Sunday, June 19, 2011

Things Go Right Slowly

...and wrong very quickly.

Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong. No need for extra worry. I'm just thinking out loud here.

One mistake I make is thinking that I have to do a project all the way to the end in one sitting. That's possible with tasks that aren't complicated. I can unload the dishwasher all at one time, after all. But "write a book," "garden," "knit" -even "read a book" -these are not things that can be done in one fell swoop generally.

But here's the thing. Sometimes that thinking keeps me from starting. If I can't get the whole thing finished, I hear myself decide to wait until there's a big enough block of time to get it done. Which of course never happens.

Reframing this, however, I know that sometimes NOT finishing a book is part of the joy. (I do sometimes stay up all night to finish a book, I admit.) It's like a little treat waiting for me at the end of the day. I need to think of more tasks like that.

Get Fit Slowly
Get Financially Secure Slowly
Create the Home You Envision Slowly
Write Slowly (but slightly more steadily)
Create (knit, sew) Slowly
Garden Slowly

It doesn't all have to be frantic. Just intentional.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Living Gently On Purpose

Several threads of truth are relevant here. First, I want things to be gentle for the people around me. I even used the word "gentle" in my mission statement, as it applies to social change and its effects on the very poorest people on the planet. I work hard to create gentle pathways toward success for the people I work with. I want to be gentle to animals and toward the planet.

But I am seriously tough on (mean to?) myself, and more than -or different from- the "negative self-talk" thing we all know about -although I am a master at that, too. I mean that I won't accept gentle change. I feel like I have to lean in and do everything HARD -and if I can't or won't, that's a failure.

And... somehow I have this idea that a high-adventure life is more valuable than a quiet, gentle life. To complicate matters, though, I would never agree that Emily Dickinson, with her quiet life, was less valuable than Sir Edmund Hillary trekking around on mountains. Kind of the contrary, actually. It's just that the rules are different for me, you see ;) I ought to want to be rappelling down a mountain in Belize or canoeing whitewater somewhere. So, in my twisted little mind, it's this:

Or this:

and there's not much in between.

But I have to do something different; I'm wearing myself out, thrashing around. I get it. My life was forced into a new place. There was (and is) a lot to do to get to safety, much less to a place where I could thrive. Besides, I had postponed a lot in the interest of other things -saving an unsalvageable marriage not least among them. There was some resentment there, and by God , it was my turn. So, urgency and entitlement were all mixed up. I needed some things urgently, and felt like it was my bloody turn for a little adventure on the other.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I'm mixing up indolence and calm -gentleness and sloth. I know what the words mean; we don't have to go there! It's just assigning the words to my own behavior that I'm not doing with very much sophistication or tolerance. If I sit for a minute, it's not necessarily laziness -even if there are several visibly undone tasks in my immediate vicinity.

So, given that the list of things I want to do has not gotten any shorter, how might I live gently on purpose? We're talking Gentleness 101, here. What does gentle homemaking look like? What does gentle scholarship look like? What does gently physical fitness look like (especially challenging, since it requires exertion, by definition).

Sigh.... I just don't know.