Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Know What I Hate?

Aww...come on.... you're not the least bit curious???

I hate it when people say "one step at a time" -that's what I hate. You know how when you're already a little irritated and someone sanctimoniously says "temper, temper" that what had been a little angst has now become much (and needlessly) bigger? That's what I feel when people tell me to slow down. I don't have time for once step at a time. I'm not completely naive or grabby (or the emotional equivalent of a 2-year-old); I don't want everything right this second. But I do want to take several steps at one time.

And, I might point out, I am not alone in this. Dear friends have pointed out that I'm a bit obsessive with my lists, and my lists about my lists. But, I would contend that, however people keep track of it all, healthy people have goals on several fronts. Having no goals at all (and I've been there, done that) is frequently a sign of a depressed person. One might (and I do)have goals about health and fitness, even goals about appearance (The braces aren't just for the cross-bite, after all). There are goals about education and career. I have goals about my home and my free time. I have a general sense of what I'm knitting next and reading next.

How can a person newly engaging with life NOT have goals on multiple fronts?

And yet, wise readers and friends will remind me that I also spend quite a bit of time feeling frantic and frightened. There's too much to do and too little time to do it in. In spite of my lists and my plans, I don't want the only possible solution to be an absolutely rigid daily plan, allowing, say, for reading from 5:42 until 6:00 a.m., at which point I make my breakfast, read the news, and then take my shower at precisely 7. I've made those lists too, but I subvert them immediately. I need more room for spontaneity than that, apparently. Anything less and I get fidgety and worried -and there's a sub-grade fear that I carry around. That's not a good way to live, either.

Gentle friends respond to that feeling of angst with concern; the right answer seems to be "slow down." That translates, though, as an inadvertent hegemony -women perpetuating the cultural requirement that we should dream less, hope for less, accomplish less. It feels like the message is "it's unseemly to want so much." I know that no one intends that message. I appreciate that it's my own little head translating concern into a justice issue -and the wrong side of a justice issue, at that. I'm accusing no one. Of anything.

But I do need some velocity. And need is the right word. I have a LOT of things to do before I meet my maker, and I'm just getting started. Maybe the answer isn't slowing down. And it's pretty clearly not frenetic forward motion. Can one make great strides, with great intention? I have deliberately stepped back from many obligations this semester, in order to think about questions like this. I need to lay the groundwork for the changes to come, and I need lots of energy for that work.

Might there be a difference between "one step at a time" and "all in good time"? (That assumes, of course, that you can cancel out the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West saying, "all in good time, my pretty. All in good time.") I want it ALL, I'm a little embarrassed to admit. I know, from hard, hard experience, though, that rushing things doesn't work. When the time is right, the next step feels easy -or at least possible. I don't mind (much) being gentle with myself and letting things unfold. But I want to start a lot of things right now. I want full days and lots of forward motion and a kind of focused frenzy.

You know what it is, actually? I just realized. It's Csíkszentmihályi's concept of flow that I'm looking for -that feeling of complete absorption that arises when you're working right at your edge of competence and comfort. And mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have all been reported to increase a person's aptitude for flow. As I feel frantic and fidgety, doing more of the right thing (as in a yoga class) might be the ticket. Must muse.....

But for now, I'm going to post, since this has been in the "draft" stage for three days.