This line is from a poem by A A Milne:

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

the whole poem is here if you’d like to read it. please note that the version I’ve linked to has an error in the last line, which should read ‘basking’, not ‘bask’. and yes, it does matter, but this is supposed to be a post about overcoming perfectionism so the irony of my continuing to search the internet for the utterly and completely correct version is too heavy, even for me 🙂

this post is inspired by a great podcast that Belle published today, which I have listened to several times until my head started to spin rather like this owl’s. the podcast was about perfectionism and finding the right time to start. quick, go listen to an extract here if you haven’t already…

so I’ve been mixing this up with some thoughts from Tommy Rosen about how any addictive behaviour is a choice to look away.

so when I am trying to choose what my priorities are, how is my perfectionism a choice to look away? what am I looking away from? 

and between Belle, AA Milne and Tommy Rosen (now, that’s a tea party I’d like to attend!) I think I’ve had a lightbulb moment, so thank you to you all.

if I have task A and task B to complete – like the sailor trying to decide between making fish-hooks and a sun-stopping hat – and I end up doing non-task C instead – basking in the sun – it is because I fear the pain of not doing either task A, or task B. because if I commit to doing task A, then I am definitely not doing task B for the period of time that it takes me to complete task A. so by avoiding doing either, I avoid the pain of not-doing.

this doesn’t apply in all situations – sometimes I am avoiding the discomfort of task A. but this realisation that I often also avoid pain of not-doing is really huge, for me.

huge, and important. because in reality, there is not a sailing ship on the horizon, with two pigtailed jolly tars rowing to my rescue.

so, armed with this new self-knowledge, it’s time to choose. to build my own boat and sail home. and then to retire, in due course, to a cottage by the sea, with the legend on the gate: ‘Dunbaskin’ 🙂

Cottage by the Sea, by Donald Journey