(I came to this conclusion sometime in August, I suppose): no one, in fact, notices or cares if I wear the exact same thing every day.
Once I grasped the enormity of this concept, Dear Reader, I felt like I could fly! Department stores, gorgeous merchandising and slick magazine ads entirely lost their power over me. I discovered instead a power of my own--again, it was a brand-new sensation!--the power of being myself.
People treat me now, in a black skort, exactly as they always have. Not worrying about what I wear reminds me every day that people react to my ideas, my speech and actions and ability to be a good friend. Not my wardrobe.
6. The Power of Waiting
I am prone to respond immediately. I have considered it one of my unfortunate-but-good qualities. I've heard it called "creative fervor" and "artistic temperament," but in general, I get stuff done. I go from idea to execution faster than most people, and oftentimes, it works out for the best.
On the other hand, when I finish a script or an illustration, I tend to beat down the doors of my collaborators at ungodly hours to celebrate. I annoy the same people (much like a yappy dog) when "inspiration" strikes me at inappropriate times. I also over-share and externally process and talk a mile a minute. I am exhausting to those I love, and I am exhausting to myself.
So I decided to try this concept of not reacting in Real Life. Gradually--and then almost exclusively--I made myself wait. When I had an idea. When I had a question. An insight. A solution to a pressing problem. An answer to an argument.
With my own physical and spiritual needs, I allow myself to act immediately. I carry a notebook at ALL times and exorcise some of my tangled thoughts by writing them down. (I do come back to these scribblings later, and sometimes there's good stuff there.) When I am hungry, I eat. When I need to cry--if I am alone--I let the tears tumble, wipe my cheeks, and go on. When I am overwhelmed, I excuse myself, stretch and bend, pray and breathe.
7. The Beauty of 15 minutes
In daily interactions with others, however, I make myself wait 15 minutes. My goal is always 24 hours, but at the very least, I console myself: 15 minutes will not make a difference in the spinning of the world. So I wait. Before I hit "send," before I place a call, before I text or post or express my emotions, I wait.
I live in a house with two teenaged sons and a middle-aged husband (read all about it here). "Another day, another sh*t-show" has become my recent mantra. We live a typical, over-privileged American life, replete with first-world problems threatening to knock us off-course at every turn. We are too busy, too cluttered, too wounded to be kind to each other all the time.
Waiting to respond to adolescents who spit venom at me (because it is their job) trumps all other parenting tactics I have ever read about or tried. Much as I do when a white, ruffly skort tempts me at a mall, when my teenagers encourage me to rant and rave, I walk away.
The whole family is still adjusting. They've noticed a difference in my response, but mostly it just makes them feel wonky. They have grown accustomed to my triggers; they depend upon making me go cuckoo under certain dire cirsumstances.
However. Arguments tabled until the morning-light tend to become conversations. A mom who practices a slow eye-blink instead of yelling inspires a nascent trust. A couple who walks away from the late-night crazy, brushes teeth and goes to bed may find new words at the breakfast table.
My BFF (she of the killer birthday jacket) and I check-in frequently on the fine line between non-reaction and burying one's head in the sand. Between walking away from conflict and becoming a victim. And a fine line it is. We must all, always, be held responsible for our words and actions, or we wither on the vine.
But I have discovered, without a doubt, what we in theory already know: you can't argue with crazy, and heated emotions do not generally produce resolution or peace between human beings. Almost everything--given a little time and space--looks better from a distance. Perhaps we gain perspective only by stepping back and breathing our way to peace in our very own hearts.
Against my very nature, I wait before I respond. I walk away--from purchases of gorgeous clothes and from arguments--and I sense a growing calm. I let shocking emails hit and settle before I decide how I feel or how I will respond. I make lists of technological emergencies and present them to my assistant at scheduled times.
When I am overwhelmed by facts, figures and time before the glowing box, I put my hands in clay or spend those 15 minutes doing nothing but soaking up the sun on my back porch. I try to trust this is time not wasted, but time spent living and gaining mindfulness. Mostly, it really, really works. Everything is, after all, temporary; everything gets better.