Ali Edwards' One Little Word March prompt almost always sends me into a bit of a tailspin, and I usually skip it entirely. She suggests that we "do something" (not necessarily connected to our words, but often inspired by our words) every day for a month. Or . . . try to.
This selecting something to "do" is really hard for me, as a Questioner (á la Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies). (Just quickly, Gretchen's framework distingushes how people tend to respond to expectations - both inner and outer. It's really fascinating. And it explains a lot. Questioners, like me, question all expectations, and will meet expectations IF they think the expectation makes sense.) So. Therein lies the problem for me. I don't have issues usually with the DOING of things I decide to do. The DOING just needs to be relevant and meaningful for me. Otherwise? Why bother?
So I struggle when someone suggests I choose something to "do" every day for X number of days. (I also have trouble with the arbitrary "X number of days" thing, but I'll just let that go for now.) So the choosing is really hard for me, unless I happen to have something already in mind that I'd like to do.
And this year . . . I didn't.
Until I remembered something . . . BIG . . . hiding behind the closed door of a cabinet in my living room.
When my mom died four and a half years ago, and my dad downsized into an apartment, I became the Holder of All Family Photos. And they were a MESS. My mom had created a few photo albums, and those were fairly organized (although a lot of people in the older photos were not identified. . . ) (she always intended to make notes in the albums, but never did . . . ), but over the years, as other family members died, THEIR old photos ended up in my parents' closets, too. Plus . . . I uncovered shoeboxes full of mementoes and other random photos squirreled away in the deep, dark crannies of my mom's old condo.
MESS . . . doesn't really begin to describe it. There are duplicates and triplicates and blurred faces and people even my dad can't identify. Everything all jumbled together in no meaningful way. But . . . I said, sure. I'll take care of it. It'll be fun, I said. It'll be a great project, I said. And then, completely overwhelmed, I stuck the whole mess (boxes and albums and folders crammed with photos) into the cabinet in my living room.
And there it sits.
The guilt of the Great Photo Project pulls at me constantly. (Oh . . . the Shoulds and Oughts. They are a powerful force.)
But I knew it would take time.
A LOT of time.
And a lot of attention.
And a strategy for sorting and scanning and saving and sharing.
And I had none of that.
Then, back in February . . . I started thinking about Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.
And that old question popped up in my brain . . .
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
(A: One bite at a time.)
I decided to . . . take a bite . . . of my Giant Elephant Photo Project.
Using the One Little Word prompt as my springboard, I decided that my "bites" of the Elephant Project would be . . . 15 minutes every day. Which doesn't sound like much. I mean, how much could I accomplish on this enormous, elephant of a project by just spending 15 minutes every day? But that's what I needed to do. Because I clearly wasn't going to find an extra, full week (or weeks) anywhere in my life!
I started with some research (Questioner . . . ) to help me establish a process and strategy.
I set up a digital storage system (files) on an external hard drive.
And I grabbed the first box.
15 minutes every day.
Some days I struggled to get 10 or 12 photos scanned, identified, and stored in the proper folders. But other days, I would find my flow and spend far longer than 15 minutes on the task.
By the end of March, I'd developed a good routine and finished that box and moved on to the next. I also took everything out of that cabinet in the living room and sorted. And I developed my strategy for what happens AFTER I finish the sorting and scanning. (I usually work on The Elephant late in the afternoon, just before Tom and I meet up for a drink; it's a strategy. . . )
So. Good progress, then.
And I'm motivated to continue now.
And here's the funny part. Until mid-month, I never really connected that my Elephant Project . . . was also a Root Project!
You see, I never intended my word - root - to encompass my roots as in ancestry. I mean, I'd made the connection, of course. But I never planned to go there with my word. (Besides, my family history -- with the exception of one kind of renegade branch -- has already been carefully tracked by others in my family.)
Yet here I was, scanning my ancestors!
Connecting with my roots!
Realizing that my great-grandfather (the tall guy on the far left) . . . looked like a member of the Peaky Blinders gang! (And, really . . . this photo is from the same era in history as Peaky Blinders.) (My grandfather is the little guy in front.)
And seeing that my grandparents were kind of dashing and debonair, back in the mid-30s.
And I really got a chuckle realizing that my parents . . . looked like they'd had starring roles in Little Rascals as children.
So. For the first time in the 11 years I've been following along with Ali Edwards' One Little Word March prompt . . . I found a way to make it work for me.
- I used the prompt as a way to get myself moving on a huge and daunting project. (I AM eating that elephant.)
- I connected with my roots, in an ancestry-kind of way.
- And . . . it all got me thinking about the metaphor in all this. That sometimes you just have to plant yourself, deep in the dirt. And let things root. And maybe . . . the roots will create an entire different bloom than you expected!
(But wait. There's more. Join me on Monday for the rest of the story.)