Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said,”You’re much too small,”
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should…

…and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale
Because she said she would!!!

“Melinda Mae” from Where the SideWalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

I’ve been eating a whale in small bites this weekend–tackling little things I’ve put off until they acquired sufficient collective mass to great to be ignored. The beast is comprised of tasks like organizing my tax receipts, filling out cub scout camp applications, small copywriting jobs, and various other things I apparently signed on for.

Procrastination is my lifelong companion. At thirty-eight, I’ve accepted that it is an incurable condition, like alcoholism or diabetes. It can only be managed,  never eradicated. Today I am less inclined to view it as a curse, and more disposed to understand it as a natural offshoot of many positive character traits (creativity, intuitiveness, flexibility). My brain is far-sighted. It’s the nuts and bolts of daily life that are blurry to me. 

I’ve had to learn a trick or two, and I’ve had to learn it, like everything else, the hard way. I’m a gulper, not a nibbler of life, but I’m getting better at taking small bites. When it comes to the good-for-you-but-tasteless bits, anyway.

 And so, this weekend, I started right in at the tail, opening envelopes, pulling files, signing forms, forcing myself to click the dreaded “new blank document” option from my word processor menu. I didn’t lock myself inside the house until it was all done. I didn’t binge. I didn’t beat myself up for not doing it sooner, or for having to fork over a late fee for camp, or over all the bounced check notices of last year that had to be faced, and filed. I didn’t make myself sick over any of it. I didn’t despair over the enormity of what had to be swallowed. I just bit off a piece of whatever was in front of me and chewed, slowly, until I was full. Then spent some time living life.

It’s Sunday night, and my plate is hardly clean. But I’m amazed, like I always am, at how much has been accomplished. Little Melinda Mae was hip to Goethe: the act of beginning something has power and magic in it, inverse to the terrible drain of avoidance.