Because (I’ve thought) I could not stop for Death

“Pursue knowledge, daily gain. Pursue Tao (wisdom), daily loss.” – Tao Te Ching 

We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things. What do you need to STOP doing in 2015? And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?

I need to stop acting like I will live forever.

In general, I’m a “chucker.” For decades, I was a nomad, moving once or twice every twelve months. If you have to schlep stuff, you tend to be a “chucker,” discarding whatever isn’t immediately useful or important. I still do this – sort through beloved books, cull clothing, ditch stuff that I’m not using and don’t think I’ll use in the next few years. True, now that I am not moving as often, I have started to accrue things like art supplies and poetry books. But I take to periodic de-cluttering with a zest that most folks probably don’t have.

What I do collect are half-completed projects. Good ideas that never get fully explored. The first three chapters of five unfinished novels. Poem drafts that never get revised. Ideas for my blog that never materialize because I don’t have time, or I let my inner critic tell me that there are enough !@#$@ “life-coaching” websites with pretty pictures out there already. Sketchbooks with seven pages full and twenty-eight pages empty.

What I do collect are part-time jobs. Jobs that pay in dribs and drabs. Each job taking ten to twenty hours each week in actual time, and thirty to forty hours a week in mental energy. Multiply by three or four…. and there isn’t ever a time when I’m not working. One job during the day, one job sporadically throughout the week, one job in the evening. All of them added together barely pay my bills but give me the flexibility to attend writing conferences or artist residencies. I never seem to be able to say no to work because I can’t risk offending someone, or I am afraid that I won’t be able to pay my bills. Or I am almost fifty years old and how do I not have a career?

I need to stop acting like I will live forever. I need to focus and finish. I need to ascertain how I can build one profession that feeds my creativity, my art, and helps my community (which community is something else I need to decide). I need to stop spending my energy on other people’s dreams.

Focus. Attention. Set big goals, but create attainable small steps each day. And finish them. Reach the mountain by walking towards it every day.*

Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last few years are probably shaking your head in amazement.  Again? She’s telling herself this again? When will she actually put this into action? Please help me remember this year of loss so that I will remember what is too precious to lose.

*See Neil Gaiman’s AMAZING commencement address to understand this last sentence in its full implication.

One Reply to “Because (I’ve thought) I could not stop for Death”

  1. Erin,

    Thanks. I’m appreciating your blog so much. So, go ahead. Stop living like it will go on forever. Or not. Make up your own rules. Or not. Stretch the truth (or adjust the chronology) to get the job/contract/client. Or not.

    Whatever we do, I agree we will and should “Make (y)our own art… Make good art.”

    Playful blessings,

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