Oh, it’s there, alright. Tapping on my shoulder. Giving me The Look.
This is why I hesitate to start writing. Because the thoughts start coming hard and fast and very often there’s no stopping them. And if they don’t get written, they’re gone. They travel out into the atmosphere. They leave our solar system. Some early ones are way out near Pluto by now, I imagine.
I can’t help but think, “Damn! I should have got that one down!”
But more pertinent than that is the recurrence of The Look. Oh my, I just realized EXACTLY who and what illustrates The Look. BBC Scotland has been producing a series of short films entitled “Scenes for Survival” – monologues mostly- and posting them online. My favorite is about a man wrangling with his neighborhood birds over the type of food he’s putting out for them. The actor is Peter Mullan. And when he takes on the character of a jackdaw, he’s got The Look exactly right.
So now I have a name for it. The Jackdaw. He likes to land on my shoulder and peck, peck, peck, then give me his penetrating stare a la Peter Mullan.
Yeah, yeah. You know I have things to do today, right? Bookkeeping? A pile of sewing repairs? Things I was gonna do???
The Jackdaw stares.
Yeah, whatever – I say plugging in my phone because its almost out of juice – let me at least go brush my teeth and get dressed.
The Jackdaw is like a loyal, annoying friend. Much loved because he reminds me to write. Also, despised because he is relentlessly right. Much like a teacher, parent or partner that always has your best interests at heart. Grrrrrrrr.
But I digress… Back to the matter at hand. Starting over! Reboot! Reinvent! Beginning again! Here we go.
More things to keep in mind then. I will call them TtKiMs. In your head, you just heard me say something like “tick ‘em”s. (Yes, short for Things to Keep in Mind. Just ask my colleagues at Rowan Tree Travel how much I like acronyms. They’ll tell you I am ridiculously enamored of them. And I’m not even in the military!) A couple of TtKiMs we’ve already covered: don’t hide, resist the urge to take immediate action.
The Jackdaw taps on my shoulder to convey another useful tidbit for these times.
Maintain (or get) perspective.
Now when I say perspective, I mean appropriate perspective. This thing may not be your whole world ending. It might just be a pivoting point. As in “Keep heading in that direction, but just a little north of where you were going before. There you go.” Or, the circumstances might indeed be world collapsing. If they are, then it’s important to recognize that fact. If they’re not, it’s important to recognize that as well.
Case in point: there’s a pandemic going on. Yes, it interrupts, amongst other things, international travel. And that’s my work. Rowan Tree Travel takes small groups of knitters, weavers and all manner of makers (plus their non-maker family and friends) on trips overseas. But an interruption in travel does not mean Heather and I have to throw up our hands, cry “We’re done for!” and close the business. (Anyway, we’re sure as hell not gonna do that. Are we, Heather?!!) After a three month frenzy of tour cancellations last spring, we were able to catch our breath in the summer and try to grasp what the pandemic really would mean for us. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it touches everything. But we think it’s temporary. So, how do we survive temporary? And with that as an accurate assessment of our starting point, we could start moving forward.
Perspective also helps with patience. If The Thing that’s causing you to have to start again is tremendously big, well then settle in for a long, long process. It helps to know you don’t have to, in fact won’t have to, start again until things have had time to explode, settle, re-sort themselves and line up for moving forward. Big things usually play out this way. Death. A change in career. A health situation. Proper perspective has helped me keep my responses in tune with the situation. We all know people who respond to circumstance way out of proportion to its actual importance. I even know a few folks who fail to respond to circumstances that really should command their attention. Somewhere between those two extremes, I think, lies a balanced response. And seeing clearly is the key to finding balance.
If you can’t see clearly, take a step away. Or ask a trusted friend. Or get away from things for a bit. I use stepping away all the time. Always have. When I was a teenager, I used to drive up to a picnic table at the foot of the Sandia mountains in Albuquerque. Sitting there, gazing out at the cars, houses and various constructs of human beings in relation to the larger landscape of the Rio Grande valley and surrounding mountains… well, it made the issues of who liked whom and my own angst pretty darned small. Getting a proper perspective meant I could shake them off on get on with everything. Thank goodness!
So, proper perspective. Get it. Know it. Live it. (Oh, I think that’s a quote from a movie. Don’t recall which one.) This may not be a situation where total obliteration of all standing structures is at hand. Maybe just a turn to the left. It might be a “bloom where you’re planted” kind of thing. Before you start tearing apart everything in sight, and having a possibly huge effect on the people around you, ask yourself whether your perspective might not be a little skewed. Better to ask now than regret later. Lots of things we do in the frenzy of the moment cannot be undone later. And if it really is a situation that requires total obliteration, well, you’ll at least have verified that it’s so before detonating. That can’t be a bad thing.
Here’s another useful TtKiM. I’ll try not to go on and on about it.
Give it a rest.
I really mean it. Just put the whole thing aside from time to time. I remember being advised to do this at one point when I was in my early thirties. (Just a short time ago! ahem…) My cousin, Jeff, said to me “Okay, okay. But can you just take a week off from thinking about this? Put it to the side. Don’t dwell on it. Then come back to it later?!?!” At the time, I had no idea why he would suggest such a thing.
What?!?! This is important! I have to think about it until I figure it out!!! Put it aside… <walks off, shaking head> Put it aside. What an idiot! To suggest such a thing.
Turns out, he was right. Like that damn Jackdaw. See? What did I say about parents and teachers and partners that have your best interest at heart? Add in family members and good friends. Love them. So annoyingly right though.
But what I didn’t understand then and do now is that putting the Big Thing aside for a short period of time is not “doing nothing”. It actually does a couple of very useful things! One, it allows your subconscious to take the lead in wrestling with the situation. Who knew such a thing was possible? Not me. I had no idea. But for some reason, I did eventually try his suggestion. I tried putting the tangled knot down. I made myself think of other things. Lo and behold, I turned my attention back around to find my subconscious had untangled the thing for me.
These days, I use this technique often. Running into a wall? Can’t figure out what to do? Obsessing over something that absolutely, positively cannot be solved right now? Set it aside. I mean it. Clarity shows up in the early hours of the morning. Answers well up out of nowhere during my afternoon walks. I’ve learned to make space for my subconscious to work. Consciously moving your thoughts away from where they want to run around (“on the hamster wheel” some call it) is a skill worth developing. I think meditation, yoga, drawing, certain forms of exercise and of course, techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short. Hooray! An acronym! ❤️❤️❤️) help you practice. And for those who find themselves “in their head” much of the time, it’s an essential skill for survival.
Just give it a rest. Come back to it later. You will. And things will look different. You might even have gained a bit of ground.
So now, despite more things piling up on my head, I’ve GOT to go do other things. I really do. I’m going to take a dose of my own medicine and give it a rest.
One of my friends posted a question about how to address strong feelings that are deeply rooted, as we reboot. I have some thoughts on that. (Really!? No surprise there!) And I’ll write about them tomorrow.
Bon soir, mes amies!