Breathe above water

The first draft of this post opened with “while setting up Todoist and integrating it with all devices, I …” Then I was struck by how that sounds. I was unironically setting up a crack den after realizing that I'm a crack addict. (See the last post and this post for explanation.) Leveling up my crack accoutrements rather than, you know, going to rehab.

The enough lessons must be sinking in because I caught myself. This morning I was terrified to write. A few weeks from now, I'm giving a talk at a conference of people I value and respect. The text of the talk is evolving into things I really want to say and includes insights I truly value. So, of course, I'm scared to say those things. To risk that. And I'm super scared I won't finish writing it, with slides, in time and it'll suck. I'll suck. You know how it is, the fear talking.

I want to say what I'm planning to say. I hope others will find the talk valuable. But the truth is I'm not the key factor here. Wisdom arises. It emerges and finds its path like water; flows. Wise thinking isn't produced or created or generated or done, you can't sit down and make it like a summer camp popsicle stick basket. Wisdom isn't yours to share, you can only listen and integrate and write and get out of the way.

Most of what I say and think is not wise. I'm also not a big Get Out of the Way gal. But I crave the experience of stumbling into knowing something valuable and transformative, an experience I don't get very often. I fail and fail when I try to articulate things but wisdom is always the goal. The sweetest most precious goal we can fail at, isn't it?

I was afraid to write so instead, I made a list of other things I hoped todo today. Just to “get them off my mind.” I walked around the house with my notebook. At first, this helped. My day was organizing and prioritizing itself on paper.

Then, quickly, the list became overwhelming. I persevered, of course, adding everything I could think of and next thing I knew, I wasn't writing OR doing those things. I was sitting on the couch holding my notebook looking dazed and stuffed, like Thanksgiving. I hadn't even opened Todoist yet.

Why do I do this to myself?

Meanwhile, I've been organizing my reading (past, present and future) in LibraryThing. Which.I.Love. I felt wonderfully relaxed this week once I set up my account, imported from Goodreads and began creating more lists. I felt energized. I've been ordering books. This morning, I ordered five more titles that I'm excited to read. Plus put a few on my Kobo. And added four audio books because I had credits.

Now, if you are a normal person, you're wondering “when will she read all those books?” If you are not a normal person, which is highly possible given that you are reading this post and therefore, probably know me, trust me when I say that question is reasonable to ask right now.

The answer is, I don't know. I'm reading five or six books at the moment plus feel pressure to read the five or six I should be reading while preparing for the talk. Sometimes, I don't remember which book I'm reading when I sit down to read. So I strategically leave my books or kobo in spots, like next to the bathtub, to prompt myself. Some books are Car Rides Only. Overstory (omg its wonderful) was a beloved car companion for a couple months (I don't drive often) and I miss it now.

During exercises with Cory yesterday, I discovered that I only inhale and exhale as much as is necessary. I rarely finish an exhale and am not sure what “inhale to your collar bones” means. This is how I live my life. I bring in what I need but I rarely make sufficient space to fully enjoy it or to fully release when it's over. I love to cook. I avoid the dishes.

The contraction in my breathing and my ribcage that we are releasing is my fear of never having enough time, energy and attention to really, truly settle into learning, reading, doing, experiencing, thinking, creating, etc. I don't trust it. I don't trust life to nourish and support me doing it. I control my attention so I stay just shallow enough to Get Shit Done. To Be Who I'm Supposed to Be. Something the world constantly rewards me for.

When we stop doing “enough” of what is rewarded or expected, we may put ourselves in economic and relational peril. The fear isn't simply in our minds. It is legitimately risky to let go and be authentic. Brene Brown is coaching the whole world on how to do this ‘cause it's that fricken hard. Buddhism has been teaching it for a bazillion years but Buddha was monastic so there's a limit to how much those teaching help us. We've got to take risks and figure it out as we go and that's hard.

The first time I noticed my pattern, I googled “hoarding todos.” No relevant results. But I'm sure its a thing. I'm constantly hoarding things to do or get or start or fix or change or WHATEVER to protect myself from being bored. I was pathologically bored as a kid and young adult. I can not tolerate how shallow and superficial many social transactions or experiences can feel. But, I thought, that was life. You must learn to deal with it, get by. I couldn't drown and I couldn't swim so I learned to grasp any complex, interesting or intractable mental challenges to keep me afloat. Keep them as close as I could, stacking them inside while externally doing things I was supposed to do.

I loved feeling full of impossible but maybe satisfying things to do. Until I couldn't fit anymore in. Things weren't leaving, being done, at the same rate I brought them in. Not by a long shot. My inner world became a dense black hole. Does a black hole have a maximum density? If so, I reached mine.

Now what?

Well, my first practice is learning to take full breaths. I know this seems simple but is it? Not for me. Breathe and feel the ground supporting me, letting myself occupy space. Release, let go, be nourished. Ha! Oh, that sounds tritely easy but have you tried it? I'm not a big fan of this work, I confess, but its good and right and I'm doing it.

Second practice is to let myself trust that Enough Enjoyable Things to Do are out there and I can go find them, do them, any time. The metaphor that comes to mind is “My collection of seashells can live on the beaches of the world.” I don't need to capture items on my lists, though I can, if that's fun, which it is, as long as I remember my lists are fiction. I don't need to stress about anything I don't do because if I didn't do it … I did not choose to do it. I get to choose.

I can read more yet feel happily surrounded by more than I can (or will) read. I can live in the middle of the world's library and that can be enough.

Most importantly, I can finish writing this (which is awesome because remember, I was afraid to write?!) then go do something renewing. Like play a game with my husband or go out to …. and the next three things I was about to write were Tasks dressed up like Renewing things. Man, I've got a ways to go. Many tasks are renewing, but those cheeky buggers stack up and merge into Getting Shit Done before I know it.

My joyful rule today will be: Ground myself in being home and do only things that increase my inner energy level. Recharge my battery so I can continue doing scary but valuable things.

I'll let you know how that goes …