An excerpt From Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett
As the creator of The Organized Artist Company, best-selling author Sam Bennett’s mission in life is clear: to assist people in getting unstuck by helping them focus and move forward on their goals.
That is also the intention of her new book Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, which is based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.
Sometimes things just happen. Big, attention-consuming, time-demanding, energy-eating things. A new baby in the house. A health crisis—your own, or one affecting someone dear to you. A demanding full-time job. A serious financial setback. These are real-life things that cannot be delegated or ignored.
I call these big life events “time boulders” because they appear to sit like giant rocks in the road to your future. They appear immovable, impenetrable, and permanent.
This is an illusion. Time boulders are temporary. You know this, because everything is temporary.
The mantra “It has come to pass” can be quite useful during these times. And I like to say it with a little pause in the middle, so it sounds like “It has come ... to pass.” In other words, the reason it has come is so that it can pass. And remembering that it will pass can help me find and cherish the lesson that has been custom-designed for me by this challenging episode.
Here are a few tips for getting through those “life happens” times.
- Put self-care at the top of your list. Now more than ever, you need to be as rested and nurtured as you can possibly be. You need all your strength. Double up on your massage appointments, go for your annual physical, and make sure you have time for breathing, prayer, or meditation as well as at least 15 minutes a day of walking, dancing, swimming, or other fun physical activity. Put your oxygen mask on first so that you can help others.
- Get help. It’s easy to feel like you have to shoulder the whole burden, but that’s a falsehood. Write out all the tasks that need to get done. Put your initials by the ones that can only be done by you, and delegate the rest. For example: only you can hold the hand of your beloved in the hospital, but someone else can cook dinner. Only you can do your creative work, but someone else can make plane reservations and book a hotel. Only you can go on job interviews, but someone else can pick up the kids from school. I know, you believe that another person won’t do as good a job as you would, but you might be surprised. And remember: this is only temporary.
- Find a safe place to share your feelings. When you are in a crisis, you are living in a slightly different reality from everyone else, and it’s easy to feel alone and misunderstood. Please seek out a trusted adviser, a trained professional, or a support community with whom you can share the truth about what’s happening without feeling judged or like you’re hurting anyone’s feelings by being truthful. Even “wonderful” time boulders, like a wedding or a new baby, will bring moments of exhaustion, frustration, sorrow, and anger, and those feelings need to be felt if you’re going to move through them. This seems like as good a time as any to tell you that in 1988, when I was 20 years old, I was in a car accident that was no one’s fault. I broke my back, shattering my 12th thoracic vertebra, and fractured my skull in two places. I spent several weeks in the hospital, and I had to learn to walk again. Once I got home, I had a long recovery time, during which I couldn’t do much on my own. Aside from the pain I was in, and the frustration I felt at my new physical limitations, I felt very alone. My 20-something friends couldn’t exactly relate to what I was experiencing. But I had a friend named Joe, who was dying of AIDS. He, too, had been healthy and robust just a few months earlier, and together we groused about doctors, painkillers, and feeling so helpless. We made horrible, hilarious, gallows-humor jokes about his condition and dirty, you-had-to-be-there jokes about mine. I remember calling him up the day I could finally put on my own socks. (Putting on your own socks while you’re strapped into a huge back brace is tougher than it sounds.) He was so happy for me, and I was so glad to have one person in my life with whom to celebrate my milestone. After we hung up, I cried my eyes out, because I was getting better, and Joe was not. I think of Joe often, and I am so grateful that I had someone so honest, so compassionate, and so funny in my life with whom to share that experience. (One time he told me that I should be careful if I ever had phone sex so that I wouldn’t get—wait for it—hearing aids. We just about wet our pants laughing at that one.)
- Acknowledge that your story has changed. We all tell ourselves stories about our lives and the roles we play. “I’m a successful businessperson and a terrific tennis player.” “I’m the older sister who’s married and the ‘responsible’ one.” “I’m the life of the party!” It’s easy to confuse those stories with our true identity. So when suddenly we can no longer play tennis, or we’re no longer married, or we find that the party has turned into a teeny-tiny substance-abuse problem, we become afraid that our whole personality might unravel. But this is a wonderful opportunity to make some 5-Minute Art to better understand your old story and your new story as it unfolds. You are always you, and the qualities that made you a great athlete, a wonderful wife, and a fun person will always be with you.
- Make a date with your other goals. You may feel that as you are dealing with your time boulder, some of your other goals need to be set aside. That’s perfectly natural, and might even be true. But before you throw your projects out with the bathwater, ask yourself if continuing to work on your goal—even for just five minutes a day—might actually help you move through this complicated time. If the answer is yes, then please claim that time. If you truly feel like it needs to wait, then just set that other goal or project gently on the shelf and mark the date when you will pick it back up. So you might put your portfolio in a folder and make a note in your calendar to begin sketching again on the Monday after your birthday, or on the kids’ first day of school. Making the conscious decision either to continue working or to quit for the moment will keep the flame alive.
- Look for the lesson. As the wise woman says, “This is not happening to you. It is happening for you.” No matter how dismal your current circumstance may seem, it can be worth it to ask, “What am I being asked to learn here?” You may be getting a graduate degree in forgiveness, or in patience. Maybe you’re being called forward to be a better son or daughter, a better employee, or a better boss. You may be getting the opportunity to learn about living with a disability, negotiating with creditors, or navigating government assistance programs. The true meaning of this part of your journey may not be revealed until many years from now, but staying aware that there is a lesson and that it is for your greater good might be a useful perspective to hold.
- Surrender. I sometimes think that dealing with the “life happens” stuff is like standing waist-deep in the ocean. You know how you need to both stand firm and let yourself get pushed by the waves a bit in order not to get knocked over? Sometimes the water is flat and it’s easy. On those days you can feel almost “normal.” And sometimes a huge wave will come out of nowhere and surprise you and tumble you and spit you out on the sand, frightened and disoriented. Do what you can do. You are always doing the best you can do. So is everyone else. Surrender is not giving up; surrender is giving in.
Excerpted from Start Right Where You Are. Copyright © 2016 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library—newworldlibrary.com. Listen to an interview with Sam on New World Now on Unity Online Radio.