Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On "wanting one" of Anything

I'm aware today of how much we walk around in our lives (we being the universal) "wanting one" of any number of things.

In a brief scan of Facebook today I saw many posts with photos and the main comment: I want one.

I was especially perturbed by the photos of various animals that were posted along with that simple statement: a unique species of bat, a miniature donkey, a hedgehog, an armadillo, and a huge draft horse.

Anyone who knows me knows what I'm about to write. An animal is not a thing to want. An animal is a fellow living being who shares the earth with us and any wild animal not needing protection belongs exactly there - in the wild. Domesticated animals are not things to want either. The miniature donkey is going to need hooves trimmed and diet monitored and exercise and a friend of like species with which to spend all the hours you aren't out there with him/her. The huge draft horse is likely to require extra cost when it comes to getting hooves trimmed and teeth done as well as more food to eat and exercise and a friend as well.

Bringing an animal into our families is a huge decision.

But let's move beyond "wanting one" with regards to animals.

What about wanting one of actual things? Cars, houses, purses, shoes, cameras, mugs, hats, phones.

What do we really mean when we say "I want one?"

A few days ago I saw a Moomin mug on Twitter and I became completely obsessed with the idea of having one. I not only spent an hour shopping online, I purchased the one I found that I loved best. It arrived two days ago and it made me very happy. Every mug of coffee and tea I've had since I've had in my new Moomin mug and it brings me joy. And I will add that my old favorite and still dear to me mug is cracked in many places and on occasion leaks through the biggest crack. So, this was not an indulgent purchase. But the impulse to "want one" was strong and it prevailed.

One thing I try to do and I intend to do more of this year is to stop myself every time I "want one" of anything. I'll stop and look around my house and the farm and I'll make a little catalogue of all the marvelous things that are already here. Do I really need that new thing I've spotted? Can I without reservation make the commitment of time and energy and "as long as we both shall live" that it takes to care for another living being? 

My life is full. I have a big family when you count up all the humans and horses and pony and donkeys and Corgis and kit-meows. My family brings me love and joy on a moment-by-moment basis. The work it takes to keep us all fed and watered and happy is also huge. 

I have a lot of stuff. Some of it brings me joy each day. Some brings me joy when I remember to stop and look at it. Some of that stuff is here only because it has been here so long I no longer consider its usefulness or its beauty. Before I add to that catalogue, I will think twice.

And no, I'm not saying never to indulge oneself. Because I did, just last week, and right this second I am getting ready to enjoy a cup of tea in my new mug. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

On First Drafts of Anything

Today on social media I'm seeing references to "shitty first drafts" and "bad" first drafts, and reading comments about how hard and awful it is to drag oneself to the computer to write these terrible documents. 

I want to offer an alternate view.

Maybe a first draft - of a book, a story, a poem, or a song or a painting or a sketch, or a new dish one is cooking, or the first ride after a month out of the saddle, or the first time one is repairing the grout around the kitchen sink - maybe these first efforts of anything could be seen for what they actually are. Beginnings. Adventures. Opportunities.

The first draft of a book is the one where the writer has the most freedom. The time when the writing can soar and dive and play and experiment. When no one judges it or expects it to be cohesive and polished. It's a time when the writer is on the prow of the boat crashing through waves, feeling the wind on her face, not worrying about the finer points of the thing but simply enjoying that wild ride.

Yesterday I got on Keil Bay for the first time in two weeks. There was target shooting going on nearby and many frightened deer in the woods. The Big Bay was on high alert. The ride consisted of me reassuring him, giving him things to do that helped release the adrenalin (serpentines, figure 8s, shoulder-in, lots of walk-trot transitions), and allowing him to circle back to the barn-side of the arena where the rest of the herd was gathered. Was it the best ride we've ever had? No. Was it a bad ride because we didn't have total harmony? No. What it was: the ride that got us back in the groove after some bad weather and a busy schedule. A ride that proved we can work through some anxiety and end up stretching and relaxing. 

We must give ourselves permission to be imperfect.

That doesn't mean we have to name the first doing of a thing "shitty" or bad. 

Why not give it a more positive spin?

First efforts are proof that we're moving and shifting and trying and working. A first draft is a beautiful thing because it represents movement and intention and belief that what we're doing is worthwhile to do.

What we call a thing has a lot of power. It colors our perspective.

Try reframing that "shitty" or "bad" name to something more powerful. The first draft of a new book could be something magical happening, a place where ideas catch fire and illuminate our creative selves. Try viewing that first ride after time off as time with your horse where you learn something new, where you offer softness and maybe get it back again, something to celebrate, a victory. 

Do it and come back and tell me if anything changes.