Here is the first part of a conversation between me and Plate Spinner, the part of me that tries to manage the multitude of projects and ideas I take on in spite of myself.
ME: Hi, Spinner. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
P.S.: No time for chatting. If you want to talk about something significant, make it quick. I’m very busy. No time for small talk.
ME: Well, I don’t want to intrude. If you don’t want to talk to me . . .
P.S.: Seriously? If I didn’t have all these plates to keep spinning, maybe I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you, but that’s not the reality.
ME: I see: Why do you spin so much? Do you enjoy it?
P.S. Ha! It’s been a long time since I enjoyed it. It’s become nothing but a burden. It’s not whether or not I like it: it’s what I do.
ME: That’s the problem. You’re always doing.
P.S: Well, if I stop, all of these plates will fall. That wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
ME: Maybe not, but sometimes I get exhausted just watching you. Don’t you ever relax?
P.S.: No time. If it’s relaxation you want, turn it into a project, paint it on a plate. Then we can talk. Well, actually, I can’t really talk much, but I can add it to the other plates.
ME: Sometimes you can be so frustrating. Don’t you want a little time for fun, for friendship, for just exploring new things without it all being so frantic?
P.S.: What are you talking about? What would I do if I wasn’t spinning these plates? More importantly, how would all of these important things get done?
ME: Maybe they’re not as important as you think.
P.S.: Really! Aren’t you the one adding all these plates to the pile?
ME: Hey! I thought I was the one one asking the questions.
P.S.: Just because you keep me too busy for questions
most all of the time doesn’t mean I don’t have them.
ME: O.K. I guess that makes sense. I don’t like it, but I can’t really argue with you. There might be some truth to it. I’ll go out on a limb here. Do you want to ask a question?
P.S.: Damn right, I do! But first, I’m going to put all of these plates down for a few minutes. Unless you’re brave enough to tell me to just let go of them all.
ME: I might like to be that brave, but I have to admit, I like most of those plates.
P.S.: No you don’t. I think they’re just a poor substitute for what you really want to be doing. You’re keeping me and yourself busy with all of this stuff. We barely have a moment to think. And besides, this stuff isn’t satisfying to either one of us.
ME: What do you mean? I find a lot of satisfaction in these activities.
P.S.: Excuse me while I laugh hysterically. When is the last time you actually were satisfied with something you were doing? You don’t even give yourself a minute when something is done before you’ve moved on to the next thing, or the next dozen things. I work for you, remember? I can’t stop spinning these plates, because you won’t stop spinning. OK, give me a minute to put all these plates down for a few minutes.
(You can see the process in this video.)
P.S.: There! That feels better. Do you hear that?
ME: Hear what? I don’t hear anything.
P.S.: Precisely! That’s my point. No whirring from the constant spinning of plates, no frantic footfalls as I run from one pole to another to keep all the plates in the air.
ME: Wow! I guess things really have gotten out of hand.
P.S.: When I came to work for you, I didn’t realize there would be all of this overtime. I didn’t realize that we would be spending so much time in the immediate moment keeping all of this crap in the air so that we’d never have time to work on the bigger dreams. I mean I do like spinning–and juggling for that matter–but you’ve taken all the joy out of it.
ME: Wow! I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize how miserable I’ve made things for you. What can I do?
P.S.: Well, for starters, you can stop grabbing every new plate that comes along. And then when I do finish with a plate, you could consider just leaving that space open. Give me some breathing space. Give us a chance to step back on occasion and see the big picture.
ME: I hear what you are saying, but sometimes I can’t help myself. The colors, the textures, the patterns, the . . .
P.S.: Cut the crap! One of these days, I’m just going to drop the lot of them! I’ll walk off the job!
ME: Oh, please don’t do that!
P.S.: Why not? What do these plates really represent?
ME: Well, I never really thought about it that way before. But since you ask, I guess they represent me. After all, who am I without all of this activity to define me? Who will notice me if I don’t do all of these things?
P.S.: Really? You’re going to turn this into an identity crisis? Isn’t that a little too convenient?
ME: I’m feeling threatened, insecure. And I’m definitely not sure what to do next. You’re making sense, but I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know where to start.
P.S.: Oh, I think you do. You didn’t get into this mess overnight, and you’re not going to dig out of it in a day, or even a week, but seriously, I think digging out is right where you need to start.
ME: You’re right. And I need to get intentional about it.
P.S.: Now I’m beginning to feel like you’re listening to me and like there is hope. I really need to get back to all of these plates. But if you’ll back off a bit, maybe we can meet tomorrow and map out this intention thing.
ME: You’ve got it. You’re really good at what you do, but I want you to feel like you’re using those skills for better things than just juggling all of my unexamined stuff. We’ll talk tomorrow!
P.S.: Great! See you then!
(TO BE CONTINUED!)