At our house, construction has been going on since last fall. After two years of planning we finally took the leap and had a roof deck built, and due to several factors — among them the most severe winter in recent memory — the project, which was supposed to have taken two months, has taken nearly eight.
It’s been grueling living in a construction zone, dealing with the dust and the disruption, although the end product is turning out to be everything we’d hoped for.
Part of the project included gutting, insulating and sheet rocking our home office, as well as ripping out and replacing the bathroom ceiling, and since the contractors finished their part of the interior work several weeks ago I’ve been very busy reclaiming our inner space: spackling walls, sanding, painting rooms and doors, and vacuuming up the plaster dust that managed to float into every nook and cranny.
Fortunately, an out of town guest was coming to stay with us a couple of weeks ago, and I say fortunately because having a firm deadline did wonders to keep me focused. I didn’t have the luxury of indulging the temptation to become overwhelmed, throw up my hands and fall into the pit of paralysis.
What I was able to do was to see this household transformation as just one thing after another. Yes, there was a lot to get done, and it wasn’t going to get done all at once. I was just going to do one thing, and then another thing, and then another.
It’s so easy to lose sight of this very basic fact: anything we wish to accomplish simply entails doing one thing after another. It’s not rocket science, and there’s really no point in getting overwhelmed. As one of my favorite spiritual texts, the Tao te Ching, says:
Confront the difficult while it is still easy,
accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.
[chapter 63, translation by Stephen Mitchell]
Now that the house projects are nearing completion I’m going to turn my attention back to a couple of other big projects I’ve had in the works: redoing my website and writing a book. Doing a website or writing a book, like renovating a home, are big undertakings and I admit I’ve often wondered whether I was up to the task, especially the book. I know beyond any doubt, though, that it’s a task I want to complete, so I will, and these household tasks have come at the right time to remind me just how I’m going to complete it: simply by doing one thing after another.
I’m grateful that someone I met through a teleseminar she conducted a couple years ago, Samantha Bennett, has recently published a book that will help me stay on track with that wisdom — Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day. Sam has a gift for helping creative people break their big visions down into bite-sized pieces so that those visions can actually come forth. I’ve only gotten a little ways into her book so far, because, well, I’ve been spackling, sanding and painting, but so far it’s just what I thought it would be: a wonderful mix of humor, down-to-earth practicality and soaring encouragement.
As I write this, a tiny spider just leapt onto my computer keyboard and made its way from one end to the other, jumping from one key to the next as though they were stepping stones, demonstrating to me that writing (and spiders are often seen as bringing the gift of language and writing) is just that, tapping the letters on the keyboard, one after another until I reach my destination.
What about you? Is there a big project you are facing, or a big vision that won’t let you go? Maybe something that you fear is beyond your ability? If so, let me just offer you the wisdom that these past months — and this tiny spider — have brought me. You may think it’s a big, impossible task, but in truth it’s nothing more than just one thing after another.