By Theresa Puskar- Westmont, IL March 4th, 2016
“This is month three of my solitude and slowdown journey,and I can enthusiastically affirm that I survived!”
As I have previously mentioned, I requested three months hiatus where I would not write about area events. My intention and focus has been on slowing down and simplifying my life. I would only allow myself one “planned” weekend event, and I spent a great deal of time at home in self-imposed hibernation. I have found that much to my surprise, I have enjoyed the quiet and solitude. I find refuge in having a day with nothing that I “have to do!” I was recently pulled back into the flurry of busy-ness when I was given a new position at my workplace. While I am excited about the opportunity, I was not enjoying the over-extension of my efforts, nor the depletion of sleep or downtime. Perhaps this is a sign of some success, as I carve my way back to living a more sanely paced lifestyle. As I write this, I am wondering if you have joined me on your journey, and if so, how you are doing?
“A while ago, I tried an experiment. For one year, I would say ‘Yes’ to all the things that scared me… the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear… “yes” changed my life.” – Shonda Rhimes
It is funny what messages come your way when you are hungry to hear them. Again, I don’t believe that any accidents exist in my life, and I was blessed with another life lesson that arrived at my doorstep – via email. I subscribe to the weekly TED Talks. Whatever the subject, most often I find them informative and exhilarating. Last week I was sent a link to a video recording of renowned Hollywood producer and writer, Shonda Rhimes. If you are like me and spin your wheels at an insane pace, do yourself a favor. Look up and watch “Shonda Rhimes TED Talks – My year of saying yes to everything.” Her speech deeply impacted me, and moved me to tears. In fact, it stopped me dead in my tracks, and so inspired me that in response, I sent an email invitation out to my favorite sisters.
“There is some kind of shift inside me when the work gets good. A hum begins in my brain, and it grows and grows…The hum is God’s whisper right in my ear. And when you have a hum like that, you can’t help but strive for greatness… The more I work to be successful, the more I need to work… I AM that hum…And then the hum stopped. Overworked, overused, overdone, burned out… Inside me was silence…All the colors were the same, and I was no longer having any fun.”
Shonda Rhimes is a self-professed “titan.” While that term sounds exemplary and heroic, frankly I translate it as “she is a workaholic.” I only say this because I stand right there by her side, wearing the same armor. Can you relate? I learned a long time ago that I identified my self-worth more in the work that I do, rather than the person I choose to be. Frankly, it’s something I’ve been aware of for years, and have yet to overcome.
Again, all of the pieces of the puzzles in my life so delicately and deliciously seem to fall into place. Backing up a couple of months, one of the instigators of my commitment to slowing down was a channeled reading by an extraordinary woman whom I have known for over a decade, and have been meeting with about once every three to five years. In her recent December communication, she told me that I need to get back in touch with the playful, childlike part of myself. I need to quiet, settle, and put the humor and joyful play back into my life. Lo and behold, soon after that, I am delivered Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk.
“So what do you do when the thing you do, the work you love, starts to taste like dust?… If you have been to the hum, when the hum stops, who are you?… If the song of my heart ceases to play, can I survive in the silence? And then my Southern waitress toddler asks me a question, ‘Momma, wanna play?’ And I say, ‘Yes.’…There’s nothing special about it… nothing out of the ordinary… All that exists are sticky fingers and… tiny voices… It’s all peace and simplicity. The air is so rare, in this place for me…Play is the opposite of work. And I am happy.”
To be honest with you, I don’t know when I lost the sense of play, or if I ever had it – not to mention whether I can find it again. As a child, I remember smelling the grass, and watching the ants build their colonies. I still smell the scent of those yellow popper tapes that my sisters lined up along the sidewalk and popped with the scratch of a rock (usually around July fourth.) However, even then I remember being incredibly awkward and self-conscious. If I lived a free and easy childhood, I don’t know if it was for very long. As far as playing with my daughter, I have fond memories of dancing in the rain, painting, and riding high on the hammock with her, yet I don’t know if it was at all natural for me. Often it felt forced and contrived. “A good mother engages and plays with her children. She doesn’t stand by watching.” That was the critical, self-conscious voice that rang throughout my struggling-mommy brain. So very often I went through the motions. I “acted” like I was having fun. Frankly, I think I was more worried about doing it right, than I was about letting go and enjoying life with my dear daughter.
“The hum is not power, and the hum is not work-specific. The hum is joy-specific… The real hum is confidence and peace…singular and original… It’s just love… My tiny humans show me how to live and the hum of the universe fills me up. I play and I play until I begin to wonder why we ever stop playing in the first place… you can still do this… You have time… You only need 15 minutes… What could be wrong with giving myself my full attention for 15 minutes?”
I thought the hum was the work. I thought it was the accolades I received from my writing, inspirational speaking, or performances, yet as I meditate on this, I am coming to realize that while I got short, sweet buzzes, they did not give me the hum that I so desperately needed. So, where do I find the hum, and how do I open my heart to feel it? Perhaps like Shonda, I may have to fake it for a while.
“Work doesn’t work without play…Work’s hum is still a piece of me, it is just no longer all of me… I said ‘yes’ to less work and more play… the more I play the more I feel…the real hum. The more I feel that hum… the more I know who I am.”
So, I have committed myself to finding the hum, and committing to play, as difficult as that may be. My first step – here is the invitation I sent to my dear sisters and friends:
Dear sisters. I sit here, sobbing after watching the attached TED Talk. If you watch it, you will understand. As I watched, I asked myself whether or not I’ve experienced the “hum” that Shonda references in her speech. If I’m not sure, perhaps I haven’t. I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to find it. Life is too short, and I want to re-experience life’s greatest joys. I think it will start to whisper when connecting with friends, in re-experiencing play, and in witnessing the awesomeness of life’s simple miracles. Wanna join me? If not, no worries – I’ll do it on my own (but, of course, it’d be much more fun with friends!!!).
I am committing to scheduling AT LEAST one “hum” day each month – hiking, dancing, hugging trees, going to Second City shows, painting, laughing too much, biking, skiing, seeing theater that I love, pampering myself, whatever. Let me know if you want to join me (and if so, please feel free to share your ideas).
I encourage you too to shout out to your clan, and plan your own play dates. This weekend, I joined a dear friend at a spa. I got my first full-body 90-minute scrub and massage. It was delightful and refreshing. I felt nurtured and re-energized. It was the self-administered “me” time that I committed myself to, and I am so glad that I did it. I can’t wait to see how this commitment shapes my life. I want to laugh more, to trust more, and to feel that I am easing into every experience that comes my way. I know it will start small, and I have no doubt that somehow, some way, this benevolent universe will continue to take me to the places that I need to go. I look forward to opening my heart and mind to the childlike magic that I need to fulfill my soul’s calling at this time. I hope that you join me. We can all use a lot more ease, joy, and play in our lives.
Theresa Puskar, our All About Town contributor, is a writer, trainer, speaker, and inspirational audiobook producer. She has recently authored The Terri Series – seven books that focus on social issues such as bullying, honoring diversity, celebrating creativity, non-judgment of emotions, finding alternatives to technology-based entertainment, discovering a non-judgmental God, and overcoming fears. She has also recorded a powerful experiential audio program, How to De-Clutter Your Mind and live a Heart-Centered Life!