Friday, May 28, 2010

Because I Feel Like It

Rachel Brady

Last week I took a shine to doing things just because I felt like it. It started with painting my toenails glittery orange. Then there was an impromptu trip to the beach with my little boy. Soon I reversed course and started skipping certain things I didn't feel like doing. I walked past the dishes in the sink and let the unfolded laundry wait for later. I deleted a few events from my calendar. Decided I'd rather do something else instead.

Gotta say, I liked where this was headed.

Some of you may wonder what the big deal is here. Aren't we all free-thinking folks with the ability to choose a course for ourselves? Sure. But something about my internal wiring has left me forever reluctant to hop on board the train to Changed My Mind. Seems like any time an activity has ever hit my To Do list, it has been cemented there.

Normally, I wouldn't have made that beach trip until all the other undesirable chores were finished first. Ditto for settling in at night to read a book or work on my manuscript. Those things feel too leisurely, as if surely some punishment must be completed first. All this stems from my responsibility gene, I've decided. The same one that has me attending social functions out of a sense of duty and obligation, even if I'd rather be somewhere else. I'm starting to change my mind about all kinds of things lately, and in most cases I don't even feel apologetic about it anymore.

It began with a comment from my friend Carrie last February. After asking me to go running with her on the upcoming Saturday, she told me it was okay to just say, "Maybe. If I feel like it." No yes or no required.

Strangely, this response would never have crossed my mind had she not put it out there. I'd have either said "yes," and honored that commitment, or I'd have said "no," and then felt obligated to offer up a really good explanation of why not. And I never would have been so rude as to remain non-committal like she was suggesting. But having her permission, I took her up on it. And I discovered that I liked leaving my calendar open to make last-minute decisions depending on whether or not I felt like doing something.

It started spilling over.

Carrie was the only person in my cast of friends to offer this carte blanche approach to planning, but I started using it with everyone else around me anyway. I said no to requests for volunteer work (don't judge me!), turned down invitations to do local races with friends, and even (yes... Mom Guilt here) set boundaries with my family.

I learned a few things. My young son can dress himself and brush his own teeth. My daughters can put away laundry and pour their brother's cereal in the morning. And somebody else around here has been feeding all the pets because I stopped doing it a long time ago and, as yet, none are dead.

What do I feel like doing instead? Writing.

For years, I waited until everyone in my family was asleep before I started to write. I made all their lunches, loaded the dishwasher, picked up toys, and did laundry--all after bedtime--and then turned on my laptop at nine or ten o'clock and wrote if I had anything left to give. I don't feel like doing it that way anymore.

I want to write a book this year. A whole book, not a few disjointed chapters spread out wide over the course of months and years. So, twice a week I've been leaving and going to my local library for about three hours at a time to write. Alone.

Do I feel guilty? You bet.

Is it stopping me? Nope.

Somewhere in here, there must be a balance. I'm still looking for it, just like everyone else. The day may not be far off that I'll decide my new M.O. is selfish and then revert to my old ways. I'm open to that possibility. But this year I'm serving others less and writing more.

Admittedly, I'm having a little rebellious streak right now. Still, I hope the Stiletto Faithful will also consider what you'd most like to do in life. Once in a while, I hope you'll pursue those things too, because you feel like it. No apologies required.

18 comments:

  1. Good for you! I don't see anything at all wrong with doing a few things you want to do instead of always doing first the things you are obligated to do. It's your life too, and just because you have responsibilities to others, doesn't mean you get to ignore the responsibilities to yourself. =)

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  2. Thank you! I'm going to forward this reminder to my critique group as we have been struggling with this same issue.

    Thanks again.

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  3. Zita, what is your fee to regularly check in with me and say validating things like that? :)

    Barbara, I'm beginning to suspect this is a common issue for many writers who do not write full time, especially women. Best wishes to your critique group. We'll get there together. If you're interested, I also keep a blog for writers: http://writeitanyway.blogspot.com/ Would love it if you'd stop by. Thanks for posting this morning.

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  4. Odd you posted this today. I usually try not to say no to things at my grandchildren's school but yesterday the request was for a driver to take a carload on a field trip 60 miles ea. way. This is a holiday weekend and I hate to travel on holidays (and with other peoples children!).
    I hesitated and my daughter said, "It's ok to say no mom." What a relief. I did say no.
    I hope you continue this new way for you.
    Maribeth
    Giggles and Guns

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  5. Great advice! I had my year of saying "no" when I was the one who volunteered to do everything. It felt good.

    "Me" time is important.

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  6. I'm the compulsive, responsible type too, but several years ago I decided to get series about fiction writing, so some things had to go. They were mostly housework related. (Thus my blog: Write First, Clean Later.)
    Write on, Rachel.

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  7. Rachel, I think you've discovered the trick to living a full life with less stress (i.e, saying "no," not taking on new obligations when you're juggling enough already, and doing things to please yourself). If you don't take time to make yourself happy now and then, your frustration will trickle down and no one will be happy (and your body won't be either). And if you ever find the secret to achieving balance, you should bottle it and sell it. You'd make a billion bucks!

    Hugs,
    Susan

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  8. Great article, Rachel! As an uber-Type A personality I can certainly identify with many of your comments. I even used to approach writing the same way: "I've only got an hour here, so I'd better get some words down on the page." instead of using that hour to make the words count (if I wrote any at all). I'm still working on this, but I have gotten better at just noodling ideas in a notebook while sipping coffee at the local bookstore. I suppose there's a danger that could lead to my becoming a procrastinator, but the Type A guy inside me isn't likely to let that happen.

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  9. Great article, Rachel! As an uber-Type A personality I can certainly identify with many of your comments. I even used to approach writing the same way: "I've only got an hour here, so I'd better get some words down on the page." instead of using that hour to make the words count (if I wrote any at all). I'm still working on this, but I have gotten better at just noodling ideas in a notebook while sipping coffee at the local bookstore. I suppose there's a danger that could lead to my becoming a procrastinator, but the Type A guy inside me isn't likely to let that happen.

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  10. Love you guys. You get me! :)

    Vinny, funny you mention the notebook. For a while, I only wrote at my laptop and just used a notebook to jot down vague ideas. Now I use it to write a paragraph here or there when I'm out of the house. When I go back to my electronic file and type in those paragraphs, it seems the next block of prose comes faster. All of that helps the total word count.

    Thanks, everyone, for your input and for stopping by. :)

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  11. Great post, as usual, Rachel. We all are programmed to think "selfish" is always a bad word, and quite often it simply isn't.

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  12. You're not being even a little bit selfish. You're freeing the rest of your family to be who they are. Kelly, who goes to school ten miles away, came home twice last semester, and one of those was Thanksgiving. A friend from high school, who lives in her same dorm, is home every Saturday morning so her mother can "help" with her laundry. "The shirt and jeans you want aren't clean? I'm so sorry. Let me show you this thing we've got called a washing machine. It's a lot easier to operate than an iPod or cell phone." Freedom for you is empowerment for them, and you will be in a better mood. I bet that makes everybody happy.

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  13. I have just become one of your disciples. Lead on!

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  14. Chris, David, Alan...

    You guys inspire me more than you know. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Sure is good to have you in my corner.

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  15. Rachel -- It think you are on the right track! This past year I've said no or maybe where I would have always said yes, even when I really didn't want to do something. I found that it has helped me get so much more done overall, and be a lot less stressed from being somewhere just watching the clock for it to be over!

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  16. Rachel - I love your line about someone else feeding the pets - made me LOL!
    Best,
    Diana

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  17. The world is his who enjoys it.

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