Why I started to edit this post and then stopped

Today’s Quest 2016 prompt from visionary John Jantsch:

What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities?



This morning, the pre-sunrise sky stopped me. I don’t remember what I was doing. It wasn’t as important as this. I leashed the dogs and headed outside for our morning walk earlier than usual, because I needed this sky.


Rose-violet light poured up the slopes of the Alleghenies. I thought about what I need to stop in the new year. I like how minimalist this question feels. Not “what 2,000 new and worthy and basically unattainable goals do you want to pick up in 2016?” but “what are you going to ditch?”


The thing about ditching stuff is that it gets addictive, whether that stuff is physical clutter or emotional garbage. I’ve ditched a lot of things these past few years. It started as a response to my then-position as a professional organizer. I saw so much stuff, saw houses and lives and the Earth groaning under the weight of it, that I felt a compulsion to shed weight, to chuck ballast overboard.


So I’ve stopped a lot of things. Stopped hanging on to stuff that may be useful someday. Ended memberships in groups that sucked my passion and energy dry. Quit a toxic job. Worked hard to believe that I don’t need to do it all, and worked hard every day after that to remember it.


But, snakelike, I keep growing new skins, calloused by circumstance and ossified by the dry winter winds that scour the ridges, trailing frost-gems in their wake. Winter is a sere season, and at this time of year I have to fight the urge to just curl up and hibernate, dive deep down into complacency and the heat radiating from the woodstove into the sunspots on the blonde wood floor.


Though much is taken, whispers Tennyson in my mind, much abides. There is always a new-old skin to shed. The first skin that leapt to my mind was the phone. I wrote in my journal this morning

Stop–answering the phone

I was being kind of tongue-in-cheek with myself, but I do need to quell the Pavlovian response to that darn ringing bell, at least during my writing hours.

I listed other things, too:

  • stop feeling I need to keep up with everything on Facebook. I also feel a mighty compulsion, as a writer, to read everything anybody writes because I write, and how on earth can I expect anybody to read what I write if I don’t read what they write?? This makes me feel crazy.
  • stop putzing around on the computer
  • stop putting so much effort into each blog post. I work way hard and not way smart at these things. I need to figure out a better system.
  • stop having three email accounts. DUH.
  • stop going to bed late. I don’t know why this is such an issue for me, but it is. I think it’s because I’m hardwired to be a night owl, and the world is not run by night owls, so I’m going to stop now because I feel a rant coming on.

But here’s THE BIG ONE. This has been my sticking point for far too long, and this, more than anything else, is what needs to change. More than the little bad habits (or the Big Bad Habits), it is this that must change for my happiness and peace of mind:

  • stop obsessing over publication. Find a healthy way to work diligently and steadily toward it without letting it overwhelm/depress me. Revel in the writing and the revision. FEEL THE JOY. (sometimes I yell at myself in all caps).


And sometimes, I need to follow Slinkster Cat’s example and JUST STOP.

15 thoughts on “Why I started to edit this post and then stopped

  1. Revel in the revisions. And keep taking in that sky. I keep my phone set so that only my favorites ring through, the kids, my sisters, my hub, a few friends. Otherwise, I will get it later. And if that editor calls to say yes, we are interested, you can always call them back. oxoxoxS

    1. Good advice–thanks, wise Suzi. My husband and I have this ongoing joke where the phone rings and I get all excited and say dramatically, “THIS could be the phone call that CHANGES OUR LIVES!!” But we do have an answering machine. 🙂

  2. So many gems in this piece, Brenna–“ditching the ballast” . . . “There is always a new-old skin to shed” . . . “stop putting so much effort . . . ” Yes, yes, yes! Way too much efforting. Your life choices seem to parallel mine in so many ways. I need to remind myself of many things–be still, receive, enough.

  3. Apart from sampling your skies I can fair say everything else is EXACTLY what I need to ditch, especially the time over blog posts, and the email answers that seem like clearing my desk but actually end up occupying it. Ridiculous that most of us see fewer people but spend more time not seeing them!

  4. I laughed (not out loud; why in a minute) when I read stop answering the phone. I’ve been voice-less (laryngitis, at least I hope so) for three days now and I no longer answer the phone. So that’s happening. Actually not having a voice is a perfect fit for my own winter stillness. Which reminds me: One of my all time favorite sayings: “Don’t just do something, sit there” (brought to mind by your closing photo). Much love from another Quester.

  5. Brenna, I’m intermittently hibernating with you, and a recovering night owl too. Something about quest this week pushed me internal too…maybe the steady pace of revealing, revealing, revealing. I loved the images in here “snakelike, I keep growing new skins…” and “heat radiating from the woodstove into the sunspots on the blonde wood floor…” Even though my 14 y old is past picture books (not really, are we ever) I brought home on one of my library runs The Insomniacs…just one way I played with taking the charge off her not sleeping.

    1. Tania, if you have any recovering night owl wisdom to share, I’ll gladly take it! Yes, there’s so much revealing and peeling going on. I am a chronic picture book reader; I’ll have to look for The Insomniacs!

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