On finding Quiet


Through my job with Americorps/MathCorps, I have been involved in a course call Designing your Life. It is a course taught at Stanford University using a book and workbook written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I have been doing activity logs for the journal we keep. All of my activity logs have been about tutoring at school, and I am supposed to use them to evaluate my flow and engagement through the week. I personally cannot stand answering rather bland questions in short, boring blurbs, so, instead, I feel some writing coming on…

*flow – People in flow report experiencing complete involvement in the activity, a sense of ecstasy or euphoria, great inner clarity, total calmness, or the notion that time is standing still. A really satisfying career involves a lot of flow states–dyl

I do find some flow when I am in the midst of the tutoring sessions, when the students are finally focused, but it is always short-lived because the sessions are only 30-45 minutes long, and it takes way too long to get them settled. Part of that is my fault as I enjoy the kids, and we chat about their days, but then they would rather continue chatting than work. Getting and keeping them focused and on task is exhausting. Most days, I am in bed by 6:30 pm or so, because I have nothing left. This is frustrating and definitely unfulfilling.

I am an introvert by nature. I used to be very shy, painfully so, unless I was in my element. After I got sick, that shyness was gone! In fact, for a couple of years as I coped with the brain damage, I had no social filters at all which at times was quite hilarious for my family. I am now comfortable talking to anyone, but I am still an introvert. I still need major re-charge time. I work full-time for MathCorps, and I have come to the conclusion that it is too much. I am overdone by Friday, and I often feel resentful that I have done nothing for myself. I have felt that resentment many, many times in my life, but until now, at this point in my life, I have never identified it as I do now…energy sucking work/ activities/ events/ social obligations make me feel hopeless and then angry.

I happily admit that I have been very inspired by this job. Seeing how important an adult can be to these young students has been eye-opening and rewarding. I care about them in ways I didn’t expect at all. I have learned so much. Feeling needed and necessary has been a shot in the arm, but I am starting to feel that energy waning. I know I serve a purpose that is very necessary, not just as a tutor but also as a positive adult in the lives of these students, but there is not enough here for me. Yes, I am at heart a teacher, but I thrive in the creative realms of art, theatre, dance, writing…not in the academic realm of math. I have always loved math, and when I am teaching the kids, I am enjoying myself, but it does not feed me. Knowing I serve a purpose for my students is of course gratifying, but it does not challenge my artistic, creative mind. That’s why I get bitchy: when the challenges fade or disappear, I get bored and do not want to do it anymore. There is a part of me that tells me to grow up and deal, because I made a commitment to this contract. I will honor that commitment, but I am not sure that I will do this again next year. I might do this part-time, because it is good for me to interact with these kids, but I am not sure.

I ended up being at home last Thursday and Friday. I was not coping well physically or mentally. I talked to my sister K many times. We discuss things until they have been drained of blood in order to understand why we do what we do. One of our longest running conversations has been about why we do not follow through on our ideas. The writing for this course, especially for the life-view, has opened doors in my brain about that very thing. We both seem to feel that we are somehow silly for wanting to follow our artistic inclinations since we also need to be able to pay the bills. Identifying that simply working to pay the bills is devoid of any satisfaction has helped us both start to change our thinking. Can our creative endeavors sustain us financially as well as creatively?

Turns out that K and I have talked about “flow” and what that means to us ad nauseum, and we both want it back in our lives, so I made a decision to just get busy with an idea we have. It was daunting, and I had to push myself through the process, but I created an end product and felt great about it! And then, because I was in a motivated state of mind, I finished another project, designing and digitizing a logo for a friend’s business. Talk about FLOW!!! I was both excited and exhausted by Sunday night. I want that to continue.

When I started this course, I understood it to be a way to find a new path to follow forward. What I discovered this weekend is that perhaps I already have the skills and knowledge, the experience and perspective, to go forward with one new idea, and go forward with another that was part of my life for 17 years. I slowly stopped producing my designs because my life was a shambles. I thought that my art, my work, could sustain me, but not only did I become bored (death knell!), I also had nothing inside my head and heart to draw from. Perhaps I am ready to try again, but something needs to be different and I do not know what that is or how it should be different. There is always another riddle to solve.


As I re-read the beginning, I realized where part of/all of (?) my resentment comes from when dealing with energy-draining activities: I have always instinctively known we should be able to claim time for ourselves to take care of ourselves, but I/girls/women was/are taught that others must come first. Feeling that I should have that right but being told/led to believe that that makes one selfish has always been a source of guilt, and sooner or later, that just makes you angry…but you are not supposed to be angry about something like that, you self-involved, egotistical wretch!!

At times like this, I wish I could shake the ick off of my whole body the way a dog does with water!

When K and I talked yesterday, I told her that I had been hit with this urge to stop thinking so much, to shut up and just be. Listen patiently. Or don’t listen. Just be quiet! Something else hit me this morning as that urge to be quiet in my head came upon me again…the chatter in my head gets in the way of “hearing” what is actually in there. Or maybe it is the universe speaking. I do not know, but maybe that’s the point. We don’t know and all the chattering in the world will not help us know, so shut up and see what comes out. Or doesn’t. I suddenly see meditation in a different light.

Maybe sometimes we should stop striving and just be. There is relief in that thought. Maybe believing in myself means to trust my own soul to release the thoughts, the ideas, and the epiphanies when I am ready. Another meaning to attach to “chill-the-fuck-out!”

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jay Farris
    Jan 26, 2022 @ 14:56:46

    Very insightful post and I understand it completely. Having taught science for years I always loved science but my artistic side felt neglected. Sometimes it’s best just to “chill” and let the layers of the onion unfold naturally in due time.

  2. colmurph2000
    Feb 01, 2022 @ 23:19:21

    I think its possible to have what you want. The artistic side and the productivity that results in $$ ability to pay the bills. Its time. We can do this. It has taken me years to get my brain function back, but I finally feel like my real self. I understand your whole journey….and where you are now. Let’s chat and connect and see what sparks! I love the design, and it is going to look beautiful on the tutu bags. Let’s keep going!!! Call me…..my home # is still the same as ever. Love you! Colleen

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