This is funny . . . but also sort of pro

This is funny . . . but also sort of profound. Lately, what have you considered starting, but then dismissed because it will take too long?

Going back to school?
Building an intricate project?
Writing a book?
De-cluttering your entire house?

Some projects are too huge, too daunting to take on all at once. You think, “Wait! That will take me five years! I’ll be (insert age) by then.”

So the question is, how old will you be in five years if you DON’T start?

Start. Take baby steps, but start.

Do You Qualify to Exist in Public Places?

It’s not what you look like, sister. It’s how the people around you identify your looks (you’re pretty, or fat, or homely, or boyish, or whatever), and what they feel you deserve as a result of their assessment.

Do you deserve to walk down the street and go about your business unmolested?
Do you deserve to attend class without worrying about whether some nearby boy will go apeshit over your bare shoulders?
Do you deserve to follow your passion for your work?
Do you deserve to remain at your job even though you refuse to have sex or flirt with your boss?
Do you deserve to be treated well in your romances?
Do you deserve to be laughed at because you’re wearing a bikini?
Do you deserve to feel pretty in your new outfit?

They believe they have the right (even the obligation) to judge you and decide. We are taught to support them in judging others and to embrace their right to judge us. We are taught shame (for being too pretty, too prudish, too plump, too bony, too homely).

We have to keep rejecting this. It’s so internalized, it feels impossible. But we have to refuse to play the game — whether it’s about others our ourselves. We have to reject the shame, and embrace wholeness. We have to insist insist insist that we are complete human beings worthy of respect.

I used to the be the Supreme Multi-tasker

I used to the be the Supreme Multi-tasker (really — they issued me a special badge). I read novels while on the treadmill. I took notes on documentaries while spoon feeding babies and kneading bread by hand. I administered IV’s while practicing songs for church and cross-stitching Christmas gifts.

In other words, I was always distracted. Of course I did a lot of stupid things. I forgot appointments. I broke things. I stepped on dogs’ feet while cooking. I was ambitious, but I always fell short of my goals.

My mantra these days is, “I’m old now.” It sounds negative, but for me, it’s not. That’s me, claiming a privilege. That’s me, saying to the hyper-critical generation before me that I’m done feeling pressured and inadequate and rushed. I’ve been through a lot (who hasn’t?). I’ve earned my stripes. Maybe I WILL get less done in a day, but by gosh I’m going to sit in this chair and read a book without also trying to pay bills and form a boy band in my garage.

Giving up multi-tasking felt like a risky choice. Life is so very short — surely I need to do ALL THE THINGS. TODAY. But I made the choice any way. It felt more difficult than it should have, to only paint, to only write, to only clean. To only drive. To only listen to my kid talk about her day. To only pet the cat.

I mean — only pet the cat?? Without doing anything more productive? Petting the cat isn’t even on my to-do list!

Shocking end to this story — I get just as much done. Really, I get more done. Or, at least, I get more things of value done. I gave up baking bread by hand, because, as it turns out, they sell already baked bread in the store. (I’m not dissing you bakers, but it holds no value for me). I got more picky about what I read and watch. I figured out what holds value for me, and I throw myself into it without reserve. Without distraction.

I’m not doing All the Things. But I’m doing the Things that Matter . . . with All of Me.

Mistake Matters

A mistake can feel like the end of the world.

Your heart pounds, blood swishes deafeningly in your ears, your hand shakes . . . it’s a hideous feeling.

And the funny thing is, the scale of the mistake doesn’t always matter. I’ve had that reaction when I misplaced a paper at work, and when I nearly totaled two cars crossing through traffic when I was 8 months pregnant.

That’s not to say there aren’t big mistakes and little ones. Off the cuff, I want to define “big mistakes” as ones with far reaching consequences, but even that isn’t scientific.

To my mind, for example, getting caught selling heroin outside a high school — huge mistake. Period. But of course depending on the court, the judge, the local laws, your legal history and your skin color, the consequences of your action can vary widely. Does that mean that sometimes it was a huge mistake, but sometimes a medium-sized one? No, of course not.

Let’s bring it closer to home. Let’s say you’ve had a long day and while preparing for dinner, you snap at your husband. He realizes you’re overwrought and pitches in to get it done. So snapping at him was a tiny mistake, or maybe not a mistake at all. Same scenario, but your husband freaks out — maybe gets violent. So now snapping was a huge mistake?

In both cases, you did the same thing. You snapped at another human. It ranks an apology, an effort to express yourself more politely. That’s it. Maybe in the second case you have a second mistake — forgetting that you are dealing with an unreasonable jerk.

All mistakes have some consequence of some kind, although the consequences may vary, be out of scale and be unpredictable. But all mistakes can and should be managed.

Define it. Repair what you can. Strategize to avoid repeating it.

Let’s back up and show this in action.

You got caught selling heroin outside a high school. Define the mistake (in layers, in this case):
“I allowed myself to get so desperate that I took a stupid chance.”
“I allowed myself to look past the well-being of another human being.”
“I’m an addict.”

You can probably think of about 100 more in this scenario, but let’s go on to the next step: Repair.

You’ll likely have few choices about this. You’ll get sentenced and serve your time, or go around with brand new ankle jewelry. If you influenced young kids, you might have the opportunity to tell them that heroin was actually a bad idea. Maybe you write an apology note to the parents of the kids, admitting you damaged their families.

And, finally, Strategize.

This might involve rehab, further education, avoiding old acquaintances, and finding a counselor or mentor to guide you to better paths.

In the second scenario, you snapped at your husband while preparing dinner. Obviously, this is way on the other end of the mistake spectrum, but we can still apply the three steps:

Define: I snapped, which, while not the end of the world, feels pretty rough to the person on the receiving end. This isn’t how I want to set a tone in my home.

Repair: “Sorry, honey. I’m so tired but that’s no excuse for talking to you like that.”

Strategize: “I guess I should have gotten more sleep last night instead of watching that movie. Let’s make Saturday movie night so I can sleep longer, okay?”

But what if the consequence was completely out of scale, like our last example?

Let’s try the formula:

Define: I snapped at my husband. So I deserved the bruising that followed.

Repair: Ice on the bruises. I was probably already forced to apologize.

Strategize: Never snap again?

That’s absurd, of course, but you might be tempted. You’ve got to know the difference between what you control and what you don’t. Maybe you can keep from snapping at him again, but can you control his explosive reactions? You can not. And if you don’t snap, he’ll find some other pretext to explode. That’s on him; not you. That’s not your mistake. So maybe it’s time to define again: what was your mistake?

Define: Being with a violent person to begin with?

Repair: Don’t be with the violent person. (Easier said than done, but that is the only true repair, since you can’t control him. So move on down to strategize.)

Strategize: Sock away money. Find others to help. Call police . . .

I know this last example seems extreme and unnecessary, but I use it to make a clear point: To strategize a true solution, you really have to define the mistake correctly.

If your mother is outraged because you bought a car without discussing it with her first, was your mistake that you didn’t call her first? No, your mistake was in not setting clear boundaries.

If your kid stole money from your purse and blamed you for being miserly with the allowance, was your mistake in the amount of the allowance? No, your mistake was not setting limits with the kid. Get a job, junior. Go mow lawns.

If your boss threatens to fire you because you didn’t complete a task he forgot to tell you about, was your mistake not reading his mind? Of course not. But now that you know how he can be, you can jump right to strategize — Ask him what your priority is for the day. Document his requests. Encourage him to email lists to you . . .

If you have trouble defining exactly what your mistake is, try talking it through with a trusted friend or counselor. The first step to empowering yourself is recognizing the truths that make us uncomfortable.