Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bird by Bird

Yesterday I was chatting with one of my best friends, kids yoga teacher and actress extraordinaire, Laura Frye, about the awesome upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream she's in.  (Directed by her super talented hubby Lenny - Check it out and get your tickets, NY'ers!)  One of her castmates is an avid runner and marathoner who likened the experience of their incredibly unusual and challenging take on the play with running a marathon.  Quick summary of the show's conceit:  Puck is played by one actor who draws names out of a hat to determine which roles the other 9 actors will play.  Every night.  This means that the entire cast needs to know the entire play and be able to effortlessly ease in to each role on a millisecond's notice.

Just a touch intimidating, yes?

This castmate of hers, however, likened tackling this challenge to running a marathon - if you look at the big picture of having to run 26.2 miles, it can be way too much to process and self doubt can come in like a tidal wave.  Taking it mile by mile, tiny chunk by tiny chunk, however, makes things much more doable.

For Laura, Lenny, and the cast, it's a great metaphor for how to tackle putting an entire play in your brain.  For me, it's both excellent advice for my own very first marathon (which is an uncomfortably close 89 days away!) and a great metaphor for...well, anything at all, really.

At work, looking at each and every thing I'm responsible can be overwhelming.

In the middle of a hard yoga class, thinking about doing every challenging we just did again on the other side and the class is only 30 minutes in can be overwhelming.

Thinking about how long it will be until Marc comes home (I know, tiny violins) can be overwhelming.

Wondering how we'll be able to afford to have a kid one day and move into a bigger apartment - also overwhelming.

Essentially anything in life that could be intimidating can be broken down - truly anything.  It's such a simple concept and a piece of advice we've all surely heard and given before, and it's so very easy to forget.

Author Anne Lamott speaks to this most eloquently, I believe, in her excellent Bird by Bird.  Marc has loved her work and this particular book for years, and the quote below was the first thing that popped into my head after my conversation with Laura:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 

When faced with a daunting task, whether it be mighty or mundane, just keep the phrase "bird by bird" in your mind.  It keeps you more calm, more present, and ultimately more successful and whatever life is throwing your way.

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