It was as if I had outgrown a good pair of trousers, my favorite pair of trousers, and I had no others to put on.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Gates goes on to list the tasks he faced:
I wanted to learn how to be a free Negro and to be a man, how to be in the world and with God, how to question values and traditions without being kicked out of the fold, how to value community and order, family and the group, yet not to have to suppress my uncertainties, doubts, ambivalences in order to be accepted.
Practice: Notice which of the daunting tasks on the list has your name on it. (“Community” bears mine.)
Advanced practice: Act on the task you selected. Start small — these are lifelong tasks, after all — but start.
Related practices: Authentic, Fluency, Tuesday Nights
I can’t be everything to everybody. Send me your specs.
Practice: Identify the specs that people need to meet for you to let them into your life.
(If you have none, Ooops. Ditto if you’ve never identified what they are.)
Then consider how close you come to meeting your own specs. You can’t be everything to everybody but you can take steps to meet your own specs.
I write to shine a light on an otherwise dim or even pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others.
Munson says she takes her author’s statement seriously. I suspect we all do — whether or not we know what ours says.
Practice: Come up with a sentence-long statement for yourself. Go broad, defining what you are here to do in general, or get specific by identifying the intentions that underlie something you do regularly.
Advanced practice: Ask a few carefully selected people whether they think the author’s statement you have created accurately reflects choices they see you make.
Related practices: Shrug, Perfect, Play
No matter how nice or intelligent everyone is, I just want to go home, put on my tutu and rollerblade.
Opinions about the right way to behave are a dime a dozen. The trick is identifying your own likes and dislikes, the behaviors you prefer.
Practice: Allow your preferences to surface at their own rate, until one of them makes you chortle. Amusement is an indicator that you’ve found your sweet spot: an action that is neither too risky nor too familiar.
Then give it a try. Rollerblading in a tutu, anyone?
Related practices: Done, The Fun Factor
Life is better than death because it’s less boring and there are fresh peaches.
The mind that links life, death, boredom, and fresh peaches is a free mind.
Everyone’s mind makes all kinds of links, but it takes practice to notice what those links are — we have a tendency to silence our originality lest others find us strange.
Practice: Notice. That’s all, simply notice.
Advanced practice: When you picture yourself playing dominoes with your long-dead grandparents, use a word you’re surprised to find in your vocabulary, or do anything else that lands you in unfamiliar territory, identify the links that led you there.
Related practices: Perfect, Intensify to Identify
There are proponents of New Year’s Eve, and there are proponents of regular Tuesday nights.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Resolutions may or may not provide traction. Meeting with yourself or another trusted companion every Tuesday night, or on the third Saturday of the month, is a better bet.
A writing group where participants either brought their work or brought their understanding of not having done the work was a revelation for me. The second seemed to produce as many pages as the first, as did the fact that the group met regularly.
Practice: Identify something you want to do. Then pencil in a regular time to do it.
Time spent cleaning your desk or finding the right shoes counts: Getting ready is one way to get going.
Related practices: Self-attack, Need, Some Doors Do Not Open
Because speaking up for myself was not how I learned English. Because I am fluent in Apology, in Question Mark, in Giggle, in Bowing Down, in Self-Sacrifice.
Elissa Bassist in Not that Bad
Pantone 219C – Barbie Pink
Finding your voice isn’t easy, nor is recognizing what you have to say.
Somewhat easier is identifying the languages you are fluent in. Tech? Despair? Clichés? Buying-time? Uplift?
Practice: Notice. Name. Neither practice will make you fluent in a newer, truer language — but they help.
Related practices: Authentic, Self-attack, Withdrawal Symptoms
Anger is an entitled emotion.
Wait. What? Anger is an entitled emotion?
Practice: Consider your most recent experience of anger. Were you responding to an inconvenience or to an injustice?
Related practices: Very Good Life, Behaving Badly
Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.
Joseph Wood Krutch
Here’s the question: Do you think it does harm to ask for what you want?
Always, never, under certain circumstances? Be specific.
Practice: Visualize the parents and neighbors and great aunts and great uncles and teachers and strangers and buddies and business owners who taught you that it wasn’t safe to ask for what you want.
Identify what their lessons have cost you.
Related practices: Please, A glass of water
I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.
Either we set limits or others, including miscellaneous robocallers, set them for us.
Practice: To reclaim your time, discard an activity. Drop a subscription. Quit ironing. Make a topic a no-go zone. Declare yourself too busy to babysit — or clear your schedule so you can devote more time to it.
Advanced practice: Stop explaining the limits you set, even to yourself. “Beats me” is sufficient. As is a shrug.
Related practices: Done, Self-attack, Authentic