Lessons on hitting a wall...

lessons for clara

Dearest Clara,

Some days won’t be great days---I’d be misleading you if I said otherwise.  Specifically, some days you’ll feel a little stuck, like you’re a small wind-up toy that has come up against the wall.  And because there is nowhere to go, you just keep hitting the same spot over and over again, despite the fact that this doesn’t help you actually move forward.

The work days have been long recently---it’s a confluence of deadlines and projects and trips and communications.  It just happened that everything has been hitting at once, and sometimes it’s easy to feel that because you’re trying to give answers to everything, you don’t end up with good answers to anything.  So here are the things that have helped me most on these kinds of days:

  • Prioritize what needs to get done: Make a list of the critical stuff, and then put the things that can wait on a separate list.  Or list them in order of due date.  Sometimes the first step in managing tasks so that we can actually move forward is to sort them out, so that you can move forward in small batches at a time.
  • Get up, walk around: When we get caught up in “doing”, the hours often go by without us noticing.  And pretty soon we’re writing the same sentence over and over again, or looking at the same spot on the computer screen for minutes at a time.  If you’re not getting anywhere, get up, take a walk around the house or the building, or better yet, go outside . . . even if it’s just for five minutes.  That visual break often times makes the space you need for a new idea to make its way through.
  • Look at something new and beautiful: A book of photographs, some flowers outside, an exhibit if you have time.  It doesn’t have to be related to what you’re working on, it just has to be completely different.  When we look at something new to us, it’s a bit like taking all the things that are already inside of our head and giving them a bit of a shake.  When everything lands again, the new order allows for new ways of thinking about the same problem.
  • Go to bed early: You’ll have phases when this feeling can go on for days, and it makes us exhausted.  My natural reaction is to keep working, but if the work coming out isn’t that good, then I know it’s time for a change.  When you go through busy and sometimes numbing phases, be kind to yourself.  Make the space for rest---you’ll feel better in the long run, and your work will be better on the first iteration around.
  • See you: When the daily grind becomes something I question, I try to make extra time to see you during the day.  There is something about your curiosity and laugh and willingness to play around with new things, that inspires me all over again.  And it reminds me what the daily grind is all for, as well as where it fits into the overall scheme of what’s important.  When you’re younger, I hope that you get the same feeling from your friends; when you’re a little older, from your love; and then when you’re even a little older from someone just like you.  That little person will be forever the light of your life, and a few extra minutes with them will always set you on the right path.

All my love,

Mom