My husband has a funny habit of talking about himself in 3 versions: Past Self, Present Self and Future Self. He will have a dilemma, a project or task that Present Self does not want to deal with but he knows he will have to do eventually. There is a choice, do the task and move on, or, let Future Self deal with it. Then, when Present Self catches up with Future Self and the task cannot be put off any longer, something like “Past Self sure is a jerk sometimes” will be uttered before he gets to work.
I love these little debates and have actually started having them myself sometimes. As I was reflecting on what to do for Lent this year (yes, I’m sorry to bring up the fact that Lent is already coming! It seems like it came too quickly this year, probably because we’ve been practicing Lent songs in choir for what feels like weeks now), I kept thinking about this whole Past Self/Future Self quandary.
We all have things we don’t particularly enjoy doing. Maybe for you it’s cooking breakfast. Maybe for someone else it’s folding laundry. Maybe for someone else it’s cleaning the bathroom (I’ll raise my hand for that one). Maybe for someone else it’s mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. Whatever your something is, you know you’ve got it.
Now imagine (or maybe just reflect on reality depending on the task – I’ll probably be doing that for this exercise) what the task in question would be like if you put it off for a week. You did nothing to help yourself out, you didn’t do a little piece at a time. Maybe you felt you didn’t have time, maybe you chose not to make time. How much more difficult is your task going to be and how much longer is it going to take because you have avoided it entirely? Your job will most likely take longer, be more difficult, and you are more likely to do it with a grimace on your face.
Now, imagine a different scenario. Let’s say your unpleasant task is doing the dishes. Rather than letting them pile up throughout the day you explore an alternative option. When you wake up, you immediately unload the dishwasher (yes, you can get your coffee going first). Then, after breakfast, your dishes immediately go in the already emptied dishwasher. Your kids want a snack a while later. No problem, especially if you ask them to bring their dishes to the counter or if they are big enough, to put them in the dishwasher themselves. No dishes on the table and none in the sink and it’s already lunch time! Continue the trend. Most importantly, you clean up as you go with as you make dinner. Dirty a spoon? Straight into the dishwasher. Finished with a pan? You’ve got a bowl of hot soapy water waiting in the sink. Evening comes and your dishes are basically done, maybe just a few ice cream bowls to celebrate a dishes day well spent. You were a good Past Self, so Future Self gets to relax and enjoy her Downton Abbey and not have to scrub the living daylights off the crusty oatmeal bowls from breakfast.
Most of life works like this. We can do a little at a time, or let things pile up. Personally, the higher the pile, the less likely I’m going to do it (kind of like the pile of laundry I’m presently avoiding because, sometimes, my Past Self is a jerk too).
So, Lent this year: Be a good Past Self. Hopefully it will mean I ultimately have more time for prayer and I will do my tasks with a happier disposition.