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

Time Consciousness

Time Consciousness

I like the term “time consciousness” better than “time management” because we don’t really manage our time. We think we can, and this causes all sorts of frustrations and forms of mental illness. It’s the illusion of time management that leads to all manner of anxiety and uptight behavior. How can you manage the sun rising and setting? You just have to surrender to it. Besides, as an artist, one of the first rules I learned was that serendipity (which is, by definition, that which is out of one’s control) was the very best song-giver. At the same time, I found early on that the way to be open to serendipity was to leave myself designated times to create, to even go so far as schedule “write songs” into my day planner. We’d be in the van driving around, and I’d start to get that anxious feeling that I always get when I haven’t written a song in awhile. I’d look around quickly and confirm that it would be impossible for me to pull a guitar out of the attached trailer while driving 65 mph down Route 80, and instead sigh and write “songwriting week” into my calendar during the second week of March, the next time we were off the road.

The week of March would arrive; I would come downstairs first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee, notebook, and guitar, and I would write all week until the songs were written. It seemed to work pretty well. But during the interim, I acted like a little video camcorder, taking everything in, jotting down ideas, and humming tunes into a tape recorder. Whatever crossed my path turned into potential material for my songs. This is still pretty much the way I write. I go around figuring the universe is trying to tell me something, so I’d better listen.

The other reason I like the term “time consciousness” is the way it connects to the marvelous truth that all we ever have is this moment, and another way of saying that is all we really have is time. And maybe not as much of it as we assume. I try to hold this loosely, so that I’m not neurotically thinking “must get this done before I die” in a freaked-out, Type A kind of way; neither am I just lolling about eating bon bons and watching American Idol (though Katryna might be). I try to keep a schedule and also an eye open to the plans of others, in case they have a better idea of what I should be doing with my time than I do. Sort of like that excellent 38 Special song “Hold On Loosely.”

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