Advice for the procrastinator, discouraged perfectionist or control freak
I am a control freak. (There, I’ve said it.) I am a firstborn who is fond of organization and symmetry. I am a stickler for meticulousness. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is my credo. I despise confusion or chaos. I get nervous when other people run late and break out into hives when something doesn’t go my way. If pandemonium ensues, I want to fix it immediately. I love to plan. I thrive on making lists, setting goals and following through. In my mind, only perfection will do. (Imagine my delight knowing the word “seder” means “order.”)
One of my dearest friends, also a firstborn, is a “discouraged perfectionist,” as described in Dr. Kevin Leman’s bestseller “The Birth Order Book.” She realizes that she will never be perfect, the world is disorderly and life can be messy. So she doesn’t even try to be flawless; she’s completely given up on the pursuit of excellence. She’d prefer not to do something at all rather than have it turn out less than ideal.
Then there’s my other friend. We’ll call her Olivia. She will put off everything until the last possible minute. Why do today what you can continue to delay indefinitely? Her procrastination manifests itself in every aspect of her life. She dreads the very thing she ought to be doing. Tackling the inevitable is not high on her priority list. Last year, she was so overwhelmed with the thought of spring cleaning and preparing her house for Passover that she went to the mall instead. (Retail therapy is often the consequence of her procrastination, and she has several brand new pairs of shoes to prove it.)
In Olivia’s defense, preparing for Passover is no easy task. It requires planning. (The word alone brings utter terror to some people’s minds!) Planning requires the creation of a plan. Planning involves forethought and consideration.
If you are a control freak like me, you may relish the thought of taking on such a task. But you are also likely to put a lot of pressure on yourself. You may forget what the holiday is all about and overlook your family. Then, as a people pleaser, you’ll feel guilty for not doing more to accommodate your guests. It’s a vicious cycle. Life as a control freak can be rigid and sadly disappointing. So this year, please do yourself a favor and relax a bit. Remember that there is no ideal, only what’s real. And your idea of “perfect” may not be based in reality. This year, focus on dayenu and know that sometimes it is enough.
For you discouraged perfectionists, try for a bit more earnestness. Of course, remove hametz, but please make sure your Seder plate is not chipped. Ditch the dog-eared and well-worn Maxwell House Haggadah because it might be time to try something new. Go all-out with a new and memorable tradition. Enlist the help of your children to make place cards so everyone will know where he or she will be sitting. One family had a neighbor dress up as Elijah, and when it was time to open the door for Elijah, the man walked in, drank the wine and left.
For you, it’s about finding the balance be tween ritual and spontaneity. It’s okay to leave your comfort zone. It just might be the picture-perfect Pesach for your family, and you’ll have the satisfaction of experiencing something innovative.
If you are a chronic procrastinator, pay heed…you may not like what I have to say. (If you are anything like my friend Olivia, you’ve probably delayed reading this article until Lag B’omer!)
Your proclivity for postponement will predictably perpetuate problems in planning for Passover. Instead of focusing on how much there is to do until Pesah, concentrate on one task. Start small, but start. If you do a little each day, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. You cannot hide the afikomen until you buy the matzot. While you’re out this week, pick up a few boxes. The Passover story is about slavery and exile. Free yourself from the bondage of procrastination this year, and banish bad habits.
Whether you buy into the zeal of achievement, the fervor of mediocrity or the distinction of unresponsiveness, be proactive and anticipate the holiday. Erev Pesah is at sundown on April 14 and the first day of Passover is April 15. (Oh, and don’t forget your tax returns are also due!) What are you waiting for?