Monday, September 28, 2009

*8Things: You Need to Practice to Get Good At

"Ah, practice. The natural enemy of the moderately talented."
My favorite quote from Magpie Girl last week!

Here's my take from that post:

The things we are naturally, innately, good at are like rafting down stream; all it takes is a bit of steering, and we are there, flying along, following the channel as if it was made for us. Or actually, that we were made for it! There's nothing like finding the ideal channel for our talents and our lives.

It's so easy to flow with the talent, to float downstream. But it's harder to go a-journeying up an intriguing side branch. That takes a little more work. The water doesn't flow as easily, plus it's often uphill. But like salmon, something compels you to heave yourself forward up the stream, following the trickle of water to your desire.

Magpie Girl challenges us to name 8 Things You Need To Practice to Get Good At.

The first one is that I have a hard time persevering with things that don't come easily. So:

1. Persevere with things that don't come easily.

I tend to think that I'm no good when I run into something that's difficult or awkward for me. Not true, but I have to push through the rough patches first.

Underneath that is ... Avoiding discouragement and self doubt. Another biggie. I am so not great at this. Mr Sweetie has been very helpful over the years, but I still have to do all the work. *sigh*

Whoops! heh. I mean, yeah, I sure do have a lot of practice avoiding sliding into discouragement! It's right up there with having a hard time doing the things that are difficult for me. I'm practicing.

2. Play a musical instrument.

I love music. I've fallen in love with numerous instruments over the years, but have not made much headway with any of them except, slightly, with singing. It is painful to play out loud and hear myself squeaking or otherwise torturing the notes. But I still have hope that I will (someday) persevere. I should probably learn to play something simply to practice persevering!* These days I have my eye on a completely different instrument than ever before (something that will allow me to play with other people and be encouraged by similarly-minded musicians), and have hopes it will shake me out of my earlier frustrations.

3. Go with the flow.

I remember the revelation of a special weekend wherein I was determined to not spend so much energy *anticipating* all the wonderful things (and fretting over whether and when they would come), but to just enjoy them as they came (or didn't). Wow! It was fun! But I still do not sit well without some sort of anxious expectations, so I have much more practice to do on this one.

4. Make friends and maintain social contacts.

I both enjoy talking with people (even people I don't know well), and am shy about becoming better known and/or vulnerable to being hurt or judged. (I know this doesn't make sense but that's part of the dynamic for me.) I hate to reveal myself and then end up feeling like the odd duck. I have to really work at keeping up contacts because my tendency is to hide in the house! Yes, it is so much simpler, but ultimately counter productive. I have to constantly encourage myself to invest in friendships without getting so anxious or discouraged.

5. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and not let my mind take on all the distraction it wants.

Really, I don't have to check email one more time or follow semi-interesting news stories. Go. To. Bed!

6. Follow my own path without looking for clues from other people.

I sometimes have an excessive amount of consideration for other people's plans. Sometimes I get stuck waiting for something that never happens because I'm waiting for someone else to decide or act on something. Sometimes I just need to make my own plans for the afternoon, weekend or life, and not worry about coordinating.

(Interesting how many personal revelations I'm pulling up by simply brainstorming this exercise! Self-improvement city, here.)

7. Letting go of sentimental items. Oy! Letting go of anything I *might* need. Double Oy!

Little personally meaningful tchotchkes are irresistible to me. Things my sisters or friends gave me a long time ago or this or that from my childhood. Do I really need to keep all of these? Just to remember a person or a time? They are silting up my life, yet it's dreadful actually giving them up. Then there are things like random city information and medical paperwork. Who knows when I might need it again? I'm working on it: Something comes in the house; one or two things have to leave. FlyLady has been a huge help.

8. Caring enough to dress stylishly.

Wow, another one of those things I have (had) almost completely given up on. It's hard for me to deal with the complexity of dressing well, so I get impatient and don't bother or end up sticking with really mundane combinations. I got so sick of this, but what could I do?

I did start working up a wardrobe strategy through MissusSmartyPants the year before last. It was so much fun, I thought, hey, I can do this! And then 'ere I'd barely gotten my new system up and running, I found myself expecting and expanding, and then nursing and mostly milk-stained. And now it seems there's hardly any point to wearing nice clothes for a year or two. I'm all about washables & durables right now. But still, I am looking forward to working on this again! I'm looking forward to fitting into my nicer clothes... um, when do babies stop spitting up on you? But on the other hand, I've started restocking my wardrobe in bits and pieces to fit my current self. Most of it is not particularly stylish, but I feel good dressing in clothes that actually fit me.


So all of these are a stretch for me. I'm not good at any of them, but I can remind myself to practice them. I don't have to be perfect at them to do them at all; I think that's the point. Am I a poster child for FlyLady or what? :)

Next up: I need to find something to try for the fun of it or for hell of it. Something I can allow myself to be bad at, and allow myself to just play with it and practice the practicing.

Happily enough, I have found a few successes and new endeavors to report! More to come.

Grace in Small Things 33:365

1. Beating the storm home. Skies went from dusky to dark to scary in a hurry. I just made it as the lightning started to crack it open.

2. Small, colorful nested prep bowls. I so love prep bowls.

3. Blueberry-cranberry sour cream coffee cake. I got the last piece and shared it with my husband.

4. Strumming 3-chord songs and singing along. oh my darling Clementine, oh brother how my heart grows weary, singing Pollywaddledoodle all the day

5. Happy baby smiling wide and showing off her first teeth. The grin is so wide and the teeth, so serrated. Believe that they are sharp!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grace in Small Things 32:365

1. Colorful, nested food-prep bowls.

2. Apple pie crumble with a hint of crunchy-crisp burnt sugar on the pastry.

3. Hummus with roasted pine nuts.

4. Rain coming down in a thundering sheet.

5. Seeing people dance with such joy on their faces and in their bodies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finding Joy, Creativity & Sincerity

Another post prompted by a comment on another person's blog.

It's so cool that a bloggie friend (may I call you a friend?) has not only quit smoking but has continued to stick it out. It's even cooler that she has started tapping into what she calls "this life force that runs through everything" and "that force of love, that vein of energy, that runs through life and can be discovered if we are open to experience it." Then she starts talking about joy and creativity, and boy, I just fell in love with her all over again.

But it's awkward to talk about these deep spiritual feelings. We laugh it off, poke fun at ourselves. She called herself a raging hippie, referenced patchouli and mood-altering drugs (I mean the illegal ones).

And so I commented, "... *whew* it is hard to quit smoking and persevere, and it's hard to admit to universal feelings of interconnected spirit and overflowing love. No patchouli or ganja required. It is amazing, but why is it so hard to admit to that?"

Maybe such revelations of universal love seem too good to be true. Maybe we tend to think that all spiritual senses need to be categorized to be safe and understood: Hippie or Saved or Born-Again or Spirit of Life or God or Mystic or "wafting patchouli" or... whatever.

Maybe we just do not have a good vocabulary for experiences that do not fit into conventional denominational boxes. It's so easy to be mis-understood or to be waylaid by people wanting to put us in their own boxes, safe in a defined description. Or as one friend asked, "Are you saved now?" Uh, no. Often, spiritual experiences don't fit into prescribed boxes. So how to explain it?

Once I tried to explain my wild and amazing spiritual experience to my women's group. Everybody seemed a little uncomfortable. Maybe it's any whiff of proselytizing that puts people off. Maybe it's that anyone *else's* experience seems a little unreal, so unlike our own personal ones. Maybe I should just shut it and keep it to myself. I'm not the more enlightened one in the city, so who am I to preach/share, etc.

(For the record, I wasn't trying to preach, just share an experience that was unexpected and wonderful. But I was nervous as hell to open up that small door to my inner self. Ah well.)

So as I continued in my comment, "Rather than have to make excuses (or make fun of it) to my friends and family, I just don't talk much about my experiences. But wow, is it powerful regardless. I'm so glad that you are loving yourself more, and I hope the rest of us can be inspired to follow!" Concluding, *Quashing desire to make fun of my own sincerity.*

Oh, maybe that's it; we are afraid to be sincere in our searches and findings. We are afraid to be mocked or judged.

But still, that flow of "joy and creativity" calls to me. It doesn't always announce itself in lights and colors, but sometimes merely being reminded of it gives my heart a lift.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Martha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you."

I think this feels like the creativity = life force that schmutzie referenced. And to be open to the flow, we need to loosen some of our long-held defenses. Scary, eh?

Which also reminds me of some writings by Charlotte Joko Beck about that "flow" of being is like a stream. Very roughly paraphrased, she writes that if we allow the stream to channel where it needs to go, all is good. If we try to hold onto the energy and keep it in one place, the stream gets stagnant and starts to collect leaf litter and gunk. (To read more, look for her books such as Nothing Special: Living Zen. Interesting and inspiring reading.)

I find it very interesting that just as this one blogger is trying to shift her habits (i.e. stop smoking), she is discovering the call to give her creativity greater expression or greater reign. She's seeing her old (bad) habit as keeping her stuck in a self-destructive, self-limiting place. She's flushing out old debris and discovering... love. Without putting labels on it, she's discovering that she wants to live with greater love and creativity. Greater joy, if you will.

I'll toast to that: Greater Love and Creativity and Joy.

I'll also add to that list: Sincerity, for lack of a better word. I'll say, "Yes! I feel it. It's what I want in my life." How does that song go?
Let the Love Flow. May it be so.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grace in Small Things 31:365

1. Open air amphitheaters.

2. Applause that sounds like rain pattering.

3. Homemade oatmeal muffins.

4. Baby decides she likes eating after all.

5. Live music sound effects at puppet shows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Grace in Small Things 30:365

1. Cool weather crickets singing.

2. Back to school mornings.

3. Full moon light turning leaves all silvery.

4. Slap bass. e.g. heard on Come On In by Skeedaddle .

5. Sweaty but enthusiastic dancers.

Grace in Small Things 29:365

1. The advent of apple season.

2. Far-off lines of trees against the swells of a landscape.

3. Colorful sticky-notes for daily task lists.

4. Ticklish baby bellies.

5. Duck tape.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grace in Small Things 28:365

1. Grace in Small Things, which prompts me to look at the good side of life.

2. Pushpins on cork board.

3. Inspired pasta salad combinations - thrifty, filling, and healthy.

4. Friends who give high fives and appreciation.

5. Cooler days.