Run every day, write every day

I need a new mantra. A new compass. A new hallowed utterance to become a new law. A new vehicle. A new sacred space. A new foundational thing of constancy to cling to in a world of unimaginable chaos.

Okay.

Run every day, write every day.

I am a writer. I am not a runner.

But a lot of my favourite people are writers and runners. And if they’re not runners they’re cyclists. And I feel too perilous on two wheels these days to want to call myself a cyclist.

So I bought myself some running shoes.

They were serendipitously on eBay when I followed the inspiration to have a look. Cheap, just right, auction ending imminently. Nothing else came close to them. Done.

Run every day, write every day.

And that’s all.

Lay me down

Lately, I have been waking up in the middle of the night, because my brain has decided that that is a good time to worry about all the things I’ve said and done the previous day, and how I shouldn’t have said or done them, or should have said and done them differently.

That’s not a usual thing for me to do. And it’s really not helping my already precarious sleeping situation.

But it might make sense. My son started school part-time this week, and thus I’ve been spending a lot of time driving around and whiling away aimless, unproductive hours here and there in between my childcare duties. I’ve also spent a lot more time than usual with his dad, with whom I have a festering wound of a relationship, to be quite frank about it. And on top of that (or, more likely, because of it) I’m feeling an increasing pressure to conform to societies expectations; get a respectable full-time job and a home closer to the city. Be more like Daddy.

But I’m not like Daddy.

And I don’t want to be like Daddy. I want to be like Me. The full and glorious, spectacular Me that Daddy never really understood. There’s a lot of noise and distraction in my head right now, and I probably just have to ride out the turbulence. But I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I caved now. Yeah, I want some of the things that Daddy has. And, yeah, I fucking resent him for having them and that’s an issue I’ll just have to keep working on. But compromising myself to try to get them isn’t going to lead me anywhere good.

And it certainly isn’t modelling the values I want to nurture in my son. He doesn’t want me to be like Daddy either; he wants me to be like Me. He might even need me to be like Me, so that he can learn it’s entirely acceptable to be exactly whoever He is.

I need to get real here. I need to be able to withstand the dissonance I’m experiencing right now. Because this is my life. It isn’t anybody else’s. I have the privilege and responsibility of making my decisions. Past traumas, criticism, external judgements, self-doubt; I need to stop paying attention to them. I need to stop giving them power.

My goal has never been a comfortable life. My goal has been an extraordinary one. And every time I bail out and choose comfort, because I’m too scared that the people who say what I should want is a comfortable life are right, I’m failing myself. I can’t keep failing myself. I only get one shot at this. And I’m a fucking good shooter. Why would I shoot for a team other than my own?

Glad we got that straight

I think if there’s something we can all agree on, it’s the fact that, Seth Godin, I am not. While he may have been the inspiration and impetus for this blog, and just an all round positive influence in my life, we don’t have a lot in common. I like to think it’s easier for him to blog daily, but maybe I’m just conning myself. Maybe it’s far less about privilege and personality and brain hardware, and far more about choices. The problem is, sometimes, we’re not making our choices as consciously as we think we are, and how much of that are we even in control of?

For a time, about a year ago, writing daily was easier for me than not writing daily. And not because I had something I needed to say, but because the process was important to me; the endeavour was important to me, and losing what I had built within myself was not worth any temporary gain to time or energy.

But then I did lose it, because I did have something I needed to say, and I was scared to say it, and so I let writing become more about the outcome than the process. And what I had built within myself was no longer factored into the question. I had forgotten.

I had a pet research interest while doing my masters – emotional interference. It’s not a particularly well-researched phenomenon and so naturally, before COVID descended, I was designing a study to explore it further. And then when COVID descended I designed a completely different study in a completely different area of not-well-researched phenomena. I have a suspicion that emotional interference is an important link between ’emotional dysregulation’ and ‘executive dysfunction’. Basically, you’re more likely to get distracted by something emotionally pertinent. You’re more likely to perform worse while distracted by something emotionally pertinent. If you feel things more strongly, or feel strong emotions more frequently, it stands to reason this will present more of a challenge to your focus and attention. Thus, understanding the emotional aspect may be key to managing the cognitive challenges.

I didn’t even notice I was making the choice to switch from process to outcome. If I’d noticed, I could have consciously reassessed. And I would have, because I’m good at that. But I didn’t see it at all. I was swept up in the preoccupation of the words I was keeping to myself. I was feeling things, and those things caught my gaze. I knew there was a problem – I wasn’t writing daily anymore. And I knew the problem came when there was something I needed to say. The thing I missed – because my attention was caught by the thing I needed to say – was that the thing I needed to say wasn’t the problem; it was just a distraction.

Sometimes the thing isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s just a distraction to be ignored.

Explicit instructions

I put a sign in my sitting room above my notice board saying “breathe air, drink water, give thanks”. Last month I put a sign above my bedroom door saying “strong back, soft front, wild heart”. That one’s more poetic because it’s courtesy of Brené Brown.

I can’t say I welcome many visitors, even when we’re not in a national lockdown, but it’s the kind of thing I feel a bit sheepish about anyone seeing. Like I’m one of those people putting inane inspirational quotes around the place. Oh God, am I one step away from “live, laugh, love”??

But, to bring in yet another cliché turn of phrase, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a pretty big deal in my life. I do better when I externalise things. If something is important, it’s probably better if it’s in my field of vision. So I’ve adorned my walls with explicit instructions, and there are probably more to come.

The first day after I put up “breathe air, drink water, give thanks”, something upset me, and I sat there glowering at it. No. I will breathe, but I will sure as hell not breathe mindfully, which I know is what you mean. And I will not drink water, I will drink coffee, and maybe cola, to wash down the chocolate. I will watch TV and avoid paying any attention to my emotions, and you can get fucked if you think I’m going to transmute them into fucking gratitude. So shut up. I’m this fucking close to pulling you down.

We faced off for hours this way, neither of us willing to give in, and then I went to bed. And then, the next morning, there it was again, as staunch as ever. I had to admire that. And, after some rest, I had to concede it had a point, and I probably should have listened sooner.

It’s a beautiful thing when you can get called out by your wall.

(Runaway) trains of thought

There are two main things I worry about unnecessarily. The first is my parenting decisions (especially the largely insignificant ones). The second is the wording of emails I send.

Last night I probably spent 3 hours wondering and/or researching whether refusing to give my son a bedtime snack when he said he was hungry was wrong. He’d had supper 15 minutes earlier. He seemed like he was stalling. But he hadn’t eaten much of his lunch and he didn’t have a big tea. So maybe he was really hungry. But it wasn’t going to kill him. But it might stop him sleeping well. But he was asleep now. But maybe it was bad quality sleep. But, worst case scenario, he might feel a bit tired tomorrow and he can have a big breakfast. But if I’d just given him a biscuit maybe this whole thing could have been avoided. But then I’d be wondering if the sugar in the biscuit was ruining his sleep. He couldn’t be actually hungry, he’d just had supper. But maybe he didn’t get enough calories throughout the day. Maybe I need to rethink my whole approach to preschooler sustenance. Oh shut up, he’s fine, give it a rest.

Then I woke up sometime around 3am and started thinking about how I was going to word an email I need to send today. Should I apologise for not sending it earlier? Because I really did mean to send it earlier. Or should I just explain why I didn’t send it earlier without apologising? Can’t always be apologising for everything, explaining is probably enough. How much detail should I go into in the explanation? Should I even explain at all or should I just ignore the fact I was going to send it earlier? As long as I send it now it doesn’t really matter, no point making a deal out of nothing. Should I outline everything I’ve done, or try to be as succinct as possible? I could save the details for the meeting. Should I estimate when I’ll be finished by or stick to where I’m up to so far? I’m going to have to estimate to schedule the meeting. Should I suggest a time for the meeting or wait to see what they suggest when they know where I’m up to? For the opening, should I include any details about my Christmas or should I just keep the niceties vague? IT’S NEARLY 4 IN THE MORNING AND YOU’VE BEEN WRITING AND REWRITING THIS EMAIL IN YOUR HEAD FOR MAYBE AN HOUR. WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT? IT’LL BE FINE, GIVE IT A FUCKING REST.

I’m not always neurotic, but when I am, I am it well.