Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make sure I do all of the things that I know put me in a good mood. Aimless painting is one of those things. I grab a piece of paper, and just paint whatever I see or am thinking about.
I have to confess that I’m not loving the Mon-Wed-Fri blog schedule. It’s throwing me off and I don’t know why. I used to get a tingly, energized feeling every day as I pondered, “what will I write/draw/sew/photograph for tomorrow?” The daily schedule (with a little breathing room on the weekends) kept me on my toes, forcing me to think of variety. I thought that by reducing the days, I would focus on quality versus quantity and free up much needed time, but I feel like I’m becoming too predictable and rote. I’m having difficulty describing it — I love routine, and clearly don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, but I don’t like things to feel stale and stuck. Sometimes when I’m writing my posts, I pause and wonder, “Wait, have I written this before?” Is this what a rut is?
Recently I found out about this Japanese word, kaizen. I must have been listening to a podcast, or maybe I read an article online. It translates to “good change” but is more about incremental improvements. Baby steps. Slow and steady progress. It’s a bit like beginner’s mind but with a sense of purpose to continually improve. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the word, and realized that I’ve been standing still mentally — worse, I’ve been a hamster running on an ever-dizzying circular treadmill, going nowhere. Not that it should always be about striving and goal-setting and achievements, but what I thrive on is learning new skills, being okay with mistakes and just plodding along reveling in the process, chortling to myself at my ridiculousness the whole time.
This second book I’m working on is hard for me. Not in the way it’s hard to go to yoga or eat a salad instead of pizza — something you know that if you do it, you’ll be better off. Hard in a Oh-God-I’m-totally-sucking-at-this-and-feel-like-I’m-rehashing-blog-content-and-they’re-going-to-ask-for-my-advance-back-except-I’ve-already-spent-it-on-my-supplies-and-summer-camps-and-maybe-I-should-use-a-pseudonym sort of way. Every time I hint that this whole book business isn’t all kumbaya, I feel horrible and that I ought to be extolling how lucky I am and how great it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream actualized, but I’ve done and am doing a few things I don’t recommend for anyone else.
For one, I agreed to produce something in a timeframe that I knew was super tight, ignoring that I’m not twenty anymore when I could churn out 50-page papers without sleeping for days. Starting in the summer was also a terrible move – camps aren’t cheap. Then my perfectionist self started to weasel itself into everything I did, and the joy of creating steadily leaked out, leaving an engulfing sense of ennui. I began comparing myself to everyone who’s ever written a book, and let me tell you, that’s a buzz kill in every way. I was riddled with this need to prove myself and then my brain would shut down from feeling inadequate. Basically, I’m taking myself way too seriously. And that’s never a good idea.
Luckily, my editor seems to have telepathic powers and offered me an extension on my first major deadline and a little extra time in general. I was so grateful as I was panicking that I was going to turn in something I wasn’t at all proud of, and that would have sent me over the edge. I glommed onto this gift of time and decided I needed a major shift. I had to get back into my kaizen mode again, which is what made blogging and sewing and everything else so fun and gratifying. The thing is, when I’m disgruntled while making something, I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be fit for no one.
So I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer with my family and friends, hanging out in coffee shops writing, painting/drawing, reading, exercising, sewing and organizing. This little reference sheet is something I’ve been yearning to do for months. I cut out the little labels that the watercolor pans come wrapped in, stuck them on cold press paper and added little painted splotches so I can match up the colors with their names. It pleases me that it’s a little wonky and uneven, but it’s functional and (I think) beautiful. The set itself is gorgeous. The watercolor half pans come in a wooden case with a ceramic mixing dish. I feel extra fancy when painting with this set filled with a whopping 70 colors.
After neglecting my tolerations list for several months, I finally tackled quite a few items this week: fully rearranged and streamlined the master bedroom closet; K and I finished painting the living room trim that I left half-undone 12 months (!!) ago. Ticking these items off of my list makes me breathe easier, inches life forward in small measured improvements.
I’m working on the book too, and not just cavorting in the sunlight or busying myself with freewheeling and unessential projects, but I can tell that pairing the book-making with tried-n-true activities that add a dose of kaizen is helping me slowly but surely regain the enthusiasm that was waning. I heard this quote by Brené Brown the other day: “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just be yourself”. It’s her mantra, and I just might have to steal it. I was trying to puff up in trying to act as though I know what I’m doing with this behemoth book project (or at least it feels that way to me), then I shrunk into a puddle of excessive self-doubt, but all I can do is be myself and hold onto what I know to be worthwhile.
Why is that so hard to remember?
In lieu of a haiku, here’s a poem K wrote for me this week. It just about sums everything up:
Our minds are as wide as the universe
Our thoughts will come and go. The sun may rise
The wind may whisper but love is deeper than the ocean below.
The song of heaven the angels sing. good Things
The future will bring. I feel Love. My heart is touched
I have a person Loved.*
*I took the liberty of editing it a just a touch.
P.S. I’ll continue with the M-W-F schedule just a little longer, but you just might see me back here daily again soon…