making it easy to use your tools
So often we know what we need to do… but how do we do it? How do we remove barriers and make it easy for ourselves to do the things we know we need to do- to use the tools that we already have?
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 16 January 2023.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.
I guess you know it's been a little too long when the app doesn't automatically pop up on your computer when you start to type its name. A lot has been going on. And so my recording schedule has been a little bit off. But things are starting to settle down. And it's really lovely. I'm actually even sitting in a sunbeam in my office. Yes, in Portland, Oregon, in January.
I don't know if that's a change in the weather, or if that's just what it's like here now, but I'll take it. Sun breaks, sun breaks or are salvific.
So I want to talk today a little bit about making it easy to use the tools you have. It is so hard sometimes to make it easy to use the tools we have. I know what I should do, that's not the problem. If you follow me on Facebook, or listen to this podcast regularly, you'll notice that I'm never trolling for like, ideas for how to solve a problem unless I'm really stuck. Not never, never. But I'm rarely trawling for actual solutions. What I'm trawling for instead are solutions to the problems with using the solutions I have.
I know that clouds are hard. And I know I just moved to a climate that's cloudy six to eight months of the year. And I know that there are good reasons to be here. And I know that it's tricky. And I know that I have a habit of playing life on hard mode. And I'm trying to find the best balance of hard modes. If you were a live audience, I'd be asking you to raise your hands and show me how many other people in the room have a habit of living their lives on hard modes, plural. Because it's a thing that intensives do a lot.
Sometimes we do it because we want to do it the best possible way. And that's harder or more complicated. And sometimes we do it because... sometimes we do it because we feel like it doesn't count if we didn't do it the hardest way. I know that's how I started out. Whatever the hardest way was, I felt like that was the only real way to do it. And it didn't count if I did it by quote unquote, cheating.
I think I got that from my father. I'm not sure. But he does have a habit of doing things the most challenging way, just for fun for him. I guess whatever challenges he's faced, weren't interesting enough. And I think it really is about being interesting enough. It's about novelty and intricacy and understanding things from the root and the bones of it. So like when my father makes apple pie, and he wants whipped cream to go with his apple pie, he whips it by hand. With a whisk. Because he can. They have mixers, he just doesn't feel like using it.
It doesn't, in my experience, produce a superior whipped cream and I can be quite a food snob. He just likes doing it. So he does. When I was a kid, he used to make bread and he kneaded it by hand in the sink. And even when bread machines were invented, he was like nah. And he kept kneading the bread in the sink until he was sick of us eating the bread the same day it came out of the oven because it was so good. So he was making two loaves of bread and they were disappearing within two days.
And so he switched over to beer, which was also yeasted but didn't interest any of the rest of us. But he switched over to making beer in the basement. He got a kit but like, also, he was making beer from scratch in the basement. Partially because he could, and partially because he preferred the result.
One day, one of his colleagues and my mom were discussing in the living room how hard it was to make a good pie crust. You know, the really good, flaky pie crust. And my father said "it can't be that hard." And they looked at him and said, "okay, then do it."
Well, we happened to have a pound of apples just sitting there in the kitchen. They just gone shopping. And of course we always had flour and sugar in the house. And so he got out "The Joy of Cooking" and read the instructions. And followed them as though he was following lab instructions that would blow up and kill someone if he didn't do it right.
Which to be fair, that was his day job.
And he produced an excellent pie crust on the first try. And triumphantly said "See?" And they had to admit that he had produced an excellent pie crust on the first try and it hadn't seemed that hard. He had followed the instructions, exactly. He had tools, and he used them exactly. But not all of us are built to have tools and use them exactly. Or we are, but we do it differently.
My mom's cooking experiments were always experiments- not because she couldn't follow lab instructions, she was also a scientist. Her training was in science, her first job was in a ketchup factory. She knew what she was doing. But then she wanted to make things healthier. And so she would look at the recipe and then make all these substitutions on the first round. And so we all thought we didn't like those foods because she had substituted, for example, low fat yogurt for high fat sour cream. And it just wasn't the same.
And as someone who has done a lot of baking, now, I can say that there are chemical reasons they were not the same. And she was taking into account the instructions and that somebody had said that these things could be substituted. But what was missing was the fact that we needed the fat to create the mouthfeel, to release the flavors. That fat soluble spices don't extract into water. It was different. She was making a different food.
And so we were always a little bit cautious coming to the table. It was never terrible, because she was good as long as she followed the recipe. But sometimes the substitutions just didn't work. And some of it's about expectation, but some of it's just about reality, and chemistry, and material science and how things work. So I have done time baking. And I enjoy it. And I know the difference between how loose and free you can be with a pastry recipe versus a cookie recipe versus a bread recipe, versus just throwing dinner together in a frying pan from the first three things you pull out of the fridge. And I'm pretty good at that.
I know how to insist on the right tool when the right tool is important and fudge it when it's not. I know how to use a wine bottle for a rolling pin. Although now I finally do have several rolling pins. I know how to make it work, I know how to make it happen. I've moved enough times and lost enough things in those moves, and in my lifetime, that I have learned to patch things together and port over knowledge to my space that I'm in, from where I've been.
I know how to look at a Mexican grocery store and find Indian food. I know how to make bread, or some substitute reasonable bread thing, from most of what I can find in a kitchen and the help of the internet. I know which things I just can't substitute for and which things I can. It's all good. I'm good at that stuff. I'm good at solving problems. I'm good at crisis management and crisis solutions on the fly.
This is how intensives are and this is how I am. But then the clouds come in. And I move to a cloudy climate when I know that I am a sun and ocean driven person. I'm far enough from the ocean that it's a project to get there that I have to work to lie on the sand and feel the waves on my chest. I have to work to get the sun. I have to drop everything.
I put off recording this podcast for two hours because there was sun streaming in the windows. And it was only when the sun mostly went away and became a pale ghost of itself that I was willing to move out of the big window room and off of the front porch and into my office and sit down at the microphone. Because that's one of the tools and it's been so hard to start to use it.
I know that I should sit in front of the happy lamp on the days when I don't have sun. I know that I should eat three to four well-built meals a day. I know that I should seek pleasure wherever I can get it. I know I need to get my hands in the dirt. I know. I know. I know. It's never about not knowing. I can research the hell out of anything. And I can track my own experience. I know what I need. I know what I need. Sometimes I can't afford what I need. Sometimes I can't access what I need. Sometimes what I need is trapped behind layer after layer after layer of bureaucracy, but I know that I know what I need.
What I don't always know is how to get it. But even when I know how to get it, when it's sitting right in front of me, when I have the light and all I have to do is plug it in and sit down- That's it. Just plug it in and sit down or stand up. Be in front of it. 30 minutes. An hour. Fifteen minutes at least. Do something creative. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Make an interesting food. Make a piece of art. Tell someone something. Find a therapist. It's so hard.
It's so hard. And so the thing that I do that makes it possible, is I make it easier. Sometimes that's as easy, as simple, as small, as saying yes to someone else offering to take away the barrier. Sometimes that's my partner, bringing me the thing that I need. Bringing me my meds box and a glass of water. Sometimes it's literally opening the door and stepping outside. That's it. That's all I have to do.
Sometimes, sometimes it's leaving the art supplies out, leaving the guitar on its stand. Right now my guitar is across the country, but leaving the guitar on its stand, leaving the song lyrics up. Leaving the pen out next to the notebook with the nice paper. Leaving the studio lights set up. Leaving the mic set up. Making sure that they hold pride of place in my office, even if my office is small. Sometimes it's allowing myself to write by speaking or to make art instead of speaking. Sometimes it's words. Sometimes it's not words.
Sometimes it's having no shame about having one of something in every room. Whether that's cleaning cloths. Whether that's vacuums. Whether that's little buckets of bird seed by every exit door, so that I'm drawn outside by the fact that the birds are coming by and they want to see if there are seeds in the feeder. And I want to have seeds in the feeder.
Today there was a large bird, probably some kind of large woodpecker. It came and sat on the suet feeder. Oversized and bent itself nearly double trying to get into it because that's all it could do if it wanted to eat there. But it wanted to eat there. And it made me so happy. It made me so happy that I didn't want to go outside lest I disturb it. And my partner said "go out the front door." The bird feeder is in the back. So I did.
I said yes, instead of saying no, instead of arguing instead of becoming pedantic because I can do all of those things. And those things get in the way. And I know that. But the temptation, the temptation to resist using the tool is so strong. And yet the desire to not feel awful all the time is also so strong.
We've been talking about trauma recently, my partners and I. Because I have been waking up for several years now feeling panicked. Sky high cortisol and anxiety and I just thought that it was the overnight cortisol spike, whatever. But I just did some reading that one of them sent me about CPTSD emotional flashbacks. Which I already knew I had during the day. But I had not thought about these nighttime awakenings as emotional flashbacks. Guess what? Guess what?
And the thing about a diagnosis, whether it's self diagnosis or official diagnosis, the thing about a diagnosis is that it tells you what tools to try. It doesn't tell you within an inch of perfection, what might happen or what might work. But it does give you a list to start from. You're not just flailing in the dark. And I already know what works for those things. I just have to match up the tools I have for other kinds of experiences with the experience I'm having that needs those tools, and probably something will work.
Probably my nervous system will respond. Probably there's a non drug intervention that can keep me from flailing for hours in my bed in a heart pounding panic. When I need to be getting sleep so that I can be in my business, and so that I can serve the world, and do this work that is so important to me. Making it easy to use our tools is for us and for everyone around us. Just put the thing there, make it simple. Streamline it. Reduce the friction. Think like Ford if you need to.
I- There are lots of challenges with what Ford did and who Ford was but it in some ways, he was brilliant. He looked at the gets and puts an industry. And he tried to reduce them as much as possible. He tried to make everything as streamlined as possible.
Last night, I was teaching someone how to knit. And I was showing her how the way that I hold the yarn-I knit Continental- the way that I hold the yarn, you can do the picking up the yarn and the dropping the old stitch off the needle in the same gesture. It's one gesture. And it was amazing how much her making it into two gestures slowed her down, and made her stitches less even, made her hands more tense. And the goal is if you're going to do handwork to do it in a way that is pleasurable, and also produces a result that you love.
It's not about efficiency in this case. It's about something working the way you want it to work because you are making it by hand. And that is the privilege of handmaking. Making it as streamlined as possible to use the tools is life saving, it's life changing. Allowing that to be a shameless process is life saving and life changing. And knowing when that includes spaciousness and rest. It's not all about productivity.
The tools are there because you deserve to live, feeling better. As a human being, you deserve to live feeling better. I think that this business of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, misses the mark. We have a collective responsibility for each other's joy. We have a collective responsibility for each other's joy. And as the recipients of that collective responsibility, we have a responsibility to try to allow it to happen.
So as a leader, as a manager, how- how do you create spaces and systems and supports that enhance people's joy? How do you create communication opportunities so they can tell you what will enhance their joy? How do you try things? Just experiment with things? How do you make it easier for everyone to use their tools? And how do you use your own tools so that seeing their joy doesn't make you resentful, but instead lights the flame of compersion so that you are taking pleasure in their pleasure, as well as your own.
Thanks for being here. I'll talk to you soon.