A thank you to Thank you Suite 101 Experiences for pointing out just how valuable this question is.
I agree with her...we are a doing culture, to the Nth degree! I grew up believing that it was always better to do *something* than to do nothing at all. And what started as a not-so-healthy draw toward a constant ‘something’ has grown into a bit of monster over all these years ... a compulsion to show up, add up, bring it, give it, perfect it.
I am just learning now how often doing NOTHING serves me better than doing SOMETHING.
We do what we can. We always do something.
(But is that something better than nothing?)
Is your ‘what is’ defined by what’s pushing up against it? Or the strength of its own bold borders?
As I try to make more room for sleep and rest, contain work to its designated hours, and manage everything else that I already signed up for...I am noticing just how much the boundaries of my ‘what is’ are prescribed by the contents pushing right up against it, and not always purposefully structured by me.
Here’s to staking our claim for our own ‘what is’.
I was to say “fill in the blank”, but there isn’t a blank to fill in. So, how about...for you...what question is this the answer to? Or, what does this mean to you?
What if I don't ...
...turn on the TV? ...get stressed by this or that? ...(over-)prepare like a maniac? ...respond right away?
It's scarier to test the not doing version of something, especially when the doing version is your go-to-default that's served you seemingly well your whole life. The not doing can feel just as scary as that scoot that launches your bathing suit clad body down the giant slide at the waterpark. Presses 'send' on the email or application. Steps into the bosses office for a tough conversation. Leans in for that first kiss.
The doing can be scary. But you end up doing it. The default always seems to be do. But not doing, it's harder to test that boundary. It's restraint and faith, all mixed up in one.
Tonight I chose to not turn on the TV. And to not do one more thing. But I did choose to carve a few extra minutes out for this note, because the idea of sitting to write has felt like a salve all day.
And, it's been a day. The thing that house-building has been teaching me most right now is how I tend to respond to every thing that pops up as an emergency. In some cases (although we are not talking life or death here) there are decisions that need to be corrected or made ASAP, and things that come up that should be done right away. Maybe not for the moment, but because I am keeping my eyes on the prize of a December 15th move in data. It feels like doing everything I can at every possible moment is the insurance policy that gets us in the door on time. But, what is it like to test the other side of that coin? What does it mean to take things as they come? To not rush? To not be sent into a tail-spin when I find out our antique doors are delayed because of hinges and sizing and other things that maybe some other people were actually supposed to be taking care of a few weeks ago. (That last part was more of a rant than anything helpful, but maybe I needed to get it off my chest.) So, what I am saying is - house building is giving me this experiment. To see if everything turns out okay and we get an occupancy permit and move in when we plan to. Or to see if we don't. I could keep on hitting my head against the wall of EVERYTHING IS AN EMERGENCY, or I could choose to stop. I could choose to stop the triage. I could choose to give everything time to sort itself out. I can choose to trust that everything will be okay if I don't attend to it right now, even though it feels like it's calling my name like a small child trapped in a well.
That's it. Over and out. Less doing. Bye.
A bit more to read HERE, plus a very timely archive quote.
If you are in the trades, you will know what rough opening means. It's the roughly estimated and doesn't-have-to-be-absolutely-perfect framing for an exterior window or door in a house. It's the hole in the skeleton that the door or window is soon nestled into. The measurements of the rough opening are always bigger than the thing that will sit inside it. And it doesn't have to be completely accurate. It's rough. It's an opening. It's a noun. (It's also a measurement, as in the rough opening is...)
If you happen to be a creative person who likes words and metaphors and knows nothing about the trades - rough openings has a lot of good potential. A rough opening is what it looks like (and feels like) every time a piece of huge equipment comes in to dig a huge hole or trench into the soil to bury something. It feels rough, violent, aggressive, and not precise. (Is there anything precise about having a huge backhoe dig a trench 40" wide to bury a water line that's barely 2" wide?)
Rough opening also sounds and feels like heart work. Good work. Verb work. The way we ply ourselves open to be vulnerable. To notice. To breathe. To become expansive again. It is a going against the grain of everything that wants to be hunched and concave. Especially now as we start to bundle up, bundle tight, drawing our own selves inward as days darken and warmth feels scarcer.
Whatever it is, it feels like something we could all use in slightly higher doses.
What is your rough opening?
There's a batch of chicken soup defrosting on the stove. From laying hens who ate my grass and bugs years ago, and gave their lives to be soup stock back in December 2015. The blue masking tape label on the plastic lid reads CHICK 3-11. This could mean quite a variety of things, most and least likely that I made a batch of chicken soup on March 11th, of which year I could not tell you.
The magical soup is warming in a small, red Le Creuset cast iron pot. Gifted to me as part of a complete set a few years back when one of you was downsizing. Talk about gifts for which one can not even quantify the gratitude other than to let them bring joy each day. The lid is mismatched, a too-big stainless steel number that matches the resident cookware collection at the nest, not belonging to my interloper. My right-sized lid is maybe in the back of the cabinet, or in the kitchen tub in the garage, or in the other garage, or with its red cast iron kin in another storage tub somewhere.
This is how much of life feels in this moment, that everything is somewhere. Somewhere else. And that everything that is here belongs to some long lineage of seeds planted years and years and years ago.
That red pot, from a friend of my Mom from college. The chickens from the first iteration of the farm. The soup from steaming over the stove last year. Indigo Girls through the speakers, a thread pulling way back. A new knit hat, sent from Miss P on the western coast.
Fall has set in, with winter impending just around the dark morning corners. This change makes me scour for mittens and gloves and hats and scarves and boots and coats. Nothing is exactly where it seems it should be, and not in one place at all. It all reminds me how out of sorts I feel. How place-less. I set out, again and again, to wear down and pare down everything I own (one more time. one last time.) in this last month and a half of nesting in interim space and being physically so away from the farm.
What I am trying to say is, I am bringing in less new. Making do with what I have. And still stripping away to less and less. What remains is what I am most connected to. What is most useful to me. What serves me. I take stock of what remains (I defrost stock too). This feeling of less and less is so often connected to loss. But it shouldn't be. Letting go of the extra weight, the burdens that hold us down - that is the opposite of casualty and catastrophe. Instead, it is freedom.
Everything that is here is knit to the past. Somehow.
Two years ago today Miss Fierce, my dear sweet dog companion of eight years took her final adventure. Losing her, and so unexpectedly, was the saddest loss I have every experienced. There is no way to spin that lessening as a positive, ever. She was, without a doubt, my most loyal companion and best friend. If you doubt me, don't. I buried her on the farm, in what used to be the far pasture. A place that is not that far from the new house at all. A place which I can see from the bedroom windows on the second floor. A place I hope the daffodil bulbs I buried with her body on that very warm November afternoon will remind me exactly where her bones are resting each spring. This summer I took the grave marker down, the small flags too. Not exactly because I was ready, but because it was time. Time to mow the pasture to maintain the thistles. Time to take some sort of other action. I don't know exactly where she is now, I can't find it by sight. It is not just that she is somewhere. This allows her to be everywhere.
There are days that pass now when I don't think of her. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. This is what happens when seasons change and days get shorter and longer and shorter again. You can't find your winter hat and you can't remember where the dog is buried. And that is how it is supposed to be. The seasons keep tugging on, knitting our threads looseley behind them.
I don't believe that new animal companions, or people, take the space of those preceding them. Those dog-shaped and human-shaped marks on our hearts are always here. Maybe our hearts just get bigger and stronger to accept more, new kinds of love.
If you'd have asked me on this day last year, I knew I was not ready for a new dog companion. I waited for Charlie until my heart was begging again for more fur to sweep and long walks in the morning. I knew I had to get over something, instead of replace a gaping hole. Charlie is perfect in this way. She is absolutely nothing like Fierce, whatsoever. I'm not sure that they have one single thing in common, except perhaps that at moments they each look like different wild animals. (Seal, Bear, Wolf, Mouse between the two of them.) I like this. I appreciate it that I look at Charlie and she is her own crazy and bonkers adventure. That there is no way to mix them up, to place emotions where they don't belong. The only thing the same is that Charlie wears Fierce's collar.
The soup's barely cool enough to eat, a skimcoat of chicken fat wrinkles across the surface when I move my spoon. The shreds of meat are tough, just like the chickens they came from. The deep green thyme leaves dotting my spoon like tiny arrows, trail markers. It is old. An ingredient list from the archives. It is real.
This is what nourishes me.
There's a little bit more to read HERE.
The homework in stepping away these past eight days (since 10 21 17) has been to notice. I didn't die the first night I didn't send the TinyLetter. The world did not fall apart, either outside of me or inside of me. But there has been a lot to notice.
Even in opening up this tab and jotting this note to you, there is much to notice. How I bring a certain hurry and pace if I don't stop to slow down and approach this as something new. The habitual steps of preparing this note. The following of the existing template, without stopping to think. This past week has provided new and continual and constant opportunities just like this one. By stopping the patterns I notice how I feel without them, which teaches me volumes about what it means to live with them.
My homework has not been about noticing everything. That would be overwhelming. It has been about noticing my doing: the attitude I bring to it, and what part of the doing is habit. And what part is not.
Somehow this has all focused my attention on habit in general. What are habits? Can I categorize them? Are they uniformly good or bad, beneficial or harmful? Are there different kinds?
My brain has started to think of them in two categories. And, with much help from Brenna Layne (here) I've come to some realizations. Mostly, that a healthy habit, especially one that we are very attached to because we think it has value or serves us, may not actually be that helpful. And that it takes one big, brave step to press pause and do without it. There is something I can't quite put my finger on here, something about how the NOT DOING is the most powerful thing. The bravest thing. The scariest thing. That stopping, detatching, severing, withholding, not-practicing ... it may feel like you are doing nothing ... but somehow that restraint or that stopping or the nothing is the strongest and most actionable thing to do.
How does in-action become a powerful action? How is NOT DOING the bravest action?
See it all HERE, including an nice (IMHO) image about habit.