steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*“This is it,” he declared with the kind of procrastination-busting mettle I wish I could say I’ve never heard from him before, but that wouldn’t be true. “Enough of the BS, man. I mean, REALLY. This is ridiculous. This time, I’m going to do it. GOT to. No one and nothing will stop me.”

I wondered if “no one and nothing” on the “will stop me” front included himself. The way he spoke, you’d think massive Peterbilt trucks, the biggest ones they make, were arranged side by side across his boulevard of dreams, obstructing the path to his happiness; that army tanks and assorted artillery, or at the very least, an old fashioned Highway Patrol roadblock, stood between him and all the good things he wanted for himself.

The truth is, in all the years I’ve known this guy, the only thing that ever stood between him and the things he wants in this life, is him.

He’s been down this road, no pun intended, time and again, and it’s always the same: with great fanfare and heartfelt commitment, he’ll plunge into something and do it for a while before the enthusiasm slowly fades. Pretty soon, everything he was excited about has grind to a halt.
In his mind, there might be a myriad of reasons why that happens. None of them, however, make sense. Especially when, at the time he pulls back, he’s making progress.

My man is not alone. Plenty do this. Like “Stop To Start,” that syrupy early ‘70s R&B ballad by Philly vocal group, Blue Magic, we stop something that’s good, only to start all over again.

Remarkably, why we stop often has more to do with how we feel about ourselves than the challenge at hand. Sometimes, even as we consciously root ourselves on, subconsciously, a little voice is insisting, “You’ll never be able to do this.” Or, there’s that part of us that, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel we deserve the positive result of our toil.

So, we sabotage our progress. Or we simply quit. But we do want good things for ourselves. Thus, once we stop, after a while, we start over again. And again. It becomes a familiar, insidious, cycle. Dysfunction at the junction.

Starting over is not a crime. Indeed, it’s better than not rebooting at all. However, the down time between threatening to get back in the groove and actually starting over can be a guilt-filled abyss that feels insurmountable. Self-loathing is powerful and unforgiving.

Alas, there is something stronger than quitting, beating oneself up and struggling to start over. Wanna know what it is? Brace yourself. Ready?

Here it is: If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.

I know. Unsophisticated. And you’ve probably heard it before. But it’s a real answer. You’re wondering where’s the magic.

The magic is in the consistency: So your workout wasn’t as hard and as long as you planned it; whatever you did is better than not working out at all.

In your quest for new employment, you didn’t contact as many possibilities or email as many resumes this week to perspective employers as you said you would. If you sent out one, that’s better than sending none.

That relationship you just got out of was more toxic than the BP Oil Spill. You know leaving was the right thing to do. And yet, daily you do desperate battle with the urge to call or text. Don’t give in to your yearning. Everyday you don’t, is another day that you won’t.

Stop giving up. When you give up, while trying to conjure the verve to start over, one day turns into a week, a week becomes a month and a month becomes, “I don’t deserve to have the goodness I desire.” ANY effort cancels that scenario.

Stop hearing the word “Can’t.” That is, unless it’s accompanied by the words, “I” and “stop,” as in “I can’t stop.” Or, “I can’t BE stopped.” It’s hard as hell. But-—AND–it can be done. And the more you do it, the more you do it.

If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up. In other words, as another time-honored saying goes, Suffer the pain of discipline, or suffer the pain of regret.

Speaking of regret, mine is that I didn’t tell myself, uh, I mean, my friend, all this a long time ago. But then, as yet another saying goes, “better late than never. “

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]