“Pursue knowledge, daily gain. Pursue Tao (wisdom), daily loss.” – Tao Te Ching We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things. What do you need to STOP doing in 2015? And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?
So asks Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing. offers this prompt as part of Jeffrey Davis’s #Quest2015 – “12 days with 12 visionaries to imagine your 12 best months.” (I’m collecting some of my responses on this blog. Read others here and here.)
When I first read this prompt, I had an immediate reaction, and it wasn’t that pleasant. I don’t know Charlie at all. I’ve landed on his website a couple times and I’ve listened to a couple of podcasts. But truthfully, My lack of knowledge about Charlie and his story didn’t give me any pause as the internal chatter began.
Hush now. It's Different for Moms.
“Typical guy perspective, assuming that STOPPING is some sort of innovative, foreign concept! I can think of half a dozen things I should stop doing right now: stop snapping at my daughters when I’m actually angry with myself; stop eating this and drinking that; stop checking my phone first thing in the morning; stop leaving the garage door open; stop subscribing to services I don’t have time to use; stop putting ‘couch downtime’ over intimacy.”
“See, Charlie!” I exclaimed inside my head. (Charlie had ceased to be an actual person and just became The Man Named Charlie). “I’m steeped in the wisdom of elimination! And not just because I track a baby’s bowel movements each day. I so get that the key to happiness isn’t to do more and have more. As a mother I understand that simplicity is fundamental. And let me tell you, I know I don't need to add one more thing to my list. Yeah, thanks Charlie - I totally got this. But there are about a million ways the world would fall apart if I STOPPED, so I’ll fulfill my duty to this this prompt later."
My final thought, “This guy seems really accomplished. But he’s not really speaking to me. After all, it’s different for moms.”
Revisiting and Reevaluating Judgment
And then I launched into my wild thicket of a day in which I hoped to get some writing done on my book, plan the menu for the week and grocery shop with a real strategy (for once), work on my website copy, and clean the house a little. Oh, and mother that teething baby who was going to be with me all day long.
Halfway through athe morning that had nothing to show for it but a new pile of dirty dishes and dirty diapers and a failed nap attempt, I heard a new voice trying to interrupt my self righteous little interior monologue. My electrical engineer husband, who generally leaves the conversation and the analysis to me, had remarked a few weeks ago, "for someone who is supposed to be so open minded, you're really judgmental sometimes."
Oh, dammit. Um, sorry Charlie.
Moving Beyond Sexism, Ideology, and those Judgtastic Tendencies
Back when husband made that observation about my judgtastic tendencies I'd scribbled a journal entry that never made it to the screen. In a nutshell… Happen to remember the #shirtstorm? The lead scientist who landed something or other on a comet made a very poor wardrobe choice during his moment in the limelight. The polo shirt, covered in scantily clad female video game characters was seen as an outrageous slight to women in STEM. Others were outraged that all bloggers people could talk about was an ugly shirt when real scientific history was being made.
All worked up, I took my side with the earthlings who deserved to be affronted by yet another blatant example of women’s objectification. After all, I’m a feminist - it’s my job to speak against chauvinism and to enlighten the masses who still don’t get that sexism is a problem. Screw the bigger picture and the Star Trek fantasies - that shirt was a trigger and I was so happy go off like a gender equality seeking missile according to the script.
Then there was this series of intriguing, important conversations on Google+ about this whole issue (where I’d first heard about the whole flap). These social media exchanges and thatan eye opening chat with husband made me realize I was giving away a whole lot of personal agency whenif I leptwas going to leap at every bit of antifeminist link bait and ignored the bigger picture. (Comet landings may actually be more important than one deeply foolish individual after all.)
In 2015, Let's Quit...
So, this was weeks ago and I was meant to have learned my lesson about making snap judgments and choosing ideology over critical thinking. But it seems that it takes more than a few Google+ posts to change what is likely a lifelong habit. It also takes a quest!
So, here’s what I am stopping in 2015:
- Making snap judgements in order to protect myself, speed tasks that seem too tricky, and save me from rigorous self-inquiry
- Hiding behind ideologies that give me the stock answers to questions both simple and complex and help me hide behind tribe-think
And here’s one more that’s even more personal…
- I’m going to stop using my children as an excuse to play it small, ignore counsel that could help me grow, and to avoid taking personal risks.
Again, sorry Charlie. My judgmental little heart is full of gratitude.