Or, what a tarot card taught me about being a good friend.
I've been thinking about the idea of coming back to the same questions over and over again since editing this essay yesterday (hi, other readers! For those who may not know, I edit this newsletter!)
What if these questions are sort of like, our lives' touchstones? By framing them in this way, we shouldn't feel frustrated by always arriving at the same place, but rather we should seek it out from time to time. From reading all the comments so far, it seems to be a natural course for us all. So instead of seeing it as failure to grasp something (repeatedly), we then see it as life's natural reminder that even though we change and circumstances change, we can adapt. And the tool we have to do so? Revisiting the same, familiar questions that allow us to find the grounding needed to move forward, again. And again.
I'm also reminded of this early Sweet Dumb Brain piece (side note: KHG, why didn't I link this somewhere in the essay!?)
I think I read in the Isolation Journals recently that when we want to help, we don’t have to be extraordinary, we can help from the place of who we are and what are gifts are. I am trying to keep this in mind when I think about whether I can help. Using my gifts doesn’t deplete me. I teach a creative writing class to adults not for the big bucks but because it fuels me. People also seem to love it. I think there are also periods where we can help less because our own lives are kicking us in the pants and we give ourselves grace and remind ourselves that the scales of friendship need not be perfectly balanced. I read What Looks Like Bravery recently. I think we talked about this book before but high achievement and ambition in response to trauma is real and I think these patterns probably take lifetimes to unravel and lots of gentle reminders. I don’t get tired of reading your posts on this topic.
“When I first landed upon that mantra — doing less means that I can offer more — it felt like a small revelation. But now, as I’m writing about it, I feel kind of silly. Don’t I muse about some version of this topic all the time? What else is there to say about being busy and working too much? Why does it still feel like I’m discovering something new?”
This resonates so deeply. I feel this way often and it leaves me confused each time. Like why did this feel so revolutionary and big when it’s just the same thing I’ve been banging my head against for years now? As if I’m rediscovering the wheel I just invented last week; some sort of AHA amnesia.
Am I supposed to DO something with it? Make some plan, take some action? Or just let it continue to unfold over time. Probably maybe both.
Oh wow, Katie. I love all of this so much! (Also love The Magician; I always feel so excited when I pull that card.)
"But I don’t want to do less just for the sake of doing less. I want to do less to give myself space to become more." To become more, to give yourself space - the necessary space to do just that. That really hits home for me. This past year, I felt like I was doing so many things that didn't nourish me, things that were more so obligations to others, work-related things, to-do tasks. I was being pulled apart in so many different directions, and my energy just felt depleted. I felt depleted (and had many, many anxiety and panic attacks as a result, as well as dips into depression). I just felt like I had to *be* a specific someone to people, rather than just be me - for me. So I've been trying to control what I can control, set & maintain boundaries with others and myself, and do less - all while doing more of what makes me most alive. This was a great reminder for me to do that. Thank you.
And, about the "[musing] about some version of this topic all the time," I feel that I arrive at the same thing - except about self-worth. I feel I write about it again and again, just in a different angle, or in a deeper way. And I suppose that's life - discovering deeper truths to things we already know. It's made me feel a little inadequate though, or forgetful, that I can't seem to remember what I'd already arrived at time and time again. It's bewildering. But maybe, from a cosmic perspective, funny? (Not in a laugh-at-you/me way, but a laugh-with-and-for-you/me way, like in an endearing way - not sure if that makes sense at all, haha.)
I LOVE "doing less means I can offer more". And so often it means I can offer more presence.
The great thing about tarot is the same card can offer so many different meanings. I've taken a couple classes - by no means any kind of expert - but the woman who taught the classes always encourages us to look at the card we draw and notice what jumps out at us today, which might be something so different than what jumped out yesterday or the day before. The Magician is really early in the cycle of the major arcana, right after The Fool. I just opened my notebook and right at the bottom of that page, circled and highlighted in my notes it says, "What do you want to receive?" The key words I wrote were focus, direction, grounding, awareness and directing energy.
I love what you've done with it, that you've taken the card for what you needed from it. After all, the whole point of divination tools is to let our inner/larger/wiser self speak to us.
Yes, yes, yes! Hope you don't mind my sharing a post I wrote on this exact topic. As an ADHDer, it's an ongoing lesson :) https://open.substack.com/pub/celebration/p/do-less-the-wisdom-of-subtraction?utm_source=share&utm_medium=android&r=1l33k
Just what i needed. A comforting read on the night of moon and Saturday . Thank you for this. As i read, the theme of Braveheart was playing
I love this. I’m trying to do less every day is it’s working out splendidly.
"I was frustrated by how little time I was spending writing, connecting with friends, doing fun things with my daughter, and tending to my own interests. While I was glad we were spending a rare evening at a friend’s house, I’d also been feeling a bit insecure; besides complaining about my workload — which, let’s be honest, no one wants to hear — I didn’t feel like I had much to offer to the conversation. I felt tired and boring. And now I was hit with a card telling me I needed to own my skills."
This sounds like me. 😞 and I hope to reach a stage when I can do less to do more but meanwhile, immediate work beckons.
I read your life affirming essay and immediately felt inadequate for my own recent-ish meditation on doing less https://open.substack.com/pub/armchairrebel/p/doing-less-for-no-good-reason
The idea of rest and worth is something we’ll all be having BFOs (blinding flash of the obvious) about for the rest of our lives. Humans going to human.
Katie this really resonated with me. I have been trying out the last few months the notion of "filling my cup so full with goodness, self care, and beauty that it spills out on everyone around me." Way better than an empty cup that hurts both me and everyone around me. I don't have answers, it is all a journey, even a half century in. Thank you for your beautiful posts. Would love to grab a cup of coffee soon. :) Hugs.
As a "workaholic" (or perhaps just very Lutheran...), your mantra of "doing less means that I can offer more" really resonated with me. Achieving a sensible work/life-balance really requires a shift in mindset where not all focus is placed on work, but also on freeing up time. But this time should not always be used to offer more or to do more, I think, but could be a way to feel more free, more relaxed, and to just be in the moment.