You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Let me for once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.” –Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen really does give Mr. Bennet the best dialogue. For him she reserves her most dry yet spot-on observations of human nature.

Not least of which is our tendency to forget what we’ve been shown.

My arms hurt. A lot. I thought I had learned how to pace myself so I could a) heal and b) not re-injure myself. Apparently, I have more to learn. Apparently coloring after golfing is a Bad Idea. Apparently, this is a two steps forward, one step back sort of process.

I wish learning was more straightforward. Which reminds me of something Anne Lamott once said.

After describing her son Sam learning to sleep in his new bedroom after a move to a new larger house – which was much farther from Anne’s room than before – as many nights of moving a few feet farther from her bed until he bravely succeeds in sleeping in his own room, she says,

That’s me, trying to make any progress at all with family, work, relationships, self-image: skooch, skooch, skooch, stall, skooch, stall, catastrophic reversal, bog, bog, skooch. I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog and skooch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark.”

And after Anne’s voice comes Havi‘s voice kindly reminding me: Again is the stuck talking. So is: I always do this. It’s never the same way twice. You’re not the same person. You’ve learned stuff that makes this time different…

One of my students recently worried if all she had learned would stick, or if she would fall back into her old way of doing things.  I suppose it’s possible, I replied, but not likely. I think you like the new ways of doing things too much to go back. I find you can’t really put the genie back in the bottle.

Your genie = your genius (from the Latin for tutelary spirit or natural inclinations). Once it’s out, it’s out and there’s no going back. You can’t un-know something even if you wanted to. And you won’t want to.

I miss the clarity I had back in May. I’ve lost sight of it and it’s something I don’t want to forget.

I knew exactly what I needed to do. And I began doing it. I started to make the necessary changes – and it helped. In fact, I was super-thrilled I didn’t need to do everything on my list to see a difference. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so difficult after all! Woohoo!

Oops. Maybe not. Because here I am again.

Except not again. Because I have way more information than I did before about what helps – not least of which is the simple knowledge that I can heal under the right circumstances.

The question isn’t so much why am I here again?, but what do I need to know or do so the next time around the spiral is even more different? (because there will inevitably be more stalls and reversals).

Lesson Learned: I didn’t need to make the radical changes I was worried I needed to make. But I did need to follow through more consistently on more of the small ones.

I didn’t change enough long enough. As in permanently. I’m still talking as though this is all temporary. And there’s the disconnect. That’ why I’m here “again.” That’s what I need to know to make a lasting difference.

So… here we go. Cairene Heals Her Arms: Take 2.

I love the liberating magic of the Do-Over.

• • • • •

“Following through more consistently on making small changes” is all about me tweaking my systems in ways that make it easy for me to do the right thing and creating paths of least resistance for myself so the right things happen almost automatically. If your systems could use similar adjustments, please join me this fall (early bird ends Thursday).

• • • • •

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2 Responses to “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”


  1. 1 Liz August 26, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I think you’ve nailed it with the spiral image…. what makes a spiral different from a circle is that there’s a space in the spiral. The circle takes you round and round the exact same path over and over again. The spiral circles back near the same territory but at a slightly (or significantly) higher level. If we can see even the tiniest bit of difference, then it helps reassure us that we are indeed on a spiral path, and are moving along, even if it looks a little too familiar!


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