Today is Day 8 and my inner resistance to sitting at my desk is solidifying, concretizing. Simultaneously, surprisingly, the rest of my day is deeper, with more productive joyful experiences. This change feels a tad miraculous, like drinking the antidote and discovering you’d been poisoned for years.
Perhaps my antidote, constructing something meaningful to say, is unique to me. The specifics certainly are; most people probably don’t need to write in a journal for an hour every morning but I lose my inner compass if I don’t. Other people might not need to read every day to prevent a malaise I call soul flu. Others might not need to constantly categorize and strategically design new patterns of thinking or restructure complex systems but oh my, I definitely do. Workbooks were my second favorite toy as a kid. I am bored without challenges and when I’m bored, I engage in self-destructive (for me) activities. Like binging on shallow social exchanges that leave me feeling superficially connected, a survival technique I learned in high school. You may not need the same specific combination of exercises but you probably need your practices as much as I need mine.
My resistance has always been with me. Each day, I’d form it, like clay, into a list of things I must do. If I could get everything done -then- I could focus on more meaningful things. Done never arrived and it never will. When I did manage to move past my resistance, my fear other people’s reactions to my abdication made me hyper vigilant, watching for trouble. There was always trouble. I was like a dysfunctional sea captain watching the ocean through binoculars from his house, dressed in sea captain garb, waiting for a ship to come in. Rather than sailing an actual boat.
This morning, I set my Focus@Will timer for 90 minutes (Alpha Chill today) and opened IA Writer. When I have the draft done, I will move the text into Atom. I have a geeky, versioned-controlled workflow that generates this static site. Sometimes I sprinkle on a bit of code to the site itself.
This process is working for me. And yet, like playing a video game, I encounter increasingly-strong challenges along the way. I thought … I really thought … these inner impediments, the monsters giving form to my resistance, were blockers. I felt shaky scared of them. Now, I see that (like in video games) these experiences are strengtheners.
Let me say this again, because it’s a gigantic revelation for me. Resistance is our strengthener. Resistance arises where a muscle needs to grow. In my case, choosing wordsmithing before Taking Care of All The Things creates core strength. Resistance is where my bodymind needs some weight to push against.
This concept - resistance is a strengthener - is dangerous to generalize. How do we know the difference between healthy-for-us resistance and knowing something isn’t good for us? Is it healthy resistance or are we forcing ourselves to do something we don’t actually want to do?
I will carry those question with me into day 9, 10 … and report back my findings. I push myself to do all manner of things that in fact, I’d be better off not doing. I believed efforting and overcoming were strength. Horseradish. That’s Sysphus and nobody wants to be Sisyphus.
To help me discern between Sisyphus situations and experiences that grow my strength, I have developed five criteria. These are relatively new for me, I had to learn them all the hard way. Multiple times. Which gives me faith in their rightness, even if I still struggle to practice them consistently.
Are others hearing me? I have invested many hours (months, years) repearing myself, trying to change other people’s thinking, choices or behaviors. Saying the same thing again and again expected different responses is insanity. Don’t go there. Change is a choice people make, not a thing you can gift them.
Is there water in the well already? When I discover a blindspot in a person or a situation, I usually encourage awareness to flow there. This is sometimes a worthwhile, loving effort. More often, it’s like being thirsty, discovering a dry well, and rather than seek water elsewhere, start shoveling. There is no lack of water but there will never be a wellspring in a desert, my friends. Your garden needs the rain.
Is developing expertise valuable in this situation? I want to understand everything and everyone I encounter. Constant learning is joyful and I’ve chosen a career that demands it. But true understanding requires time, energy and looking at things from many points of view. Is that work worthwhile? Sometimes. As Alanis Morrisette says, “Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom.” Relationships, with people and organizations, that have required developing specific-to-them knowledge have usually left me with little to show for my effort when the relationship ended. Now I’m seeking balance and letting my inner compass quide me deeper my own expertise.
Will others benefit from this effort? As a woman, I was taught that selflessness, focus on others, is my natural state. All else is selfish or allowed “me time”. Horsewaddle. My work is valuable and requires my attention. But my work benefits no one if it’s stuffed in a closet, where mine has literally been. Personal and professional development depends on hard work that has rarely been seen by others. But we aren’t alone with our challenges. Others share them and ideally, we can help their journey be gentler.
This post has taken me four days to finish and lots of editing. At two points, this post was 3,000+ words long. I published it last night, thinking I was done. I wasn’t. Words stockpiled themselves, demanding expression, damming the flow and making me feel stuck and overwhelmed. I chased many thought rabbits. My resistance made my body was heavy, bogged down. Emotionally, I felt unable to get out of my own way.
Now, it is New Year’s Day. The day I intended to tell others about Year of Enough and invite them to read it. So I’m deciding this post is “done enough”. It’s time to head into the 2020 unknown. I hope we travel together.