Art, Perfectionism, Spiritual Practice

What if Every Moment were the Last Minute?

Maybe it's always the "last minute"

Recently I created an online fundraising auction for some of my art, small mosaics of flowers that incorporated empty bullet casings.  I had a choice of how long to allow bids — one, three, five, seven or ten days.  I wanted to keep people’s attention focused on it, which was a rationale for a shorter period, yet I also wanted them to have enough time to contemplate the choices and register on eBay.   I chose one week.  Ten days seemed too long to be promoting the auction and, frankly, to be in suspense.

Despite lots of sharing on Facebook and positive feedback, there were no bids for the first few days.  While I knew not to take the lack of activity personally, it was more of an intellectual understanding than an embodied sense that my efforts, creativity, and good intentions were worthy even if, in the moment I chose to hold the auction, nobody showed up to bid.  Doubts, like little mice, scurried and squeaked in my mind.  Was the pricing wrong?  Was the timing off?  Should I have chatted up more people to raise awareness?  Canvased the neighborhood with flyers?  But there is no “perfect” formula for anything, and I’ve frequently fallen into the trap of doing more…and more…and more…without feeling satisfied by even exhausting effort.  Years before, I probably would have paid attention to the doubts and frantically done something just to get one bid ASAP so that I could exhale.   Instead, I exhaled anyway, and began working on another piece.  I told myself that if no bidders appeared, I would get to keep the lovely flowers, and maybe sell them at a higher price when I was truly ready to let them go.  Indeed, when a day or so later someone bid on the pink flower, the first one I created, a twinge of sadness wriggled through my sternum at the thought of saying adieu, forever.

The night before the auction closed, friends asked if all the pieces had found bidders.  At that point, with about 14 hours left in the auction, half the pieces were unclaimed, although many people had looked at them.  Some folks expressed concern about this state of affairs, as if the auction were all or nothing.  By then I had achieved equanimity about the project and was past the point of fretting; I had done my part, the rest was out of my hands.  I also remembered that in other auctions I’ve participated in, savvy bidders often show up in the last moments, if not the final 60 seconds.  And that’s exactly what happened this morning.  Minutes before the auction closed, bidders appeared.  I noticed that I felt pleased rather than validated or relieved.  Had there been some unsold items, I would have happily hung them on my wall.

It occurred to me that my experience of life would be very different if I could keep in mind that every moment is a “last minute” of some kind.  It’s just not always us who is setting the stopwatch, marking the calendar or establishing the auction length, so we can’t prepare for it.  Since I really don’t know who or what will show up, or when, I might as well be open to whatever arrives at any time, and leave the suspense and fretting to the hyperactive mice.

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About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais trainee, and explorer of internal and external landscapes.

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