who designs your life?

“It takes as long as it takes,” my singing teacher used to tell me in his supportively annoying fashion. “There is no substitute for time and experience.”

Yeah, well, it is hard to think that the skill you are attempting to integrate, the new habits you are attempting to establish, the new way of thinking you are struggling to adopt… will take time. Lots of time, lots of practice. Day after day, month after month, year after year.

We can feel oppressed about the nature of human learning and the process of becoming more than who we were, or we can see it as a journey we are meant to take. As the old cliché goes… “what do you mean it will take me 10 years to be pretty good at (insert goal here)? Do you know how old I will be??” Answer: “And how old will you be if you don’t?”

Today, my knees have scars from all the times I have fallen flat on my face, not even knowing why I staggered, so asleep, so wounded that, in a sense, falling seemed right. Seemed like all I could do well. You don’t know the hours I have spent in the dark night of the soul, despairing. Even now I can’t tell you why we are here, or why we hurt each other, or why we can’t seem to get things right. All I know is that the gift of this life is a precious thing and I’m damned if I’m going to lose a moment of it.

So I struggle to get things right. Every day is a journey with bumps and turns and challenges. Sometimes I feel a light glowing inside, and I’m able to be grateful for the work at hand and questions I am able to answer. It’s funny how time seems to ebb and flow over the course of the day. One minute, you are thinking, “OMG, 3 hours more…” and the next minute you are thinking how much you are enjoying what you’re doing. As long as it isn’t the dishes.

I’m reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” right now, and got out a notebook & filled up a page with all the things in my brain that I think I have to get done sometime. I tried to just write it down and get it out of me and put it on the page, haphazardly, without giving anything priority. He’s right in one thing he says – half the stress I feel is getting this brain drain from knowing there are things to be done, and being terrified I’ll forget them. To do lists and calendars help, but it’s not everything. I like the idea of getting every single thing you need to do out of you and down somewhere where you can trust you will see it. Next, ask ‘why’ you need to do it. And then figure out what the next step should be.

I’m thinking I’ll start some sort of project based sheet system, where I take a sheet of paper, head it up with an item – like “groceries” – and then add all the things that go around the grocery thing. Like, cleaning the fridge, and ordering organics, getting out to the store, and maybe even the grocery list itself. Or “music” with a list of the projects I’m working on (and who with), and exactly where I am in the process – waiting for the other person to get me some music, or needing to research styles, or what.

My problem is what to do with those sheets once I’ve got them going. I wish I could paste them all up on a wall so they’d be visible, but I think that’s impossible. So maybe I’ll create a work binder.

One thing that I still have difficulty with is the personal items. When I was on a coaching call a while back, they were talking about independent artists and time management. One thing they pointed out is that you need to include the personal stuff on your task list. I’d never thought of that. Prior to that, I had been feeling very guilty about thinking that it would be nice if I could afford a housecleaning service or had someone to pick up my groceries. I still struggle with that idea, but I know that housework, laundry, groceries, are like anvils around my neck, pulling me down. Just not my favorite things to do and yet, without them, the ship doesn’t really sail very well. But I’m working on trying to get these things into my schedule. And actually do them, too.

I included on my big brainstorming list everything from figuring out when & how to do laundry (Tuesday, get a ride to the Laundromat from my band-mate after rehearsal, take the bus home) to organizing stuff for my summer holiday (call sis & make an appointment for a shopping trip, get to Zellers, buy the totes & tarps), to the book I want to write (find all the notes I already have and put them in one place).

As a self-employed artist/teacher/mentor/writer/etc, I am the architect of my own days. I may take on projects, or mentor students, but I am the one structuring my time and my tasks. It was not an easy transition, going from years of school or working in an office, with structure that was imposed, to being the one responsible for creating what happens and when. Especially when you are a creative person who likes to “play”. Although I have achieved a fair bit, I am aware that I often flounder.

So I’m trying to overcome my sense of drowning in the details, and get very clear. Why? Because I want to live as fully as possible and grow beyond my programming and become more than I could have ever dreamed.

I just don’t want to wake up one day and be 92, lying in my bed, stroking the cat, looking through the window at a hill I never had the courage to climb. I want to be the day dreamer who realized her dreams. If that means getting someone else to do the laundry, count me in.


Susanne said...

Thank you for this post. I found the "Getting Things Done"-system very helpful, only I found that I actually have to do the things on my lists once in a while.
I'm just starting to get back to the new habits I taught myself in recent years. It's very frustrating to know that I am constantly popping back into old habit patterns. On the other hand I know that I can change those because I already have in the past.

I often long for being one of these persons who have an epiphany and then just change once and for all, but I'm not and so I have to do everything over and over and over again.

(Sorry, I should write a blog post about this, not a comment.)

Jannie Sue "Funster" said...

Zellers, there's a blast-from-the-past name for me, since I spent my my first 26 years in Canada. No Zellers here. Hey, don't I still have a bunch of Club-Zed points somewhere? I was going to cash in on that lemon squeezer.

Ebb and flow... I felt like a zero yesterday because of a new hurdle involved in getting my site revamped with a Comments box. (Apparently Wordpress does not allow any Google ads on participating sites.) But today I've bounced back, realizing it's only a small setback and goshdarn if the Japanese can build an island (Build An Island!) in a harbour and construct an international airport on it, surely I can find the right blogging software combination to make janniefunster.com exactly as I envision it. Amen.

I'll have a browse at that David Allen book you mention, thanks for the suggestion.

And thanks for the inspiration. I did my dishes yesterday!