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Why are we always in such a hurry? It’s because we ask more from ourselves in a certain amount of time and with a certain amount of energy than we can possibly give. We squeeze in one, two, or three last things into our days, only to be left feeling frustrated and vaguely empty because we are exhausted from the ordeal, or we have done everything superficially; everything from loving our families, finishing tasks, to taking care of ourselves.
While I absolutely follow the rule of “done is better that perfect”, and relish in the crazy productive dash that allows me my wind-down time at night, I think that we have become a generation obsessed with maxing out our time, getting more “bang for our buck”. This includes working hard, and partying even harder. Why does everything have to be “done” before we are content? And what content is there to be gained by just wallowing in nothingness afterward, exhausted and unable to connect? Is it because there is no expectation of us? Or because we are so hampered and hemmed-in by daily demands that we long of simplicity and some sense of personal freedom? And why should an email inbox produce such anxiety in people that we dread opening our eyes in the morning?
I think that pushing ourselves sometimes is correct, that we should be pulling out all stops sometimes. But these should be for exceptional events, like a baking all-nighter to create something beautiful for a child or family member, the unexpected creative project, the 5-hour long Skype session with someone special. Because that is the right and human thing to do. Because we are made of love.
But I don’t believe in using ourselves up like some inexhaustible resource. We are not designed for that, and it’s just not sustainable. So how do we deal with this?
We can choose to get kinder and clearer on what we can actually do in a day, an hour, a spare 11 minutes. We can choose to be kinder to ourselves when we do not finish something, knowing that we have done all that we can in a day. We can choose clarity of planning and thinking more deeply and comprehensively about things that matter. How conceited we are to think we can pull off anything amazing just because we decide to pour an excess of time into it immediately? What was ever created like that which didn’t drain the life-blood of the creator? Yes, there are some extraordinary exceptions, but everything worth having, be it a strong relationship, a creative project, a deep friendship, a beautiful composition, or raising a healthy and happy child, all require consistent, loving attention and time.
What if we did all our daily tasks in the time they should take for each of us, with full presence of mind, and the awareness to connect, laugh, reflect, consider, and be joyful?
And what if were to stop running around thinking we are each so special that we can each be superhuman, and choose the right amount of things to fit into the minutes that we have. Do each thing with care, and your days become so much richer + worthwhile than a blur of nothings.
Forgive yourself your beautiful humanity + tender vulnerability, and choose to live well.
Day 27: Vancouver to Auckland.
NO MAN’S LAND.
That magical and disconcerting feeling of losing an entire day. I’m a VIRGO. Not a fan!
Isn’t it incredible how some of the most concentrated worry comes from jobs which take a few minutes of daring to sit with and navigate?
Just a few minutes of getting focused can take away days and weeks of stress.
How is it that we spend so much time worrying rather than taking the tiny, incremental steps to undoing or doing, figuring out and problem-solving?
The thing is, we don’t want to problem-solve. We’re comfy on the edge, looking at the festering crater that is The Job/Email/Marking/Cleaning/Work/Conversation that needs to tackled. We doubt ourselves, rather than starting the process.
Sometimes it’s a big job which causes us to fear our abilities. But how can we possibly alleviate them without starting?!
Perhaps it’s actually taking the step, breaking through the fear-factor, and sitting in the discomfort.
Once you’re there, in the thick of it, or standing at the edge, you find a way to navigate. You recalibrate. You can’t help it.
The next day is doesn’t look quite as insurmountable. You’ve made a start.
Often, it is the THINKING REQUIRED which is the scariest thing, not the actually DOING. Once things are thought about, locked-in, on the calendar, in the diary, it’s not as challenging.
You don’t have to do it all at once.
You must have faith that you have what it takes to do it.
Look at those glorious paintings formed of hundreds of brushstrokes, or thousands of stitches in an elaborate embroidery, a fully-fledged adult after a million and one seconds of parenting, or climbing a mountain. These are all works of quiet persistence and incremental, tiny steps.
Focus. Look ahead.
Take the first step.
Spend the first few minutes getting uncomfortable, and you will be amazed at how much clarity can be found.
I love this.
I used to wonder why things would stress me out so much, and when I actually committed myself to the seemingly insurmountable job at hand, it would take around 11 minutes. ELEVEN MINUTES FOR HOURS OF WORRY!
And when I wondered some more, I realised that things ARE scary when they are a nebulous cloud of unsorted mess. The vast unknown. And it all seems so difficult to begin navigating; too tiring, too much, other things to worry about, such as dishes + ironing.
But if you just start, however small, and find a tiny pathway in, or start unpicking one thread of the giant knot, it somehow becomes a little more possible. A little less IM-possible. You’ve moved the arrow along the continuum, and you’ve inched your way along.
I am prepping for 3 major presentations right now, all as exciting as the other, all jostling for my time. Just even THINKING about them as a large, inert, combined mass made me a little bit of a hot mess. So I started unravelling them, just a little, bit by bit, on my walks. I am an avid walker, and this is where I get my best organising and thinking done.
So the first presentation; what was I going to do first?
I walked and created a plan. And after starting, all I had to do each day was do one thing more to chip away at it. Two weeks’ worth of “tiny chipping” is vastly more invigorating and useful than one day of “immense vomit on the page in a crazed state” could ever be.
Each day, I made my dot points.
Each day, I toggled between presentations and came up with new ideas.
Each day, I surprised myself at the clarity of the ideas, the quality of what I was coming up with, and the amount of work that was getting done in 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 45 minutes when I was absolutely on a roll.
Because the fact of the matter is, you’re only really good for about 20-30 minutes, then it becomes hard slog of much lesser quality. Why not just take tiny, incremental steps?
The magic trick? To really want it. To FOCUS.
I can waste 10 minutes faster than a toddler can destroy a clean house. But when you start deciding that you actually really want those 10 minute pockets of time, then it’s a little bit surprising what’s possible.
Of course, you can decide that 10 minutes is for glorious wasting, to be squandered in leisurely fashion. Or you decide that in those 10 minutes, you’re going to get the washing on, brew a cup of tea, fold the sheets, and to a quick dust-bust. It’s actually possible, I’ve tried, without trying!
As for finding a pathway into those scary topics, that “walk-plan” is god-send. It also works for rehearsing challenging conversations, figuring out where savings need to go, decompressing from a manic day in the classroom, figuring out what warm-ups to do in choir rehearsal…or just buying time.
Every step, new breath in, sense of life flowing, new health in the veins, and just a little bit further along the continuum of problem-solving.
Insurmountable mounds of work are hard work, but the become far less stressful after you’ve dived in and done the thinking behind them. The fear factor goes out of them. They just become a pathway to walk, rather than a mountain to scale.
When I look around me at all the people who are really LIVING LIFE, who are making the most of each moment, who are embodying their ideas and bringing forth new momentum, I realise that there is very little between someone in THIS state of being, and someone who is living the resolutely ordinary, and who wants more.
The rain is constant,
Eerie phantom grey,
Cold and blunt,
And the scent from my fragrant jasmine tea rises
Glasses and windows fogged, equally
My heart glows, unmistakably,
And my spirit stirs!
Curious bright eyes, still warm from the depths of my pocket
And in the wintry bustle, this city landscape
Of rushing people, and harassed umbrellas,
I have all that I need
My words flowing freely,
My heart, beating
“It’s been so long since I’ve been able to have such a lively conversation with you!”, it exclaims, like an excited child
Let’s grab coffee later, in a cafe with even more frosted windows,
And wander aimlessly, delighting in everything
And nothing at all
The conversation resonates with iridescence against this metallic backdrop
To the untrained eye, we are one in the Melbourne winterland,
But those who know, really know,
Will know that the heart and soul are in joyful, animated, unstoppable conversation
And story telling,
In the cocoon of Time, and safe in the cradle of introverting bliss
My joy could light my being with tangible resonance.
“All the things worth doing are worth doing right now.”
I loved reading this article and completely agree with the sentiment, but I also think that there are moments where “right now” is impossible, because there needs to a rest as well.
To bite the bullet, to make the connection, to reach out, to put into words what seems impossible, to chase after the opportunity, to just try, without the barest hint of a guarantee…yes, I’m happily subscribed to that. Because that’s living every moment. If your moment is just to be still, that is still living in the very fullness of that exact moment. “Right now” is not dictated by time; it’s a powerful mindset.
I also know that some of my most extraordinary achievements during these last 2 years of movement and change have been borne from the 10-minute dashes; the many little 10-minute pockets of time where I have dared, tried, wondered, “what if-ed”, spoken, done, scrabbled, written, reached out…where I have consciously made the decision on how I’d like to spend those 10 minutes, and dived in. Even the total “joy” of report writing; 10 minutes of no-bars-hold, furiously messy “vomit on the page” comment writing translates into drafts I am grateful for at the end of the week. And I always begrudgingly marvel at how surprisingly coherent I am when I’m backed into a 10-minute corner.
Because those 10 minutes are always the flap of the butterfly’s wings…they are start of the thinking process, they are the first breath, the are the change in momentum.
After that, you’re off!
I have made it.
The wonderful calm after all the crazy running, the chaotic arm-flailing, the rocking backwards and forwards…I have made it!
Thank you for this extraordinary year of growth + change. Thank you, actually, for the last 2 years…of taking flight and moving, of growing and discovering, of travelling and marvelling, of adventure and solitude, of incredible noise and extraordinary quiet, of intensity and of buoyant lightness, of struggle and of success. Of moving. Of pure, undiluted change.
If you had said to me at the beginning of this year that I would find myself completely embedded in a new school community, up to my armpits in all that I love, in the guts of teaching + creating, of caring deeply about a whole new family of students and colleagues, I would not have believed you. I would not have had the capacity to even put the puzzle pieces together, so far from this reality was I only 11 months ago. But like a small but stubborn flower, stretching toward light, I grew, and healed; I took step after step, I danced and sang, I was still…and now, I could not feel more alive, essential + real.
This is an extraordinary place to be…I am standing in the very centre of where 3 paths cross. Major paths of my teaching life, and my very being. And I am overwhelmed with joy, and aching with quiet sadness, because I have chosen the path I want to walk down.
But let me stand here just a little longer, as I marvel at how my worlds have collided so spectacularly and brilliantly this year. My time at Brighton Secondary School has fashioned me into the teacher I am now, and my short time of work at the Conservatorium High School has opened up my ears and mind with rushing momentum. I am so very honoured to be part of the story of both of these amazing schools, their communities, their staff, and their students. I had the chance to change the momentum in both of these places for a while…how extraordinary is that?!
But now, I need the courage to build in my new place of work. I have been so completely engrossed in the “teaching” these last 3 terms that I’ve not had a chance to write. My voice, my words…there so much I want to say. So many little moments I’d like to capture and acknowledge, to breathe life into, because then some part of their resonance is captured.
I have so much to share!