I had a revelation a few weeks ago. I was thinking about swing dancing. That’s a new hobby I’ve been into lately, and it’s funfunfun. I’ve learned basic East coast swing and a bit of Lindy Hop, plus whatever the partners I dance with feel like doing on a given night. And I found myself thinking about how much fun it was going to be when actually get good at it, rather than being a beginner.
(And although I generally don’t like the phrasing “I found myself _____,” for the purpose of where our thoughts take us when we’re not paying attention or when we’re on automatic, it’s actually perfect.)
And then I noticed the thought. (I am not my thoughts. I am the observer of my thoughts.) And I realized it was just flat wrong. It was me deferring my enjoyment, even my presence, in my life until some indeterminate later date, and that actually being a total beginner at swing dancing is completely enjoyable right at this exact moment.
And just like that, in an instant, I gave myself permission to enjoy my life in the present. Every aspect of it, not just the parts that are fun in the moment, but all of the messy, imperfect, incomplete, in-process, complicated, sometimes-painful NOW parts of it that are happening in the very moment. Like right this minute, when I’m sitting in my living room typing my thoughts on a computer while it’s dark and rainy outside, and I don’t need it to be tomorrow, and I don’t need it to be six months ago. I’m just here now, and it’s good enough.
And I understand at a much deeper level that if I defer my presence in the moment until such future time as I’ve accomplished the goals that are important to me, that will mean I’m dead or dying, and that is a moment I hope I can be fully present for, but I don’t have to start rehearsing now.
I hope I’m making sense. On the one hand, what I’m saying sounds obvious and trivial. Duh! Of course I don’t have to wait until some arbitrary gain in skill to enjoy a hobby. Like, who doesn’t know that?
But what we know and what we believe at our deepest emotional levels are two different things. I both know it and know it, and that makes all the difference.
Along with that comes a different perspective on productivity. I’m getting a lot more done now that I’m not rushing to get it all done, now that I’m staying with the task I’m on right now, not pushing ahead to the end of a neverending to-do list. It turns out that staying present and not trying to get it all done is a good way to get a lot more things done and feel a lot better about the things I didn’t get to.
Just like swing dancing, I can suddenly feel satisfied with having a lot of things in process. My back yard is in pretty bad shape because we haven’t been able to do much meaningful work in it for a couple of years. Instead of feeling like I can’t enjoy it until it’s “done,” whatever that means in an environment filled with plants and animals and soil, I actively enjoy knowing that it’s a work in process and that each work period I spend in it I can be satisfied with the progress I’m making. That it’s perfect right now for what I’m doing. That when I am “done” with the work, the memories of all of those work periods will be something I enjoy along with the finished product–that the time spent working is inseparable from the result.
And everything is like that for me lately.
Similarly, I have a new-to-me sense of lightness and effortlessness in motivating myself to do tasks. Some indescribable burden and inertia that I used to carry into every endeavor has just, sort of…vanished. It’s like I’ve been swimming fully clothed all my life, and now I finally took it all off. There’s no conscious or unconscious wind-up or psyching up necessary to get going on tasks, whether they are for work or pleasure. Nor is there any conscious or unconscious recovery, “boy was that rough,” (like I’m conserving my energy or spent too much) or post-action analysis if other people (and their drama) were involved. It’s all down to “what’s next?”
Knowing this, I finally have the tools to, I think, get out from under what seems like a lot of deferred organizational work, and also to be pretty zen about taking it one day at a time and enjoying the process as much as the (anticipated) end result. I’m suddenly aware that a day has plenty of hours in it, as long as I prioritize and maintain boundaries on time and commitments.
I’ve already started incorporating some new habits into my routine–without any real effort or drama. For example, I started a daily vacuuming routine, because we have way too much pet hair around here, and I enjoy having a cleaner home. In the past, that kind of change would take a lot of effort and I would probably end up abandoning it. Every stage would be burdened with self-flagellation and subconscious shame, particularly the inevitable failure, for which I would blame myself and come up with both stories justifying why I couldn’t make it work, as well as excuses as to why it wasn’t my fault. Now, it’s just like, “Oh, it’s time to vacuum again? La da deeh da dee.” Also, you can Lindy Hop while vacuuming. I’m just sayin.
I guess this ramble is to say life is pretty darn good and is working out well and the ways in which it is not perfect are perfect in their own way because it is natural and human to work and strive and learn. I credit therapy. I credit hard self work. I credit loving family and friends. I credit yoga and swing dancing and soft kitty cats and the sound of rain.