Wormholes, Best Trick in Beating Resistance, and Perfectionism

Wormholes
And here’s where the concept of Wormholes comes in. Wormholes, as I define them, are these little breaks of opportunity in my great wall of resistance. They’re the moments when I feel like maybe, if the circumstances were just right, I might possibly be talked into:
• Giving up bananas (they are SO not local)
• Organizing my office
• Writing a new song
• Doing more than just my one sun salutation in the morning
• Doing more than just 2 miles in my morning run
• Doing whatever totally heinous chore has been on my To Do list since two years ago Christmas (Today it’s finding a new stylus for our aged turntable; last week it was filling out copyright forms to register the songs on our new CD)

Now, if I take advantage of these miraculous wormholes, the impossible not only can happen, but usually does with remarkable ease, especially if I have a little grace and humility about it. I resist playing the guitar until I stop telling myself I’m supposed to be playing the guitar. Then, usually, I want to play it. I go through phases with it, and today I know that about myself. Some years I practice diligently, with love and great enthusiasm and creativity. Other years, I coast along. Even though I have made my living as a singer-songwriter who plays the guitar, I know I will never be a virtuoso. What I have done is evolved my own style, and today it’s good enough for me. And I got that style from a certain amount of “just doing it,” as a certain shoe company would say. Just showing up and gritting my teeth and pushing that Sloth to play scales and figure out songs. On the most wonderful days, actual enthusiasm would appear in the middle of a practice session, and I know there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than just joyfully banging away at my guitar.

Best Trick Beating Resistance
“Play till you feel like resting. Then rest till you feel like playing.”––Martha Beck

When I have a lot to do and I don’t feel like doing anything, I make a deal with myself. I say, “Okay, then: do nothing. But really do nothing.”
Doing nothing involves reclining on my couch and staring into space. I do not get to talk on the phone, read, check my email, or sleep. On the other hand, I do not have to meditate, count my breaths or practice any kind of spiritual discipline whatever. All I do is space out. Somehow, this always relaxes and refreshes me, and before too long, my spinning mind has a million things it wants my body to do. I jump up and start accomplishing all the tasks I was fixing to resist.

Perfectionism is the Enemy
So when I look back on my “goals” list, my IAP sees all the things I haven’t done and won’t ever do. (Not going to be the next Beatles. I am clear on that. Don’t think Harvard Div’s in my future either, but that’s another story.) My IAP can sometimes be quite disappointed. But the truth is, I played the guitar well enough to make a career that has sustained me emotionally and financially and artistically for the past 22 years. Instead of becoming the next Beatles, I have this fantastic patchwork life: a manageable, wonderful music career, and a life as a freelance teacher of writing, music and life. I get to write books, go to my kids’ assemblies, and have date night with my husband once a week.
Like the person who really wanted to be a gardener in Ogunquit, the Real Me chooses the life I have made over the life I thought I should have when I was 22. This life, as they say, is right-sized. But I am also glad I gave it my all and “went for it.”

From How to Be an Adult: A Musician’s Guide to Navigating Your Twenties, by Nerissa Nields, Mercy House 2013

How to Be an Adult Introduction, Part Two: What We Learned About Life in 20 Years on the Road

What We Learned About Life in 20 Years on the Road
Katryna first got the idea to write a book called How to Be an Adult after graduating college. She felt clueless, living with her sister and brother-in-law in a prep-school dorm and eating the prep-school’s free food, while trying to figure out things like how to get health insurance and how to pay her taxes on the non-existent income of a budding folk singer. She pronounced, “Someone should write a book called How to Be an Adult. How are we supposed to know any of this stuff? We all need a manual. Someone should write it, and since no one else will, I guess it’s got to be me. Except I don’t know how to be an adult, so why don’t you do it?”

We had grand plans to research the topic, but we never followed through. Over the years, we’d revive the project and toss around some ideas, but mostly the concept of either of us writing a book about how to be an adult reduced us to fits of tearful laughter. Who would take a couple of folk singers as their models for responsible adulthood?

But by my mid-thirties, I had observed two things. First of all, somehow along the way, like everyone else, I’d figured it out, mostly, and so had Katryna. It took years, and we made lots of painful and hilarious mistakes. But many of those mistakes were wonderful lessons.

Secondly, what I hadn’t figured out (taxes, insurance, retirement accounts, bill-paying) were easily deciphered by the simple act of homing in on someone who clearly appeared to be a competent adult and asking that person how she did what she did. Believe me, if you ask enough people, someone will have a strong opinion on this topic and feel it’s their mission in life to sit you down and set you straight.