You might have expected the road trip part two post this week, and if you were then you might be surprised to know that so was I. However, something happened a couple days ago that prompted this post, and I didn’t want it to wait.
What big grand huge thing happened?
Well, I was talking with a friend about what we have on our plates, and both of us were reluctantly admitting something we’d planned to do probably wouldn’t happen.
I let that sadness linger for a moment before I kicked it in the teeth and said we should go for it. We’d feel better for squeezing our enjoyable goal into the mix, and knowing that we had to set it aside for more practical things would most likely drag us down, making us less productive.
The plan was one of three writing challenges I participate in each year: March Madness. This is a Forward Motion one-week rough draft challenge similar to NaNo except in that it allows for leveled participation. I’m signed up for the lowest level of 1000 words a day, but you can go all the way up to a completed work if you have the energy.
7000 words is not all that much in the scheme of things, especially not for those of you who do NaNo, but when it’s tacked on top of family, work, and volunteer responsibilities, it can loom a bit too much to remember it’s a treat.
What’s the big difference between all those things on my goal list? They’re all promises of one sort or another, but the crucial one, the one that I want to do but was planning to drop? That’s the only promise to myself.
It’s much easier to rationalize promises to others. Getting tax information ready? Well there are penalties if you miss the deadline. Work stuff? There’s an income attached to that. Family stuff? Well, there are people counting on you. Deadlines? Someone is waiting on you.
I’m not saying selfishness is the way to go. Self-oriented people are among the least interesting and most off-putting people ever because there’s nothing to engage with. People connect over shared experiences, knowledge, or desires. Those who see only themselves lack the ability to recognize or nurture those commonalities.
What I’m talking about is something subtle that affects a lot of us, and mostly the effect is a good one. This philosophy is one of service, of helping others.
Anyone who knows me recognizes that helping others is one of my missions in life. I love to feel needed, and I love the moment that something I’ve been showing, teaching, helping with succeeds in making another’s life shine. Especially in a time where society encourages us to become more and more isolated, reaching out with a smile, a wave, or a helping hand is crucial to maintaining a sense of community and a sense of being a part of something more than “the daily grind.”
That said, it’s easy to take service too far, to put all the weight and significance on service to others while service to yourself is neglected and even condemned as selfish. I’m not talking about what other people say. Though that can be a factor in this negative trend, the other people are just as likely to be telling you to make time for yourself. I’m talking about what we tell ourselves. About how, when we want to do something that does not provide service, the little internal voice starts up with how selfish, and don’t you have a better use for your time, until there’s no energy left to accomplish anything, for others or for ourselves.
Okay, before this gets too dark, the post is about overcoming this trend, not giving in to it. I want us to think about keeping promises (something that’s so important to me I’ll hesitate to give a promise I can’t keep), but for once look at the promises you give yourself not as distractions, not as something to be set aside for more important tasks (read for others), but as promises just as strong as the promises you give to others. There is someone waiting, counting, hoping for you to come through, someone who is as important (not more, but certainly not less) than every other person who holds a promise from you. That person is you.
Take a moment to think of a promise you’ve made to yourself that got shuffled into the “deal with when pigs fly” pile. Now look at all the other things you’ve managed to tuck into your busy day. Surely you can find fifteen minutes here or there that you can allocate to your promise. It might take a while, but once you start, it’ll be easier to keep going, and you might just be amazed at how much energy appears out of nowhere when you start to recognize your own significance and treat yourself as one of those important people in your lives.
And that is all I wanted to throw out there. Keep your promises to yourself, be they deadlines, life changes, or just the right to take a stroll or sit back and sip your coffee while reading. You’ll feel better for it, and so will those lucky enough to be a part of your life, just as you’re lucky to share their journey.
With that in mind, time to queue up my manuscript. I have 1000 words to write.