I once read an article that discussed procrastination and why people do it. According to some source related to science, people who procrastinate on the regular love the thrill of it. Endorphins are released actually, etc. Here is thing: maybe that’s true about the endorphins but I do not like enjoy procrastinating. I do it quite often, but I don’t enjoy it.
Recently, I’ve realized one reason I do it. If something is important to me, a dream I really want to actually come true, I put off doing the work for it. Then, when I don’t get the job or don’t win the contest I can shrug my shoulders and “not feel as bad” because I didn’t put my best work into it. I don’t want to let myself down.
This makes sense. And yet, it is complete nonsense.
I am trying to let myself dream the dreams that I have shied away from dreaming. It’s too scary. What if it doesn’t work out? This way of thinking also bleeds over into dating and relationships–wanting something so badly but not going for it because it could crash and burn.
How many times does God have to say, “Nina, I’ve got this” and follow through on his word?
Answer: too many to count.
This other thing I do is assign human traits on God. There are things I am scared to trust him for because I’ve had people screw with my trust in big ways. It still surprises me sometimes (and it shouldn’t…I’m in the word…but there is a difference between knowing something and living it out whole heartedly. Am I right?) when he does follow through on his word. When did I become so jaded?
Nonno was a barber who played Billy Joel records all day long. His favorite song–Scenes from an Italian Restaurant–is also mine. My memories of him are dim since I wasn’t even three when he passed away and yet I feel the legacy he left in our family so strongly. From everything I know, he was just one of those truly extraordinarily awesome people. He loved people well. He was funny and he had integrity. So maybe that’s why I’ve always loved Billy Joel. It’s a connection to him. I think of him, singing the words under his breath in his shop while I sing them too.
I was fortunate enough to see Billy Joel at Wrigley a few weeks ago–with my nonna, aunt, and dad–Nonno’s wife, kids, and first grandchild: me. I can’t say I only love Billy Joel for Nonno because let it be known: all of the people I attended the concert with? They are older than me. They are of different generations. And yet, who knew all the words? This girl.
I think the concert was different for all of us (Dad and Nonna sat by some crazy fools making it a little less than fun for them) so maybe it’s kind of like the song and we were living Scenes from a Billy Joel Concert. But standing there singing at the top of my lungs (bet everyone loved that) with my family, I danced and even teared up when he brought up men and women in the armed forces during Goodnight, Saigon. And I waited for the song, Nonno’s song. He was on my mind the whole night.
And I thought, when the song was finally played: isn’t this kind of magical? That the four of us are here singing Billy Joel with the city of Chicago as a back drop as a famiglia? We are a part of his legacy and here we are and bad things have happened, hard things. Some of those things are still happening. We’re still trying to fight through it. But we are okay too. We are making it–not always well and definitely not perfectly. But here we are, the four of singing the words to a song my nonno sung and loved, a song that might be the soundtrack to our family: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. And I found the whole thing kind of beautiful.
Sometimes I feel like the memory keeper in my family because I know that my family may be reading this and thinking: I mean, it was a great concert, Nina but I didn’t think too deeply about it. And that’s okay. That’s wonderful. Because I love being the memory keeper, I love collecting stories that happened before I was even born, because it’s all a part of a larger puzzle, a legacy, a history, a story. I don’t mind guarding the memories or putting the words to them. In fact, I can’t exactly help it. I’ll collect the scenes and someday they will be a song.
Things I am letting go of:
-perfection for this DIY project
-everything in the non-urgent, non-important category (for now)
-cut down the number of books I’m reading to 3 (10 is just too much)
-the over organization (my zeal for this change to an organized life has me focused on the minutia instead of the overall organization of my life in general)
-the lists (there is no need for the same list, multiple times, in my bullet journal, and in various places on my computer and online)
-this list because I could go on and on
Here is the thing. Throughout my life, when my anxiety is higher, I find small things to focus on–like a chimp picking fleas from her baby’s head. That truly would be the perfect task for moments like this. And also, throughout my life, these small tasks have ranged from healthy to the not so healthy.
I’ve realized something so important when it comes to the awareness of my anxiety. When the world feels big and out of control, I do what I can to make it feel small.
I can gauge my anxiety which stems from fear and lack of control by the extent of these tiny obsessions. How long did I work to make straight lines on an upcoming DIY project? So long that it was a wakeup call and that was with painter’s tape. It’s not always like this. It’s actually been awhile since it has been like this. It’s hard to know when I am just battling perfectionism (which still should be battled) and anxiety.
Finding the root is the key but it’s easier said than done. I have to find activities after work that are soothing, like coloring (kind of dumb but I channel it into sending snail mail…) or journaling or writing. Since I work from home freelancing, I have to get out of my little world (when not working or taking my work to a coffee shop) and make my world big again.
Before technology caught up with my insatiable reading habits, as a young girl, I’d pack at least seven books for a week long vacation. I carried them on because I wanted to read them and because well, they added more weight to the suitcase I checked which was almost always on the verge, if not over the 50 pound maximum, much to my parent’s chagrin and consternation.
My arms still ache in airports, my back too.
I carry on at least one real book with my iPad (and Kindle App), my camera, my computer, possibly a second lens, my various chargers, my meds (if I can fit them), and other things I don’t trust to put in my carry on. All this goes into a tote. A backpack would be easier on my body but the tote can double as an extremely large purse or beach bag for wherever I am going. So it all makes sense. Really, it does. Cross my heart.
Someone recently asked me to type up this letter of God’s promises to us as a favor. If I told you how many times I’ve learned this lesson (over and over again, like a dog that keeps going through the electric fence), the number may be as high as the number of emails in my inbox. Instead, I am trying to show myself grace, and the same gentleness I felt from God as he very kindly reminded me how little my spirit and soul should ache from the weight he puts on my shoulder (aka they should not ache at all).
Can it really be that easy? Can I know such lightness?
The truth is as He says. His burden is light, his yoke easy.
So what am I doing, what am I morphing it into to make it so dang heavy?
Well, you know. There’s that guilt thing. Oh, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to upset her. Or, I have to do this because it will upset him if I don’t. There’s that shame thing. And that embarrassment thing. There are things born out of faux duty and with the appearance of intensity. There’s that perfectionist thing. There’s that trying to be someone I am not issue too. I could go on. But one thing I know is that none of these things are from God.
They make the burden on my shoulders quite heavy and I already have issues with chronic pain so something has got to give. Something always has to give. Thus, God teaching me this lesson approximately 3,500 times:
Look, Nina, this is not from me or of me. Because my burden? Oh Baby, that burden is light. And my yoke? Oh Baby, it’s easy. Look I’ve promised You and I keep my promises.
So though I am not her greatest fan, I must look to Taylor Swift and her sage advice. When I feel the heaviness and the weight, I must shake it off. It’s not the easiest thing to do. You see, I have the type of personality that just loves adding weight to the burden and difficulty to that yoke. It requires gut checks from me on the regular. Sometimes I go so long carrying all the non-God given stuff that I am so used to the weight and the pain of it.
How uncool is that?
But the wonderful, marvelous thing is the truth: I can lay down every burden not from him and shake off all the extra yokes I seem to have put on myself. I can hand these things over to him. Because he wants me to do so. Because he wants his burden to be easy and his yoke to be light and because those are the only things I should be carrying or wearing.
Right now, a lot of my guilt (and therefore, burden) comes from my health. I often times feel like I am letting people down because I can’t fully participate in all things. Either I feel guilty for this or I feel awful and pressured when I push my body past its current limits. It’s frustrating. Instead of letting that frustration go and redirecting my energy towards getting better (which is going very well…perhaps that is part of the reason I have little patience for my body’s issues lately…I’ve seen improvement and I just want to be all the way there while I do have a long way to go), it just becomes this weight I can sometimes actually feel on my back. This guilt and pressure is a yoke I can be led by and it is self inflicted.
Well, here we are again–learning the same lesson all over again and all the better for it.
Have you ever felt like this? What are you learning right now?
I hate sharks. Most people aren’t huge fans either. But I refuse to go into their home (that being the ocean) beyond halfway up my calf. Sharks come a lot closer to shore than people realize; I do my research.
But during my second day at the beach, feeling scored, like the heat entered my body and was burning me from the inside out, I slowly made my way out to Bex, up to my chest, beyond where the waves breaks to where they just lull. If you know me, you understand that this is a picture of my personal insanity: me, floating on my back with barely any effort, relying on that salt water, my body rising and falling with the gentle motion of the waves.
Sometime last week, I took a screenshot of a post from Humans of New York. She was asked what was one piece advice she would give and she said, “When a wave comes, go deep.” The interviewer replied, “I think I need more explanation on that one.” And then the woman said something profound and lovely:I think this is brilliant. I’ve done all three things she describes here as the waves of life hit. I have countless examples but I’ve chosen one for each reaction to the waves in my life. We’re all about authenticity here.
I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease in 2009 caused by a seizure the year before. In between that time, I faced rapidly declining help and few answers. Looking back it was a major wave of my life but I had no choice but to ride it out. My body was treasonous and the doctors (thinks three to four a week for several months) had few answers. Even after a diagnosis, finding the right path was a challenge. I worked hard (with doctors, with the help of my family, and on my own) to become as healthy as possible with this illness and live as “normal” a life as possible.
In the past year, my health has deteriorated again but I ignored every warning sign. I ran from from it, lying to myself without realizing it over the severity of my decline. But the wave swept me up and I crashed ot the shore of reality anyway: I had to take just as drastic steps as when I was first diagnosed and all that running only put off the inevitable.
My family is incredibly important to me. Before the age of 17, the previous sentence would have red: my family unit, intact, and whole, with my parents married to each other, is everything to me. This unit was my anchor for all things. So when my (truly lovely) parents began the process of divorce, I fought it and I fought it hard, as if I had a say. I made crazy ultimatums. Any gauntlet I could throw, I did. I launched it desperately.
This was a huge, life defining wave, and one (like all waves), I could not control no matter how hard I stood my ground, feet dug deep in the sand, my pride, my ego locked together with my idea of family.
This will probably (not) shock you. They divorced. (I love you, Mom and Dad.) And you know, it was worse, that angry standing my ground. Because I could have been using that time to deal and instead all I was left with was this anger and feelings of failure, on top of the normal ones of grief and loss.
I was clobbered.
Today I live with the reality of my physical and emotional health. Like I said, I was in denial for a long time and if I would have taken care of things sooner, they wouldn’t be so bad. So here is another wave but this time I am allowing myself to go deep.