“No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a strange, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham
You may not be redefining the world of dance like Martha did (my own musically-induced gyrations have prompted people to ask if they should call 911), but there is a bit of habitual dissatisfaction in all of us.
And I think it’s awesome.
But I didn’t always feel that way.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– Christopher Robin to Winnie The Pooh
As I kid, I loved the tales of a potbellied bear and his posse that included a tiny pig, a grumpy donkey and a boy who adored him. His innocence made me smile, and I could definitely relate to his insatiable sweet tooth (honey for him, anything chocolate for me).
But as an adult, I realize that the stories aren’t just cute, they are full of wisdom and comfort…two things I could certainly use right now.
Which is why I’m writing this today.
The other night, my husband asked me, “If you could choose one moment in your life to live over again, what would it be?”
As one scenario after another flooded my mind, I decided further clarification was in order. So, I countered with, “Do you mean ‘relive’ as in it was so awesome I want to experience it again? Or as in, ‘Man, I screwed that up, and I wish I could go back and fix it?’”
He smiled and said, “Which one did you jump to first?”
And my response surprised me.
One of my very favorite Far Side cartoons is the one where the guy is admonishing his dog, “Ginger, I told you to stay out of the garbage! I’ve had it, Ginger!” and all she hears is “Blah blah blah…Ginger…blah blah blah…Ginger!”
I find it hilarious because – more often than I care to admit – I converse with my dogs like this after they’ve dug a hole to China in the backyard or treated the cat box like their personal snack bar. As they listen to me ranting in exasperation, I can see the thought bubbles forming above their canine noggins: “Oh, silly woman. If only you knew the joy of dirt flying in your face, or the delectable taste sensation of fresh cat turds. But alas, I shall let you continue in your blissful ignorance of the finer things in life.”
(Okay, so my dogs have ridiculous thought bubbles. They get it from their Mom.)
In this age of people sharing everything from their lunchtime burger to their family vacations on social media, it would seem that none of us have a problem being seen.
But being looked at isn’t the same as being truly seen.
It’s not a big risk to share a meme or join in the latest Facebook argument over whether we just swore in the savior of the free world or a misogynistic Cheeto. But revealing your whole, true self to the world (and no, half-naked selfies don’t count)…that’s an entirely different animal.
And it’s easier said than done. I know, because I wasn’t willing to do it for a very long time.
Like, oh…for about four decades.
“I’m only human.”
I used to say that all the time. Usually when I was failing miserably at something and wanted to deflect any suggestion that I should step up my game.
“I can’t write a book. I’m too busy. “
“I can’t create a website. Technology hates me.”
“How am I supposed to eat a salad when a perfectly good pan of brownies is in grave danger of going stale?”
I’m only human.
But while those three little words provided me with a handy-dandy hall pass for avoidance, it always felt wrong. Like I was using my status as a mere mortal as an excuse to not rise higher. To achieve all that I knew I was capable of.
So, what’s wrong with declaring yourself to be human?
We all fall in different places on the scale of competitiveness. Some are completely passive when it comes to keeping up with those around them. Others will knock their brains out trying to one-up anyone over things ranging from the obvious (career and monetary success) to the asinine (taking eight minutes to order a drink at Starbucks to show us black coffee loving rubes how it’s done).
I’m not saying competition doesn’t serve a purpose. Try having a Super Bowl where no one wins. Or a marketplace where there is only one brand of anything available. Sometimes we need competition in the world to keep things exciting and in balance.
But what about in your own life?
As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft. Tell better stories. Write more engaging posts. Develop films that truly move people.
But the fact is, it’s hard to improve your writing when you aren’t actually doing it.
So, the other thing I’m always looking for are surefire tips on how to get my ass moving when everything but the keyboard is calling for my attention.
And thanks to blogger Ali Luke’s wise words, I have found a method that works for me every time I use it.
It’s hugely scientific. You may want to take notes.
Ready? Here goes…
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Normally, that phrase is said with irony after some outlandish statement. (“This cake contains anti-oxidant laden dark chocolate, plus protein rich milk and eggs. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me to be shoveling it in my mouth at six-thirty in the morning. Pretty sure Jillian Michaels eats a slice right before she bench presses a truck.”)
I have definitely used sticking to my story in defense of breakfast cake (and will continue to do so). But I’ve also employed it in some less frivolous scenarios. Like sticking to a story I really wanted to write when it just wasn’t working.
A workout that consists of one push up. Reading 2 pages of a book. Writing 50 words.
Yes, those are actual daily goals.
And believe it or not, they can lead you to exercising for 30 minutes a day. Reading over 100 books a year. Or writing multiple books of your own, one after the other.
I’m talking about the concept of “mini habits.” And as ridiculous as it sounds, they actually do work.