My family was an active one while I was growing up: hiking, canoeing, skiing, swimming, sports. From first grade through high school I played soccer. By my junior year I was still only on the JV team, occasionally subbing for the varsity team. I didn’t understand how I could have played for 11 years and still not make varsity. Freshman were making varsity. What was wrong with me?
On the field I played hard, but not perfectly. And that was it: I wanted to play perfectly. When I didn’t (usually), I was furious with myself. I would swear up a storm and spit constantly on the field. Not at other players – only ever at myself. By my senior year I didn’t even bother trying out. I quit sports all together.
Since then, in any sport, activity or craft I’ve tried, if I’m not meeting my grandiose expectations by day two, I get frustrated. I put such pressure on myself to catch waves and control my board, that surfing never became fun for me. “Don’t go out there and try to catch waves,” my friend said to me. “Just go out there with the intention of paddling around. If you happen to catch a wave – great!”. I didn’t take his advice.
It’s no different with writing. I want my first draft to be publishable. I labor over each sentence rather than letting it flow, and going back later to edit and refine the piece. I want solutions NOW. I want perfection NOW. I want to have my name on a great piece of published literature NOW. I want enlightenment NOW.
So many nows on my wishlist! Except the only one that matters:
The hangup, I’ve come to realize is that I don’t enjoy. Hard to believe given how stupidly awesome my life is, and how many adventures I’ve had. But that’s the truth. I don’t put my presence into what I’m doing and allow myself to take pleasure in it. Why?
I’m a cerebral junkie.
I am so enmeshed in thinking, planning, scheming, that I forget to play, improvise, and feel what’s around me. I approach writing with a determination to accomplish something, rather than a sense of “I enjoy writing; I’m going to play with words today.” Do you see the difference? The action is the same, but the intention changes everything.
I just got a cat. I’ve had two dogs for the last year, but they were useless when it came to hunting mice. Hence the new addition. As I watched my cat playing with its cookie monster dangle toy, I saw myself: that pinche gato was out to kill Mr. Cookie Monster as if the future of the world depended upon his success. This was no game. This was life or death – Arcadia or Apocalypse.
I mean, just look at the severity in his eyes. He’s clearly strategizing for world domination.
Much though I love my cat, I’d rather be like my dogs any day. When they play, les vale madre: they don’t give a fuck. I can scold Chiki for rolling in a decomposing seagull. She grins at me, crouches and waits for me to make a move towards her, then bounces just out of reach. Best game ever. Because she’s playing it right now.
Why take everything so seriously?
Why take anything so seriously?
My motto for this month, therefore is
To encourage myself, I’ve inserted a giant play space above my writing desk:
As if in support of this, I came across related quotes in two radically divergent texts: one is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic:
“Music is nothing more than decoration for the imagination…As creator, you can design any sort of jewelry that you like for the inside of other people’s minds…when all is said and done…it’s still just decoration.”
In other words, don’t take it so seriously…whether our work is labeled “good” or “bad”.
The other is Spaciousness – an explanation and translation of Longchenpa’s Dzogchen text. (Yes, I’m really about to show you the intersecting point of international best-selling beach book with profound 14th century secret teachings):
“…all perception is described as decoration of its inherent spaciousness.”
“What seems to be samsara or nirvana is a display of creativity, that at its very inception is neither samsara or nirvana.”
In other words, don’t take it so seriously…whether our circumstances are deemed “good” or “bad”.
Relax into that space of creativity.
Enjoy the play of light, sound, words.
Be more dog.