The Horror – and Exhilaration – of Deadlines

After my writing retreat a few weeks ago, we all sent around lovely emails to acknowledge what a gift our time together had been.  And then the fateful email arrived in my inbox, jumbled up with the good wishes in such a way that I had no idea it was so dangerous.  “Does anyone want to set a deadline in the next month or so for getting our first drafts done?”

I have been working on and off writing a memoir about my experience with my mother, adoption, and learning to live with conditional love for several years now.  Every time I go to a writing workshop, the draft shrinks as I learn what I need to take out, or at least save for later.  But in the coming months I expect to have some sustained writing time, so it really is time to sit down and pound out that first “shitty draft” as Anne Lamott calls it (pardon the profanity).

So I tentatively sent my reply, half expecting to be relieved of any obligation. “I can’t do it in the next month, but maybe after that.  Is March 24th too far in the future?”

It turns out it is not, and so the date has been set for a grand goal of at least eight chapters of hard, hard writing, due on the auspicious occasion of my fiftieth birthday. It seems both intimidating and exhilarating, but I find myself rather liking the times when I lead my life that way.  I am as addicted to adrenaline as anyone, it appears.

In the secular world, we often talk about deadlines and goals at the New Year.  It’s a little early to pull out my post on resolutions again; we have a whole holiday season to experience with abandon before the reality of what’s next kicks in.

But it struck me that in my faith tradition, the new year begins in just a week and a half with the start of Advent on December 1st this year.  I just received an invitation to preach that Sunday and I was thrilled.  This end-of-year/new year tension is one of my favorite times to reflect on Scripture and share a Divine message. I love preaching Advent, even when the messages are hard.  And what’s more, I almost always find these four weeks of tension and preparation offer me some new insight hat has my spiritual life pondering and growing for the rest of the year.

So maybe it is just the right time to set a new deadline, look over our goals, and spend some deeper time in holy reflection.  Or maybe it’s just always the right time for that!

Did you set any spiritual resolutions or goals for yourself over the course of 2019?  How are those going? How do you respond to deadlines? Do you like the tension between exhilaration and anxiety that a deadline can instill?  Or do you have other reactions? What are you working on that might benefit from setting a deadline? How are you preparing for your winter holiday celebrations? Does your tradition have a specific time of preparation set aside?

Spiritual direction can help you set your goals and deadlines and stick to them.  A little accountability, even in our spiritual lives, can go a long way.  If one of your goals is go deeper in your spiritual journey, set a deadline to check out Openings: Let the Spirit In and see how we can help.

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