…Before taking the next step forward

Gold starA new friend just asked if she could interview me on the topic of guilt-free self-care. I eagerly agreed but assured her that I knew very little about either. To be fair, I’m much better about the guilt part, but I’ve noticed a few lapses in my efforts at self-care, especially how easily I get distracted from my best intentions.

A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about various books and projects I’d completed over the years. She asked if I appreciated the volume of work I’d created and I remember just staring at her dumbly. “No,” I said. “I don’t think I ever took the time.” What I realized in my conversation then has just come up for me again. Today. My last blog was about writer’s block and the trouble I had starting on my last writing project. Yes, my last. I finished the book yesterday and minutes after I hit “send” on the email with the attachment to my editor, I was working on my October newsletter, berating myself for the fact that it hadn’t gone out two weeks ago, as intended.

I sent the newsletter about two and a half hours ago, had some breakfast, and came back to my laptop to start work on the next writing project, on which I’m also behind. (Interestingly, this is the perfectionism book, the project that has forced me to examine my tendency to overcommit— certainly the most significant symptom in my history, although the fact that I’m writing this blog instead of organizing my notes for the first chapter of that book speaks to a propensity for procrastination as well. Sigh…)

But this blog also represents a little break, just a moment to give myself some credit for the two things I’ve been able to complete this week (at least!), and to share this story, not to be immodest, but to acknowledge a bigger social pattern I’ve seen, certainly in my life and in the world around me. I’m talking about the habit of getting so wrapped up in the doing that we don’t always realize what we’ve done, and that what we’ve done has some significance and value beyond just being another item crossed off an overlong to-do list.

I think this is especially challenging for those of us who work in intangibles: The newsletter went out to nearly 4000 people electronically. Aside from the few responses I receive (most of them out-of-office auto-replies), I don’t get to see what kind of impact that information or those resources will have. And the book? I will probably hear back from my editor in a few days, but it will be months before I have any tangible evidence of the work I’ve done. And I think that the need for the tangible is what’s driving this blog— as soon as I hit the Publish button, I will have something actually here (to whatever degree we can count cyberspace as “here” or concrete) as evidence of my efforts.

So before I go, I’d like to use this brush to paint a broader picture, because I think this trend to just get on to the next thing, to give our greatest attention to the stuff still on the list, can cause us to take not only our own accomplishments for granted, but other people’s as well. (If you’ve ever walked into your kid’s room after he’s cleaned it and only commented on the one thing he forgot to put away, you know what I’m talking about.) I have always encouraged people to acknowledge one another, and always end my seminar with a request for people to step back and acknowledge the good they have done each day.

I’m not very good at taking my own advice, but with this post, I am indeed taking a break, a breath, a moment to just sit back and notice something besides what isn’t done, and to allow myself to revel in the enjoyment of getting past being stuck and getting something worthwhile very much done!

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Previous blog post on writer’s block: Random Thoughts on the Blank Page

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