Today is snow day #2 here in the Midwest. It snowed all day yesterday, totaling about seven inches here in my neighborhood. The skies are clear now, but the wind is causing blowing snow which results in dangerous driving conditions, hence the reason for snow day #2. Tomorrow the wind chills are supposed to be near -20 degrees!
While I enjoyed my snow day yesterday, I spent a large part of it in deep introspection, and I feel the need to write down those thoughts and realizations. I simply can’t imagine anyone would be interested in this mental mumbo-jumbo and stream of consciousness, so I ask that you pardon this personal post and suggest that perhaps you might just want to stop reading now.
As I was basking in my morning routine yesterday – sipping hot coffee in front of the fireplace reading my favorite blogs – I was struck by a this post from Journey through Grace where the author discussed her issue with SHOULD — that “should” comes from perfectionism and when she placed shoulds on herself – she also placed them on others, which put her in the seat of judgment rather than acceptance. I am not stating this nearly as elegant as she — but with each sentence I found myself nodding in agreement: that is me!
As I progressed with my day, I realized that no matter what I was doing: a household chore; playing with the dogs; practicing photography; reading — I was always playing the tape in my mind I should really be doing such-and-such OR I should quickly finish this so that I can begin such-and such. I NEVER allowed myself to fully enjoy the activity of the moment because I was too focused on doing the “right” thing and making the most of my day off. At the end of the day I initially felt as though I had accomplished little, when in fact I had accomplished much but enjoyed little – which led to a feeling of unfulfillment. Then it occurred to me – if I do this on my day off, a found 24 hours of freedom, how often I must do this on days that are packed with time sensitive responsibilities. No wonder I am exhausted and frustrated.
I am slowly working my way through Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. In that book she spends a lot of time talking about the link between shame and perfection. I do not (think) I feel shame — but the guilt that I have placed on myself is overwhelming. I am suffocating myself trying to accomplish much, second guessing each step of the way. I am never satisfied with a decision made or a job completed. There is always something else that SHOULD have been done.
I am not sure what led to this feeling of efficiency is the goal of life. I am organized and I enjoy time management advice – but I don’t think that is what has led me to be so compulsive in this area. I think perhaps I have subconsciously listened to all those well-meaning comments, “I just don’t know how you do it all” and twisted that around to mean “We like you because you do so much.” Perhaps there is a fear that if I don’t do it all anymore – I will no longer be respected. In order to maintain acceptance, I continue to try to do more and more. It is a vicious cycle and I am the proverbial gerbil on the exercise wheel: I keep running and running but I am getting nowhere.
I read Patti Digh’s books, Life is a Verb and Creative is a Verb. She gives great advice. In essence – slow down and learn to accept yourself (she says it far more eloquently with humorous anecdotes – but that is the essence of the message I received). But even then — even reading Creative is a Verb where she is telling me to slow down — I am racing to finish the book so that I can tick it off my to-do list and move on to something else. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! I love reading slowly and writing down key phrases. I did not allow myself to write a single reference from this book (and there are numerous quotes that are worth contemplation). That would take too much time, I reasoned, and I simply don’t have that kind of time.
I remember watching my children clean the house (I thought I was teaching them appropriate life skills and they had an opportunity to earn money). I would find myself becoming quite frustrated with my oldest. What would take me two hours to complete – took her the entire day. She would listen to her ipod as she dusted, and then sit down and watch a favorite television show. She would listen to her ipod while she vacuumed and then sit down and enjoy a snack. I would think, “Why don’t you just get the job done so that you can do something else?” It never occurred to me that she could actually get the job done WHILE doing something else. That she could actually get the job done in a relaxed manner and not be stressed. That she could dust and vacuum without resentment. Why can’t I be more like that?
I used to love music. In fact, I have tried to instill my love of music to my own children (and they have all incorporated music, to some degree, in their own lives). I played the piano and flute; I was in band and orchestra; I loved high school musicals (before the Disney movie and Glee became popular). I had numerous records (yes, it was the 70s when we called them records rather than vinyls) and would always have some kind of music playing in the background while studying, talking with friends, or reading. But I rarely listen to music anymore. Why is that? I think a small part of the reason is because I would listen to Bible songs and Barney music in the car when the kids were younger to keep them entertained. When I had the rare occasion to drive by myself, I relished the quiet. But that was many years ago and I still drive in silence. While it is conducive to inward reflection, I am not sure that it is good for the psyche. I lament that I am not creative, yet I do nothing to help exercise those creative muscles that have lain dormant for so long.
Many writing websites suggest making playlists to coordinate with the work in progress. While I would have never thought of that idea on my own, I can see the advantages. In fact, I thought I might like to try that. But then I stopped in my tracks: I have no idea what music to consider? It has been a long time since Donny Osmond, Genesis, and Chicago. I am not even sure how I would go about bringing music back into my life, but it is an interest worth pursuing, I think.
Patti Digh embraces creativity in the midst of life. She says to let go of perfection and just do. She says to get messy and just let the creative mind take over. This doesn’t sound like rocket science to me – and yet I am totally stymied. Make a mess? Don’t have a plan? Ignore rules? These are such foreign concepts to my highly functional Left-brain way of thinking. But at this point I think I have used only one side of the brain too much. I don’t want to change who I am — I just want to learn to enjoy who I am. I want to have some fun in life. I want to let go of worry and learn to embrace the moment. I want to increase faith so that it is not solely up to me anymore.
So today when I woke up on the second gift of a snow day – I decided that I would play. I am sure that I will continue to “should” on myself — but when I am conscious of that, I plan to tell that still small voice to go take a hike. I shall make a mess with scrapbooking and I shall freeze outside taking pictures. I shall enjoy the process without worrying that skill is lacking. I shall give myself permission to be joyful today.