Lately, I’ve been gobbling up Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing like they were peanut M&M’s. As it turns out, the books may well be a whole lot better for the world than the candy!
Here’s a favorite quote from the classic, Writing Down the Bones:
Afraid of being lost, she became lost.
If you’re like me, you may hear lots of tinkly little bells ringing inside just now. There are many ways to think about this.
One is that the human mind/consciousness does not “understand” negatives. Instead of hearing, to borrow from the quote, “Don’t get lost!” we hear only “get” and “lost”.
Or, to risk a bit of potty humor for an even clearer example, let me tell you about my new favorite TV commercial. A young dad is carrying his pre-school aged son rapidly toward the bathroom saying, “Don’t poop! Don’t poop! Don’t…Oh, no!”
They think they’re selling washing machines. We know the kid’s just hearing, “Poop! Poop!”
My Qigong friends would explain it a bit differently.
Where the attention goes, the energy flows.
Chopped is a good place to study this phenomenon. Contestant after contestant claiming, over and over again, with great passion, “I don’t want to lose!” when a more helpful perspective would be, “I want to win!”
If my old friend Steve Glenn were here, he’d encourage us to say to our anxious toddler, half way across your grandmother’s prized antique rug with a glass of milk, “Walk carefully. Keep your eyes where you want to be,” rather than the customary, “Don’t spill the milk!” unless, of course, we were longing to have that antique rug cleaned.
We’ve all done it. Where, we might wonder, are we doing it now? Where might we be lost?
I’ll bet you have some ideas!
Let’s use the resident herd of Newfoundlands for an example. They’re enthusiastic greeters, which is great, but I vastly prefer for them to keep all four feet on the floor while welcoming guests.
Every now and then, in a fit of delight, one of them might forget.
My job is to avoid the very tempting, “Don’t jump!” and rely instead on, “Sit!” which is a word they do know and it tells them, in a positive sense, what to do in the moment.
Far from just language games, “Sit!” has a much higher likelihood of ensuring the safety and comfort of the greet-ee.
(There is probably a truth-in-advertising law somewhere which obligates me to admit that some of us are still working on this, and few things are absolute!)
I have some thoughts about what to do with all this insight.
Instead of caving in to a fear of failure, consider adopting the notion that life is for learning.
Give up on perfect. As soon as possible. Just experiment, five or ten minutes at a time, with a different goal.
Celebrate progress. Possibly with your favorite music and a dance party!
Claim what you need. Or want. You’ll already be a step closer!
I know. This isn’t the way you learned most of this stuff. It’s not the way I learned it either. Until I started learning some new things.
The greatest part of all this is that you don’t have to have it all down pat before you can start helping others learn, too. Grandkids. Dogs. Partners. Possibly even politicians.
And the best way to teach is to do.
Eyes on the prize!
I can’t guarantee immediate gratification. (My magic wand isn’t rated for that!) And progress is often messy and indirect. But “…it beats,” as my old friend Puddleglum would say, in perhaps the best example of all, the old way, “all hollow.”
That’s a lot!
Thanks to Puddleglum for making a special appearance from deep in the magical land of Pinterest, just for us. (I really need to find out how this works!)