0208 – earn your keep

I deeply enjoyed reading The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield a while ago, and it’s a book I want to re-read and re-read and internalize. It talks about The Resistance, which keeps writers from writing. And how every day the Resistance is renewed and you have to face it again and again, and it never ever goes away.

Now that’s a suitable villain for anybody’s life narrative. It’s all the animals in your head trying to get you away from doing the things that you know within yourself you are capable of doing.

So I’m tentatively revisiting the idea that I ought to write these vomits everyday. [1] I liked how Pressfield described his work- he would demarcate time clearly for it, and he’d have his lucky charm, and he’d just go into it and slog it out, like an athlete. The athlete has to play hurt, and the professional artist has to do the work whether or not he’s feeling inspired, whether or not the conditions are right.

So I’m thinking that I’d like to start my days every morning with a thousand words. I’ve been making my bed regularly, and that’s had a positive effect on me. It feels like making and keeping a promise to myself, which is very precious to me because my brain thinks that I’m incapable of keeping promises. If I am to get rid of all the shame and anxiety I feel, I will have to strike at the heart of it- and the heart of it is broken promises. I feel ashamed because I don’t do what I say I’ll do, and I don’t do what I want to do. And I feel like an unreliable, untrustworthy person, and I’m really tired of that. Really, really tired. I’m tired of writing about it. I’m tired of having it as the dominant thought on my mind– there must be so many other interesting things that I could be thinking about.

So where do we go from here? I feel like I’ve definitely written about this before, but I’m just going to write it again. It seems like there’s a certain amount of repetition necessary for these things to really get internalized. I need to start by prioritizing my sleep, because I work better and think more clearly and experience less fog when I have slept well. That means getting in bed before midnight, preferably before 11. I’m changing my way of thinking about it- it’s not just something that happens at the end of everything- it’s a priority, because it’s fundamentally restorative. My mind without sleep is ugly and useless.

I’ve found meditation to be helpful– where I just sit on my sofa and look out of the window and breathe for 5-10 minutes. I’ve found naps to be helpful, too. So I’m making it a point to take a lot more of them moving forward.

In the past, these things seemed like distractions or boring diversions- why bother doing these things when I could squeeze in a bit of work, or more often than not, a bit of pleasure? I realize I do that because I don’t trust myself to have time for pleasure after work. In my experience, work expands to fill every little space, every nook and cranny, so if I’m to have to have any pleasure at all, I have to steal little bits here and there, like smoke breaks. I will never have any real time for myself, my saboteur seems to think.

So it’s this recursive cluster-fuck. I’m not even sure where it all began, and I’m not sure if there’s any point in trying to find out- at least right now. It makes more sense to get rid of the pain first than to think about where the pain come from. Remove the arrow before you worry about who shot you, right? So in my case, the (non-exhaustive list of) conditions are as follows:

  • I don’t believe that I am capable of getting things done, because I have a long and illustrious history of spectacular failures (starting with school, maybe even earlier). This is a deep-rooted, fundamental belief that I rarely state outright because it sounds kinda lame and silly, but it’s actually a belief that gets to stay in my head, and I need to work on evicting it. And to do that I need contrary evidence. I think the runs and vomits and meditation sessions are helping.
  • I don’t have deep-rooted systems for managing my time, for managing my appointments. My parents never taught me (bless them, they’re good people but they were too kind and allowed me too much freedom.) So I’m like an ignorant, irresponsible child in this regard. I just don’t know how to think about time. I don’t know how to think about the future. I can think FAR into the future- I can think about the eventual heat death of the universe and how it renders all of this living business kinda pointless and redundant. I can think about what it would be like to witness my loved ones dying. But somehow I struggle to think about deadlines looming next week.
  • I’m terrible at projecting how long any given task might take. I systematically underestimate them. Part of this is that I hate to upset or displease people, so I try to give them things as quickly as possible. Another part of this is that I’m literally bad at estimating things. I assume perfect conditions, no distractions, insane work ethic, etc. And then these assumptions all get broken, and I hate myself again.
  • I’m impulsive and distractible, more than most people. I can easily spend an entire day on social media, no problem. I can spend an entire day doing anything that isn’t work. I’m not sure if I’ve ever spent an entire day working, and I’m starting to get curious if it’s possible. I can easily finish entire tubes of mentos and nerds and sweets. I can do random nonsense and wonder where the past 4-6 hours had gone.

Nyeh. I’m sure there’s more, but thinking about it further isn’t very helpful to me right now– what matters is that I take action. My real goal here was to finish a word vomit. The vomit is done. It’s before 1pm. I can now do a bunch of chores. Today, I have earned my keep, I have taken baby steps towards the goal that I have set for myself. I’ll maybe do it again tonight before I sleep. And I’ll do it again tomorrow morning.

[1] There are supposedly 4 parts (expectancy, value, impulsiveness, delay) to The Procrastination Equation– I’m guessing there’s actually more, but there are at least these 4 parts. Thinking a little more about it, I’m guessing those are broader, bigger conditions that influence those 4 elements. But I digress.

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