Saturday, March 6, 2010

Momentum in March: Handling the "Right Way Worries"

I don't know why but for some reason this year I am enjoying this month's name being "March". Not that I'm much into the martial, military flavor of "forward march!" sort of commands, not to mention that if March is derived from the Roman god Mars, the god of war, then the martial and military associations are full on.

But I like the sense of momentum that "march" implies. Which has set me pondering momentum a bit. I'm afraid I am more fully acquainted with impediments to momentum and momentum's opposite, inertia. Which my American Heritage dictionary defines as "the tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged"--and it cites the bureaucracy of government as an example. Ouch! That hits home! How much time I can waste thinking I'm not sure what to do next (or afraid to try something and find out I was wrong), thus resulting in doing nothing and remaining virtually unchanged, except perhaps more frustrated and annoyed with myself.

And momentum? "The impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events." Aahhh. That's way more appealing, isn't it?

In my brief ruminations about March, momentum, and inertia, I am aware of the roles played by fear and perfectionism (which may mostly be one of fear's clever disguises). I put off blogging because I worry I don't know the "right way" to blog--is it OK to make my blog be a catch-all for the writing of my memoir as well as present day observations about the process of doing so? "Should" it be one or the other rather than both?

I put off all sorts of things, or get all tangled up when I try, because of the "right way worries"--am I doing this right? am I going to look stupid, the way I did that one time in first grade when I got called on to read and had been daydreaming and didn't know where we were in the book?

Really. I only think that happened to me once. I was a near-perfect student ("ahhh...that's her problem!") and I remember that one moment of embarrassment--can feel my face burning red with mortification!-- with my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Phillips as if it were almost only yesterday instead of 50 years ago.

Is there no cure for this momentum-stopping, wheel-clogging perfectionism? No antidote for the right way worries? Well, yes, in fact there is. Christine Kane, a friend and mentor and momentum master (I just made that title up), talks a lot about perfectionism and encourages deliberate imperfectionism as an antidote. So does Martha Beck in Finding your own North Star. And Karen Fagan, local "empowerment expert" and life coach.

And, come to think of it, so did David Barney, my former "boss" back at Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord, Massachusetts. He was the first person I know to have quoted the line: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." And I remember thinking he was crazy! I have a feeling he got a lot more done than I did.

Sometimes the cure for inertia is a Nike-ad-style pep talk: just do it. Sometimes it's a bit more thorough an investigation of just what's going on in there, recognizing the "right way worries" and saying, "Oh, yeah, that again. Not going to let you keep me from doing what I really want to do."

Sometimes it's a matter of talking back and saying: "Look. Let's get things straight. There is no one "right way" to do this. There are all kinds of possible right ways, and the best of those right ways is the one (or ones) that works best for me; the one that gets me to do something, that gets me to take action, to get moving again. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to get you unstuck."

Which is how I got myself to sit down and write this blog this morning. And right now, I am very glad that I did.