My goal all week long has been to get something written. Anything; a sentence, a word. Just make a start and build momentum. This thing I love the most (and by thing I mean activity) is hard right now.
I’ve been complaining to myself that the demands of my day job are killing my creativity. This is not entirely untrue but this is also not entirely to blame. It’s hard to write because I’ve let life get too cluttered with things which need constant maintenance. I’ve fallen behind on all that maintenance to the point that everything is overdue and I feel overwhelmed. It’s too much and I’m too far behind and the effort to catch up (and the time to do so) feels too daunting. Even as I’m sitting here writing this I feel I’m robbing the time to do it from at least three other activities which need my attention. And I’m watching the clock.
I feel pressured. Pressure kills creativity too. And it’s not that I can’t figure out how things got this way. I can list it all out in detail easily enough but categorizing the blame only validates the pressure without providing any relief from the pressure. Wouldn’t the time be better spent doing something to dig out from under the pressure? Or at the very least, inspire some motivation? Swilling in blame is still swilling. Feels like the wrong move. So I acknowledge I know why and how things have gotten out of control but then what?
Simplify. Edit. Say no. Decline. Cancel. Pass. Stop trying to do it all.
The cynical side of me says these are all code words for disappoint people, which is another kind of pressure. People get over disappointment, y’all. I am people too. What about what I need? Sometimes I need to rule in my own favor.
I confront my list of Undone Things. What are the benefits of doing these things? Why do they have to be done NOW? Why must I get caught up on this particular task? For approval? Why can’t I just opt out? For appearances? To meet the expectation of others? Since when are approval and appearances the bosses of me? The fleeting satisfaction of working harder just to temporarily succeed at not letting people down is work that is never truly done. That’s a hamster wheel of obligation, folks.
I’m allowed to let people down. I’m allowed to disappoint people. I have permission to let appearances slip. I can be brave enough to let things go. I’m not obligated to sacrifice joy to curry favor from anyone who is not a willing participant, partner, or supporter of my joy.
Which task on the endless list of my life’s chores will yield the most joy? Which thing I think is so important/overdue/undone is critical to joy and wellness? Some? All? None?
How many things were placed on that list out of blind obedience to an ideal or standard which may not be serving my joy? Some? All? None? What if I dare to be disobedient? What will happen? What consequence could there be more important than my joy? Am I really going to give this menial task the power to rob me of joy? No one will die or wither of undone busywork.
Occasionally I notice posts by a married couple who like to share their squabbles over trivial things to make points about loving relationships between people whose personalities are polar opposites. One wife habitually leaves the kitchen cabinet doors open. It drives the other wife crazy. When the door-closing wife went out of town on business the door-ajar wife posted a video of all the doors hanging open while the kids and pets milled around the kitchen happily and healthily, oblivious to the cabinet doors. Joy was obvious in that kitchen. The message was similar to we love you and miss you but as you can see, no one has died of unclosed doors.
I think about this when I examine my undone things. I feel ridiculous for sacrificing joy to such things. Who is going to die of this? No one? No one will suffer misery or blight or homelessness or destitution over this. Then why do I allow it to incriminate me? Multiply times everything on the list.
I used to go to the gym with a partner who fumed over undone housework. She’d joke that all she had to do to talk herself down off a ledge was to check out posts in her Facebook feed with messy home interiors in the background. She’d realize her house wasn’t so bad by comparison. And then she’d admit that despite the public display of undone housework, her friends were obviously much happier because they posted their joy anyway. They were living with joy anyway. Joy was not contingent upon housework being done. No one was dying of undusted blinds or unfolded laundry or uncleared countertops. And no one’s joy was being diminished either. My friend longed to be so free.
I’m no fan of comparing our lives to anything posted on social media but there’s an obvious lesson in this instance. Chuck it in the Fuck-It Bucket, y’all. All the stuff I didn’t do because I wrote all these words? That stuff would not have given me the joy of writing these words. It might have made me feel obedient to a standard but there would be no joy in it. And no one died of undone chores while I wrote these words. Or made these images. Or thought these thoughts. Or spent this time sharing it with you.