Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Itty Bitty Steps and Giant Leaps

I want to be a superhero who leaps from building to building, my long legs powerful and strong enough to push me safely across the abyss, fast enough to pass through fire without being burned.  I dream big.

Sometimes, this is fantastic.  Sometimes, this way of living allows me to take the risk to gain the rewarding career, or to reshape my entire life by leaving an ugly marriage.  It is part of my optimism, and part of my joy.

But sometimes, what this world view does is traps me, and makes me feel incapable and small.  I look at my grand dreams and feel utterly frozen: I have no idea where to begin.  I stare at my life, wishing I could crawl back into my bed, unsure not only how to take a leap, but how to even move.  The grandness of my vision terrifies me, even though I am its creator, and I feel certain that I will fail, that I am incapable, that I am not enough.

(That "not enough" thing is getting really old, by the way.  It is annoying me.  I want to shed it for once and for all, but it slinks around and attaches itself to me every time I turn my back.  It has tentacles that wrap around me from the back, and I have to peel them off, one by one.  It is tedious, frightening, and disgusting, and I am over it.  I'm getting better at spinning around and yelling "Get the hell outta here!" to scare it away, but eventually I let my guard down and it pounces on me again.  It is a work in progress.)

At work, I feel completely overwhelmed.  There are so many moving parts to what I need to do, some of which are exciting and some of which are tedious; all of them are important.  I stare at my computer screen and telephone and calendar and wish I could disappear because I feel so overwhelmed.

Not a good feeling.

But I think I know how to get out of that feeling, out of that stuck place (which, let's be clear, is a career killer if I don't manage it!), and I got the idea watching The Good Wife.

(Avoidance of responsibilities by watching television.  Don't ask.)

In The Good Wife, the character of the husband is trying to get the nomination to be the Democratic presidential candidate, and they have showed him in all of his power as he aims for that lofty position.  But in the episode that struck me, they showed him touring the country, stopping in tiny towns and speaking to small crowds and shaking hands and repeating the same few ideas ad nauseum.  There was a funny bit in the show where he had to try the "local delicacies" at each stop, and the local news crew would come film him taking a bite and saying "oh wow this is good!", and in this way he was eating a dozen meals a day (or at least a dozen first bites of a meal), and because the towns were close together, he was often eating the exact same thing many times a day, with the same smile on his face, the same look of pleasant surprise as he declared its deliciousness, even as he fought his own feelings of revulsion for the "delicacies" and for the overeating.

Nobody is asking me to overeat meaty sandwiches (thank goodness), and I have no intention of running for office, but it struck me that there was truth in what I was seeing.  In order to hold the most powerful office in the land, the most powerful people in the land need to smile and bite into (sometimes disgusting) sandwiches.  They need to shake hands.  They need to sit on a bus for hours and hours.  They need to repeat the same canned lines over and over as if it's the first time they're saying them.  They need to treat little people like they matter, treat their special requests (for photos, for signatures, etc.) as if they're interesting.

To be the president, you have to do a lot of really small, meaningless things.  If you don't do them, you'll quickly find out that even the most trivial, meaningless things can hold great power.  ("For want of a nail the shoe was lost...")

This applies to all of us, and particularly to me in my current situation.  To make my organization larger, to help more women than ever before......I need to "eat sandwiches" over and over and over.

I have been so caught up in the big picture, in the importance of what I'm doing, that I have felt impossibly small under that task.  But really, if I break it down, now that I have a plan, all I need to do is eat one bite at a time.

It's funny how often I have to learn my life's lessons.

Getting divorced was an impossible leap from stay at home cancer patient mom to working independent mom.  Doing a half marathon was an impossible leap from the sofa to the finish line.  Both required a million tiny steps....taken one at a time.  Both required keeping my eye on where I wanted to go, but lifting one leg up, moving it forward, setting my food down....and repeating.  Both required falling down, getting up. (In running, this only happened once in the literal sense.  Bloody hands and knees and shoulder; it was ugly.  In divorce it happened metaphorically on a daily basis, I think.)

So, I'm going to tackle my job one step at a time, too.  Make a list of calls, and start at the top.  I don't need to wear a cape, I don't need an invisible jet, and I don't need to be superhuman.  All I need to do is pick up my right foot, move it forward, set it down, and I'm on my way.

Maybe you have something you're working on, too.  Maybe your life seems overwhelming, too.  Maybe it's because you need to get divorced, or because you need to have the difficult conversations, or because you need to reignite your career, or take on a creative project, or lose the extra weight, or clean your basement.  Maybe your life doesn't yet look like your visions, and you're scared that you can't reach your goals.

Me too.  I have a lot of work to do.

Let's start today with little, tiny steps towards our visions.  Let's put the cape down, ignore the cellulite on our non-superhero-y legs, and take those first toddling steps.  I promise not to laugh at you when you fall down, knowing that I will fall, too.  Let's take those steps anyway, and see how many feet we can travel today.

Let's do it!  One bite at a time, let's become Presidents.

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