Starting as I mean to go on

I’ve noticed a familiar trend in the last few days:  me getting wrapped around the proverbial axle, by thinking and overthinking about “what am I supposed to do” about some stuff.  My brain is wired to think things over, constantly and deeply, but the negative underside of this trait is overthinking, and thinking rather than doing.  I have a feeling that life is supposed to be about doing some stuff, rather than just thinking about doing some stuff.

One of my long-time hobbles is feeling like when I’m perfect I’ll finally be happy and good and fulfilled.  When I’ve got my act all cleaned up, then life will be all right.  Which the rational mind can see and reject, but the emotional underlayers has more difficulty with.  There are reasons such falliable ideas soak into our poor tired selves, reasons that can’t just be brushed away.

Today I went for a walk at lunchtime, frustrated about once again seeing that I’m doing this to myself, and my thought and prayer was:  how do I stop?  Can I possibly learn to stop being mean to myself in this way?

I ruin things for myself, things that should be fun and start out as fun, but I can turn them into a goad and a weight.  About a month ago, I started taking lessons in taiji (or tai chi) at a great school not far from where I work.  So far, it has been a lot of fun and I’ve felt like I’m learning things and enjoying the practice.  Somewhere in the last few days, though, my attitude changed.  I started wondering, how do I practice to get really good at this?  How do I do this art like my teachers?  Am I doing this move right, and what happens if I learn it wrong?  In short, I started worrying again about how I was going to get perfect, at taiji.  I started comparing myself to the coaches who have been studying and working on understanding this art for years, and surprise!  I’m not as good at them!  Oh no, what next?

Just like that, all the joy I’ve found in this practice was gone.  Only worry left.  And it didn’t help my practice or form at all.

At various times, I’ve felt this way about a lot of things — stuff I started out and loved and was glad to have discovered, and somewhere along the way, started to worry about, and it locked up my joy and my skills and my imagination.  At various times, I have felt this way about knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, cooking, organizing, working, writing, singing.  For just a short list.

I am seeking a way to recover doing things as opposed to worrying about not being good enough to do things.  I want to get out from under the constant, vague sense I have of “not good enough yet” and “how do I get good enough?”  I want to accomplish some stuff — not even big stuff, I just want to get to the end of my days and be able to point to something and say, I did that.  I decided to do something, and did it.

So I’m going to try living with small goals.  Every day, I’m going to write down small goals for myself:  limited, measurable, tangible expressions of intention.  I’m going to write them down, just one or two as they come, and then do them.  When I’ve finished a small goal, I may add another one.   At the end of the day, I hope to have a list of things that I’ve done.

This is not a “to-do” list: I’m not going to start out by racking up a whole list of possible options, so I can feel bad later about not accomplishing all of them.  Part of the idea here is intention — to live deliberately, by thinking about what I want to do in the moment, capturing it in a form I can measure and record, and then carrying through with the intention.

Because my usual downfall with trying something new is that I forget about it within a few days, I’m going to make my lists of small goals public.  I’m going to ask some friends to check up on my lists, and make sure that I post them every day.  It won’t be brilliant reading, but that’s not the point — the avoidance of radio silence, is.

In keeping with the spirit of the thing, I’m not setting a lot of rules about what constitutes “a goal,” or “how many” I need to do in a day, or anything else.  My intentions:  To write down at least one small, tangible goal every day, and accomplish it.  To post the day’s list, whatever it is.

Also in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I’m not cleaning up my thoughts here too much … I know that good writing is rewriting, but for today, I need to be imperfect and just start.  Hence, this is me, starting as I mean to go on: just writing something, and giving myself credit for having done it.

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3 comments so far

  1. Suebert on

    It is a start (with a means to go on…). I just really, really, really hope you don’t use this to beat yourself up over at a later date, if you know what I mean. Keep that in mind, always.

    And let the nagging commence *bg*

  2. enallagma9 on

    That’s a damned good start. And I know exactly what you mean about over-thinking/beating yourself up/measuring yourself against impossible standards/etc. About the only thing I’ve found that helps is surrounding myself with people who like me as I am when I’m me, and shedding the rest. Since you’re rather worthwhile indeed, seriously, I don’t think finding people who like you will be a problem.

    And be realistic about your day-to-day goals. I have estimated that the body of the fairly plain, mostly garter stitch shawl I’m knitting will take me 73 hours, and then there’s a bit of edging. Even spending an hour or two a day – 10 hours a week – on it means this one simple shawl will take two months of my crafting time. Expecting to get it done in two weeks is just setting myself up for failure. Or strained tendons, which I’ve got anyway.

    Keep writing; you’re worth reading, you know.

  3. sarah on

    I’m here at last :-)

    Can I ask you to add one item to your daily To Do list? Spend 2 or 5 or even 10 minutes just Being. Think only of what you see and hear. Stand at the window and watch the rain, eat toast and feel the crunch, listen to the wind in the trees. Lie on the grass, smell the green, watch the wind chase clouds. These are Real. Many of our thoughts and fears are Not Real :-)

    I hope the list helps you to remember what you’ve achieved, not what you’ve failed to do.


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