I read this quote of Anne Lamotte yesterday on Facebook: “… no writer waits for inspiration. That’s just another excuse not to get that day’s work done. You sit down, and you bribe and threaten yourself into keeping your big fabulous butt on the chair for awhile.” And I sighed. I checked Facebook seven more times. I jumped on my trampoline (which my big fabulous butt appreciated). I hula hooped. I rode my son’s baja mini bike, which is really a small motorcycle with fat wheels that proves I am a terrible mother to not only let my son ride a motorcycle, but actually purchase it for him. It was really fun, by the way, but he wouldn’t let me keep riding it because he was afraid I would fall off and injure myself and moan on the ground all broken. He really said that. Thanks for that vote of confidence, dear ole’ son of mine.
I did not sit down and write. I didn’t even sit down and paint, except for a small hour in the early afternoon. Which wasn’t even close to the time I needed to spend in the studio to meet my personal deadline of December third. That’s when I am supposed to complete my mandala series, according to my inner CEO. The way I see it, I’ve got fifteen more hours to complete it, it is still December third after all, and if I don’t get it done, I won’t get fired. That would be a tricky thing, firing yourself.
That’s the beauty of a personal work deadline that you set for yourself. Or the ugly truth. All deadlines are infinitely adjustable.
The Rainbow Series, Obviously Incomplete
I just don’t get deadlines. Every one I’ve accepted, for my entire life, has been an exercise in self-imposed stress. And not just stress like oh, I’m late, I need to drive a little faster, get outta my way, but stress like oh my god my entire world is going to explode and fall to pieces and everyone will look down at me and see me for the ridiculous, procrastinating, unsuccessful, B-grade artist/writer/mother/housekeeper (oh wait, definitely a C-grade housekeeper) that I really am.
A long long time ago I made the decision to make happiness my north star. I was a crazy kid, and I thought that was the best way to navigate life. I didn’t want to choose a path that made me compromise my own joy. So I did what I wanted. I left college. I got married at twenty. I got divorced. I moved to the boonies while still being employed in the city, which was highly impractical. So I quit working and starved for a little while. Which was better than working. I married a man that was raising three kids on his own. Which brought me a strange kind of happiness, like the kind of happiness that a towel feels as it is being wrung through the wringer. It thinks, oh soon I will be dry and fluffy again. Or in my case, dry and scratchy again, because I don’t own a clothes dryer, unless you could say that as an inhabitant of this solar system I own a small piece of the Sun, my personal clothes dryer.
Anyway, this navigational style was not a pleasing choice for my inner CEO, and as time has trucked along, that CEO has grown more and more vocal. I need to be some kind of success. I need to get my butt in gear. I need to sit down and write every day, paint every day. My studio needs to look like it belongs in Studio Beautiful because we all know my house will never make it to House Beautiful, even if it is beautiful in its own quirky way, it will NEVER be clean enough for that. I need to make myself known and successful and worthy of praise. And to do this, I must submit myself to the structures society has put in place for success. These things include hard, dedicated work, and competitions, and deadlines.
So what exactly is the function of a deadline? I mean, if you are in the health field I can understand the importance of deadlines. Get Mr. Smith his medicine by three pm. Or he’s dead. That makes sense to me. Or if you want to be that super successful, awesome amazing person that has accomplished so much and that everyone admires and wants to be like. Then deadlines are part of your job. I get that. What I don’t get is the idea that something must get done within a certain time period or its dead. Kaput. No longer viable.
But that’s not how I roll. I don’t want to be the person that pushes myself to my limit at the expense of other important things. Well, I don’t, but my inner CEO does. I just want to be me, silly and laid-back and creative. And while it would be really awesome, maybe, to be that semi-famous person that gets applause when walking on a stage, or a winning artist that gets amazing amounts of money for a painting, the truth is, my happiness is my north star. And happiness is always always always in the present moment.
Don’t worry, he has a full face helmet now.
So yesterday, when I was supposed to be working in the studio madly so as to finish my rainbow mandala series, I was instead goofing off in the sunshine, trying to hula hoop. My son demonstrated that he was far superior to me in this skill and it made me so happy to see. Later I crammed his helmet on to my head and rode his motorcycle around our property like a blazing redneck and it was awesome. I invited a friend I’ve been missing over for dinner and when I should have been at the studio finishing up the last details of my violet nonagon I was instead having warm conversation with a person I admire. And drinking hard cider.
I won’t live my life by deadlines. Because the only thing that dies when I meet one, or more honestly, attempt to meet one, is a little piece of my present moment happiness. I won’t even play the success game. I’ll live by the lifelines in my palms, that say to me, let joy move through you. That is enough.