Self-help guru, Susan Jeffers, says that the correct internal answer to any nail-biting "what if" in our thoughts and lives is simply this: "I'll handle it." In other words, "I'll learn from it. I'll grow from it. I'll make it a triumph." She wrote a book on the subject, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which I can't say I love unequivocally, but she makes some very good points.
I've been thinking about this, along with three small revelations, three tenets of a life/work credo that came to me—fully formed and carefully worded—on a series of afternoon walks this past spring.
As a prelude to an art and writing project I intend to put together on the subject (though I have all kinds of what-if fears about doing so) I'd like to share these three ideas with you.
The first, in its exact wording, was this:
Rule number one: Plant all your seeds.
You reap what you sow, I shrugged, when this commandment smacked me in the forehead. I began mentally ticking down the list of incompletes in my life: Phone calls I wanted to make. Letters to send. Books to read. Compliments to give. Doors to knock on. Ideas to pursue.
Previously, I had been bogged down in deliberation, asking myself which was the highest priority, which was most worthy of my precious time. But Rule Number One was clear: Do everything. Begin wherever you can. Life is short.
That very afternoon, I began with a literal interpretation, by opening a box of seed packets and scattering their contents. All the potential beginnings of vegetables and flowers I've been hoarding, including the decade-old ones that I probably should have thrown out years ago, fell into the in-between patched of my half-planted garden. I scattered loose soil over top, watered them in, and headed inside to make phone calls, pay bills, fold laundry, write that long-avoided query letter, cook lentils with cinnamon and onions, design business cards, compose follow-up emails to potential clients, clean the basement, whatever came to mind. I'm still doing this. Every positive impulse is a seed, and I plant as many as I can.
As for my garden, many of those old seeds never sprouted. Birds snacked on some of them. No flowers emerged. The kale grew well, but the deer got all of it. I did get some arugula, a few extra string beans, a bumper crop of basil, and perhaps most importantly, I crossed that long-standing seed-planting item off my list. Now, when I look at that seed box, I feel excited about next year's choices rather than leaden about clutter and unfinished business.
I can't say that the list is getting shorter. I add items all the time. Some chores add themselves. Things break. Bills keep coming. But so does the basil! Clients appear. The phone rings. My inbox fills (including a writing assigment resulting from that query letter). I must make pesto from all that basil. I don't think I will ever cross off every item from the roster. I'm glad of that.
And the pesto, by the way, was delicious.
Next item on the blog list: Rule Number Two.