Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rule Number One

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.

1 comment:

Dee said...

I own an love that book! Very valuable read for anyone really.
For you it might be 'bogged down in deliberation', for me is procrastination! Big time.
It also sometimes helps to actually finish that question with a response. So, what if? What if .. then you enter the question you're afraid of, and find an answer! Sometimes the answers are much less scary than we think.