I got an e-mail message on Tuesday morning that stopped me in my tracks. The title for the message and the first couple of paragraphs called out to women who don’t believe they can do it, whatever their “it” is; women who think they don’t have the special magic in them to make their lives what they want them to be. The author, the fabulous Susan Hyatt, went on to point out that it could well be that women who feel this way are currently mis-spending their special magic in endeavors and pastimes that waste it.
She then challenged the reader: “Start today, by removing one thing from your life that feels draining to you. One thing, no matter how small. It might be a TV show that exhausts you or a social commitment that bores you. Subtract it from your life. Boom. You just took back some of your power. Keep going. You won’t believe how much better you feel.”
I LOVE this. So much of our culture seems to push us to ADD something, to “find” time (or better still “make” time – a mystery that has eluded me for decades), to be busier, to do more in order to do better. What if the first step in real time/space alchemy is not one of addition but a series of pointed subtractions? What if removing that which is draining creates both the time AND the energy for that thing you’ve always wanted to do?
How to know where to start? Is there a TV show you’re watching that actually makes you feel worse or at best ambivalent? Perhaps there’s an endless news loop that you could bow out of? Maybe you’ve got a looming social engagement that you are dreading? What would happen if you just didn’t do that thing? Put a little plug in the energy drain. Save some of that good stuff, your energy and your time, for you. What would be possible? How many things would you need to subtract to create a sense of possibility?
Okay, so maybe after the first couple subtractions, it gets a little harder to tell what should be next. My kid offers a great example of how to do this. He’s home sick today and when I asked him if he felt up to eating anything, he paused, and then said: “Part of me is hungry and part of me doesn’t feel so good.” I suggested a piece of toast to start. He paused again, “Yeah. That sounds ok.”
Later after we’d gotten him sorted, I asked what he was doing in those pauses. “I’m just seeing how I feel about it Mom. Sometimes I don’t know the answer, so I just check. I’m seeing how it feels.” Really. “Where do you check?” “In my stomach, sometimes in my chest. I just see if that idea feels good or if it makes me feel bad. Then I tell you.” Yes. This. Be still, see how it feels. Check in with your stomach, with your chest, with your overall sense of wellness. Check in.
Know what my kid didn’t do? He didn’t make a spreadsheet. He didn’t use the economic tools he’s already learning in elementary school to list pros and cons and opportunity costs. (He usually reserves these tools for high strategy games.) He didn’t ask 10 friends what they thought he should do. He just checked in with the part of himself that gives the clearest signals about what is good for him. The pause seemed a little long for such a simple question, but that pause was a lot shorter than making a spreadsheet or phoning 10 friends, consulting an expert or an oracle.
This is the example I intend to follow as I make my subtractions. While I hate to rush things, now that November has begun, I have to admit that the holiday season will soon be upon us. It strikes me that there may be no better time to practice and be really clear about what I really want and need to do, and to eliminate things that waste my time and my energy. Those holiday bits seem like big things though, so I’m going to practice by starting small. There’s some news I don’t need to hear ALL day. There’s some television that I really don’t want to watch anymore. Snip. Cut. Plug that energy and time drain.
What’s in your plans that will drain you? What’s in your plans that you are dreading? What can you subtract to reclaim your power?
If you’re not sure how to figure that out, if you need some practice saying “no,” or if you know what you want to subtract but can’t seem to move forward, get in touch with me. I can help. You are worth the time and energy you will find.