Act Now!

June 22, 2015

Photo courtesy Jake Hills

No, this is not a late-night TV ad: “For just three payments of $29.95, you can have this beautiful Whatsit! But wait, there’s more…”

No, this is my current motto. Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated…all squirmy and uncomfortable inside. As tired of complaining to my long-suffering friends about my frustrations as they are of hearing me complain. And the more I’ve stewed, the more drained and frustrated I’ve felt.

June 10th’s quote offered me a clue about the answer to this problem. I’m certainly uncomfortable, unhappy and unfulfilled…what am I going to do about it? Sit and think some more, or act? 

In the past, I’ve noticed an immediate surge of energy and lifting of spirits when I do something, even if it’s as mundane as cleaning out a drawer in the kitchen. So that’s what I did. I cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. Then I reglued the wood trim on the breakfast bar. Then I dropped off the comforter set at Goodwill that I had been carting around in my trunk for literally months.

These small actions relieved one tiny, itchy part of my brain, but they were just the warm up. Lately I’ve felt especially stuck and unsure of myself as a writer. I’ve been plugging away here on the blog, but I’ve let all other aspects of my writing slide. I’m ready to get back into freelancing, but I have a number of issues to deal with, including feeling terribly rusty and out of practice locating markets and pitching articles. So I took a small step towards correcting this by joining the Freelance Writer’s Den, and exploring the resources available there. My first goal: get a writer’s website up as soon as possible. And, in the meantime, I’ve already collected a number of my writing clips on a portfolio site, which you can see here.

Yes, I do believe in the value of contemplation and that doing is not always better than being, but sometimes you must act. It doesn’t matter what the step is, as long as you take one…and then another.  So that’s where I am. Taking baby steps, looking for “different ways [and] truer answers.”

If something is frustrating you, what action are you going to take?


Being Enough

September 29, 2014

Have you ever felt that somehow, you just weren’t quite enough?

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of worth and of being enough, because I’ve been feeling inadequate. No matter what I do, it never feels like enough. And if I’m not doing enough, then I feel I don’t “deserve” good things. It’s not a happy way to live. I feel like I’m required to give and produce constantly before I can receive—be worthy of—love and respect.

I know part of this feeling is tied to money. I’m not earning right now, though not for a lack of trying. I have several essays out in the world awaiting judgment, and I’ve applied for several jobs in the past six months and have been met with silence. When you hit enough walls, you begin to doubt your worth.

In my head I know that my worth is not contingent upon what I earn. I contribute to my family and the world by giving love, support, encouragement, and even physical labor. In my head, I know that I have worth just because I’m alive. But…

I still struggle.

Here are some things that help me, and might help you if you suffer from the occasional feeling that you’re not enough:

Examine the concept of “enough.” Who determines what is enough? Is it the same or different for each person? Does doing “enough” equal being “enough”? Quantifying “enough” is treading dangerously close to the slippery slope of perfectionism and all the craziness thereof.

Do less, counterproductive as that may seem. It’s possible to set too ambitious goals for the amount of time I have. The constant failure to do everything on the to-do list, even if it’s unreasonable to expect to finish, makes me feel inadequate. I’ve taken to putting time estimates next to my to-dos so I can see if I’m packing the day with 15 hours of work. I’m now making a core to-do list with the most important things on it, and I’m limiting them to just a few each day. I’m going to give myself credit and a reward when I complete them. If I want to do more, that’s fine, but I can quit and consider my day productive if I’ve done my core to-dos.

Stop comparing myself with others. I am who I am, I do what I do. I believe what  teacher Jim Tolles wrote in his post, “Feeling Like You’re Not Enough”: “You are. I won't even say you are enough because that kind of statement presumes that in someway you could ever be ‘not enough.’ This is an absurdity. You are as you are. That is perfect in the sense that you don't have to validate your existence or your ability to be, receive, or give love.”

Be honest with myself. It’s true: sometimes (though not always) feeling not good enough is an indicator that I need to do something different, learn more, try harder. If my work doesn’t get accepted, it may be because it isn’t quite good enough, humbling though that is. I know I’m not the writer that I want to be yet, and I must keep learning, experimenting, writing, in order to improve.

Treat myself the way I would treat another. I wouldn’t criticize or put down a friend who was feeling inadequate. I’d offer support and encouragement. I need to be kind and gentle with myself because I know I’m doing the best that I can.

We in the U.S. live in a culture of more, better, faster, higher. A culture based on doing and tangible achievement rather than the more amorphous concept of being. I want to value myself just for being myself, no strings attached, no expectations to meet. And that just might be enough.

Being vs. doing

What's the Rush?

May 12, 2014

“Slowness is an option for everyone on the planet, not just a privilege reserved for the very wise or very young or very rich. All of us can decide (and the phrase is a potent one)
to take our time.”
—Christian McEwen, World Enough and Time

For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with deliberately slowing down my actions. I’ve been surprised by how many times I catch myself rushing, as opposed to simply moving efficiently and deliberately. When I take the dog’s medications out of the cupboard, when I get out of the car to go inside, when I unload the dishwasher—I feel an internal push to hurry. (Gretchen Rubin describes this feeling perfectly in Happier at Home: “I always have the feeling that I should be working. I always feel pressed for time, as if someone were shoving a pistol in my back and muttering ‘Move, move, move!’”) I’m already aware that when I hurry I break things and hurt myself, and I really don’t need to hurry every minute of every day, so what gives?

It’s at least partly the familiar and eternal battle between doing and being. No matter how hard I try, it seems that I can’t shake the feeling that if I’m not doing something (or hurrying on to the next something) then I’m not worthy. No matter how much I streamline my do-do list, there’s always more to do than I’ll ever be able to accomplish. Hurry has become a habit. One I’m determined to break.

Even with my new focus on not hurrying, and even though I’ve written several blog posts about the concepts of doing less and slowing down (see “Do Less in More Time” and “One Less Thing,” for example), I still struggle to follow my own advice. Take last Thursday. First, while driving home from the grocery store, I stopped too quickly at a stop sign, spilling my coffee into the cup holder and down the center console. After I cleaned that up and got the groceries unloaded, instead of just chilling for a few minutes, I got caught up on the computer and was late leaving for yoga class. I barely had time to take off my shoes, drop my keys and roll out my mat before it started. I felt flustered, distracted and off balance for at least half the class and the quality of my poses suffered. After lunch, while on the way to run an errand with no timetable, I realized I had a death grip on the steering wheel as I tried to hit every traffic light just right.

Slow down there, girl.

After that, I started reminding myself of a principle Natural Horsemanship practitioner Pat Parelli often refers to: Go slower to go faster. Here’s an example in action: that five seconds I saved by hurrying to go in the house is more than eaten up by the time it takes me to retrieve the mail from beneath the car where I just dropped it. If I’d taken my time in the first place, I’d already be inside (in the air conditioning) rather than crawling on the floor of the garage.  

When I remember to slow down, time does seem to lengthen. I’m able to move more smoothly from one thing to another without feeling internal pressure goading me on. So I’ll continue to pay attention to the speed at which I move. Keep saying no to busy work and rushing. Value the time and space between activities as much as the activities themselves. Seek out activities with a slower pace. And I’ll keep working on taking my time.

What makes you feel rushed? How do you slow down?

No rushing allowed