Apologies to Paul Simon for the title (“never look back, Jack”). I’ve been writing an account of our trip to Iceland in early March – a travelogue of driving adventures, Nordic history, and stunning scenery. But all good sagas need intermissions – a time to break out the mead (or whatever it is the Vikings drank), roast some lamb (or whatever they ate) – and just generally sit around the fire and stare at the sky.
And so it is with my Nordic epic. I started this blog almost a year ago because I thought it would be the simplest way to share our then upcoming trip to Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains with everyone who had expressed interest. But I rapidly discovered that I was getting something else out of it entirely – a chance to write outside of the tightly constrained boundaries of legal writing (my profession) and an opportunity to speak in what I like to think of as a more authentic voice.
Yet I can’t escape my Type A tendencies. As I faced writing this weekend about our final days in Iceland, I realized, “I really don’t feel like writing about that now.” And you know what? I don’t have to. I have to fight the impulse to turn everything into a homework assignment for myself, making this blog just one more weekly deadline to add to the numerous and all pervasive deadlines I deal with on a daily basis.
I’m a really disciplined person, in most ways. It’s what has enabled me to climb these mountains even though I started at age 50, and I’m soon to be 54. It takes a lot of will to climb up and down the world’s most boring staircase between two and four times a week almost every week since April 2010. No, I’m not kidding.
But it’s one thing to be disciplined and another thing to let it enslave you. The discipline of making myself write at least once a week here is one thing. But it’s another thing to feel I have got to write Part 4 of Iceland when I don’t feel like it, even when there’s no court or client demanding I do so. And it’s also another thing to feel compelled to publish this on a Sunday simply because I’ve arbitrarily imposed that internal deadline on myself.
So today I’m going to go with the flow. I did do my stairs today (in fact I wore my mountaineering boots and I’m sure I looked even more peculiar than usual), but I’m going to press publish tonight. Even though it’s Friday.
And how about you? How do you keep from turning things that are optional into obligations?