Throw out 50 Thoughts #9 – It’ll be better when I…

calendarStart doing yoga again

Stop eating crap foods lacking nutritional value

The dude goes back to school and I have my days back

Finish my novel

When things suck, as they will from time to time, a light at the end of the tunnel is a welcome sight. Sometimes, however, I get there and figure out it’s just some idiot holding a flashlight, and by following them I’ve missed a turn that would lead me to the real exit, and oh yeah, that idiot with a flashlight turns out to be me.

It’s reassuring to think that my difficulties are only temporary, to recognize that at some future point, they will get better. In the meantime, however, I avoid doing the very things that might draw me closer to the light that I seek. It’s like I put a  rider at the end of each sentence.

It’ll be better when I start doing yoga again, so I’ll go to class someday soon, but today I’m busy.

It’ll be better when I stop eating crap foods lacking nutritional value, but right now this carton of gelato is calling my name.

It’ll be better when the dude goes back to school and I have my days back, so in the meantime I’ll check out this YouTube video.

It’ll be better when I finish my novel, but I don’t know how to fix the issues, so I’ll avoid writing altogether.

I could live without suckitude. I would prefer it, actually, so the question is… why wait?

Why wait until the end of the tunnel? Why not blast a bigass hole through the ceiling and get the hell out? Just dynamite the mother and breathe the fresh air.

So I went to yoga class. I haven’t been in a while. After an hour of twisting and stretching and strengthening, we settled into relaxation pose. My teacher put a towel sprayed with an essential oil over my eyes, and that’s when it crept up on me. I smiled. The weight that I’d been carrying for the last two weeks felt manageable, not because it’s gone, but because the yoga made me stronger. As will eating better, taking control of my time and embracing that which I both love and fear.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Why stop at a candle? Be your own beacon. Right now. Go ahead. I’ll be here when you get back.

What thought will you throw away this week?

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Calendar-Month View” by Pieter Ouwerkerk © 2007 Creative Commons

Throw Out 50 Thoughts #5 – I don’t know what I’m doing

scissorsMy Mom used to cut my hair. She had a midwestern sensibility, as in “why pay someone to do something I can do myself.” She owned scissors, right? All she had to do was cut a straight line. She had three daughters. She did this a lot.

Yet, inevitably, about halfway through, I’d be sitting in the chair, and she’d do that sharp inhale thing one does when they’ve just messed up. Then she’d say, “Damn it. I don’t know what I’m doing.” She’d resume cutting and then she’d say it again. This was not reassuring. But I was trapped in the chair with no idea of how bad things would be if I actually bolted.

When it was all said and done, my hair was generally fine. (Until I asked her to give me feathered bangs. That was not a smart call on my part.) The continuous mantra of “Damn it. I don’t know what I’m doing,” however, left both my mother and I needing a drink. Only she got one.

I’ve been parroting my mother a lot lately. I’ve been writing queries and book proposals and saying, “Damn it. I don’t know what I’m doing.” It’s complicated. It’s uncomfortable. It’s stressful. I need a drink.

This is not new for me.  As a consultant, when first confronted with a difficult issue, or an impossible timeline, or an outrageous request, I’d go to my office and say “Damn it. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I was sure I was one step away from getting fired. The truth, however, was that I was highly qualified for my job and good at it as well. I was probably the most qualified I will ever be to do anything in my lifetime. So I’m starting to think I’m not a very good judge of what “good enough” looks like.

In fact, as I move about my day, I see so many people oblivious to their own incompetence that it’s almost scary. But they’re happy, and they are still employed.

My mother’s tape loop of “Damn it, I don’t know what I’m doing” didn’t make the scissors any sharper, or her hand any steadier. It didn’t give her the skill of Vidal Sassoon, or give me the patience of Job. All it did was stress us both out. My tape loop is no better. All it does is freeze me in place.

I may not know everything, but I do know something. I learn a little more each day. And if ignorance alone could kill, we would have solved the population crisis long ago. So I will no longer worry about what I don’t know about writing, or publishing, or making a living as a writer. I will shut off the tape loop and write. How bad can I be? After all, you read my work and you rock.

What thought will you throw out this week?

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Scissors” by Uwe Hermann © 2005 Creative Commons

Throw out 50 Thoughts #1 – I am a Writer

writing notesLast Monday I wrote about clearing mental clutter–tossing aside the limiting thoughts that weigh me down. I considered a number of options and decided that I needed to start with the big one first.

I don’t want to be a writer. I want to write. There is a difference, at least for me.

At the start of last year I stated, “I am  a writer.” I would own it. This was my job, and I would treat it as such.

I’m a methodical kind of gal. I know how to execute. I got up every morning and thought “What do I want to write today?”  I produced a lot of material, finished a draft of my novel, did some freelance work. I had so much to say that I couldn’t get it down fast enough. It was exhilarating. It was fun. I published multiple stories. Yay me.

Then something shifted. I got up every morning, and thought “What do I need to write today?” That became “I have to write today,” which became “I don’t know what the heck to write today.” I felt anxious about all of the things I wasn’t doing–platform building, or entering contests, or researching agents. I would never catch up. I was constantly behind.

I’m not going to get all whiny about it, “Boo hoo, writing is so hard, blah blah blah, whatever.”   Truth is, being a writer is hard. The expectations to publish, the stress, the lack of pay, the judgment. You create something and put it out there and everyone is looking for something else.  It’s a lot like cooking dinner for my family.

But the expectation is all me. It’s all in my head. No one ever said I had to be a writer. I don’t have a deadline. There is no done. There is only the writing.

I may never get my novel published, but from what I hear, getting a novel published doesn’t change things much.  I may never make much money, but that’s not what started me writing in the first place. I write because I have stories to tell. I want to make people laugh, or cry, or squeal like they’ve just been handed a cute little puppy.

Writing is not hard. Writing is the easiest thing I do. It’s happiness on a stick. Who doesn’t want that? It’s the label of “writer” that gets in the way. So I’m letting it go.

So, I am not a writer.

Now that that’s finished, excuse me, gotta run. I’ve got some writing to do.

 

What limiting thought will you throw out today?

 

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Writing Notes with Grammy” by Don LaVange  © 2009 Creative Commons

Clearing Space in the Cluttered Mind

clutterHumans are creatures of collection. We abhor white space and compulsively fill it with whatever we can find. If there’s a table, put stuff on it. If there’s a cupboard, put stuff in it. If there is silence, make some noise, and if there’s solitude, then clearly you’ve done something wrong.

About six years ago I heard Gail Blanke talk about her book, Throw Out Fifty Things. She encouraged people to find 50 items they no longer need or want, and explore what those items tell you about how and why you acquire.

We were preparing to move, so it was a good time to evaluate what we really needed and what we didn’t. I gathered up forty or so things I thought I could part with–clothes that didn’t fit and never would, items I’d purchased without thinking and wouldn’t ever use. That was easy. Goal oriented gal that I am, I vowed to get to fifty. I sat at my desk and contemplated, at which point I realized that I hated that desk. I had spent years of misery behind that desk. It had to go.

I’d just left my job. It had driven me to the cliff of crazy and dared me to pull a Thelma and Louise. My life needed more white space. If the eye and the mind cannot find a place to rest, it keeps moving until it does, always searching for some sort of equilibrium. The best way for me to find it was to get rid of the one item that had soaked up enough bad karma for a lifetime.

My husband thought I was nuts. We were moving in days. It was his choice–put it on Craigslist, or I would take it apart with a sledgehammer and burn it in the backyard. He decided that someone would want it. Someone did. They took it away and it was like I could breathe again.

I’ve been feeling restless lately, unable to stay on task, and I think the lack of white space is again at the core of my problems. Our home feels congested. Every closet, every drawer is filled with stuff–I’m not even sure what. We have old electronics and ancient software that doesn’t run anymore. We have manuals for appliances we no longer own, magazines that we’ll never read again. The house needs to go on a diet.

But the house isn’t all that needs a good purge. There is too much going on in my head. I so badly want to cross things off the to-do list. With each item I take off, however, four take its place. I know I am not unique in this regard. I have to wonder, however, how much I really have to do, and how much I think I ought to do. These are the barriers that keep us from moving–the “should” and the “really ought to,” the “can’t” and the “wouldn’t be wise”–the words alone make me feel anchored in place.

Last week I got the best comment on this blog —

Our light is full of all the writing ideas ever created, and meditation is the only way to discover them.

Lately, however, my mind is always racing, searching for the path to done. It’s time to clean house so peace doesn’t have to work so hard to find its way home.

Here is my version of the 50 things challenge. I will rid my self of 50 clutter-inducing thoughts. Each week I will find an idea that holds me back and play with what my world would be like without it. Physical items are easy to find and dispose of. I could put my mental clutter on the curb with a FREE sign and it would sit for days, because everyone has enough of their own. So why don’t we do it together?

I’d love to walk the path with company. Who is in?

What limiting thought will you get rid of this week?

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Sean MacEntee © 2009 Creative Commons