Thursday, September 9, 2010

CAN and WILL

"That we can is probably our most fundamental, most important, and most enduring dimension; that we will is simply logical." 
- Donald Baer, Montrose Wolf, and Todd Risley (1987), behavior research scientists

As you may have noticed, I love quoting others' words of wisdom and inspiration. This was the final statement in a recent behavior research article that I read for one of my classes. How interesting to find such views about life in my academic reading. CAN and WILL. I like that.

Last week I was working on a project that sent my anxiety and frustrations through the roof. Things were just not working too well for me and I was up against a deadline. I was so frustrated that I felt like breaking dishes. Yes, you read that right... how un-yogic, isn't it?

(But I do love my small collection of dishes, so no, I didn't break any. And I promise that I am not a violent person. Ok, maybe a little... specifically when some great dessert is involved. Especially when it's dessert at this place.)

Interestingly I heard this story about a professor that has a collection of cheap/old dishes for the purpose of breaking them to release frustration. This professor supposedly even has a place in the yard with a concrete slab against which to break dishes. As the story goes, the professor invites people (i.e., doctoral students?) over to break dishes and relieve stress. Urban legend? Who knows.

I'm not a person that gets angry easily. There are things that are small enough that I "don't sweat it." But there are times when the stakes are high, and that notion of doing all you can and then letting go of perfection doesn't quite cut it. Especially when the expectation is quality, accuracy, and excellence. The expectation is to keep pushing and pushing yourself. Just when you think you've reached the boundaries of your thought process, you are pushed so that you keep expanding it. Which I understand (I think)... we are pushed to great challenges and then to overcome them, and as a result we gain some insight and a new nugget of wisdom.

So something happened last week, and it was like the straw that broke the camel's back. What made me even more anxious, was that I know very well that this is NOT the hardest thing I will ever have to do in my academic life. Far from it.

But I had gotten so worked up by that project, that last weekend, I couldn't even sleep... even after my project was done. I tossed and turned until maybe 2 in the morning. So I practiced some restorative yoga poses, including a gentle inversion (legs up against a wall), did some deep breathing... and finally, what got me to settle down and go to sleep was to silently recite a "mantra" -- I am enough.

I am stumped by a question... how to reconcile the high expectations of academia and the need to be kind and forgiving towards myself? In academia, it's almost never enough. It's only enough when you get those 3 letters behind your name and the three stripes on your graduation gown. But in my inner life, there is a sense that yes, I am enough. Not am I good enough or loving enough or smart enough... just... enough, because I am who I am. You are enough because you are who you are, and there is no one else like you.

Interestingly, last weekend someone called me to apologize about something, and I let it slide SO easily.... and I realized that I'm much more forgiving of other people's "mistakes", but I am so harsh on myself when it has to do with my work and my performance.

So this week I am taking steps to help myself. For now, these are the things I CAN and WILL do to help me find some balance. In my academic world I started organizing my life, and my time, even more (or maybe I had not done that well enough to begin with). I am trying out a new yoga class/studio this weekend which I hope aligns more with my sense of spirituality, so that hopefully I can take more lessons for me to use off the mat. With the hopes that lessons from both worlds -- the world of academia and my "inner life" -- collide, and that these lessons somehow reconcile and play well in the sandbox.

Speaking of sandboxes...


 (My nephew* at the Children's Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio)

* I love watching kids play and explore. I took my nephews to a museum once and they saw this HUGE indoor sandbox and their eyes probably got as big as saucers as they ran to the play area. You feel the great sense of optimism, possibility, and discovery. Lessons to learn....

Do you experience any feelings of a "tug-of-war" between the expectations of your work life and those of your inner life? How do you reconcile both?

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2 comments:

Jen said...

Mia, you absolutely are enough. I know it makes no difference until you can say it and believe it, but I'll send those thoughts to you in the hope that it helps!

Mia said...

Thank you, Jen! You are always so encouraging :) Did you start your Mondo Beyondo class yet?

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