Chop Wood/Carry Water

I work with an extremely creative and talented graphic artist and she recently told me that she creates in spurts  - when the creativity hits her, which isn’t all the time.  Now, not considering myself a creative person in that sense, I didn’t understand what she meant...until recently.  I’ve been trying to sit down and write this blog since before I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago.  I couldn’t get anything interesting - heck, I couldn’t get any words at all to come out of me.  I told myself that once I got back from vacation I would be relaxed and less stressed and the words would flow out of me.  Well, I’ve been back for almost a week now and until now nothing.  

Today should have been my first day back to reality.  I was supposed to attend the inaugural NDL golf outing and volunteer there all day and then go back to Jersey to work first thing on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Henri, the golf outing was postponed.  (For those of you who didn’t know we were having a golf outing, you now have a chance to join us on the makeup date - October 26th!  Check our webpage for details!)

However, I didn’t sleep a wink last night! I was just in bed staring at the ceiling, listening to the rain.  Nothing seemed to be specifically on my mind but there I was, checking Facebook and my emails at 3:30 in the morning.  Consequently, most of the day today I had been feeling antsy and not able to focus on anything.  I thought I was relaxed from vacation. I thought I was ready to face reality. What was wrong with me?

Has this ever happened to you?

Luckily, I came across something while I was trying to read that got my attention. Basically, it said when feeling like I was, do something mundane and really focus on what you’re doing.  Doing that task will give your brain some time off and your subconscious the space to find the path to what you seek/your goal.  The article mentioned a Zen proverb that says, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”  

I’ve been a beginner knitter for a long time now. Quite some time ago I decided it was time to level up from knitting scarves and started the baby blanket pictured above.  To put this into perspective, the baby I started knitting this blanket for just celebrated his 4th birthday!  I tried over and over again to fix the mistakes in this blanket.  Every time I looked at it, I knew I could do better and I knew I had to start it over from scratch but the piece I had knitted had taken me HOURS of my time.  But I finally bit the bullet and decided that would be my mundane task -  I ripped out the blanket and rolled three skeins of yarn into one big ball of yarn. It took me 45 minutes and when I was done I felt a million times better!  I was calmer and able to sit down and write this blog.  Now some may say, this still isn’t an interesting read but I really felt the need to share this experience.

I know we are all crazy busy and stressed.  Most of the people who read this blog right now are parents of children (adult or younger) with autism or other I/DD issues.  We are stressed and worried all the time.  Add in all the other stuff in the world and, well, you end up antsy, not able to sleep, or focus a lot of the time.

When that happens to you next time, try doing something totally mundane - wash the dishes, take your dog for a walk, vacuum or rip out a project!  And, here’s the key, only focus on what you’re doing.  Nothing else.  If other thoughts come into your mind, push them away and refocus on whatever mundane thing you picked.  Hopefully, when you’re done, you’ll feel better than when you started!

Comment below on how you handle stress!  We could all use some ideas!!