Held back

I’m a Buddhist and a zazen practicioner. I listen to a lot of dharma-related podcasts and one recurring idea that has come up recently is the idea that we get in our own way. I’ve noticed this a lot in my creative work; my compositions are generally worse when I try to Make Them instead of Let Them Be. Personally, I have a lot of work to do to “get out of my own way” and I was inspired this morning to talk about how I hold myself back (especially musically). I apologize in advance for this “public therapy” sort of posting. You don’t have to read this.

It all boils down to this: I should be doing something else. When I’m at home with my family, I should be grading or composing or planning. When I’m grading, I should be composing or spending time with my family. When I’m exercising, I should be grading or composing. When I’m meditating, I should be spending time with my family or grading.

I shouldn’t be sleeping, I should be working. I shouldn’t be working, I should be with my family. I shouldn’t be teaching, I should be taking time off this summer. I shouldn’t be sitting around, I should be making more money. I shouldn’t be blogging, I should be doing my job. I shouldn’t be doing my job, I should be taking care of myself.

I shouldn’t be writing this piece, it is too impractical. I shouldn’t be included on this program, I’m only here because of personal connections instead of merit. I shouldn’t be writing music, nobody wants to hear it. I shouldn’t be writing something this simple, performers aren’t going to want to play it. I shouldn’t be proud of my work, I should be self-deprecating. I shouldn’t be proud of my work, it isn’t any good. I shouldn’t have the job I have, I’m a nobody who knows nothing and a fraud.

I shouldn’t be a faculty composer, they are blights on the musical landscape (as we’ve heard many people say this summer). I shouldn’t be paid so much to do my job. I shouldn’t have health care because it is too expensive. I shouldn’t get tenure because I don’t have my music published by a third party. I shouldn’t be composing because my job is teaching, not composing. I shouldn’t call myself a composer because my job is grading, not composing.

Whatever I’m doing, I should be doing something else.

It gets crippling after a while. I’m working on it. It isn’t easy. I’m not the only person dealing with these sorts of issues, of course. But when I get out of the way, when I set all this stuff aside and just Do Something, the world opens up. I think I throw all these mental blocks in my way because I’m frightened of what would happen otherwise.

I shouldn’t have the life I have, I don’t deserve it.

What if I did deserve it? What if I actually believed that? What would my life be like then?

Back to work.

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6 Comments

  1. Jim Scully
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Nicely said, Jay. I think a lot of us have this same issue….

    Thanks for sharing….

  2. Melissa
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s really refreshing and eye-opening to know that someone much wiser and more successful than myself shares similar insecurities. It’s nice to be reminded that at the end of the day, we’re all only human.
    Thank you for this.

  3. Jack
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    In regards to “I shouldn’t have the life I have, I don’t deserve it.” -

    How much of your life was decided solely by you? You got the job you have because the people that hired you believed you to be the best person for the job. You have your life because the decisions you’ve made reflected in very specific ways to others.

    I don’t think *you* (or anyone, really) decide whether you deserve the life you have. It’s everyone else involved in your life. They see what you do, what you can do, and how you treat them, and they decide what you’re deserving of.

    As far as “What ever I’m doing, I should be doing something else” –

    Story of my life. I think no matter what you’re doing, focus is important. Easier said than done, though…

  4. Anonyma
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Those thoughts that you have about not deserving your life or being a fraud are quite terrible, and certainly unmerited. This thinking can only lead you to constant unhappiness. You have every right to accept that you are good man who works hard for his family and his employer. The path that you are on is the one that you are meant for. Accept the right to be happy!

  5. Marianne
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Everything you do, if you really look at it….ultimately benefits all aspects of your life in someway. While you are at work…you are making a living for your family and helping students reach their dreams, when you are at home, you are getting re-energized for work and spending time with your family…….if you are feeling out of balance…you need a vacation! Go up to Canada for the weekend with the family! -M

  6. Margaret
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my. That is my situation as well. Thank you for putting it so well and for sharing.

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