I am very good at making promises. I’m just not quite sure what happens in the wide chasm that separates my heart from my hands and feet.
I have a whole shelf of my bookcase devoted to the genre of goal-setting. I’ve set New Year’s Resolutions and gone to rousing workshops. I write “morning pages” daily that are rife with intentions for the day ahead. My world – and the world at large – is saturated with goals, missions, intentions, visions.
For as many times as I’ve wailed “I just don’t know what to DO with my life!” I ought to make a bumper sticker out of it. But I’m beginning to question whether that’s true. Yes, perhaps I haven’t quite finished my grade-school essay on What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Yes, I might not have completed the puzzle yet. But I sure do have a lot of pieces.
I know, for instance, what makes me feel illuminated and whole.
I know that my soul yearns for a day of waking early, writing intentionally, practicing yoga, eating more vegetables, eating less sugar, tackling meaty projects, walking outside, connecting with friends, playing the piano, and stretching before bed.
I know that I need creativity like oxygen and that any job, no matter how convenient or sexy or prestigious, that lacks space for imagination will suffocate me slowly.
I know that life always looks better on dark days after I pick up the “ten-thousand pound phone” (as Anne Lamott calls it) to call a friend.
I also know what makes me feel crummy and small.
I know that staying in bed watching online TV episodes sucks all the life out of me.
I know that my spirit dries up if I go too long without being near the water
I know that too much sugar and caffeine leaves me feeling antsy and ill.
But all of this knowledge of my heart gets jumbled and warped and utterly destroyed on its way to my real life. At the end of the day, no matter how carefully and intentionally I’d planned it, I’m left with more the crummy and small than the illuminated and whole. I’m left feeling like I do when I pull my laundry out of the dryer. No matter what I do, no matter how meticulous I am, I’m left with a return rate of approximately 50% of the socks I’d put in. Without fail, my favorite socks are among the casualties.
Which leads me to wonder: What the hell is happening in the dryer?
Spoiler alert: The dryer is my mind.
Depression and self-doubt play dirty. They operate a lot like that dryer. My most carefully-pruned, soul-filled intentions have to go through that blasting heat and spinning maelstrom before they can emerge into the real world. And often, by the time they come out, they are so dizzy and disoriented that they are utterly useless. If they come out, that is – depression and doubt ensnare many of them with the traps of “It would be so much easier and safer to stay in bed!” or “Do you actually think you deserve to spend money on that yoga class pass?” and “What’s the point? You’re always going to be miserable anyway. Why try doing anything about it?” Those intentions never see the light of day.
For so long, I directed my energy at setting more intentions or different intentions when I failed to see change in my life. I went to more workshops, bought more books. But the problem isn’t the input. Changing the input means throwing more socks in the malfunctioning dryer. I need to fix the dryer.
For me, filling the well has meant setting very small intentions of joy and then going out and living them. Taking time to cook soup. Cleaning out my closet. Writing in the mornings. Such small victories, but miracles nonetheless.
My mind is, of course, still ensnaring many of my intentions. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t break my heart. But I am learning the boundless power of tiny, fulfilled intentions. Every time I make a small promise to myself and keep it, I chip away at a fragment of the blockage between my heart and my lived reality.
Slowly but surely, I’m fixing the dryer. Maybe I’ll find some of my favorite socks.