Tonight my therapist made me cry in a good way. I was talking about the cycle of "I gotta do the work/chores" "but I don't wanna" "but I gotta" "but I don't wanna". He said, "That's the cranky kid and the authoritarian parent, but where's the third voice? The compassionate parent?"
"Oh," I said. "That's the one I call my wife." (I've decided I'm not going to poke at why my wife is still my wife even though I'm NB-identified now. It's just how it is.)
"...I forget to look for her."
"Well, try inviting her into these conversations."
Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.
So, some things my brain is telling me lately, and things I can say back to it with kindness and compassion:
I don't want to do work right now.
"I'm sorry it's hard. It needs to get done, even though it's hard. And once you start it will be easier and go faster than you think, and then you'll be free of the burden of needing to do it."
I have so much to do and I don't want to do any of it because there is so much.
"It sounds like you're tired and need to go to bed. When you're rested you'll be more confident, more efficient, and better able to prioritize."
I can't go to bed. I have too much to do.
"Right now, while you're as awake as you're going to get, do anything that has a real serious deadline between now and noon tomorrow. Then go to bed. You can do the rest after you get some sleep."
I can't sleep. Something bad might happen to the baby.
"You're not on duty overnight anymore. X has the monitor on and reliably wakes up when the baby makes noise. J is getting up in a few hours. The baby is very healthy and will be totally fine. Also, it needs to be normal and okay for you to sleep while Kit is sleeping instead of hovering over them and fretting. Let's practice that tonight--just do it once to see how it goes. Remember that the last time you went to sleep before J got up, everything was fine."
I don't think you understand. SOMETHING BAD might HAPPEN to the BABY.
"The vanishingly unlikely worst-case scenario is that J wakes up, discovers something is wrong, and wakes you and lets you know. And that would be horrible, but you have survived other horrible things and you would survive that too."
There was another two-voice scenario that should be three. When I'm getting things done during the day, I feel like "This is very challenging and I'm totally on top of it!", but when I'm flopped on the couch after dinner, all I can think is "There's so much to do and I feel it on top of me like a weight". The third voice there isn't agitated or despondent but calm and relaxed, both capable of doing things that need doing and fully present for times of rest and fun. I'm not sure what to do to get there, though. Having less to do would help, but isn't going to happen anytime soon. I will think more on that.
In the meantime, I'm going to pet my cat (I've been home from the office for three hours and she just came into my room yelling WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN because she is oblivious) and then talk myself into going to bed. Maybe even before J wakes up.
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.love, behavior.parenting, behavior.procrastination, behavior.responsibility, behavior.self-care, body.sleep, experiences.love, experiences.therapy, experiences.work, mind.feelings.compassion, mind.feelings.stress, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.negotiation, people.my wife
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man
started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.
I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems
mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual
problem.( Definitions )
=====( Analysis )
Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.
As mentioned here
, I recently read Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
(which had a very gratifying focus on mindfulness in daily life; for a taste of that, see this shorter piece by Nhất Hạnh
). One of the things he suggests is taking a mindfulness sabbath every week--you do your ordinary daily things, but you do them at about a third your usual speed, with full attention to the thing you're doing in the moment that you're doing it. I like that idea so much better than a day of rest in the traditional Jewish mode, and have been thinking about implementing it in some way.
I tried it yesterday (beginning with lighting candles on Friday at sunset, which was very pleasant in the winter dark) and only sort of managed it. At one point on Saturday night I realized it was dark out and that meant Shabbat was over and I didn't have to be mindful anymore. Then I thought that was a sort of silly way to look at it, and did my best to be very present with whatever I did next (washing my hands, I think). If it were easy, I wouldn't have to make a practice of it.
One place where it was very effective was doing work on Friday evening. I was proofing my pages for the week, which I usually get very distracted from and take ages to do because of the distractions. But I focused on it not in a furrowed-brow kind of way but in a presence and mindfulness kind of way, and it went very quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately I have not yet managed to apply that to the work that I'm currently procrastinating on by writing this, because in order to be present with the work, I have to actually start doing the work, and I don' wanna. But once I actually start it, I will hopefully stay focused despite being incredibly tired, and it will go quickly and then I can sleep.
Today I was taking my meditation walk in the park, and caught myself getting distracted, and thought, "Be here now." And then I thought, "I am
here now," in the sense of, why do I need to instruct myself to be here now? I don't need to actively try to be here now; I'm already here now. I just need to stop being anywhere else (in the mind-wandering sense), and then being here now is the thing that's left. That little moment of enlightenment lasted maybe twenty seconds, but it was a really good twenty seconds. I am here now. No effort needed.