I’ll Be On My Way, Just As Soon As I Shave This Yak

yak

There was a guy who wanted to mow his lawn one afternoon but had lent his lawn mower to his neighbor. When he asked his neighbor for the lawn mower, the neighbor refused.

“Not until you give me back the five other things you’ve borrowed from me!” said the neighbor.

The guy went back to his house and gathered up the things he’d borrowed from his neighbor. As he did that, he realized he had a problem–he had lost the sweater his neighbor brought back from Tibet years before.

The sweater was made of Yak’s wool. So in the middle of the night, the guy found himself breaking in to a zoo, sneaking in to the yak pen and shaving a yak to the get the yak hair to weave yak yarn to make a yak-hair sweater so he could give it back to his neighbor, get his lawn mower back and mow his lawn.

What does yak shaving represent? The “fiddly” tasks we let get between us and our goal–the excuses we make or the steps we insist need to be taken in order to launch something perfectly.

The guy should have just bought a sweater, gotten his mower back and mowed his yard.

We spend time yak shaving instead of doing because yak shavings tasks are in our control. We let ourselves believe that in order to accomplish our dreams, everything needs to be perfect. We spend too much time perfecting, or heading to the zoo to shave a yak.

Yak shaving shields us from facing the things we fear. It prevents us from ever really creating, doing, putting our work out there. But we need to start. Do it. Any of it. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a big plunge. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be something. Small bites. Small steps. One imperfect thing at a time.

 

Sensitivity Is Not My Weakness

connections

I can remember a moment on the phone with my mother when I was in college, overwhelmed and crying. Between my sobs, my mother said something that has stuck with me since: “Why are you so sensitive, Erin? You really need to lighten-up.”

My mother wasn’t the first or the last to say this to me. All my life, people have told me that I was “too sensitive,” “very  intense,” “so emotional.” And I listened and told the same things to myself. The world has always affected me deeply. I felt everything and built an analysis of life rather than an experience of it when I was with others. For years, I tried to solve my “intensity” problem by controlling my situations. I was private about many aspects of my life, not wanting to burden others when they had things to deal with of their own and I started hiding bits of me away. I thought of my sensitivities as weaknesses, out of my control, which made me vulnerable and exposed.

Eventually, things fell apart. I was married, had a respectable job and a life that didn’t fit me at all. It was a life that I had constructed based on my analysis of what it should be instead of where my experiences led me. I left it all behind and I learned to embrace the sensitivities and emotions I have always run from. I learned that we are all participants in life, not just observers. I learned to trust myself.

Intensity still runs wild in me–that will undoubtedly ever change. On a trip to D.C. last month, Matt lost me in conversation when I couldn’t stop looking out the restaurant window at a young guy, wrapped in a tarp, clearly on drugs and standing in the snow and wind.  I have sleepless nights when I can’t solve problems that cause others discomfort. I cry when I read sad stories or stories that remind me of the power we all have to affect one another’s lives. But now, for all of these things, I am grateful. There was some merit in part of what my mom said to me that day. I do need to lighten-up; not everything is as serious as I take it. I learned that life is easier than I think it is (and thinking about life is hard). It just is. It’s life. And we are all doing it.

In in my future quests to “lighten-up” a little more, I know that, at the core, I will still be emotional and intense. Instead of trying to change that, I’m challenging myself to embrace the times when I feel vulnerable and exposed–in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life, and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” Ellie Wiesel

PS. The Ad Council released this video, “Diversity & Inclusion–Love Has No Labels.” It touched me deeply and yes, I cried a little. We are all just looking for connections in life.

 

 

 

I Will Face It When It All Blows Up

standing on the edge

There’s a big difference between strategic planning and strategic planning that stands in the way of doing something even greater because we refuse to deviate. I’ve learned this the hard way, yet still need the daily reminder. Consistently, I walk the line between control-freak and someone who embraces change.

I outline plans to stay focused and on-track and in reality, those plans rarely work out that way. People change their minds, get distracted, surprise me; things happens late, quit working, don’t function as intended; deadlines don’t get met, done deals don’t happen, circumstances change.

What I know for sure is that starting with a plan gets you one step closer to the goal but also having a plan for when those plans don’t work is just as important.

A mentor once told me, “shit happens.” Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the phrase or not, you might remind yourself of this when you’re stuck and can’t seem to move forward. When people tell you there are no other options, when you are faced with the way it’s always been done, and especially when everything blows up in your face, there is change in the air and there are new opportunities standing right in your way. Plan on seeing them.

There’s No Easy Way To Put This–This Isn’t Even A Good Headline

I have a very bad habit of being late. I don’t want to be late and I usually believe I’m trying really hard to not be. Other people’s time is just as if not more important than mine and I’m aware of how rude it is to take precious moments from someone else’s day because they are waiting on me. My tardiness isn’t routed in a lack of awareness for time and the lives of others, it’s a habit I lean on because it fulfills what I refer to as my never-ending need to do one more thing.

The alarm rang at 4:45 this morning and instantly I was on. I’m on from the time I open my eyes until the moment I go to sleep at night. My brain is usually in over-drive, cataloguing things I feel need done to keep order in my life, to accomplish what I want to accomplish, to stay ahead. I just feel better when I leave for work and the plants, workout done, laundry folded, house picked up, that picture frame that broke a few months back glued back together, a hole from a nail in the wall patched and painted, and the bags ready to go to Goodwill loaded in to my trunk, which I will drop off on the way to the office.

Most of my life, I have believed that by living like this, I was being efficient. I was allowing myself the organization and determination to accomplish more, be more. Last week, though, when I walked out of work an hour and twenty-five minutes later than I had planned on leaving in order to meet Matt and friends for dinner, instead of feeling satisfied that I had gotten everything done, I felt guilty and worn-down. And believe me, this was not a new feeling. It’s becoming increasingly hard to shake the feelings of disappointment and remorse as I show up late again, because I was finishing up something else.

Because I’m a half-glass-full, if it’s broke, I can fix it, and if it’s not broke, it probably still needs fixed kind of woman, that feeling that despite everything I am able to get done in a day, I’m still losing has become undeniable. So, here I am, amidst a pile of to-do-lists and best intentions, an anxious, often-late, albeit, fairly polished mess. What now?

I used to contemplate ways to become more efficient in order to get more done and legitimately, there still are plenty of things I can do to become more efficient and manage my time better. But what I realize now is there’s really no sense in honing those efficiency skills if I’m just going to fill the space I create with more things to do–making myself, as usual, just a little late for the next thing.

In no way am I advocating leaving the things that need done completely undone. I’m reflecting–or better yet, trying to remind myself–that perfection is a silent killer of many things, timeliness being one of them. My obsessive need to find the perfect picture for a blog-post before I allow myself to post, to not walk out of the bathroom without wrapping up the curling iron, even though I’m already in a rush, to fret about the page on the station’s website that needs updating, even though no one has noticed and it’s been months–these are all things I obsess over because if they are on my list, and I’m working towards them, then I can control them. I create an illusion of control for myself by creating more lists and doing one more thing with each spare moment that I have, and coming full-circle, making myself late for nearly everything, which leaves me spinning.

Here goes–one foot in front of the other. Today, I’ll allow myself to do what I can, to do things in spite of them not being perfect or maybe even complete, to give up control and keep moving forward. Today, I’ll be a little more on-time.

I Screwed It Up, But I’ll Keep Trying

barn

 

Today started out as a good day. I woke up at 4:30, got a quick workout and stretch in, showered, and turned on my Pandora station curated around the music of The Cure. I had high hopes for today.

By the time 6:30 rolled around, I was just about ready to leave the house, looking forward to a few moments to myself in the office to get ahead and think creatively. But then it all went to shit–and I let it go that way. A few small things stopped me from leaving home when I wanted to and instantly, my attitude changed. I left twenty minutes later, but with an attitude that was not even a shadow of the hopeful one I had when I first woke.

My desire for perfection gets the best of me every time. Funny, I know, as I write a blog about the celebration of all things challenging, imperfect and full of courage. But I guess that’s partly why I write it. Those things that I admire, that excite me and motivate me, are also the same things I often struggle with the most.

I dislike the feeling of vulnerability (pretty sure I’m not alone in this) but I’ve done enough research and reflection to understand that vulnerability is as much a part of being human as is strength. I’m constantly seeking examples of strength in vulnerability in order to hopefully one day be more at peace with myself.

I am completely aware that I hold myself (and often everyone around me) accountable to really high standards. I believe that to be better today than I was yesterday, it’s necessary to keep reaching just beyond my capabilities. But when things don’t go as planned, it’s easy for me to forget the truths I know and get caught in that desperate need for perfection. The world starts spinning, I lose touch with the mindfulness and intent I started the day with and I am certainly no better today than I was yesterday, so I’ve lost in more ways than one.

There is a line at the end of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that says “Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along.” Perhaps one day I’ll learn to stop myself before I fall in to my very own perfection-trap. Until then, I’ll continue searching for the courageous and the imperfect and the beautiful which remind me to let go and experience more happiness.

 

 

Why Perfection Is Not Worth Waiting For

floating

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65,

or 75, and you never got your MEMOIR or novel written; Or

you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those

years because your thighs were JIGGLY and you had a nice

big comfortable TUMMY; or you were just so strung out on

PERFECTIONISM and people-pleasing that you forgot to have

a BIG juicy creative life, of IMAGINATION and radical silliness

and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going

to break your heart. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN.

— Anne Lamott

 
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