Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Do I have to think about "have to"?

Yesterday was all the abstract philosophical stuff about "have to," the projection of necessity upon our daily situations. But what I didn't really talk about was the personal . . .

I confess there are times when I've felt like Gil Buckman in Parenthood: "My whole life is 'have to.'" A neurotic, performance-minded guy, I've always felt an inexorable pressure (wholely self-generated) to meet certain standards of success and to be liked and admired by all. Since it is wholely impossible to please everybody, and probably not even desirable, it makes for a life of constant frustration and tension. I spend a lot of time feeling like I "have to" do things that are not achievable.

Fortunately, I have had a few bosses who have helped me past those hang-ups. The conversation always goes something like this:
"I have to do X for so-and-so."
"Because if I don't he's not going to be happy."
"So . . . ? Let him be unhappy. It's more important to do Y."
"Oh . . . I guess you're right."

When you're working too hard to please all the wrong people, you tend to get burned out. Burnout = no joy in your work = everything is "have to." You work out of duty, or habit, or sense of obligation, rather than whatever motivated you to the work in the first place. And that can be deadly.

When talking about building spiritual communities with Augie Turak, he told me, "All I know is that nothing really creative and powerful can happen until people are working on things they really want to do. So ask yourself, 'What do I want to do?' And then go do it."

In my spiritual life, in my career, and in my life in general, I'm at a point where it makes sense to ask, "What do I really want to do? What kind of life do I really want to have?" I've lived out most of my life driven by a sense of necessity; to see my path as freely chosen is an altered state of consciousness.

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