Last Minute Club

Last Minute Club – by Judith Staff Raw-and-Unfiltered

Do you ever read something which consumes your thoughts, and makes such complete sense that for a while afterwards, it’s swilling around in your head like when you drank your juice too fast as a kid and it sloshed about in your tummy? Something so affecting it seeps into other areas of your life, reverberating in your mind days and weeks later, like an echo?

Recently, I read Raw & Unfiltered vol. 1: Selected Essays and Poems on Relationships with Self & Others (eds. J Anderson & M Carlton. Los Angeles: Feminine Collective, 2015). An anthology of submissions from Feminine Collective, a web-based magazine, the book is brimming with excellent writing by superb writers. One essay in particular which I keep returning to is “Self-Doubt is the Mother of Procrastination” (pg. 281) by Julie Anderson*. An international supermodel, and celebrated writer & poet among many more talents, Julie Anderson communicates beautifully her perspectives on life, love, mental health, body image, motherhood and countless other topics. Her writing is alive with an authenticity which grabs your hand and holds it tightly as you read her powerful, often deeply emotive words. Creator of Feminine Collective magazine & publishing company, Julie also co-edited Raw & Unfiltered.

In her piece “Self-Doubt is the Mother of Procrastination” Julie Anderson talks about her unfinished to-do lists and overdue car services. Her stacks of pressing paperwork on and around her desk, which match my own. She explains “Sometimes, I shuffle them around the room.” I do that – my piles of paperwork are like the red spot in the Dr Seuss classic “The Cat in the Hat”, being shifted around under the guise of “tidying up” or “sorting out.” Julie alludes to the sense of pride about her ability to complete things just under the wire “….proclaiming with a snarky grin that ‘I work better under pressure’….” I am laughing reading this; my family can readily attest to my impeccable skills in this area. If we go to see a movie, they lie to me about the time it starts to avoid being the last ones in their seats as the film begins. Late tax return, unanswered emails – as I read Julie’s catalogue of delay, I mentally check off a similar list. The first few paragraphs I’m giggling away – “Yep, that’s me all over!” The essay totally gets me, in a tribal-like way. Pure solidarity.

I am thoroughly enjoying the sense of validation and flutter of pride at being so good at the skin-of-my-teeth thing, a quality I seem to share with someone incredibly successful and talented. Until about a third of the way in, Julie mentions a podcast she discovered called iProcrastinate. She quotes the host, Dr Tim A. Pychyl who says:

“Procrastination is a by-product of low self-esteem and self doubt.”

Fuck. Well, that wiped the smile off my face really fast. Only because I completely relate to that, too. I lack masses of self-confidence and self-belief – so this made sense. Lots of sense. Like, too much, in fact. My problem isn’t poor time-keeping or disorganisation – I’m up by 5am most mornings, climbing into bed after midnight following another day of ‘busy’. No, this is all about an inherent fear of failure, of never being “good enough”. I continue thinking about it. Now, instead of being a minute late and joking about making an entrance, I am thinking, shamefully “God, I really need to sort this self-doubt thing out, one of these days……” Half the time, it’s a “wardrobe-crisis”, five changes of outfit that made me late. By enabling my behaviour with a “that’s just me” narrative, I have managed to keep getting away with it. Now I saw the underlying issue: me getting in my own way.

Putting all that aside for now, there’s more: I struggle to finish tasks as well.
I always DO finish but literally right on the deadline. With written projects, if there is no deadline, I edit the thing to death until I make myself a deadline (or four), or until someone wrenches it out of my hands. I can’t let go, stuck in a perpetual editing loop. I put all this down to perfectionism. Recently, I knew my slide presentation for a conference would take me about an hour to create. I started it at about 10pm the night before it was due for submission, and as predicted, it took me about an hour. Easy. But it was nearly 3am when I finally submitted it, and went to bed for two hours before my working day began. Waking up exhausted, I began wondering why I had spent so long tweaking and tweaking, unable to say “Done”. That’s when I finally saw the connection. The same thing that gets in the way of me starting things is what prohibits me from finishing them. After all, perfectionism and self-doubt are two sides of the same coin.

So now, I would love to have a Disney-esque ending for you, and tell you it’s all fixed so I can live happily ever after in the sunshine-filled Land of No-Procrastination. Instead, I will just say I’m still re-reading the chapter in the book, and paying particular attention to the steps at the end that Julie Anderson suggests can be helpful in addressing self-doubt induced tardiness.
And the steps she suggests are truly excellent.
And actioning them is on my to-do list.
Along with completing my tax-return.
And the emails I need to answer, the policy I am still fine-tuning, the paperwork on my desk I need to file……. When I’ve finished editing this.

*With very grateful thanks to Julie Anderson for giving me inspiration to write this piece, and reflect on my own patterns of last-minuteness and what underpins them.

Never Saw It Coming

Never Saw it Coming

*All names have been changed.     *Trigger warning – suicide.  Helpline numbers below.

It is World Suicide Prevention Day.  I saw a tweet that said everyone has been affected in some way.  I think that is probably true as I remember Mark.


It is late summer and my best friend Christy and I are really bored.  We have been for a swim in her neighbours’ pool, their girls attend the Catholic school two blocks away so we only really see them in school holidays.  At fifteen, Shannon is a year older than us and her sister Missy is a year younger.  The girls’ parents Lisa and Mark were only eighteen when they had Shannon so are still really young and rather cool, as far as parents go.  The house seems relaxed and we are allowed to do pretty much what we want.

After swimming we all go inside to get changed.  Mark is home lying on the sofa, and asks if we all want to watch a movie.  He puts on Children of the Corn and we all lie on the sofas and the floor sprawled out for the afternoon.  We have snacks but the film is too gory and I feel put off eating.  I am terrified by the end, and secretly glad it is still daylight outside.  After the movie, we all start saying “Malachy” in creepy voices and trying to freak each other out.  Mark makes us all laugh too, doing impressions and messing about pretending to be the characters from the horror film.


December 23rd, the phone rings just before midday.  It is Christy, she calls every day, sometimes a few times.  But now she is crying.  She’s actually so distraught, I can’t really even understand her so I tell her I’m on my way.  This was not uncommon, Christy phoning me and me heading over to her place, but she was so upset now.  I grab a jacket, and run round the block to her house faster than normal, wondering what’s up.  There are police cars on the street which slow my footfall as I approach Christy’s porch, now realising something is very wrong.

Mark has killed himself.  He had got in the car in the early hours of the morning, inside their wooden garage, which he had sealed up and turned on the engine.  He’s dead.

I only went swimming once or twice there after that.  We had to walk through the garage to get to the pool and it was too much, knowing what had happened in there.  The family moved a year or so later.  Mark had not left a note.  No one knew why he had done it.  And no one would ever know answers to so many questions. Why he had left Lisa and the girls.  Why everything felt just too much.  Why he did it so close to Christmas.  Why those in Mark’s life never saw it coming.  Mostly, why he saw no way out other than suicide.

I don’t know how to end this piece other than to say, we just never know.  Even when we think we know, we really don’t.  We might never see it coming.  Be available, have compassion and look at people when you ask them if they are okay.  Ask them if they are okay and mean it.

And let them know you are prepared for whatever their answer is.

UK Samaritans – phone 116 123   USA National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 800 273 8255

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My Wrists Can Stay

  images (20)      My Wrists Can Stay — by Judith Staff    

The aura of disgust a glimpse, or fleeting touch evokes.

Almost imperceptible, but only almost. It registers, somewhere;

A faint echo of revulsion, tinged with melancholy, impales the quiet.

I shut my mind’s eyes, desperate to stop the thought dead.

Unhalted, it always rushes towards the desire to slice, or crush,

Or suck away those places where such a vile aversion is brewed.

Where is it seeping from, this poisonous despising of my physical self?

A noxious weed with a stranglehold on my image of my shell’s exterior.

A perception saturated in contempt, living in hiding, ever beyond reach,

A lightyear or two away from what others seem convinced they can see.

My wrists can stay; the rest – one day, I promise to loathe you less.

But for now I wish you were someone else’s;

I wish you were not mine.