Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lesson Learned

(Or more precisely, being learned.  I still need practice.)

I am an overcommitter.  Okay, maybe that isn't a real word, but it fits.  I often, spontaneously, find myself taking on a task without thinking through what it means in terms of my time.  Usually I'm signing up to do something fun, like host a dinner or participate in a card swap.  I'm actually pretty good at saying no to things that I know I don't want to do.

So, I signed up for a card swap.  When I saw that the group was doing one I actually posted that I might like to do the next one, as the current one was already in full swing.  I got a message from the coordinator letting me know that there was still time to join the swap.  Uh oh.  I said yes because it felt good to be wanted, despite the fact that I don't actually know any of the crafters in real life, they don't know me, and my presence in the swap was pretty meaningless in the big scheme of things.

I didn't think about what I would have to do to participate in the swap, like come up with several original ideas for cards, make the cards, and go to the post office.  I didn't figure in for crafter's block, or agonizing over whether anyone would like what I made.  I procrastinated.  The deadline was extended (I didn't ask for that to happen), and I procrastinated longer.  I was waiting for last minute inspiration: it didn't come.

I realized that I didn't want to make the cards and that I wasn't that vested in receiving cards in trade.  I had stuck with the swap because I didn't want to look bad.  I didn't want to be a quitter.  Finally today, it struck me: I was trying to uphold a false image of myself to people that I don't know.  If I didn't want to make the cards, I didn't have to.

Now, some swaps are more particular than this, and someone dropping out might have consequences on everyone else.  I'm really glad I hadn't committed to something like that.  But I did learn another lesson, that who I am and what I want to do with my time is more important than pleasing people, and that I should think carefully before making commitments.  This time I could bow out, but sometimes I can't, and I end up doing something that I don't want to do.

Time is precious.  More important to me than not spending the time making cards is letting go of the agonizing and worrying, and clearing the mental clutter of having an unwanted, uncompleted task.

Over the years my lessons have changed.  12 years ago my lesson was to learn flexibility, to learn to bend and not break.  I spent more than a full year encountering the lesson over and over again, and certainly have had to practice it ever since.  Lately it seems that the lesson coming at me is to slow down, and to recognize that I have the power to remove stress from my life and to not create some of it myself.

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