If you have read my blog for any length of time now, you understand how I struggle with self-improvement projects. I am constantly picking up goals that I feel I should have to get me to where I would like to be. Nothing too sinister or insane, either.
For example, I started reading a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way, and in it, she recommends a new practice right off the bat – morning pages. I had heard of morning pages before, and they didn’t sound like much special – write three pages, longhand, first thing every day.
About anything. No wrong way to do them, no content restrictions or guidelines, no quality standard, no right or wrong about them except that doing them is right. Doing them is the goal. Doing them gets the upper film of gunk cleared away so that when you sit down to write, or paint, or whatever, it’s easier to get the good stuff out. It’s easier to get the good stuff out when I am not worried about my sister, or losing my job, or thinking about how I want to rearrange the dining room and reorganize the kitchen cabinets.
My brain is often in the way of my creativity. She races and backflips and taunts and nags me about everything I haven’t done, or said, and she is constantly compiling an unachievable to-do list. So the morning pages help my brain get out of the way, they escort her to a nice comfy chair and hand her a good magazine and say “wait here, please.” And she usually does, until the next morning, when as soon as I crawl out from under the covers, she is right there at it again, nag, nag, nag.
I started the morning pages the first time I started reading the book. That was around February of 2011. I may have continued them for about two weeks. Eventually, I thrust the book out of reach, because I grew frustrated with the content. It’s nothing about the book, trust me – it’s completely about me and my own resistance to some of the exercises in the book. I stopped the morning pages. Nothing happened.
In September of this year, I decided to try reading the book again. Over a year and a half had passed! I remembered that the morning pages had actually been beneficial, so I started them up right away, with gusto. I even picked out a special notebook for them, and a special pen that was only for morning pages. When I didn’t get to them first thing, I took the notebook with me to wherever I was going and tried to do them as soon as possible. They were great. I was feeling inspired, lighter, more motivated, and way less stressed out than usual.
Of course, I eventually stopped writing them after about two weeks. It probably wasn’t for a good reason. It’s just like exercise. All it takes is one excuse, one skipped workout because of something small like a runny nose, to spiral me from workout fiend to couch potato. And so, one day of not writing became two, became a week, became two… you see how it goes. Until, eventually, a year and a half later, I remember that once upon a time I did something that really benefited my writing practice, and I should actually pick it up again.
But not this time.
I wrote morning pages today. Only about two months have passed since I did them. It was like catching up with an old friend. It felt so good, so relaxing, that I actually fell back asleep for an hour! I only woke up when Mr. Thor called my name because he wanted help in the kitchen.
Only two months. Not a year and a half. Maybe it’s because I am getting older, maybe it’s because I am losing my job, maybe it’s just because I finally want something more than I can excuse it away – but I am not going to let myself get lost anymore and have to start from scratch.
This applies with eating, as well. The last significant slide off my plan I can remember was this past spring. I got wobbly in March, and by May I was double-fisting hotdogs at a memorial day picnic, and by September I was buying donuts from the gas station. But I dusted myself off at the end of September, lost twenty or so pounds, and this past week started to wobble again. But I can’t take it for more than a couple of days now. I have seen the slide, and I can’t take it. The discomfort of “getting my shit together RIGHT NOW” is so much less than the discomfort of being disappointed in myself for multiple months.
I am making a conscious decision to close the gap. Faltering and falling is normal. But the truth that coexists with that normality is that every minute of every day, I have a choice. I have a choice between doing the right thing and doing nothing. So when I stumble, I can wail and fret and roll around in it – or I can get up and keep on going. The sooner, the better. Not after 6 months, not after a year and a half. This week. Tomorrow. Today, even. This minute.
I am not perfect, but I am moving. Today may not have been all that I wanted and hoped for. I may have let myself down and fallen short of my goals – but tomorrow is another chance.