Part 1 (In which I encounter the End of the World)
Have you ever noticed that when you make a big decision and commitment, the Universe seems to choose that very moment to send you the exact thing that will most challenge you?
Happens every time.
“I will no longer do that kind of client work, so I can make room to bring in the kind of work I really want!” [Cue ringing of phone, with a client on the other end of the line, asking for exactly the kind of work you’re trying to stop doing, with the funds to pay for it.]
“I am getting back to my exercise routine, dammit, starting today!” [Cue the entrance of your youngest child, who has just stuck a rock in her ear, necessitating an emergency trip to Urgent Care during what would have been your gym time.]
“I am going back off sugar and wheat — my body just can’t take it!” [Cue the arrival of an Evite to a dessert party hosted by your best friend.]
Or how about this:
After taking on too much (again — how does that happen?) and falling off the wagon of your lovely 3-Hours-in-the-Morning-Creative-Work-Ritual (again), you are committed to spending even just 15 minutes making art today, AND working on your e-book, dammit!
And just as you’re clearing the clutter off your drafting table, so ready to sink your teeth back into creating you can taste it, the phone rings.
You’re all set to ignore it (after all, the answering machine will handle it), except that the volume’s up, and it turns out to be a past client. With an emergency.
The ketubah arrived weeks ago, but they only just now took a close look at it, and there’s a word there that shouldn’t be.
And the wedding’s on Monday.
Which is a holiday.
And today is Friday.
There goes your lovely morning of creativity.
There goes your Friday yoga class, too, when the replacement ketubah isn’t fully printed by the time you’d have to leave to get there.
(Oh, and there goes $80 — ka-ching — to pay for the overnight shipping and Saturday delivery. Ouch.)
Things like this are going to happen, of course. It’s Murphy’s Law. And when you’re on track, when you’re getting nourished every day, an occasional disruption, while annoying, is not a big deal.
But when you’re out of whack and trying to get back on track, a disruption of a few hours can feel like
Part 2 (In which I regroup)
First step: Notice that it isn’t actually the end of the world.
Second step: Observe that the strength of your reaction is a pretty good sign that you are really ready to make that change.
Third step: Thank the Universe for sending such a clear sign that yes, it is really time to make that change. (Thank you, Universe.)
Fourth step: Look at what systems might need shoring up to help get you — and keep you — on track.
Part 3 (In which I get more specific)
Me? I’m re-committing to blocking off my mornings for creative strategizing, art-making, music & writing.
(Not that this would have saved my sorry ass on this particular morning, but it would have made what felt like a major disaster feel more like the minor annoyance that it actually was in the scheme of things.) (Though I confess that wasting $80 on shipping charges still irks me.)
I’m also looking at the feasibility (ooh — big word!) of shifting my entire schedule over a few hours.
My current M.O. is to work late into the night (in a mad attempt to get stuff done), which invariably leaves me getting a late start in the morning, but still wrung out and in need of a nap (which I almost never actually get).
It’s a system I know is not working optimally, but I’ve been too scared of failure to even try to change it.
The New Year, though, presents a natural “blank slate” in which things that don’t normally seem possible for some reason feel… worth an attempt, at least.
I actually love being up and at ’em earlier in the day. I dream of being a morning person, and truth be told, my body would really, really, really prefer it. (Yes, please!)
It’s just the rest of me that’s not so keen. (No way!)
I don’t like to go to bed.
I want to keep going, like the Energizer Bunny. Honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d eliminate the need for sleep entirely.
Alas, that’s not going to happen. And I wasn’t blessed with low-sleep-need genetics — I’m hard-wired to require more than 8 hours for optimal health and happiness… and yet I rarely ever get it.
As we launch into 2012, though, and as I think about what I want this year to be about for me, I keep coming back to Susan Falcone’s lovely model of 2011 as her Year of Self-Compassion.
Self-Compassion — compassion towards ME, treating myself, first and foremost, with compassion at the forefront — means a lot of things.
- It means scaling back, streamlining, NOT taking on more than I can handle.
- It means thinking carefully, practicing patience, and NOT jumping in with both feet before I’ve figured out how to swim.
- It means giving myself lots of what makes me happiest (time for art, music, walks, friends…) and NOT filling my schedule with obligations that don’t feed me.
- It means being forgiving and gentle with myself, and NOT holding up SuperHuman expectations (and then beating myself up when I don’t achieve them).
(For example: much as I would LOVE to pursue a full-time art business AND a full-time Uke Diva performing and recording career, AND write full time, AND be a full-time inspirationalist/coachsultant/teacher/”can-opener to the creative spirit,” unless and until I clone myself THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE. At least not all at the same time. Who knows — my art or my music may become my full-time primary focus at some point down the road. I may have a flourishing touring schedule in my 70s. But meanwhile, I rely on my Stovetop Model of Life Design to keep me sane.)
Self-compassion also means getting adequate sleep and rest.
Part 4 (In which I disclose the experiment I’ve been reluctant to reveal for fear of massive and embarrassing public failure)
It’s scary as hell for me to share this, but here goes.
For the month of January, I am going to attempt a very radical (for me) thing.
The Great Bedtime Experiment
All you larks will be sniggering, no doubt, but to a night owl like me, getting to bed before midnight (hell, before 2am, most nights!) is nigh impossible.
But I’m going to see if I can do it.
I’ve learned that accountability — especially public accountability — is a powerful motivator. My ArtSpark newsletter got me to make art like nothing else in the past year. I know people are expecting a piece of art to land in their inbox, and WOW does that get me creating!
Knowing I’m on the hook to produce is way more effective at getting me to play in my studio than just about anything else.
Honestly, I find this fact about myself incredibly annoying, but I’m still playing it for all it’s worth!
I’ve also learned that taking on a time-limited challenge — even when it’s not a publicly-made commitment — is very effective.
I never signed up officially to 750words.com, but I faithfully wrote my 750 words every day during the month of November (while riding an exercise bike, no less!)
I’ve discussed it with my sweetie, and he’s ready and willing to support me in my commitment, which is…
In service of self-compassion, and with a larger goal of creating more psychic and energetic space for creative abundance, I, Melissa Dinwiddie, hereby commit to getting to bed — lights out — by 11pm every night in the month of January, 2012.
Official caveat: exceptions will be considered and may be made on a case-by-case basis, only for special events, such as plays, concerts, gigs, or out-of-town visitors.
- I will have to turn my computer OFF by 9:30pm at the absolute latest. (Okay, maybe 10:00.)
- No more “just one more thing..!”
maywill definitely have to scale back in ways foreseen and not foreseen. (Blog post not done? Too bad — it’ll have to go out a day later. Or simply not post at all until next week.)
- I will have to do a much better job of planning ahead. (The secret ulterior motive!!!!)
Do I really think I can do this?
Honestly, I don’t know. I may be confessing to major fails very soon, though I hope not. But this is an experiment, after all.
My hope is that the Great Bedtime Experiment will do more than just get me to go to bed earlier. I have a sneaking suspicion that it could have a much larger impact than the behavior changes I’ve listed above.
This feels really big to me.
Whatever happens, I’ll keep you posted here.
Happy New Year!
Do you have a big change you’d like to make? What would get you to take on the challenge of actually trying it?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!