I have been getting all kinds of messages about getting serious about what I care about and what I really want, and using that knowledge to determine how exactly to spend my time.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was a bust. I wrote with that goal in mind for only one day at the beginning of the month. I was so uncommitted, I didn’t even bother beating myself up for not following through. And yet, I wrote every day last month, posted almost every day to this blog. For December, I’ve entered another “post every day” challenge, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). The theme for December is “gift” and BlogHer provides daily prompts if you need them (today’s is “What was the first tangible gift you remember receiving?”), but the fundamental goal is to post every day.
This blog, and the work that it represents, my life-rehab, are where I need to be spending my time right now. I still don’t understand how this will translate into something bigger, lead to my great work (whatever that’s going to be), but I do know that I need to keep showing up, keep sharing what is happening, and to have faith in the practice, the process.
Last week, I was reading “The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life” by Jennifer Louden, and the first set of questions the book offers are “What is the one thing I need more of in my life right now?,” “What one modest step am I willing to take to get more of this in my life?,” “What do I need less of in my life?,” and “What one, modest step am I willing to take to decrease one of those things in my life?”
As I worked with these questions, I kept coming back to the notion of needing time. A balance of time alone to be creative, think, study, write, and time to do body work to keep me healthy, flexible, and centered, and time to rest and rehabilitate. Time, time, time. Sometimes when I start to think about how little time there is and how much I aspire to, in addition to all that I have to or should do, I panic. My throat and chest tighten, and it’s hard to breathe or think clearly. Even right now, as I write this post, I feel the panic–“I need to write this, walk the dogs again, eat lunch, make a post to my class blog, send a few emails to students, go to campus to conference with students about their final projects, and when am I going to find time to put clean sheets on the bed (since Sam left a big muddy paw print on them this morning), get groceries, or even think about making, buying, wrapping, and shipping Christmas presents?!”
I determined that the one modest thing I could do is to stop wasting time in the ways I know that I am:
- Mindless internet surfing, and email, facebook, twitter, blog stats checking, to stop myself before I do it, and kindly suggest another time when I might, and limit that time.
- Work better and smarter, letting go of busywork or working the way I think other people want or expect me to. I know how to get done what needs done and I can, if I leave out have to, should, and perfect.
- Stop doing should, stop doing extra. Focus on one thing at a time, and commit to it wholeheartedly because it truly is worth doing.
- Stop doing anything with the intention of proving or earning something–I’m worthy, smart, and loveable standing still and quiet, so there’s no reason to put on a show if all I want is to be loved and accepted.
Once I am clear about that, the answers to the other questions are obvious:
- What do I need less of in my life? Busywork, “shoulds,” junk reading, distraction, and numbing out.
- What one, modest step am I willing to take to decrease one of these things in my life? Reschedule or replace the “checking.” For example, on Sunday, I checked in at 9 am, and then told myself we wouldn’t check again until 12 pm. I knew it would be hard, but the first hour turned out to be torture. I am so used to being connected, constantly caught in a loop of seeing what’s happened, that it was really tough to disconnect, but such a gift once I did. One trick was when the urge to check came up, I asked myself: “What am I looking for? What do I need, (attention, reinforcement, distraction)?” and “What could I do instead to get what I need, or what else needs doing?” and “Could I reschedule this to another time?” and to think about what I’m feeding by following the urge, what am I making stronger?
And, as I said, the Universe sending me so many reminders. First it was the new post on 37 Days, “Letting go. And Creating,” in which author Patti Digh suggests considering two questions: “What do I need or want to let go of as 2011 ends? ” and “What do I want to create in 2012?”
And then, on The Organic Sister, “Why Am I Choosing ‘Productive’ Over Actually PRODUCING? (How Digging Deep, Deep Breaths and One Simple Question Changes Everything)” in which Tara Wagner admits that as “I looked at my days I was seeing that I spent so much time on things that were NOT productive to my two main purposes in life: feeding my soul and helping others.” She discovered a set of questions that were helpful to her: “Is this: 1. Feeding my soul, 2. Feeding my greater vision and purpose in this world, or 3. Feeding the souls of others?”
And on A Design So Vast, in a post titled “My Life Has Simultaneously Narrowed and Widened,” author Lindsey Mead says “I have been thinking about that a lot lately, of the immensely different ways we each populate our hours and what they say about what we value…Every hour of our life is a choice, a trade-off between competing priorities and desires. We are all given the same number of hours in a day. What do you prioritize? What do you care about? Where are you spending your time?”
And then, Caroline Leon, writer of Life is Limitless, posts a piece called “A Few Thoughts on Inspiration” in which she talks about the importance of showing up and having faith. I was compelled to post a response, which in part said
Like you, I practice and show up, and have to trust, have faith that something will be there, waiting for me. If I can show up and relax, let go and let it happen in the way that naturally arises, I am manifesting the truest of true. This gets easier the more I do it, (as is the way of all practices). What I just realized as I explained this is that I think I carry inside myself, as the core of my very nature, the seed, the wisdom and compassion necessary to birth inspiration. And it really is about the mindful presence I give to the doing that calls it, opens me up and makes it possible for me to receive it. It’s like tuning in a radio.
It means letting go, first, of the idea that anyone is watching. No one is.
It means being who you are rather than who you thought you were supposed to be.
This is an act of love, not to mention authenticity, joy, daring, kindness. Vulnerability.
And, the meditation, the mantra she suggests to begin practice is this:
I am good.
All beings possess such goodness.
Knowing this, my heart opens.
When my heart is open, I can change the world.
This led me to think about what matters to me, why I am doing any of this, and what value it has. I saw two other things this week, two projections of very difference perspectives, that helped me to clarify my own vision, my aspirations and values.
The first was (forgive the language):
And the next was:
I chose to have faith in the second one, in Susan Piver’s suggestion that “When my heart is open, I can change the world.” For me, giving in to my impulse, my aspiration to create, to discover and share what truth is for me, is the only way I know to save myself, and maybe help save the world.