Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spring, or How I Get Anywhere

I walk down the street and it's like I am walking down a path strewn with miracles. All those dry, lifeless tree branches overhead are bursting into life! Flowers pop up in sidewalk planters. Grass peeks up through cracks in the cement and in empty lots. The park is turning green. I can almost not believe it. Spring is here. How does that happen?

I've taken Biology, I know how it works. I know the cycle of life. I know fallow periods and the longer daylight hours, and all that. Yet each Spring I am amazed anew that Winter is over and the air is warm and the trees and flowers are blooming. Summer will be here soon.

Amazing and awesome. Have faith in Spring returning. That's a good thing to believe in. And have faith that like Spring, life will come back around.

It does happen. When you are down in the dumps, and nothing seems to be working, and all the days seem to be cold and dark, life starts to come back. It's hard to even notice at first. It creeps in, like getting an hour more sleep a night. It's really not that much, but it makes a difference. Or making the bed everyday. Really, you think, why does it matter? You're just going to mess it up again that night, but it's one of those little steps that makes me, at least, feel like I have just a tiny bit more control over my own life. And then I can keep the dishes washed. And then the baby gets on a feeding schedule. And then I manage to write in my journal more, or paint a little picture, or meet up with people.

It's the baby steps that lead to the big results.

I've never been effective with the huge, grand goals-- like writing a novel, or painting a large painting for my bedroom (something I've been procrastinating on). I look at the next step I have to take, and it seems as if my legs can't possibly stretch so far. I just sit down where I am and go no further. But if I set small goals, like, write a page a day (or even smaller, write for 15 minutes a day) then I can use those little pebbles as stepping stones, and pretty soon, my goals come to life.

When I think about it, I've never accomplished anything that wasn't broken down into baby steps. I don't know how other people are, if they actually can sit down and just power out those big goals, but I have to work my way up to them-- especially if I find them really important, and thus, really scary.

I take that back. I do know how other people are. I'm a fricking teacher. I've witnessed it again and again. When a person faces a task that they are afraid they are not up to, they don't or can't accomplish it. I see it in myself, I see it in Sean when he faces the mess of his study (he just can't seem to get it together), I've seen it with my students, my family, my friends.

That's why we break it down into accomplishable goals. It ain't easy. Even breaking a task down is a task in itself, and it's easy to get discouraged, or to misjudge what you can take on at once, or to not realize how much goes into that big task you have ahead of you. It's good to be easy on yourself when you begin any goal. You've got to work up to it, build up habits, a body of work, your understanding of what you need to go. Expecting yourself to be perfect is a killer. Expecting a perfect product is a killer, too.

I like to keep track of how far I've actually come. In addition to my To Do list, I have a Did Done list. I need to feel like I've accomplished stuff. I write them down on my little list, so that I'm actually doing stuff, before the bigger, visible results show up. Like a chapter of a novel, or a clean home, or a big painting. Or trees bursting into Spring. Yippee!

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