This morning I told myself very, very seriously that there is just no way I have time for another Secret Playdate and at that exact moment I said well, then there is just no way I can skip it. Because it’s exactly when you’re most stressed out that a break for creativity can make an important difference.
And so I did it. And it was awesome! Again!
It wasn’t the gleeful planning and mapping of last week, though. Even when I was immersed in last week’s gleeful fun, I knew I was facing a roadblock, and that roadblock was: the budget.
It’s not always the case, but this time I was very clear that The Budget was looming in my mind as a scary, implacable wall, uninterested in fun.
And for precisely that reason, I knew I needed to try to unleash some creativity at it. So I sat down with a printed copy of the budget spreadsheet I’ve been monkeying with for weeks, along with my crayons, paper, gluestick and scissors.
After an hour, this is what I ended up with:
The budget turned into a large, looming face with eyes that watched me, and over to the side was small-ish me, enmeshed in confusing patterns and ambiguous symbols. During the process, I alternated coloring with writing, asking What does the budget know and other queries to try to figure out the bits and pieces of wisdom that might be hiding inside.
What I learned
I learned that at the heart of this budget fear is the tiny self inside of me who is scared of judgement. The budget was a face filled with scrutiny and judgement; it was a wall; it was the self who is terrified of failure.
The self who believes that if I can’t make this plan work, I simply haven’t tried hard enough.
And? Not only did I not try hard enough, I was not good enough. This was like a visit from the Saddest Monster all over again, though this time I did feel more prepared to give her some comfort and love, rather than resistance and struggle.
And speaking of resistance and struggle: it came to me that the budget was not intrinsically a looming, judging face or a big scary wall: it became large and scary because of how much resistance I was pouring into it. Because if I secretly believe I am in control (with all the glee and despair that belief entails), then I have no choice but to struggle.
So what would ease look like?
Ease could be the bed instead of the wall.
Fighting versus resting
The struggle: Let’s force a way past the budget wall and what it was saying, which was that maybe the plan wasn’t ready to work quite yet, because that can’t be right!
The ease: Let the numbers be exactly as they are. Don’t force it. Is there shame in something being not quite ready? In letting an idea flower according to its own schedule?
The struggle: I don’t want to give up this chance!
The ease: I remember all the ways in which the budget is supporting me right now. And how it’s not such a terrible place to be. I remember that I’m not tinkering with the budget because things are awful; I was tinkering because this opportunity happened to come up and I wanted to find out if it might work.
There is no shame in saying not yet, because planting seeds in the wrong season isn’t going to feed me. And because struggle is not supportive; ease is.
The unexpectedness of Secret Playdating
Much like last time, I didn’t have a clue that all of this was waiting to come to the surface. And that is its brilliance and power: it lets that other part of your brain come out and play, and it feels so good because you had no idea you were longing for that so badly.
My ideas and thoughts came in fits and starts, and several times I checked the clock impatiently and had to gently ask my impatient self to stick with it for just a little bit longer. And even though I did plenty of writing during the Secret Playdate, some of it didn’t coalesce into firm ideas until I sat down to write this post.
I absolutely loved bouncing back and forth between the coloring and the dialogue of queries. When my crayons felt uncomfortable, I wrote about why. When writing became uncomfortable, I drew about why, or around the idea of why, until I could move forward.
I wanted a simple answer: how to fix the budget and make it work. The numbers themselves knew the simple truth: if you don’t resist it, it’s not even broken. Thanks, Maryann, and thank you Secret Playdate! So awesome, so colorful, so creative, and all on a rainy gray Tuesday.