The Art of Procrastination

A local cafe in Paris is one of the places Magdalena Randal chooses to procrastinate.

February is an excellent time to procrastinate, to purposefully delay actions, so says my pal Daniel.

He joins me most days before dawn at our local café here in Paris where we put things off together.

I am amazed I can so eagerly leap from my bed, eat breakfast and stride through all kinds of weather to the counter that has become an altar for me. A place of wonder.

There, options for procrastination await. I can stare at myself in the mirror behind the bar. The person I see there cannot be me. I am just not that old! Better reflections are to be found in the daily newspapers.

On arriving in Paris, I gravitated to the publication Liberation, but I soon realized that it was too “directed.” As another café procrastinator also remarked, I prefer perusing facts to make up my own mind. So when my delay tactics include reviewing events, I scan Le Parisien. It is the paper that most resembles this New Glasgow, community-oriented one.

Like the round up here of life in our Nova Scotia region, Le Parisien describes folks weathering their days.

This winter, as my friends in Nova Scotia describe their highs and lows, Le Parisien has reported a greater incentive to procrastinate in the form of a few extremely cold days. Like -3 Celsius. Yes, you read that correctly.

Now, here is the thing about the mysteries of sensation; it really does seem colder here in Paris at a relatively “warmer” temperature than it ever did in Pictou County at -20C!

This is an unsolvable mystery for me, one of the best things to fuel another effective procrastination tactic: entertaining conversation.

On the Shore Road in Lismore, I enjoyed hours of wonderful banter at the Variety Café when it was still brimming with Mary B’s quick wit and the aroma of her fresh baked bread. The fishermen gathered there in June told tales that helped me procrastinate right into the fall.

They claimed it was colder or warmer than usual. (What is usual?)

It was rougher or calmer on the seas. Here too, in Paris, it is rougher or calmer, warmer or colder, and then there are the winter sales; the greatest procrastination tool ever invented. Don’t “do” anything, BUY something!

Thank God there are still inspiring news stories about people of action to help me truly fill my delaying time with considered study of what it is to act. Here in France, one of the most moving stories this year was the record-breaking solo sail around the world by a mariner from Brittany. He busied himself, all by himself, all the way around the world, in a boat!

Only a man, I thought, would want to do this. But there was also a story last year about a woman who regularly braved the seas alone. She was much lauded when she met her end in a fiery helicopter crash with fellow reality TV stars. This news invites me to delay any travel.

One thing I know before I make plans is that if I am going to be in a boat, I want company. People to help if the vessel takes on water. I don’t want to be heaving buckets all by myself. Nor do I want to go out in the blaze of a solitary explosion. Better to combust accompanied.

Still, there are parts of my work and life that I have to face alone (like my current theology studies!), so reading about these souls’ determination has really given me incentive to… keep reading.

And that is my most treasured form of procrastination; Enjoying literature, like Willa Cather’s classic novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, never ceases to expand my reality one extended moment at a time.

To end at a beginning (thereby edging back to my theology studies), it is no surprise to me that the origins of the word procrastinate are apparently, Latin; The Roman Catholic Church seems to want to postpone everything purposefully. Perhaps because its captains know there is no end, just eternal navigation. Another kind of procrastination.

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This article first appeared in The Evening News, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and is reposted here with permission from the author.

Magdalena Randal is a filmmaker and artist currently living in the Maritimes.

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