Tuesday, 16 October 2012

On being in the middle...

I really wasn't sure what to write about this week.

It's not because I don't have anything to write about.  In fact there have been a more than a few things running through my mind.  But with each of these things, I thought - no, I'm not finished learning that lesson yet.  I'm not ready to draw any conclusions.  I'm still in the middle.

And that's when I realised what I should write about.

You see, every week I write a blog post that has a real sense of finality to it.  This is what happened, and this is what I learned from it, and this is how things are going to be different now.  As a perfectionist, this is a very satisfying thing to do.  Bam!  Lesson learned.  End of story.

But life doesn't always work that way.  Unless you are a character in a well-scripted sitcom, you don't learn one clear-cut life lesson every week.  Sometimes you learn nothing, sometimes you learn the same thing again, and sometimes you learn several things at once.  Sometimes something really messed up happens and you have absolutely no idea what you're supposed to take away from it.  Sometimes you have a feeling you're learning something but you're not sure what.  Sometimes you have absolutely no idea that you're in the middle of learning something very important.

I like to keep a journal of my experiences at the opera studio. I jot down notes about what people said in coachings and lessons, and sometimes I write a few sentences when I feel I've realised something significant. Well this week I've had a difficult time with one particular project, and I thought I should write about it in my journal.  But I kept putting off writing about it. I thought that if I just gave myself some more time to reflect on it I would be able to make some kind of ground-breaking conclusion from what had happened.

A day passed.  And then another day.  And still I had no big revelation.  I had no idea what to write about it, except for what had happened and how it had made me feel.

This really maddened the perfectionist in me. It was just so.. messy! So unfinished!

Why was it still not tied up in a neat little package??
And suddenly I thought to myself, you know what, that's ok. I don't need to draw a conclusion here. Maybe I'll be able to look back on it in a week or two and be able to say exactly what I've learned from it, but right now it's still unclear. Right now all I can do is take a step back and be aware of how it makes me feel and why. Which is enough for now. I'm still in the middle, and that's exactly where I need to be.

We all love to focus on the product of our work.  There's no better feeling than saying "I made that" or "I learned this" or "I won that award".  Which is why it can be very difficult to stay motivated when you aren't seeing any clear results from your efforts.

Some days it's really obvious why you're doing what you're doing.  Those are the good days.  But there are also a lot of days when you just keep struggling on and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.  It's really frustrating.  You begin to think you're doing all of this for nothing.  That you're never going to get there.  Maybe yesterday you felt like you were getting somewhere, but today you feel like you're stuck in one place or even going backwards.

I'm very familiar with this feeling, as I'm sure a lot of musicians are.  My singing technique has never improved on a steady incline.  I've often reached plateaus.  Very long, very flat plateaus.  For ages it felt like nothing was getting better - until suddenly it did.  Don't ask me why.  Maybe I had a sudden "Eureka" moment, or maybe I just needed that bit of time to process things subconsciously.  But the point is, it has never been - and probably never will be - a straightforward path.

It's not always obvious where you're going, or how and when you'll ever get there.  But chances are - unless you're doing something really really weird - you will end up there eventually.

So true.

Ok, fair enough.  But what do you do in the meantime, when you're stuck in the middle of that tangle?

This is how I felt this week.  Right in the middle of it.  I'm aware that certain things are challenging and that I'm struggling with them, but I haven't had any big breakthroughs or epiphanies.  I haven't learned lessons or drawn conclusions from anything.  In fact I can't really see where all of this is going.

I would just love to be able to sum it all up for you.  I would love to tell you exactly what happened and why, and what I've learned from my mistakes.  I would love to smile knowingly with a smug twinkle in my eye and say "ah yes" to myself as I look back on my past foolishness. 

But I can't.  It's still unclear.  It's still difficult.  And I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Oh boy.  Still a long way to go here.
So what should I do at a time like this?  Should I obsess over my problem?  Should I crane my head from side to side, trying to see ahead to the end?  I could do that, but it would probably only make matters worse.  Should I give up?  Should I go and find another, shorter tunnel?  It's tempting, but that's the coward's way out.

I actually think that the best thing to do at a time like this is to accept where you are.

It's ok if you don't have it all figured out just yet.  It's ok if you haven't made it.  The point is that you're on your way.  It may not look like you are, but you are.

You know the expression "can't see the forest for the trees"?  Well sometimes that happens.  Sometimes you're right in the middle of the forest, and you won't see the whole thing until weeks later when you come out of it.  That's when it will all make sense.

But in the meantime, why not enjoy the trees?  Why not ACCEPT that you're in the middle of the forest, and have a look around?  You might even find that the scenery is quite nice here!

Trees are pretty!
It's hard not to worry about the future.  Where are you going?  When will you get there?  Why aren't you there yet?  But sometimes you just need to take a step back, relax and enjoy where you are.  Right here, right now.  You won't always be here.  But at the moment, here is where you are.  And worrying is not going to change that.

We're often so obsessed with the end that we forget to enjoy the journey.  You can't always control where you are or how fast you're going.  But you CAN always sit back and admire the view.

So go ahead.  Accept where you are.  Stop worrying about the future.  Stop beating yourself up for moving too slowly.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be patient.  Just be.

And who knows - something amazing might be just around the corner.

1 comment:

  1. you could have also titled this post as "on the way there" ;). On step in front of another...Keep it up Brynne <3