Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Laundry Lightbulbs

I love doing laundry.

Yes - it can be a bit tedious, repetitive and has this nasty habit of taking all day to do.

Sort, iron, hang, match-fold, match-fold, match-fold. Sort, hang, sort, hang, fold fold fold.

But what I love about it is that it's something that only requires just a smidgen of focus, brain power, and physicality. It mobilizes all of the lower brain and motor functions just enough to loose to top of your head to go where it will so I find that it's marvelous pondering time for me.

I've had a few major "ah-ha!"s before during the laundry hour and this week was one of them.

In the face of uncertain Grad School opportunities and thinking about suitable Plan B's (ie: Peace Corps, making a go at the novel writing thing, doing freelance journalism, attempting freelance journalism, staying where I am and waiting out the recession with a cushy 401K and health insurance...) I found myself bemoaning the fact that I didn't feel very good at anything.

Like I've always wanted to be REALLY GOOD at something. Like so good it was undeniable and doing anything else with my life would be unthinkable. It would make Plan As and Plan Bs much much much easier. Also, after reading this article by one of my favorite LA Times columnists last week I felt even more inadequate.

How I'd love to have Mozart that melts hearts come pouring out of my fingertips or be such an amazing writer that "it was just a matter of time" instead of a "Hail-Mary shot in the dark" kind of operation. Like - why am I not singularly passionate about one thing - like cars, clothes, aerobics, water purification, shoveling or dinosaurs like so many are? Why am I just very interested in almost everything and know and have talent enough to hold my own in a cocktail party conversation or a road show?

I was feeling ordinary and undistinguished most of the week and pretty much just hoping for the best. It wasn't the best headspace I've ever been in, I'll admit. Later in the week I was listening to my BYU Talks Podcast. I was on one President Hinkley gave in September last year called True to the Faith. In it he quotes the Fortune article "What it takes to be Great" by Geoffrey Colvin and turned my whole previously constructed paradigm upside down.

"An article in a recent issue of Fortune magazine indicated that we will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. . . . The good news is that [our] lack of a natural gift is irrelevant—talent has little or nothing to do with greatness. . . Nobody is great without work."

"the good news is [our] lack of natural gift is irrelevant - talent has little or nothing to do with greatness"

Well that was the best news I've heard all week. My problem isn't the fact that I'm not talented, just lazy, and that is entirely within my control. It may seem like a censuring comment but I can't tell you how strangely liberated I felt. Stuff Calvin and his Calvinism. I had just heard it, from the mouth of a Prophet, it’s about the time and effort, not the talent.

This wasn't something that I hadn't heard before or once believed not to be true. I've been intimately acquainted with the virtues of hard work. But this week, with the ideas that were taking root with melancholy and defeat, these ideas shattered them all like ice on a rosebush.

My mediocrity is my own fault only because I would not take the time, efforts, pains or make the sacrifices to be great and when I went back and reread that article about Robert Gupta I realized he was just a bundle of hard work too. There was talent in there as well, but it was mostly his heart never giving up.

So there I was, hangers in hand, realizing (without self deprecation) that my life is totally and completely within the grasp of greatness. I just have to claim it, and the only currency they take at the entrance is grueling hard work.

I'm still mulling over the different avenues in life that I feel are worthy of the kind of sacrifice and commitment Mr. Colvin and President Hinkley are talking about, but I feel much more confident and empowered this week. Hard work doesn't scare me, it never has, and I have had tastes of what 100% passionate commitment to something can bring. Missions are very useful in that facet.

I may never end up on Oprah, but I'll sure as heck deserve to be by the time I'm done. Just you see.


Liz W. said...

Liz, I could have written this myself (and I think I have in one form or another).

I feel like I have a hand in about 47 different baskets. What I've been trying to do is find one (or two or three) to focus on, and put my back into it. My indecision is sucking the life out of me, though...

Let me know how you narrow down your options.

Ms. Liz said...

It was a pretty funny process. I'm one of those strange people that has a capacity to sleep no matter what is going on. Very things keep me from sleeping so what I did was think of the 5 things that have ever kept me awake or things that I've willingly lost sleep for and I realized that those were the things I am truly invested in and have the capacity to make me feel fulfilled and happy. I came up with 5 and I think its a good list.