Monday, February 15, 2016

One Thing, One Time

by Carol

You all know that I have a habit of listening to podcasts. Like  a good book, a good podcast can just take me away into thought. I often listen to them as I fall asleep, or when I am sleepless. I have recently discovered a wonderful one. Dear Sugar Radio is a podcast that resulted from a Portland, Oregon public radio show that features Steve Almond (essayist and short story writer) and Cheryl Strayed ( author of the recent novel Wild, among others.) In it each week they take on letters from readers asking for help with problems, Ann Landers style.  Well, I want to say Ann Landers style - but these two people are so empathetic, well spoken, intelligent and forthcoming, that their advice becomes more like a study of humanity. Each episode I have listened to is better than the previous one, covering all topics. Since they are both writers, they include thoughts beautifully expressed, quotes from literature, life lessons generously shared, and lots of kindness and intention. I'm hooked.

In recent years, I have made progress on diminishing my natural leaning towards worrying. When my daughter recently traveled to Paris right after the attacks, I actually succeeded ( for the most part) in not worrying when she was there. I simply decided that it was out of my control, and not worth putting my energy into. Can I do this all the time now? No, I can't - but I definitely felt like I took a huge step forward. So I was drawn to a recent episode of this podcast where the listener questioned how he could stop dwelling on things. He and those in his life recognized that his habit of dwelling was not good for him, but he didn't know how to stop. 

Steve took the first shot at it, suggesting that the things we dwell on in life are important because they have real meaning for us.  He said "when you see things in your suggestion box over and over again," those are the very things you should be "thinking about, making art about, seeing a therapist about," or simply doing whatever you have to do to discover their meaning in your life. He maintained that children are not the least embarrassed to dwell on things and will ask the same question, read the same book, over and over again until they have mastered an idea. He believes we are socialized ( or I would say "busyed" out of ) such intense consideration.

Cheryl then agreed but added a further  thought. She said while she often seeks the roots of things in order to solve them, she also recognizes that there are times when you must make an effort to just stop being "that you." She suggests that it is impossible to do that completely - and we shouldn't ask that of ourselves. There are certain aspects of our personalities that are really deep parts of us and will always be there. However, if we seek to lessen certain things, we can make changes little by little. The first step is awareness - becoming truly conscious of what you are doing in the moment ( there is that intention that we are always seeking again!) But then she suggests this wonderful idea - "doing one thing different - one time". ..."When you do it one time, it gives you the ability to do it one more time." Allow yourself to consciously enjoy "that one moment when you improved your character...for that is what change is made of." 

So I am proud of myself for putting the worry away that one time. I am sure I will begin to worry about something again soon - old habits die hard , and a predisposition to worry is in my bones, I'm afraid. But it's also true that  I now feel capable of putting it away. The next time I start to worry, I am going to consciously remember that recent experience, and I will intentionally review in my mind the idea that it is out of my hands, and that life will go on no matter what transpires. If the worst happens, I will have to find a way to deal with it - what else can I do? And if it doesn't - then what a waste of time all that worrying would have been! And I will put my energies into thinking about the roots of my predisposition, meditating on it, making art about it  - keeping myself busy with creative thoughts rather than destructive ones - putting myself "in the way of beauty." Worriers among us - want to join me?

" There is a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it - you can put yourself in the way of beauty."

(Cheryl Strayed quoting her mother's favorite saying)


Lisa Comperry said...

I have yet to read the book, but I bought the movie "Into the Wild" for myself as a gift..Awesome movie, there were parts of it that resonated with me..The trauma of being a few minutes too late to say goodbye to my mom...The last several minutes of this movie were so powerful, the poetic way Cheryl shared what she learned about life..I will have to give "Dear Sugar Radio"a listen to see if I like it :-)

AFishGirl said...

Such a good thought-provoking post. I had read an essay about "Dear Sugar" and some of the writing that went along with it. She's very clever. Worrying. Ah. You need to see my face now. It's the one where I look at you with a lot of understanding and I can relate very well. For me, the cure (if not cure, good medicine) over and over and over again is picking up the camera. It is the literal act of looking and seeing that somehow take me out of that circular race track in my mind wherein worries not only go round and round, they gain incredible momentum, like centrifugal force (Dotti, this is my PeePaw/C moment) and then I'm immobilized by the fear. Fear. Worry. Yes. We are a terrified world, individually and collectively. Does the worry do any good? Not for me. At all. The camera? My binkie, my pacifier, my soother. Thank you for this post, Carol. Thank you. Have a great week.

Carol said...

I love that Pam! "The camera as binkie". It does it for me too, but now I have a word for it!

Melinda said...

What a compelling post!!! As I've gotten older, I'm seeing the uselessness of worry- and try not to bemoan the YEARS I spent worrying. I'm learning to be gentle with myself about the worries that still come unbidden- but I've developed some techniques to manage them ( HeartMath, meditation, mindfulness- as well as photography and being in nature). The worries still come, but I now have some tools to manage them. And I try to distinguish between those things I can do something about- and those I have no control of- or are not mine to do. Thank you so much for putting this podcast on my radar- I'll add it to my list. I love the idea of doing one thing different one time! That's living right on the edge of your comfort zone- where adventure and creativity lie. Again- thanks for such a great post- a good way to begin my day.

Dotti said...

Worries always come and for some reason, it usually - not always, but usually - seems to be worse for women. We're the nurturers. However, learning to manage the worry is the key but it is very hard. This is a great post, Carol, with some terrific resources which I will be checking out. And yes to the camera/binkie thing. (For those who don't understand the Pam's reference to Peepaw/C, my husband and our granddaughter do and talk science together, quite a lot.)

terriporter said...

Did you write this post for me, Carol? Because that's the way it feels. I am such a worrier, about so many things, even when I know that worrying about them will not change anything because, as Melinda said, there are things I have no control over or are not mine to do and those are the things I need to put aside. My father had a saying, which I'm sure stemmed from my mother's incessant worrying (yep, I guess I inherited it). His saying goes something like this, "The things you worry about never happen." I interpreted that to mean that if I didn't want something to happen, I had to worry it out of existence. But now I think he meant that worrying did no good most of the time because we waste so much time worrying about things that probably won't happen anyway. There are days that I just want a break from the worrying. Can't they just get their lives together so I can have some peace? But I am in control of my own peace. I don't HAVE to worry about everything. I have started to begin ceasing worrying about the things I can't control and that is a BIG step for me! I loved Cheryl Strayed's book and the movie and will check out her podcast. Thanks so much, my friend!

Deb McKew said...

Carol, this blog resonated deeply with me. I am going to look up those podcasts. Thank you for sharing. And, the photos look so familiar - am I correct that the B&W is Star Island, and the sunrise Block Island? If not, I will pretend they are - they took me back to those places and to my connection to you. Thank you!

Carol said...

Almost Deb - Both are actually Star Island

kelly said...

wow carol...what an inspiring post! I am only recently dipping my toe into podcasts and will add this one to my list.

Nina said...

Your words and thoughts speak to me ~ I like Listening to Podcasts and will subscribe to Dear Sugar Radio ... Thank you Carol!

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