Neither here nor there: A note on process

This weekend I went running through Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It took a while to climb up to the base of the park, and then I wandered off the main road to a set of amazing trails that took me to the height of the hills overlooking the Los Angeles basin.

Once at the top,  I got to turn around and view the city from afar. Just being able to escape the city and look back on it let me start to fall in love with cities again.  To tell you the truth, I was getting tired of cities, just as I sometimes get tired of working. It’s hard to keep it up, to stay focused, to stay motivated. It’s as though every Sunday is calling for a day of rest (or whatever day you choose), so that you can reflect, look back, and appreciate what you’ve done and where you’ve come from.

Griffith Park, Los Angeles

I feel like I haven’t had enough time to run lately. In fact, I feel like I haven’t had time for much of anything – for writing, for reading, or for just being. I feel so rushed and busy and overwhelmed by the rat chase, by the endless tasks I’m doing at work, and by the worthless cycle that is addictive communication (read: addicted to facebook and gmail). I don’t have time to do it all – and I’m not trying to do it all. I won’t read every blog, I won’t catch up on all of the news, or even get every square inch of work done that’s outlined on my desk.

Lately, things just haven’t been happening – because I don’t have the time.(I am kicking myself for saying that, because time is what you make of it and I KNOW that. And then I ask myself, why don’t you have time, Sarah? What are you doing to make yourself so busy?) I get home – tired – and the project that’s been put off for after-work, after-the-other-big-project-I’m-trying-to-finish, just isn’t happening. I feel like I’m dropping the ball, and I feel like the things I want to do – truly want to do, like read, write, and run – don’t have enough space in my life.

So on Sunday, when I came back from LA, I gave up. I turned off my phone alarm, I refused to get out of bed until 10AM, I refused to make a to-do list, and I refused to pick up after myself. I shoved my work bag in the closet and I let go of the anxiety associated with a huge pile of magazines that I *ought to* be reading.

I drank coffee.

And I sat.

The art of sitting is a lost art, it seems. Leo Babauta talks about white space and how we need it in both graphic arts as well as in our lives.  Space to live, breathe, and be.

Why don’t I have enough time? What am I doing that’s preventing my time from being mine? Where am I being aimless, unproductive, or focusing my energies on things I should be letting go of?

I sat some more.

And then, starting from scratch, from a small space of quiet and more regular rhythm of breathing, I picked up a book. A book I wanted to read, not one that I felt obligated to read. The difference seems subtle, but felt huge. And when I got tired, I set the book down and stared around the apartment for a while, choosing to do nothing but listen to my thoughts as they tumbled down out of the organized, stacked spaces I was trying to keep them in for the sake of efficiency and productivity. Productivity, it seems, is useless is you’re productively creating crap.

I made soup.

Long soup, the kind that takes hours.

Chicken soup, from scratch.

I didn’t berate the soup for taking a long time to cook, because I know the value of letting the flavors seep together in a wonderful stew.

I didn’t rush it; it just was.

I ignored absolutely everything on my mental to-do list and I canceled dinner with friends.

The lost art of sitting (Paris, 2007, photo by Sarah)

***

I would much rather have one goal than many, if the goal were one I loved and cherished and could spend my focused time on. Working hard doesn’t have to leave you exhausted. In fact, if you’re exhausted, perhaps you’re working too hard – or not working the right type of hard. Perhaps your work should leave you both exhausted but also exhilarated.

I found, too, that the shield of “busy” is an armor I put up against the fact that I’m still unsure of where I’ll be in two, four, or seven years. Sometimes I feel as though I have no idea what I’m doing. When in doubt, or insecure about what I’m accomplishing and who I am becoming, I grab onto tasks and busy-ness and jump into the whirlwind lifestyle of a productive workaholic. Except even when I’m that busy, my heart still knows that it’s just an armor. It’s a front, it’s an idea I put up in the place of patiently listening to the small inklings of ideas that I’m truly passionate about. It’s as though I still believe that if I stamp my feet louder and try harder, maybe I’ll end up liking what I do more.

It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

So this blog, this post, is an ambling, wandering post, a message that it’s okay not to know where you’re going and that I, like you, am learning as I go.  I am learning about writing, about blogging, about life design and personal development and courage and wisdom and all the space in between.

I wish I could neatly and succinctly summarize how to make a busy life less stressful and more relaxed, but I didn’t master those ideas in my single day of rebellion. I know that anything worth doing takes time, slow time, and it’s a process that builds momentum over a series of repeated steps – not an instantaneous change that happens all at once.  It’s hard for me to post this, in fact, because I wish I did have the answers and could tell you exactly how to make it all better. But that would be delusional, because for me, and for you, it’s a process. Today, what I know right now is that busy-ness is not fun for the sake of busy-ness.  This is a process, a long process, and it turns out in the art of quiet and stillness, I’m a slow learner.

It’s life. I’m here for the ride.

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