if we can just clear the inbox, THEN we will start that creative project we honestly really do want to do. We just need to finish the house renovations and THEN we can start having friends and family to stay. We just need to clear the decks first, then we can properly start.
SPOILER: The decks will never be cleared.
Life doesn’t work like that. You can empty your inbox but the emails will keep coming. Lose that stone and what a surprise, you won’t instantly feel confident about dating. Nothing is really ever finished. There is never a right time.
I think the idea of never being able to clear the decks stuck with me because it aligns with my own personal motto.
(Yes, I have a personal motto. I am THAT person and I’m not even sorry about it. I don’t have it in swirly writing above my front door or anything, but I carry it in the back of my head, quietly, just as a guide.)
Ready, fire, aim.
I know, I’m awesome right? You’re welcome to share.
If I had spent my life waiting until I knew exactly where I was going before I started anything then I would never have taken any of the first steps that have led me into exciting adventures, new opportunities and, admittedly, disastrous relationships. I wouldn’t be here, writing this blog, that’s for sure. The career’s test at school told me I should be an insurance underwriter and the internet hadn’t even been invented.
When people ask me how I came up with my blog name I shrug and say ‘it was available and I’d had a glass of wine.’ I could have spent ages choosing a name and designing a logo and getting everything just so, but then I would never have begun. I would never have asked Antonio Banderas if he thought that if birds ruled the world, they would leave food out for humans.
We have four thousand weeks people.
We can’t afford to wait until we feel 100% ready because what if that time never comes? This isn’t a dress rehearsal, life isn’t just around the corner waiting to start just as soon as you’ve sent the kids of the university, retiled the kitchen and joined the gym. It’s happening right now. This is it, it’s started, and the clock is ticking.
You should probably stop reading this and get on with it.