A few months ago, at Rally (Rally!), Agent Em Dee shared with me a very Rally-esque mini-epiphany she’d had while conducting.

It had to do with a tray, that is the part I remember most clearly, and it went something like this:

“I suddenly realized that while I hate making choices (stress! decisions! what if I choose wrong?), I like them in the form of ‘have a choice!’. Like: Here, have a cookie. And then you can take a cookie or not take a cookie, or choose which cookie you like, from the tray.

So I need to stop looking at my to-do list and thinking, oh crap which thing should I do first. It’s more like a waiter coming by with a tray. There is an assortment of things being offered to me — have a something! — and all I have to do see which one I feel like reaching for now.”

What do I want on my tray?

I have noticed that I often try to put ALL POSSIBLE SNACK-FOODS IN EXISTENCE on the tray.

Until it is too heavy to carry, and then I get overwhelmed and cry.

I also am aware of my tendency to vastly overestimate my capacity for doing, while grossly underestimating the amount of time it takes me to devote myself to the experience of tasting something and enjoying it.

[Or if the tray has magazines, it takes me longer to read one than I think it will…]

I like having possibilities.

I also have monster-expectations that I should be able to do all the things, as well as simultaneous monster-fears that I won’t be able to do any of them.

That’s why setting up the tray is so helpful.

It brings the focus back to the real question:

What do I want to work on or play with right now?

And it presses pause on the old pattern of Overwhelmed By All The Things.

The piece about choice.

[Monsters: “Ugh, illusion of choice! And also, these things HAVE TO BE DONE, you don’t have a choice about them. So they are not at all like cookies. AND you are wasting your time with this tray-organizing bullshit when actually you should be DOING ALL THE THINGS THAT HAVE TO BE DONE and YOU ARE BEHIND and if you don’t do them there will be DOOM.”]

Okay, so there is much monsterizing. And at the same time, I know that Perpetually Behind is a story I use to feel bad about myself, and that this is also a choice. I don’t need to put that story on the tray of options.

I also know that I feel better when I choose something out of desire rather than out of fear.

And I know that despite all my (and my monster’s) best intentions, I will not be able to do all the things. Only some of them.

So I might as well find ways to have less pain around the process of choosing.

These are some things I know about myself.

These might not be true for you, because People Vary.

I find it useful to have information about the size of tray I like, how many possibilities I like to choose from, things like that. I take notes on what works and what doesn’t work, and put them in the Book of Havi.

And maybe on some days the tray won’t work at all, and I’ll need an entirely new metaphor.

It’s a ongoing process of practicing and observing, running ongoing experiments with the internal scientists.

It’s gathering intel, which is part of self-fluency.

Alright let’s do this. Here’s my tray for today.

These are things I might do. I do not have to do them.

I am going to try to stay as connected as possible to the internal pull of my own desires.

Most of them are in secret agent code, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, no worries.

Coded names for ops helps me feel playful and lighthearted in my approach to things that maybe have hidden layers in them.

These are just options, possibilities. And yes, some of them have [gah, monsters, scary deadlines!], and at the same time, preparing the tray is helping me be steady and present so that I can get a clean, clear read on what I want.

This is my tray of possibilities…

  • Pipe Cleaner: “it’s in the bag, baby”
  • The Magic Purple Pill Investigation: writing about this
  • Make the drop with the Czech Agent down the hall.
  • Operation Close Eyes I: the saving of the last threads and updating R that this is done
  • Operation Close Eyes II: goodbye ritual
  • Operation Close Eyes III: initial notes about wishes for the Operation Open Eyes, in the form of a secret missive to Agent Em Dee.
  • The Eyes/Is Have It. Combo!
  • Sparkler Reply

Do I want a clue?

Yes, please.

Okay. Finding a clue.

My tea bag says “be proud of who you are”. Who I am, at the moment at least, is a clue-finder. And someone who is placing beautiful things onto a beautiful tray. I don’t know that I am proud of those things, but why not. It is a start.

Clue: a book called HUG. Yes, that is good.

And the wall at Rally says ALL ABOARD. This is a clue, for me, right now, about making sure that I am bringing all aspects of me into this. I am making safe rooms for the sad, scared parts of me who get overwhelmed by doing.

Where do I want to start?

Well, the most vital thing, the one that absolutely absolutely has to be done today, is Operation Close Eyes I.

I also know that if I don’t make the drop with the Czech Agent, take care of the pipe cleaner and reply to a Sparkler, these things will be poking at me and make it hard to concentrate. Prickly Bits! Plus they do not involve Stuck, at least not that I know of, and they can all — in theory — be taken care of relatively quickly.

And the thing that I would do if nothing else mattered at all would be to investigate the Mystery of the Magic Purple Pills.

So here’s my inclination:

I will set a timer for 22 minutes and see how much I can get done on the three Prickly Bits.

Then I will conduct and give 22 minutes to Operation Close Eyes.

Then I will check in again and see if I have a better sense of what needs to happen from there.

What will help?

Doing things widdershins, and Change Your Place, Change Your Luck.

Pausing to stretch.

Ginger tea. [RGW!] aka Replenishing Glass of Water.

Music. And wearing a wig, of course.

If I get stuck, I will blow bubbles and look for clues in the pattern. Maybe I will ask the waiter to bring in a new tray. Maybe I will be a spy. Maybe I need some flowers.

Let’s do it.

Come play with me in the comments.

This is that incredibly rare thing (online at least) that is safe space to play, and usual commenting principles apply: We are here to play! We remember that people vary! We take care of ourselves. We do not tell anyone what to do or how to feel. We are on permanent vacation from advice-giving and care-taking.

Ways we could play today: You can put things on your tray! Or invent something that is not a tray. Or seed qualities and notice clues. Or play with this in other ways that are up to you. I will update in the comments as things progress….

Love, as always, to the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers, and everyone who reads.

The Fluent Self