In conversation today, I heard myself use a line I’ve used about myself many times, a line that feels truer every time I say it:
I am great at big things; I’m terrible at little things.
I make no claims about the originality of this line, but I have been saying it since my twenties and it’s truer than ever (and improved upon only by the great Glennon Doyle, who has said on We Can Do Hard Things and elsewhere that she can do hard things, but not easy things. I so get this!)
I can do, and have done, some big things. Like, things some people see as forever unreachable: I’ve written books! I’ve moved cross-country (too many times)! I’ve handled a lot of misfortunes from child sexual abuse to mental health issues. I’ve done some big things! Or at least moderately big.
But little things? I am the worst, and I am worsening. The list of things I can’t do ranges from remembering your birthday to paying bills on time to answering email to keeping the kitchen clean to taking daily medications. I am terrible at establishing or maintaining habits or systems of any kind, from exercise to filing to putting away laundry. (Literally. I am so unable to put away laundry, since forever, that in August and September alone I have had a dear friend put it away for me while I was away (several hours’ work), have paid a stranger to help me put it away, and have sorted it into piles several different times… only to I mess up many, many little things per day, and unfortunately many people around me have had to accept this intermittent incompetence.
If you know me in real life– or even if you’ve glanced at some of the titles of recent posts here– you’ll know that I’ve been dealing with some extra-big Big Things. Some of those I have written about, and some I haven’t. Overall, I am coping with these Big Things as well as can be expected or better.
But, there’s a catch! I’m not sure if this is obvious to all but I’ve been clueless, or whether these Bigs differ from my many previous Bigs, or even if my unskilled skills have gotten even less skillful. Turns out: the these Big Things I am dealing with now have necessitated way, way more Little Things than I had already, and I am drowning. Just as one example: my son’s mystery tumor and its related or adjacent other medical mysteries require coordination, communication, and administration by me, as do the bills, insurance, times and places of appointments, transportation, medication, rehabilitation. It’s cascades of unrelenting -ations of the very type I’m absolutely miserable at. The other Big Things I’m wrapped up in are the same way. It’s like the Autobots of important life priorities and the Decepticons of tasks required to address those priorities are in a full-on melee situation, but they keep transforming unexpectedly, and switching sides, and nobody is quite sure whether the enemy is a truck, a dinosaur, a giant gun, or a bumblebee.
Then, and here’s actually why I started this post, there are the ways I make it harder for myself. I’m unaware of most of them, and the ones I have caught onto are apparently the ONLY habits I’ve been successful in forming! Like how I hire help with some home maintenance projects to save me some time, but then I have to keep the multiple unfinished projects in “pending” mode, with materials everywhere and clutter then amassing around it, leading to clutter in some other place, and we’re all living in a house with alarming, precarious piles and nothing in its right lace and a looming threat of panic attacks from the visual clutter alone. You know, those ways!
No solution, just a report from a tired woman who, coincidentally, is not only behind in tidying but who also discovered– just as I was about to hit “publish” on all the remaining course material my students need and have waited so patiently for– that the video material comprising about 1/3 of the “reading” for the course has DISAPPEARED! Like, every link now broken. Good news is the library still owns most of the resources; bad news is every single one is now on a different platform, indexed in a different way and requiring a different link. So what was to be a ten-minute task on Tuesday is now STILL not done!
And so Friday night is like this: the students, who are amazing and very busy, will keep on waiting, and I’ll keep on trying to accomplish the Big Thing of supporting teachers in the very hard work of teaching writing via a trillion impossible Little Things of hunting down links and editing an elaborate course management system accordingly while trying not to accidentally Google symptoms of horrible bone cancers or what kind of grout I am supposed to order or forget to eat the soup I heated up three hours ago.
No answers! But since that’s all both grim and a bit dramatic, I’ll leave you with this aggravating, inspiring statement, one we can file somewhere right in between Little Things and Hard things perhaps: Let it Be Easy. It came up accidentally when I was trying to source/link Glennon’s quote about “easy things.” Go read it. It’s got me thinking about my way of linking one task to another to another, and then overwhelming myself, causing blockage of my more important pursuit of the Big Things that matter to me.
And yes, I knew it wasn’t the detail I needed to complete this post, which itself arose organically and distractingly from a different search I was doing for an essay to replace one of those damn videos! [Process note: I had to search for my own essay Writing is Hard (because Filing! It’s a little hard thing!), which led to this Writing is Hard post from Jeff Goins, which led to his Let it Be Easy post, which led to this post you are now reading. Yes, I know. I KNOW!] I’m a free woman, damnit, and I clicked on it, and read it, and MAN I want to learn how to let it be easy.