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Hi all,

Last Friday it came to me that all those things that I felt needed to be done as soon as possible could actually be done when the time becomes available to do them. Which is, of course, when they would have gotten done anyway — the only difference is, I don't have to  spend the intervening time feeling bad.

I'm very future-oriented — I like to think about what coaches call "a desired future state" and work towards it. And that's fine, but why the rush? It's not like my present state is awful, and you know as well as I do that as soon as I get to the desired future state I'll just be rushing through it to get to the next one.

So the answer is, as usual, to be in the moment. (Maybe even... to enjoy the moment?) I use the Getting Things Done system to manage my obligations and goals, and make sure urgent things don't fall through the cracks, so I can think about one thing at a time. And it works! I just have to trust it.

So, it's 5:35 and I'm still writing this, and no-one has made dinner. I haven't started Christmas cards yet. I didn't do any laundry this week. But it's okay, because today I took two walks with two people I love, met some new colleagues, introduced some people — and most importantly, my shoulders are not up around my ears.

I wish you love and calmness, too.
Amy

Boxes... They're So Cozy


British comedian Noel Fielding is skinny and laconic; he favours flamboyant shirts, skinny jeans, pointy boots, and dry observational humour. He was one of the contestants on season four of the British game show Taskmaster.

Noel Fielding wears skinny jeans, black pointy boots and a faux-leopard coat.On Taskmaster, a panel of celebrities are given absurd, loosely specified challenges and then scored for their efforts based mainly on the whim of the host, nominal taskmaster Greg Davies.

Sometimes the challenges are creative, like "do something with this pommel horse" or "make a sandwich", and sometimes they're athletic, like "get this plastic grocery bag into the goal without using your hands".

And it so happens that Noel Fielding is great at the athletic challenges. If a task requires a powerful kick, unwavering balance, or a sharp aim, Fielding nails it.

This truth shook Greg Davies's worldview. In episode eight, he said bemusedly, “It’s weird innit, but before this show I thought of you as this sort of... weird-y art nymph. But the more I see you — you’re just a lad!”
 

I sometimes use an odd heuristic for making choices. Instead of trying to figure out whether something is right for me, I try to figure out if it is the kind of thing a person like me would do.

Would a mother wear these boots? Would an editor attend this conference? Would a coach read this book? Would a grown-ass adult see every single k-pop act that comes to Toronto?

And if not, and I do it anyway, what does that say about me? Cue melodramatic wailing: Who aaaaam IIII?

Society — the Greg Davieses of the world — wants to put people in boxes. It makes them easier to understand and predict. But people also put ourselves in boxes.

And fair enough. Doing something because that's what a parent/coder/lawyer/environmentalist does saves you from having to make every decision from scratch. Plus it's safer — if you do what all the other whatevers are doing, who can fault you?

And there's the danger. The Greg Davies of the world show up, uninvited, in your head, shocked that you might be a lad as well as a weird-y art nymph. Their shock pushes you back into your box, where you're easy to understand and predict. (And sell to and control! Sorry, my Adbusters youth is showing.) And soon enough, you're acting the way they expect, just because it seems easier that way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I think if we try too hard to be consistent, to make ourselves make sense, we miss the opportunity to develop into the full richness of our potential.

So what if those boots don't make sense with that hat? So what if painting still lifes doesn't make sense with being an engineer? So what if solo hiking doesn't make sense with being a mother?

Emerson says, "Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

A few weeks ago I was talking to a client about a new project. She was excited about it, but was trying to figure out how it fit in with her other work. I suggested that maybe the thing that unites the new project with her existing body of work is that she created it. "What if it's all part of the Julia Evans Creative Universe?"

It's okay to act out of character. In fact, you can't act "out of character" because you're not an invented character that has to make sense in a constructed narrative — you're an organic, self-creating being. You don't have to be a lad or a weird-y art nymph, a mother or a writer or a coder or a crafter. You can take whatever works from all those identities and throw out the rest.

It's okay to, like Walt Whitman, "contain multitudes".  It's okay if the only thing that unites everything you do is the fact that you do it.

And in fact, that's the best way to be, because it's only in allowing all those diverse facets and interests and quirks to meld together and combine that you'll be able to develop the full delicious, unprecedented and never-to-be-duplicated flavour that is the best possible version of you.
 

Coda: It's not a coincidence that I am English and Taskmaster is an English show. I feel like the tendency to encourage people to stay inside their boxes is strong in England, especially compared to Canada. But I know other cultures have the same kind of thing. I would love to hear what you think. If you're English, do you agree? If you're not, what's it like in your culture?

What's New?A picture of Amy smiling. She has a short bob and braces are visible on her teeth.

This week I had a session with a mentor coach to talk about if I'm ready to apply for certification. The consensus is not quite, but I'm much more clear on what I need to work on. (For one thing: slow down!) In accordance with my above-mentioned resolve to just fuckin' relax, I'm not freaking out about it. But I am going to put more time into reviewing sessions and pushing the edge of my skills.

I've been going a bit overboard with plans for the Flourish 2021 Mutual Encouragement Society. I'm excited about it! The folks who signed up will hear from me in the next couple of days. I'd love to do group coaching, so this will be excellent learning. (Okay, might as well put this out in the universe: What I'd really love is to run group coaching retreats — somewhere gorgeous, catered meals, coaching in the mornings, massages and hikes in the afternoons, wine and campfire songs in the evenings. Who's in!?)

Fun and Interesting

  • We’re not taught to see the forces that operate beyond our control – forces like capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Anne Helen Petersen interviews sociologist Jessica Calarco on the impact of the pandemic on women. She does her research in America, but I think her conclusions apply more broadly. "Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women." [substack.com]
  • Interim visual identities have become standard operating procedure for winning candidates. Due to the weirdness of the US electoral system, the president-in-waiting hangs around, waiting, for so long that they need an whole brand identity to represent their liminal state. Hunter Schwartz has created the content we all need, an analysis of the typography and branding of the Biden presidential transition. The Biden presidential transition logo is here [substack.com]
  • “To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal—it’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.” I am all about pop culture, in a sociological and also a personal-growth way, and Buffy was formative and important for me. Here, Ian Carlos Crawford revisits the 21-year-old (😫)Thanksgiving episode. An Ode to “Pangs” [newnownext.com]
(I know the links this week are very American-centric, but what the hell, it's their special day. Happy Thanksgiving, Americans! Be safe.)

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or forward it and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

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I live and work on land which for thousands of years has been part of the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, this meeting place is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and I am glad to be able to live and work here.

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