catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 1 :: 2008.01.11 — 2008.01.25


Trying softer

It’s a kind of anti-resolution list, I think—the somewhat ordinary
things I’ve repeatedly willed myself to do (or not do), and yet here I
am, still doing (or not doing) them.  Perhaps naming them in this
very public forum will trick the nagging voice inside my head into
shutting up for just a moment in the sudden realization that it has
nothing left to say.  Here goes…

  1. Stop cleaning my ears with Qtips.  (Doctor’s orders.)
  2. Floss daily.  (Would be doctor’s orders if I’d been to the dentist in the past three years….  2.2 Go to the dentist.)
  3. Drink enough water.
  4. Stop
    making a certain non-verbal sound that is supposed to signify my
    engaged attentiveness to a speaker, but too often comes across to
    others as a (rude) form of “Huh?”, causing people to unnecessarily
    repeat themselves.
  5. Stop looking in the mirror so much.
  6. Be more physically affectionate toward friends and family, and more physically expressive in general.
  7. Read voraciously, like a book a day, or even just a hundred pages.
  8. Stop biting the inside of my cheek.
  9. Run. 
    Do yoga.  Engage in some form, any form, of daily exercise that
    will magically fulfill all of my physical and meditative needs.
  10. Know the Bible better.
  11. I did imply that I would stop at ten…

All good things right?

A friend recently mentioned one of his favorite sayings by comedian
Lily Tomlin; why do we always talk about trying harder, but no one ever
talks about trying softer?  Doesn’t the bible say something about
that?  Stop picking at the speck in your eye when there’s a log in
there that you ought to be worrying about?  Or something. 
Maybe it was related to the lilies of the field, but I could just be
mixing things up with Lily Tomlin (see item 10).

My point is that this year, maybe the best thing for type-A me to
resolve is to try softer.  Do what Anne Lamott advises in Bird by Bird
and close all of those obnoxious voices up in a jar.  Screw the
lid on tightly.  Turn the volume all the way down.  Watch
with relief as they become increasingly agitated, but still so
silent.  Because I look at my list and I think, My goodness,
there’s something in me that wants me to be completely self-centered
and self-righteous, conquering all by the force of will, from personal
hygiene habits to spiritual discipline. And when every moment of my
life is filled with pushing and pulling and trying and failing and
forgetting and punishing, there’s really no room left, as Archbishop
Oscar Romero put it, “for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

So in 2008, I will try softer, which presents its own paradoxical challenge. Lamott will help me:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the
enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your
whole life….  I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive
belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone
just right, you won’t have to die.  The truth is that you will die
anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet
are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun
while they’re doing it.

Romero will help me.  Tomlin will help me.  Hopefully, the
people who physically surround me will help me when I need
reminding.  Try softer.  Stop watching your feet.  God
help me.

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