I’ve been thinking a lot about these three: dead links, deadlines, and dead weight. Perhaps, because I feel a bit hemmed in by all of them, much of that trapped feeling is my own doing. If I were Catholic, this might be my confessional. As an aspiring writer I want to write about it, and as a person who wants to do better, I want to identify problems and solve them.
A dead link occurs when a website links to a page, internally or externally, that is no longer valid or updated. Usually you get an error message when you click on one of these so-called links. One of the projects I worked on over the summer was to check for dead links on a website and then find and correct them, either by updating to a correct link, eliminating the link (and language) if a correction could not be found, or finding an updated equivalent link. In addition to the user’s frustration, there is another consequence for containing those dreaded dead links. It turns out that the more dead links a website possesses, the further down the list of internet search results a website appears. The more dead links, the more hidden your website becomes, which results in fewer visits to your website. Obviously, this is a problem. I found it fascinating to update links and search for new ones, even correcting typos. It was tremendously tedious and relaxing at the same time, and did not require any “techie” skills. Thank goodness for that, says this self-proclaimed Luddite.
It made me realize that I often lead a life of dead links without my awareness. The thing about a dead link is that it is invisible until you click on that one spot. It’s like getting to the end of a long-winding street and then hitting a dead-end and there’s no way to turn around. Why is it that I am not always truthful or authentic in my life? It’s easier to cover it up and not deal with the pain and embarrassment of somebody meeting the real me, the messy me, the cranky me. Why is it that I often flake out on commitments to friends and family because it doesn’t fit into my agenda for the day or week? Why have I determined that my time and my demands are most important? What if I took a step back and showed up for someone just because they asked, or even showed up before they knew they needed me?
I want to let go of my dead links. I want to show up and think beyond my own needs and wants (a wonderful lesson to finally learn for someone in her thirties, don’t you think?). I don’t want to become the dead space that people finally ignore, because they can no longer rely on me as steady, or present. I can’t go back in time and repair all of the “error messages” that I have purposefully or subconsciously released to the world, friends, and family. But I can stop releasing them. I can show up. I can listen. I can be authentic. I can show my cracks and scars and be willing to see the cracks and scars of others. I can reach out and help someone up. Maybe I can even catch someone before they fall.
Meeting deadlines has been a lifelong struggle for me. I am notoriously bad about missing them. Big ones, little ones, intermediate ones. I say I’m going to do something, complete something, start something, which I do eventually, but it’s usually late. I miss deadlines: sometimes slightly, sometimes egregiously. When I do make deadlines, it’s often by the squeak of a second or by the skin of my teeth. We all know the saying, “If it weren’t for the last-minute, nothing would get done.” Well, if I had a bumper sticker for my life it would be, “If it weren’t for a missed deadline, nothing would get done.” It’s shameful, I know. It has hindered me more than once in professional circles and I would have been an honor’s student in college, if I had just turned things in on time. In fact, not being able to cope with deadlines was one of the reasons I resigned as editor of the college paper (It’s one of the few things in my life I regret to this day. I’m not big on looking back at regret, as it seems a lost cause.). Some of my best work experiences (including my present occupation) are where there are few deadlines. The bulk of my work is in the doing, the present, the teaching. I show up at a school, I teach, I lead field trips. I revel in the present. Reveling in the present probably also has something to do with my current pursuit of massage therapy school. The bulk of a massage therapist’s job is showing up and being present for the client. The pursuit of parallel careers in massage therapy and education is my passion, but also because there aren’t as many deadlines.
Deadlines still haunt me. I have some lingering volunteer work on a nonprofit board that should have been completed at least three weeks ago. I have some freelance work sitting on the back burner because there is no stated deadline. I have some deadlines from summer projects that are now bleeding into fall. People are relying on me and now I’m overwhelmed with the regular duties of my full-time job and night school. Once I get overwhelmed, I procrastinate and worry more and then everything becomes a big tied-up worry knot, At this point, I do not even know where to begin. I realize that I can’t undo a life of missed deadlines, but I can give updates to people, instead of hiding and hoping that they won’t notice my work isn’t done.
I need to come clean and unravel the knot. I picked two tasks that I can realistically complete this weekend, while still dealing with my regular home and school duties. I’m sending e-mails to others, giving status updates. I feel lighter haven taken the baby steps. One step at a time, breaking big things down into smaller pieces is what I can do. I can start.
As I understand it, dead weight is a sailing or boating term. Having never been a sailor and possessing little experience with boats, my experience with dead weight is different. I remember my mom telling stories of me as a toddler. She said that when I didn’t want to go anywhere, I just stopped walking. In all my two-year-old stubbornness, I wouldn’t move. She remembers picking me up in a store and I was twenty or thirty pounds of dead weight, not helping to distribute my weight on her hip and in her arms. Now, I am hauling around some dead weight of my own. I have often talked and written about clearing out clutter and sorting out possessions for donating, recycling, and reselling. Having taken stock over the summer, I feel pretty good about my inventory of stuff. For the most part, I have made a decision to keep the things I still possess, deeming them still useful and productive for my life and the space they occupy.
There is still dead weight all around. The dead weight taking up space in my car, my home, and my office, though, is the misplaced stuff, not lost but out of place. I have a corner of my bedroom that is a small teetering pile that needs to be dropped off for donation, sent for recycling, or listed for sale. The corner of my living room is taken up by several recycling bins and boxes from work that I offered to store temporarily over the summer, since seasonal office space was tight. Space was finally cleared at work, but I need to return the bins and clear out my home. My desk at work is a corner of clutter, sinking under the weight of teaching props and teaching tools and scattered files. I tend to store stuff on the surface, when I’m unsure of next steps or when I’m convinced I will be able to get to that project next. There’s stuff rolling around my car that needs a more permanent space. Because of the clutter and misplaced items surrounding me like a cloak on a hot day, I feel irritable and frantic (plus, I hate to feel hot or hemmed in).
Basically, I need to perform a physical French braid and move the things around to their proper places. In a French braid, a section of hair is twisted and turned and moved to a new section, while the hair in the former sections is plaited and pulled to the other section. As the braid nears completion, a beautiful pattern forms. The stuff from home moves to its proper place, the stuff from my bedroom corner moves to its proper place, clearing corners for peace and clarity. Stuff from the car moves, lightening my load and improving my gas mileage. Projects and props from work move and get stored. Then I will have space for the important, pressing work and I will not spend time sifting through piles, wasting effort and energy.
As I move into fall, I’m trying to clear out the dead links, deadlines, dead weight. As the seasons change, trees lose their leaves, clearing their dead, leaving room for growth. I take a step, I turn a corner. I take a breath. Perhaps, then, I can occupy new space and give new energy to others.