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Why do we limit ourselves all the time?
The moment we wake up, we automatically calculate what we need to do in a day, and tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time.
We wonder if we’ve got the capacity to be all that we need to be in all our guises, and we start the day stretched before we’ve even tried.
We start with “can’t”; when an idea or suggestion is put forward, we think about all the things that will make it hard, rather than going first to all the possibilities.
Everything makes us feel weighted and tired, and it’s because we try to cram too much into a day because we are so arrogant that we think ourselves somehow different from everybody else that of course we can do what nobody else can. Apply that to parenting, self-care, teaching, maintaining a home, eating good food, and our relationships. The thing is, we need to time to give value to all of these things and to be there to feel those moments fully.
And scariest of all, we believe everything that people say. We are so foolhardy and gullible that we openly believe all the negatives put on the table about us, and most dangerously, we believe and invest in the opinions that absolutely don’t matter. Of our bosses, our superiors, of those who have not earned our trust. We agonise over comments that would be so much easier to figure out a way to let go, because our egos have been bruised. It’s ironically challenging, being human, isn’t it?
The thing is, all of the negatives, the fatigue, the impossibilities, and the can’ts are all going to happen. You can’t Teflon-coat yourself, or be so prepared that you are bullet-proof.
So isn’t it so much easier just to go into the day?
Isn’t it easier just to go into each situation, get stuck-in, problem solve, and get in up to your armpits rather than the unnecessary worry and preamble?
We all get stuck in that. I get stuck in that.
I write, and re-write, and agonise, and wonder, and rehearse, and re-rehearse. That is one of my best personality traits, my care and thoroughness, at my worst. Burning holes in every bit of joyful spontaneity and casting distrust on any of my boss-level ability to adapt and problem solve.
So today, and every day, I am going to undo those limits. Life is messy, and you can’t dress rehearse.
Pause, take the layer of worry off and drop it like a heavy coat.
The day will happen whether you worry and agonise over something or not.
You will need to walk into whatever is scaring you no matter what.
Why don’t you spend the time and energy thinking about how you will navigate, rather than how you will avoid?
There are so many minutes in a day that go wasted in worry, and we look back on each weekend, each Sunday afternoon, and wonder why we got so little done and feel so wrung out? I am sure that it is, in part, because of the limits we put on ourselves.
Embrace the sucky, amazing, glorious, messiness. Go and live, my darling people!
One of the greatest joys in life is having inspiration, agency, and time meet at a crossroads, and bringing a creative project into existence.
Too often we have inspiration but have to fight for the time, cobbling together the tiny scraps in our day to allow space for our creativity. It is challenging and determined work, and catches us breathless, but we do it because we are punch-drunk with the idea and starry-eyed with agency.
Then there’s having time but no rush of inspiration, no idea or concept that makes our heart beat a little faster, and our minds lose all sense of time and logic. Yes, we can do workman-like work to create a committed, workman-like outcome, but again, it’s challenging and determined work with a different sort of struggle.
And then, there’s that magical, unexpected combination where inspiration, agency, and time meet at the crossroads and something truly creative and excellent is borne, coming to life with the sort of tenacity and heat that radiates from anything which has momentum.
When this happens you become a willing, humble vessel for the work, set alight by inspiration, powered by an energy which is not entirely all your own, propelled forward with a courage to give voice and breath to this tiny, audacious idea which wants to be born.
It’s a thrilling way to have a conversation with creativity.
I am a sucker for completing everything on my list and then allowing myself to have the reward.
“When I’m done with writing reports, then I can give that person a call.”
“When I finish cleaning, then I can have a glass of wine.”
“When I get to that savings goal, then I can treat myself to a brunch!” (Which will probably be pancakes…!)
I am a big fan of delayed gratification. It is well-documented in the “Marshmallow Challenge”, which pits 4-year-olds against the temptation of having one marshmallow immediately, or wait 4 minutes and get two, that those who can delay gratification work smarter, longer, harder, and are much more effective regulators of themselves and their decisions as adults.
But when that reward becomes, “…then I will allow myself to unwind, decompress, get out of go-mode, and be myself”, we hit dangerous territory. If I only allowed myself to be playful and have fun when I ticked off everything on my list, I would never catch the snippets of joy. I would never be the girl cracking jokes, or leaning into the tender moments, seeing the wistful glance, or able to grab the unexpected opportunities, and I would never experience anything from a different point of view.
Being so rigid with my expectations of myself can produce great rewards, and discipline is a wonderful task-master for effective living.
But there MUST be moments of the unexpected, particularly when it comes to humanity, joy, play, and love.
Simply, there is no perfect time to be human. You have to do it right now. You need to catch those unexpected moments of connection, take the two minutes to run over and see someone in person rather than hiding behind your laptop, grab the coffee (and eat the cake!), choose to laugh at the joke and engage, rather than worry about meeting every deadline that is crowding you.
You have to look hard and practise catching and creating those moments of humanity.
You can’t dress-rehearse love, or grief, or sickness, or death. They happen. Life unfolds, with all it’s intensity and colour, and if you don’t decide to be a part of those moments right now because they aren’t conveniently on your schedule, then you will miss out on so much.
By the way, I should mention that there is no perfect way to grieve, heal, or apologise. You take time, you pick your moment, and you go in, ALL IN. You can’t create the perfect reception for an apology if you have to give one. There is no guarantee that the other person will welcome a hard conversation, or if they will to listen to you at all. You do it because you choose to, it’s driven by your moral compass, and it’s in your integrity.
Same goes for love. There’s no containing the unexpected, playful whisper of love and connection. You can’t conveniently compartmentalise it until you’re done with your Official Day Self. You just are. Don’t be foolhardy and ignore all you responsibilities, your goals, your daily activities, but let life in to play when it invites you. It’s unexpected, delightful, stomach-flipping, and all that is real. And when the unexpected decides to tug at your heart, let it.
Don’t let go of your lists. That’s being ambitious, motivated, and working with agency.
But dare to catch those unexpected invitations to play, in life, in living, in yourself.
Without those, you will never connect, fall in love, wonder, day-dream, or create.
Schedule is KING, but daring to wander, dream and play is LIVING.
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.