Allowing for a little mess

Button hit an independent streak a little earlier than Sprout did. He refuses to be fed.

And he refuses to be coached on how to use forks or spoons.

How’s that going? He’s getting more frequent baths.

But there is the benefit of eating our own meals without having to grow an extra arm to feed him.

If he would let us feed him, it wouldn’t be as messy. But he can do it himself. Pretty much.

I try to remind myself that giving up control isn’t always a terrible idea. Just because I can do something better doesn’t mean I need to be the one to do it.

And it’s a good reminder about not demanding perfection from someone who’s learning. He may have some difficulty with it all, but he gets a little better with every meal.

Calculating Intention Debt

I’d love a to-do list app that totals up the estimated time for the tasks I have planned for the day so I know if I’m overextending myself. Even better: It tracks my time and suggests better estimates based on previous work.

I’d like a podcast app that tallies how much listening I’ve committed to with the episodes I’ve downloaded. Or to have streaming services tell me, based on the data they have about my viewing habits, how long it will take me to watch everything in my queue.

Or a toolbar widget in my browser that calculates how long it would take to read my open tabs. A Read Later app that shows the estimated reading time for my saved articles.

Tools like this would make it easier to stop creating Intention Debt, that long list of things that I think I’ll get to, but that just creates digital clutter.

A Netflix queue that you only sometimes see in the app isn’t the same as a stack of unread books on a table. One is tangible and the other can be ignored with a quick tap or click.

Knowing where I’m setting the finish line could be helpful. A concrete number could change my decisions about how to spend time in ways a vague sense of “I don’t have the bandwidth for this” won’t.

I woke up feeling congested. When I sat down to meditate, my nostril whistled like a kettle begging for attention.

I sat with it for a minute, thinking about Pema Chödrön’s words on removing discomfort:

“Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy. It’s like changing the position of our legs in meditation. Our legs hurt from sitting cross-legged, so we move them. And then we feel, “Phew! What a relief!” But two and a half minutes later, we want to move them again. We keep moving around seeking pleasure, seeking comfort, and the satisfaction that we get is very short-lived.”
― Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

I tried to focus on the air getting through instead of the force required; the air in my lungs and not the blockage in my nostril.

Then I asked the question: “How is blowing my nose not the dharma?” How is removing this impediment any different than labeling a thought as “thinking” and letting it pass?

I got up, blew my nose, and sat back on the cushion.

I’m not sure if it was the correct response, but I made the decision and moved on.

And isn’t a point of mindful attention to not dwell on things, but to try and see them as they are?

Sometimes a booger is an invitation to practice patience, and sometimes it’s snot.

Looking for better instead of making better

Yesterday, someone who just met me answered a question by asking “Have been told you overthink things?” It was a pretty spot-on reading.

This morning, I came across this passage:

From the point of view of Samaya, we could say that looking for alternatives is the only thing that keeps us from realizing that we’re already in a sacred world. Looking for alternatives—better sights than we see, better sounds than we hear, a better mind than we have—keeps us from realizing that we could stand with pride in the middle of our life and realize it’s a sacred mandala. We have such a deep tendency to want to squirm out of it, like a beetle on a pin: we squirm and try to get away from just being on the dot.

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

This really clicks when you’re the kind of person who has a setup for managing your to-dos, but keep Googling ways you might optimize or refine it with one more trick.

Or you’ve been stuck trying to finish a draft of something you’re writing, because you think it could be better if you spent a little more time on the thinking about the writing instead of the writing.

That pernicious idea that you must keep looking and contemplating for a better way to do things before the doing, instead of treating the doing as the path to better. That the doing is good enough.

It’s something I remind students of, and have to remind myself of frequently: You can’t revise what you haven’t written. Searching for better and ruminating is like trying to write the third draft of a blank page.

I must remind myself of this more often.

Escaping the time loop

Recently had a conversation about how when the days feel like they’re on repeat and it gets too heavy, one of the ways to break that cycle is to help someone else.

That feeling of every day having the same pattern has been especially strong for the last year. It can suck you in. Convince you your perception of the flow of time and the monotony is the reality. That you’re in a constant holding pattern, waiting to land and move on.

But I’m not a passive observer of my own life. It’s possible to step up and land the plane myself.

It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I saw something that works for me:

Stop and ask the question, ‘Where can I do some good today?’

Then follow through. That’s it. Now, instead of this being just another day like all the ones before it, you have a marker.

“Today was the day I helped this person do this thing.”

And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. I see plenty of other people stepping up and stepping in.

I hope it helps them mark the time, too.