What Great Task Have You Assigned Yourself?
I was listening to an Elizabeth Gilbert podcast where she was giving advice to a songwriter who was feeling stuck in her creativity. Liz asked the woman “What large thing have you assigned for yourself?” What an awesome, powerful question! These assignments can be very fulfilling and rewarding, but they can also be a burden that we unwittingly carry.
What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
It is a daunting question for a young mind. I found it a burden throughout my school years, because I could not name the ‘thing’ I wanted to be. I had no specific skill or talent to channel into one vocation. I had general interests and aptitudes for a variety of subjects. I didn’t know how to, what Elizabeth described as, turn doing—a verb into being—a noun. If we are creative enough to find a ‘thing’ to be, we then define what that role means/what it looks like. We develop these lists of characteristics to fit this identity and we very seldom question where that list comes from.
We are also given identities by our families or communities. My sister was ‘the smart one.’ She was also athletic, hard-working and beautiful. But, in our family, she was given the most attention and credit for being book smart. I was not prepared to compete by working as hard or harder than she in academics, so I concentrated my efforts to be seen as ‘the pretty one.’ I got attention and credit for taking care of my appearance and showing up looking ‘put together.’ I was also musical, creative, got good grades and I was athletic, but those things didn’t get as much notice.
The better questions are; When do you feel most like yourself? What makes you feel really happy inside? What makes you lose track of time when you're doing it? If you didn't 'have' to do anything, how would you spend your time? What would you create?
God, I Tried to Be Perfect
Eventually the great task I assigned myself was Wife and Mother. But, not just any wife and mother; a perfect wife and mother. How I defined what that meant was complicated and based on what I perceived the outside world defined as perfect mother – what TV., magazines, self-help books, parenting experts, the church, my parents and my peers called a perfect mother. I prayed daily that God would make me what my husband and children needed me to be. This identity, no surprise, eventually broke down. Thank God! After much heart ache, I realized that what my loved ones most needed was me to be myself. My authentic, not perfect self. This gave them permission to be their authentic selves and released them from the belief that there’s a perfect.
No One Can Give You Permission
The musician lady on the podcast was asked by Liz to be playful with her song writing instead of making it such a serious thing and to give herself permission to not write music at all, for a while if that felt like relief. The bottom line is that no one but you can give you the permission to do or not do or be or not be.
What about you? What great task have you acquired? Does it feel heavy or light? What about the role you were assigned in your family? Does it feel like your truth? Is this how you want to continue? Are there other parts of yourself that want to come out and play? Do you have better questions to ask?
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