The Carrot And The Stick

Wherein Wilson brings himself to tears quoting Pulp Fiction into the mirror.

I’m going to catch a spectacular amount of shit for this. But that doesn’t make me wrong.

I posted this…oh I don’t know, whenever the hell I posted it. Call it a week ago.

Unfortunately, because of the way I have wordpress set up, I didn’t see this great comment from Joan of Arrrghh, easily my favorite internet human, until yesterday. I started writing a response to it. But it went all over the place (who ME? I know I know. That one was for us) so I figured I’d blow it out here.


”I’m being something close to lazy”
“seems to me at first blush like a cop out”
“even though it feels like cheating”

Dude, who the Hell is keeping score? Who is grading your report card? Which judge is it that keeps you from using an answer key, even one you have made?

There’s two possible outcomes: you are the judge, schoolmaster, scorekeeper- or you project outward that someone else is.

Stop that. You’re free. Exhale.

And, I get it. I do. I hear that or something like it all the damned time from people.

“Dude you’re too hard on yourself. You should relax. Give yourself a break.”

Yeah see, here’s the thing.


Absofuckinglutely not.


Maybe at the end of a project. I give myself some down time, even if it’s a few minutes after I hit ‘publish’ for instance.

And here’s why:

I’ve tried relaxing. I’ve tried giving myself a break. I’ve tried not being too hard on myself. I’ve tried being less judgemental. I’ve tried freedom.

Ya know what happens?

30 years disappears without a fucking trace, a couple pinpricks of light across decades of nigh on nothing. I don’t know if you know what it’s like. I very sincerely hope you don’t, to wake up one day and realize you’ve been dragging your ass. “And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” Yeah try 20. Try 30. Try waking up every day feeling like you’re literally an unforgivable waste of your potential.

It’s one of the many things I feel compelled to preface with the phrase “people think I’m joking when I say this, but…”

If I’m not hard on myself, no one else will be.

And if I’m not then I’ll be dead in a week that’s going to take 30 to 40 years.

Well it’s not something upon which one ought dwell, to be sure. And believe it or not I don’t REALLY let it get to me in the way it likely seems. But when that shit is staring you in the face the one thing that’s true is that life can’t continue the way it has, and whatever the absolute hell it takes is whatever the absolute hell it takes to knock that shit off.

The idea of “making up for lost time” is a pleasant if blatant lie people tell themselves. You can’t make up for lost time. Lost time is gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing you possibly have at your disposal is to make the best use you possibly can of every minute henceforth.

The natural retort is “Well yeah dumbass, if you do it like THAT.” But “doing it ‘like that'” is the only tool I’ve got in that box.

And people will tell me I don’t do things in half measures. Well fine. I understand why it seems like that. But if you saw the inside of my house, a physical projection of the inside of my head, you’d say “oh….ooooohhhh. Right. Nevermind.”

I’ve tried making the bargain with myself: Just end the day with no dishes in the sink. It’ll be easy. Just do a couple a day. Or “Do one more dish than you use.” Or “Just rewash and use the same plate, bowl and fork.” You know what happens? Bet you do. A week later I have a sink full of dishes that have grown sentient. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried tricking myself, setting up reward systems, timers, schedules, all the tools from 30 years of self-help and ‘manage your adhd’ books and videos.

I get that that kind of self-policing looks remarkably like some kind of weird fight or flight panic. But that’s only because it literally is; fueled by caffeine and temporal self-loathing, it’s the closest thing to self-discipline I’ve got.

Systematic reasoned focus? No. “Dishes you fuck. What the hell? Stop living like this!” And before you nod knowingly thinking that’s a pull forward 40 years from my childhood, nope. Nothing like that.

Ya know what works? “Fuck you, do it.” And then I do it and feel pretty damned good about it, wondering why I don’t actually just do it before it gets out of hand, then shrugging that off and going back about my day.

And I do understand that I’m treating myself overly harshly in the objective sense. But it really is a function of using the only tools I know how to use effectively. There’s an argument for “dude, don’t hit the wall with your head, take two steps to the left and turn the doorknob.” I just don’t see the door.

I realize I’m just kinda casting around in a circle here, looking for answers and finding only excuses. But the truth of the matter is, to reference Joan’s comment above: I’m the judge and what I’ve been doing, and how much energy I’ve spent actually doing it is unacceptable. I’m watching myself fail, slip, ignore, linger, atrophy. The only cure I know to that doesn’t involve a whole lot of buddhist “loving kindness.” It’s a matter of the stick.

Peterson’s fond of saying “treat yourself as if you were someone you cared about, someone you’re taking care of.” Believe it or not, I am. Without the social niceties I’d contort myself into to avoid giving someone the straight truth because of how they fucking felt about the envelope in which the message is being delivered, THIS is the advice I need. I don’t need to pat myself on the back. I don’t need to be told “I’m good no matter what” because

“That shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, you’re the weak and I…am the tyranny of evil men. But I’m trying Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”