Monday, September 27, 2010

The Hardest Thing on Earth

Here's a provocative and bracing quote sent by Mamie of Can I Do It?

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
- Katherine Mansfield

Now, taking this literally, the hardest thing on earth for me would be doing one of several things that I don't want done.

But the hardest thing that needs doing? That I'm in favor of. I almost always save answering the most complicated email until last -- and then maybe waiting a day. And I'd love to stop doing that. So why don't I? It's not exactly saber-toothed tigers I'm fighting here.

Bold Bonus Life Tip #2:
An "extra life" could simply be a period of sticking to a resolution. This never occurred to me until now. One could decide to get a personal trainer for three months...or volunteer an afternoon a week for x period ... or meet all deadlines early for a set period. Or, what the hell, have red wine and dark chocolate daily for a while. This kind of bonus life could spill over into the regular one, which could (maybe) be a good thing.

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mamie said...

I've thought all day about the hardest thing for me to do. And frankly, I can't do it.

So what would be the next hardest thing? Maybe go to a foreign country by myself. Maybe I could do that.

billie said...

When I worked full time in public mental health, I always put the most onerous tasks of the day/week first on the list for Monday morning. It was totally freeing to get them out of the way first thing.

Working in private practice there the only onerous things have been dealing with insurance companies, and since that's linked to my getting paid, I always did it quickly!

In personal matters... it's a bit different. But on the occasion when I do have some hard things to do, it's still true that "just doing them" and getting it over with is far better than having them sit generating dread, even if it's "under the radar" dread b/c I've tried to put them out of mind.

I'm trying to think right now of the hardest thing on my plate and I can't really come up with anything. It's more like there are too many time-consuming things and I can't get them all done in a timely fashion. But not one thing that I'm just not able to do.

Or maybe it's so dreaded I've blocked it!

Peggy Payne said...

Interesting that it's difficult for both of you to come up with a hard thing. That seems exceptionally healthy to me.

I find that when I've checked off a Hardest Thing, that I'm immediately able to assign that role to something else. Even with little stuff, like answering email. Some messages jump out at me as complicated. Definitely must wait a few hours with those. I'd probably be a different person if I didn't.

One of the hardest things for me is running a regular writing group, but I'm thinking about doing it again anyway.

billie said...

Peggy, it's interesting that you re-assign the hardest thing honor to something new when you do the first hardest thing.

I wonder what would happen if you allowed yourself to pick only x number of "hardest things" a week - i.e. only that number could be titled "hardest things." It might be that the title is giving weight to things that they don't actually possess!

Otoh, I just posted on FB that because my daughter dislocated her finger last night I am overwhelmed with chores today. I felt especially overwhelmed when I discovered a trail of ants in the house in a new place - that tipped me right over the edge for about 15 minutes. But once I move forward and do even one little thing in my list of "things" I immediately feel better. That whole thing "slow and steady wins the race" kicks in and I realize that I simply have to do the next thing and let the rest go until I get to them.

I suspect what we say to ourselves in this process is the most important key to making change in what feels hard and how we manage that.

mamie said...

This is what I find interesting about this discussion: for the two of you, Peggy and Billie, the hardest things fall under the list of daily chores or to-do's. I thought of the hardest thing as more of a life-altering event, such as getting out of an unhealthy relationship, stopping a bad habit, telling the truth when it's easier not to, etc.

Peggy Payne said...

Just wrote a whole long comment and it got zapped.

Okay, here's the gist: I love your strategies, Billie, and sometimes even use them. Other days, not.

And, Mamie, I do see the Big Hard Things as harder. But they don't come every day. And it seems I have an unfortunate habit of coming up with some item to do the job every day.

billie said...

I don't know why, but I have a much easier time with the big things. I've always been good in a crisis, and able to make big, tough decisions. It's the little stuff that wears away at me and that's why my struggle is always the smaller, daily, things.

Actually, I think I do know why. A crisis is by its very nature limited in time, and big decisions are generally ones that have to be made within a limited span of time because they're big - so while these things are often stressful and possibly life-altering, they don't stretch on endlessly and they don't crop up every day.

The little stuff, the daily stuff - that eats into my days, and it's true that there are new ones popping up regularly and one never really gets rid them. I like having what I call "free days" - not necessarily free of work or chores, but free of the onerous stuff (or the dread of that stuff) - why I try to get them over with when I can. I am always aiming for as many free days as I can get into a week.

Peggy Payne said...

Interesting! There are probably fewer options with many of the Big Things too. Usually in a crisis, procrastinating isn't as likely a possibility.

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Peggy Payne said...

Loomis, I'll certainly link to you, but I accidentally disconnected my blogroll recently. I need to get that back in action first. And I'd love to have a link from your site.