Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
March 2013



Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.

Necessity? NOT!

It all started with this last line of a poem: “this ruse you call necessity.” To read the whole poem, just Google that line, and you will find it but I promise to share the rest of Louise Erdrich’s poem with you in a future issue of Out on a Limb. For now, just zero in on this sequence of five words. Do you detect a touch of condemnation in the poet’s voice by her use of the word, “ruse?” I imagine the sub-text to be something like: “C’mon, you fools, what you THINK is important and necessary just might not be. Think again.” If we deem everything necessary, are we not setting ourselves up for a massive stress attack? Are we depleting the potential for joy?

What really IS necessary to you? I have been asking myself this question for over a month and here is a random sample of answers that have come to me:

  • File tax returns in a timely manner (April 15th approaches!)
  • Vacations
  • Connection (be it with oneself, or other people or animals)
  • Silence
  • Not a whole lot, actually

Perhaps most of our strange obsessions (I am pretty sure we all have at least one!) arise from a twisted sense of necessity. I doubt I am the only one who will re-arrange dishes in the dishwasher the way I think they should go. Does it really matter how the dishes fit into the dishwasher? No. But by golly, when I am in the clutch of that obsession, I think it is absolutely necessary to stack dishes to maximize how many fit in the world’s tiniest dishwasher. They don’t call me the Cram Queen for nothing! Thanks to the poet and her five-word last line, I notice that by being attached to a distorted sense of necessity, more precious time gets chewed up doing unnecessary things. And I don’t know about you but when my time gets chewed up, I am not on the same page with joy.

Others have specific ideas about how the laundry should be folded, or which shelf of the fridge should have the milk on it, or how to parallel park in a congested area, or how early one should arrive at the airport prior to takeoff. Perhaps what starts out as a preference evolves into a necessity and it is then on its way to becoming an obsession. Next time you catch yourself being strident about a certain way to do something, ask “is it necessary to do it this way, or is this just my strong preference?” I suspect that if we downgrade it to a strong preference, we may be more flexible, and less caught up in the ruse.

For example, I knew a teenager who was insistent upon wearing name-brand clothing. No doubt, the peer pressure to conform and wear Benetton or Izod clothing, or Skechers sneakers was intense. At the time, she might have said, with attitude, that these preferences were necessary. Two decades later, I am not sure she wears anything that displays a name-brand. So our notions of what is necessary can change or ease up over time, thank goodness. Why wait two decades? What is necessary to you, now?

Embrace Entropy

If we loosen our stranglehold on what is necessary, perhaps we are being called to embrace entropy. Eek. The mere word makes hearts beat faster. Accept the inevitability of disorder or chaos? No thanks, we reply. We protest that “the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” clench our teeth and do what we feel we can do to exert control over the chaos. But perhaps the poet is asking us to love the mess, so that we can truly live, freed from the ruse we call necessity, and experience more levity. I picture a lot more deep breaths being taken.


Love the Question

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke offered this advice: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves …” We do not have to make deep cuts in our budget for necessity, immediately. Accept Rilke’s invitation to love and sit with the question, What is necessary? I have faith that as we discern and de-prioritize those things we once felt were necessary, we will experience some wiggle room where joy may enter. Imagine your time getting chewed up by more and more fun stuff!

Joy-Gram for March 2013

Play a game. Play any game you want because games are not necessary but they are usually a lot of fun. Not everything must be useful and practical. But one could also argue that games are useful in that they give us a break from what is truly necessary!  

Your March 2013 Prompts for Joy

Click here to see what a young elephant does on an afternoon free of necessity.

Click here if your ideas about what is necessary are influenced by wanting others to like you.

Great timing, Dr. Amy Guthrie! THANK YOU!

Do a Daily Dance: Bring on the Joy!

With thanks to Toi Lynn Wylie, the #1 video on the D.D.D. playlist is just plain awesome! Check it out by clicking here then view the 1st video in the playlist.

Pictured Above

Like I said above, vacations are necessary! This is Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Archives Available

To re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·

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