Sunday, September 28, 2008

Little Gems

I am trying to sort through piles of mail, email and other neglected mess. In my email mailbox I found pictures of my uhm...what is the correct term for the son of my niece? Grand nephew? GACK. :) Let's call him Gavigan the beautiful baby and leave it at that. Rumor had it when Gavigan was born that he was going to have brown eyes...but wow, he's got Newman blues.

I spent Saturday NOT working, after a series of weeks and weekends with more work than I'd like. Someone I like and respect very much described me as a workaholic on Friday, and the word surprised me. I'm not, as most people know. I am a person who hates to disappoint those I work with, and who is a perfectionist - and a dreamer. But I had to admit that from his shoes, I probably look like a workaholic. Interesting. So on Saturday I walked, and practiced a new belly dance step (just one, yes, that's why I can DO bellydance, it's the same steps over and over...) to the Robert Plant and Allison Krauss song "Fortune Teller" - fun. Also watched some movies and generally just chilled. Today I'm gearing up for a long bike ride in the beautiful fall air.

One of my friends recently said, with much alarm in her voice, that she didn't want to see me paint myself into a corner. Which is sort of funny to me - despite her great intentions. Painting oneself into a corner is the act of making a decision that limits options. More than anything, my experience is that life paints you into the corner, not that it is a series of reasoned decisions. You make the best decision you can in the moment, start painting, and then poof - life throws a bucket of paint over your escape route. It's just how the world works.

Also, like a lot of perceptions - the phrase implies, somehow, a permanent state. It implies that if we make decisions that paint us into a corner, we'll somehow be marooned there. And what is the truth? If we paint ourselves into a corner we have two options - wait for the paint to dry and walk calmly back to where we started, or walk on wet paint and deal with the mess that will create, and the rework. Either are a choice, one we can make actively. And choices can be unmade, and rethought, and...well, you know the drill. What we all hope for is some crazy escape door to appear, but most of the time it's a decision and not an escape.

Some people find the thought of waiting for the paint to dry impossible, but I am not one of them. In part, that's because I'm very aware of the mess that walking on the wet paint will create, and I'm quite sure I'll likely be the one who cleans it up. But my patience sometimes surprises people who know me, who see my impatience with minutiae and think it extends to bigger questions. Nope. Bigger things create bigger messes if quickly reversed, so about big things, I can wait. I can. I do. I've learned how. I've learned to wait out my first response and make sure it is real, and true. What I'm not good at is recognizing that when painted into that corner, I could choose to walk on the wet paint, pull the "undo" ripcord and try again right this very minute. Every day we choose. Every hour. That is a freeing thought. I'm filing it under MacGyver move number 7.

My friend Al recently had a story publication in a journal that we all admire (see it here). I'm thrilled for him. But like all writers, my thoughts turned immediately to what I'm not doing with my own work. Al's success is related to what he (and his wife) have done to make his writing a priority. I'm painted into a corner on this one - if other things in my life demand to be priorities, how do I choose between two important priorities. Let's just physical health and writing? I don't know. It seems maybe the lens should fall on the other things that are demanding center stage. My work, demands on me at home. I say writing is a priority, I once said THE priority, but...I don't make it so, and that is something I can change so long as I'm aware that it may create a mess when I walk on the wet paint between me and the point where I can reframe that decision.

Some lucky, gifted souls are successful in what we choose to make a priority. And of course, everything can't be a priority in our lives. I can pack a lot into my days, but it is not possible to pack everything I want to have, everything I'd like to do, into the hours I'm allotted. So I need to choose. We all do. We all are choosing. Choose mindfully.

~ patti