I’m way behind on the writing things. I was helping at the Patricia theatre (I love that place)for the film festival and it didn’t leave much time for the focus on the exercises. The group that’s doing the thing is on day 24 or something and I’ve not made it past 16 yet. I try not to be bothered about it but there’s still a sense that I’m being left behind, even though it’s not up to anyone else what I do or where I’m at.
I haven’t written anything in 3 days and there’s this strange feeling that accompanies that. Like when I step into a river that, on the surface, doesn’t seem as though it’s moving very swiftly but then pulls and pulls so much I feel like I’ll lose my footing. Like my blood has this undertow in it and the temptation to stop is overwhelming. Some days the writing is the river and all I need to do is jump in and it’s bliss. But in this instance, the river is closer to old habits that want me to stop resisting. I’ve missed three days, what’s one more?
One more day is a habit in the wrong direction. It’s really amazing the fences my mind erects in face of my determination to do something that is mildly uncomfortable. The writing prompts aren’t that interesting, you’re already so far behind everyone that there is no point in continuing, you aren’t doing the exercises properly, others are writing poems and pertinent utterances while you just ramble about your feelings. Aren’t you sick of being so self-indulgent and consistently talking about yourself? Like you’re soooo interesting.
And then the subtle self-maligning habits start popping up again.
When I have low self-esteem, I don’t brush my teeth every day. I haven’t brushed my teeth in three days. I spend more time looking at things on the internet than reading actual books. The piano doesn’t get turned on, the ukulele sits untended. My eating habits start to slip…’if I eat this piece of (glutinous, actual cheese covered) pizza, sure it’s chockablock full of wheat and cheese but one piece won’t be so bad..’
Yes. It will.
Sometimes I think that cutting things out altogether isn’t a good idea because I have become much more sensitive to when I do eat it, but perhaps I always was but was so accustomed to having low energy and a general bloaty feeling of malaise that I took it for granted that’s how I feel. I have a friend who discovered that he has very pronounced sciatica. The doctor who noticed said, ‘aren’t you in pain all the time?’ He had lived with it getting slowly worse for such a long time that he never considered there might be a more comfortable alternative. There’s this mindset that this is how it is. It’s not really terrible, so what right do I have to complain? If I complain, does that mean I have a lack of gratitude? This is a balance I’m really struggling with.
Here’s a funny one that I’ve been feeling lately. I feel guilty for not wanting to eat meat in front of people who eat meat. As though my decision to alter my diet is somehow an imposition. I don’t mind if they eat meat, of course I would prefer that they eat animals that have had happy lives and humane (?) deaths because I think there is a lot of power in consuming the flesh of another. If one is ingesting the sadness and fear of a tortured creature, I’m not sure that’s a healthy diet even if it’s creating a balance of protein and vitamins. For me, it’s getting harder and harder to eat meat. Every time I do, I almost cry. This is really new for me. I’ve always been kind of sensitive to the plight of non-human animals but I keep thinking, is this early onset menopause or something? Like, why the hell am I almost crying when I eat a piece of flesh? And it’s become so pervasive I can’t ignore it anymore, the discomfort I feel when eating it has become stronger than the benefit I have from it being in my belly. It means I have to restructure my perspective when I go grocery shopping and work a little harder at having a balanced diet (gluten free, fake cheese pizza everyday isn’t balanced..awesome, but not balanced) and that tiny voice of resistance is sure that my laziness will override my integrity and we’ll be back to bison burgers in short order. Even now, where the thought of bison burgers would have once made my mouth water (with avocado and bacon and fried onions and sweet potato fries) I find the idea of it repulsive, there’s a bad taste in the back of my mouth. But though I feel compelled to this course of action, I still have a sense of apologetic caution, as though my opinion of what tastes good is slanted because I’m leaning towards a vegetarian preference. That is so weird.
But when considering the perspective of ‘do I have the right to complain or be picky about what I eat when there are so many with so much less?’ it makes a certain amount of sense. It could be that it’s a privileged middle class white girl north american guilt trip I’m loading on myself but I feel like it’s not even as broad as that. I feel like it’s my misguided sense of how good I’m allowed to feel attempting to erode life decisions that might make me feel good about the things I choose to do. It has nothing to do with social guilt and everything to do with personal esteem. It’s not us, it’s me.
Some days I really don’t understand how I still struggle with feelings of self-worth vs self-loathing. I question where this shite comes from. On paper, I’m really not that bad, there’s no rational reason for me to put myself in the proverbial corner wearing a dunce cap of shame because of some perceived lack of talent/skill/eye colour/height/carbon footprint/humourous and pertinent songwriting skills/ambition/focus/drive/passion/boyfriend/girlfriend/tango partner/burningman ticket/book deal/better laser selection/ocean view cottage/nicaraguan surf hostel ownership /parisian apartment in le marais/natural red hair (not to suggest that my self-esteem is dependent on my acquiring stuff, such as a Nicaraguan surf hostel, an apartment in Paris or more lasers, though I would not be opposed to having such accoutrements..).
I wish that I could take more notice of the creeping onslaught of self-meh from a scientific point of view because I know that would allow me to more easily combat it, but I’m typically a couple of days in before I’ve noticed that it’s happened.
Suddenly I realize, it’s been 2 days since I brushed my teeth. There are more clothes than usual on the floor instead of put away or in the laundry basket. The dishes have started piling up and there is food I had planned to do amazing things with (chocolate zucchini bread! roasted peppers! kale chips!) that I’m going to end up composting in the swamp if I don’t use them soon.
I am getting better at turning it around because I’m working really hard to recognize these moments (It’s been 2 days? Better do it right now, regardless of it not being a typical tooth brushing time slot…won’t take long to pick up these clothes…or do these dishes..might not make bread but I bet if you sautee that zucchini it would go really good on the pizza you’re going to make yourself later and it’ll keep for the one you’re going to eat tomorrow too! And the kale might have been a bit yellow but I’m sure if you hadn’t forgotten it at Karen’s house, you would have made it into kale chips because you’re not as much of a fuck up as you’d like to think you are, for whatever reason).
Because that’s the habit. Having an awareness of what’s happening, how it feels and whether it’s helping the narrative move forward or not. Whether it’s writing every day, making sure I’m eating food that is going to agree with my physicality as much as my morality, keeping the house tidy because it tends to reflect how ordered my brain feels daily, making sure that I leave the house and be social often enough to maintain a perspective that is broad and inclusive rather than narrow and insular, it all leads to the same end game. That of providing me with a steady and level foundation to build up from.
I think a good experiment would be incorporating my writing every day with my awareness of my diet because I think there are times when I am not very mindful of what I’m eating because I’ve left it so long, I just need to eat something (anything!) to get back to an even keel. But I don’t think it works like that anymore. While it might settle my blood sugar and help me to focus or be less bitchy in the moment, I think it has a more nefarious effect on my general well-being. If I was keeping track of exactly how many tootsie rolls I snarfled (sorry Ann..)from the basket of tiny chocolate bars (it takes 16 to make a whole one!) or tiny cupcakes I ate at the opening and then closing galas of the film fest (it takes 7 to make a whole one!) or every time I only had one (one won’t hurt me..)piece of glutinous pizza, cream cheese infused breakfast sandwich, chocolate chip cookie, butter tart, sugary drink…all those ‘I’ll just have the one..” start to add up. The scientist in me is delighted by the prospect of this experiment. The writer is enlivened because here’s another reason to do it everyday. The voice of ‘one won’t hurt me’ is shrieking with embarrassment of the expectation that I will likely be horrified by how little awareness I have of what I’m eating and drinking on a daily basis.
Mindfulness is a difficult habit to cultivate. But I’m working on it.