Stop. Just stop.

I mentioned my #quest2015 work in my last blog post. So far, the prompts and the community are fueling my imagination and marking the trail for the coming year.  I haven’t blogged about them, because often my responses to the posts are only a paragraph or two. Or, conversely, my response is longer, but it feels a little too personal to hang in my internet front window.

Don’t worry, dear reader, you’ll get to see the final outcome of the Quest – my goals and intentions for the year ahead – at the end of the month.

The prompts have asked us for compassionate grit, and a sense of fun. They have asked us for artful curation of our lives, and making deliberate choices in what we create – knowing that it will transform us.  They have asked us who we are willing to disappoint, offend or abandon, and they’ve asked what makes our hearts leap.  The responses of my fellow Questers that I’ve linked are deep, honest and beautiful. I hope you like my new friends.

Today’s prompt felt like it required a blog post.  It was big enough, hard enough to wrap my head around, to warrant the space on the page. It comes from Charlie Gilkey: “We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things. What do you need to STOP doing in 2015? And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?”

Cue my frazzled head shaking, with a wee bit of kermity-armed flailing, and the realization that my coffee mug is empty. 

I am not okay with this question.

First, I want to take it apart and look at its gears. I want to parse it into bits and bobs that I can hope to understand, because right now it asks me too much.  Also, there’s a shiver of excitement, because I’ve been leaning toward stopping doing things for a while. And then there’s the wallop of fear that rises up when I say I’m thinking about stopping doing things.

For a very long time, I defined myself by what I did. My achievements made me – whether they were completed projects, written novels, promotions at work, or tiny check marks on the fluttering pages of to do lists that overlap on my desk.  My way of coping with a large, messy world has always been to make a checklist and tackle it with action.

Over the years, I’ve learned the skill of sitting still. I often remember to make inaction a check mark on my to do list. (I’m not kidding.) I let my cat share her wisdom with me. When she sits on my lap, I don’t get up until she’s ready to leave. This is a comfy, purring and soft sort of zazen practice, because eventually I run out of things to do when I’m pinned to the sofa.  Eventually, the coffee mug is dry and I am left with the way the light plays on the cat’s fur.

I’ve learned that the way to access my playful, resting daydream-brain is through walking. Walking has become a restful action for me, it’s a not-doing sort of doing. I go for a walk. I have no destination, no goal, no plan. I often take a camera, because I always regret it when I don’t.

But, in spite of the fact that I can exercise my stillness muscles, I am really shitty at stopping doing things.  My identity is still tangled around the doing-things idol like frayed thread.

“We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things.”

This isn’t a prompt. It’s not even a question. It’s just a statement explaining why Gilkey’s asking us about stopping.  As I pry open the back of this question and watch its gears tick, I think about this statement as regards stuff before it regards actions.

A few years ago, as I dealt with the drastic lack of space in a small house with new occupants, I realized I needed to purge a lot of stuff from my life. I knew that I need a new philosophy of stuff.  At the same time, I was shopping for clothes, and I ran across the wisdom “If it’s not an absolute YES!, then it’s a no.”  It was a random tidbit of advice about buying jeans.

This month, I’ve been mulling over the concept of applying that same philosophy to social engagements, social media,  creative pursuits and other areas of my life.  I’ve gotten pretty good at choosing to follow the creative project that lights me on fire, rather than the one that feels like drudgery.  I am still enough of a people-pleaser to not do so well when it comes to social stuff.   It brings up little trembly excited bits of silt from the bottom of my inner pond to consider saying no more often.

What do you need to STOP doing in 2015?

The original 2015 goal list that I scribbled on a scrap of paper before discovering Quest2015 had the note that I wanted to be on social media less often this year.

I use it as a crutch, and I know it. When I’m uncomfortable with the messiness inside of me, I like to numb it with a little bit of information overload.  When I should be writing or creating (or doing nothing and daydreaming), I dull the knife’s edge with a little clickbait.  I scan Twitter and Facebook every morning as I eat breakfast. Does this “input” really help me? Do I really connect with people?

Maybe I need to use it more thoughtfully, let myself be vulnerable a little more often.  Maybe I need to be more selective about who I interact with, and how.  Maybe I should be using it to set up real-life connections and coffee dates instead of just clicking “like”.  Maybe I need to send more snail mail.

The other thing I’m really wrestling with is social interaction in general. For the last few years, I’ve had bullets on the resolution list to connect – deeply connect – with certain friends that I miss, with people I love and want to keep in my life.  I value my friends and loved ones. I want them to know that.

At the same time, my introversion is only deepening these days. I feel like I’m curling in on myself like a roly-poly bug. Small talk exhausts me. Parties are sensory assaults – even if I know and love everyone there. Going to the movies takes 4-6 weeks to recover fully from the sound.   For the sake of my sanity, I must say NO to many of these things, unless the answer is an absolute, heartfelt YES.

This clashes against my people-pleasing, but feels like intense self-care.  It raises fears about my desire to connect with people I care about, but that also opens doors to other options.

And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?

I’m going to steal my friend Clarice’s game.

Wait, that doesn’t sound right.  I’m going to use her idea for a game and do a similar thing.

A fellow INFJ, she gets wrapped up in the anxiety of connecting, and desires connections. She made connecting a to-do, and it added a layer of should and dread to what should be fun.  She has two fishbowls of river rocks. One bowl has rocks painted blue, and they have the names of people she wants to stay connected to written on them. One bowl has rocks painted gold, and they have names of people she deeply loves and needs close to her heart.  Gold rocks she plucks daily, and reaches out to the person whose name is on the stone.  That might be a text, a postcard, or an email. Or *gasp* a face-to-face meeting.  Blue stones she draws from the bowl once each week, and reaches out to those looser connections.  She works her way through the stones at random, and then when the bowl is empty, refills it. This means that everyone gets “touched” on a semi-regular basis – those who are closest more frequently.

She made connection a game instead of a chore. And she made it suitable to being an introvert who doesn’t always have the brainspace for a coffee date.  I still need to figure out how social media plays into this – as a tool for connection instead of a mask for shallow touches in one another’s lives.

The Tracking Wonder parlance is that we run in “packs”, and this is about my lone wolf tendencies allowing me to howl at the moon with the group every now and then – even if it’s from a distance.  This is about sometimes circling up with the pack and then padding back to the periphery when I’ve had enough.

What am I going to stop doing? People-pleasing.

What am I not going to stop doing? Connecting with people I value.


8 thoughts on “Stop. Just stop.

  1. Oh Sow Bug….how eloquent you are here. I stayed for the whole post, like your cat in my lap now and my tea cup emptied. I love your friend’s rock game. Just today I did my own version of that, feeling a deep satisfaction at reaching out. I have begun to firmly schedule a real-time visit with someone once a week- maybe that sounds not so big deal, but for me, working around my family’s schedule, day light hours alone are precious. But giving a few of them for a walk and a talk….golden stone time, I believe. Great post! xo S

  2. It’s strange how we cling onto things sometimes that are so desperately bad for us, whilst bringing in new things to cover up our discontent. Neither work. Life is such a balancing act: of letting go and knowing and nurturing what works. Nicky

  3. Oh how I love this post. I feel I could have written it (though not so well). The stillness, yes. The people-pleasing and the need to be social while still requiring alone time, certainly. The walking, yes! You’ve said it so beautifully here. Thank you.

  4. This is a beautiful post. I need those walks and alone time, too, while continually struggling with connecting to those I love. Thanks for sharing the bowl of rocks idea. It sounds perfect.

  5. Pingback: Stop, In Review | crackled. sparkling. ephemera.

  6. Pingback: A Media Break, Catching Up On My Quest | . A.K. Anderson

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