An active mind and time alone are not a good
combination for me.  Ironic, considering how much of my time I spend
alone, writing from home during the day (or not) and alone in the evenings as
often as not with my husband’s travel schedule.
I have known for a long time that going for
stretches without social interaction does something to me. It pushes me somehow
in ways that are uncomfortable.  And while I know that this discomfort is
a sign of something I need to examine more closely, my methods of examination
push me in to a darker place from time to time.  
I am very good at telling myself what I Should Be
Doing.  Years of being directed by my parents, a Marine Corps father and a
mother who was desperate to be in control of her own destiny, to go here and do this and prioritize that
taught me that inactivity was to be avoided.  It also taught me that
service to others and their priorities was of paramount importance.  So I
often find myself struggling to prioritize tasks in such a way that it becomes
eminently clear which things deserve doing first, second, and on down the line.
 Struggling because there is no way to do that. There is no universally
accepted rubric that says this book review is more important than that load of
laundry or taking the dog for a walk as he whines and follows me from room to
room.  
I tend to give precedence to those things that
serve others – laundry, cooking, shopping for household necessities,
straightening up – and push off others that seem more nebulous.  I have,
over the years, figured out that the dog only really needs to be
walked every other day (please don’t tell Cesar Milan), that if I make it to
yoga or the gym twice a week I am really doing well, and that I can crank out a
good book review in an hour.  
I know that the best thing I can do is banish
“Shoulds” from my vocabulary.  And I’ve come a long way in that
regard.  But I became aware today that I do it in so many other ways, I’m
not sure I’ve really come as far as I thought.  Every time I catch that
inner voice berating myself for wanting to do something more than
another thing that is probably more productive or helpful, I am
“shoulding” myself.  If I have the urge to lie down on the couch
and take a cozy nap with the cat instead of folding that load of laundry or
going to get Bubba’s contact lens solution, the nap is vetoed even before it
was fully realized as an option in my mind.  If, instead of reorganizing
that closet of Lola’s that disgorges random items every time you open the door,
I would rather sit down and read for an hour (who wouldn’t?), I hear this
sweet, condescending voice in my head that says, “You can read on your own
time, dear. That closet isn’t getting any cleaner while you sit there, and
you’ll feel guilty the whole time you’re on the couch, so you won’t focus on
the story, anyway.”  
I have even become so sophisticated at this
little game that the notion of spending an entire day rewriting a chapter of
the book I’m currently working on becomes physically repugnant.  Not
because I don’t want to write, but because I have so thoroughly convinced
myself that my writing serves nobody but myself (at least until I sell
something), that every word I type is a piece of laundry left unfolded or six
steps fewer with the dog this afternoon.  I have associated things that
give me joy with guilt and feelings of laziness in an effort to convince myself
to be more productive in the service of others.  
The truth is, I spend more time performing mental
calculations in an effort to decide how to structure my day than I do actually
performing the acts themselves.  It is as though I envision some stern
judge and jury I will face at the end of the day as I justify the things I
decided to spend time on.  And for what? There is no gold star that goes
on my permanent record.  There is no jail time for dishes left undone.
 From time to time there is an extremely hyper retriever in my face if I
neglected to walk him, and almost always there is remorse that I didn’t write more
(or at all) today.
So the question remains, what am I avoiding by
continuing to deny myself the freedom to choose things that please me each and
every day?  What would happen if, for some portion of every day I sat down
and did something that speaks to my soul? Something whose only purpose is to
make me happy?  As I write this and envision myself doing it, the
grounded, heavy feeling in my core is enough to convince me that I’ve been
looking at this the wrong way.  The simple act of imagining that I have
given myself permission to indulge my desires regardless of what anyone else
may think warms me from the inside out.  Calms me. Settles me.  

That is not to say that the notion of
implementing it doesn’t frighten me a bit.  It is counter to everything I
was taught and every example set for me by adults in my life.  But if I
close the door on that chatter and sit in the space and stillness of the other
imagining it feels possible.  

*This essay is one of several that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I have reposted it here so that readers can find it. 
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.