It’s so strange to read my own writing after the fact.
Whenever I realize I’m reading something that I myself wrote, long after I wrote it, I cringe immediately prior. Not based on what I actually wrote, because prior to reading it, I have no idea what it says. No, I wince because somehow I’m afraid it will be bad, or that I will say something I no longer believe or didn’t state well. Every single time, I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s strange that after winning so many prizes and being paid multiple times for my writing, I still fear that I am not as good as I think I am. And yet, whenever I read something I wrote, it’s often so good, in my mind, that I somehow even doubt I actually wrote it. I wonder why that is? More importantly, I wonder if it’s part of the reason I haven’t been writing, despite that being my New Year’s resolution: to make public writing a regular part of my life.
I recently advised an old friend of mine to use the Japanese concept of “kaizen” – self-improvement through tiny steps – to get himself out of own his rut and save his life. Think I’ll use my own advice:
Many friends have sent me links to sites I should read online, in hopes of inspiring me to write more, but as usual, I find myself either overwhelmed, tired, or not motivated to read during my leisure time. Generally speaking, I haven’t really been a reader for pleasure since High School. Years of reading as an English major in college, I think, burned me out on the practice in general. Every now and again something will catch my eye, but it’s usually pretty lightweight, simple, and quick. If I want to write, however, I realize, I have to read, especially since my best writing tends to be reactionary.
My therapist also made me aware of the power and importance of guided, strategic breathing, particularly for someone like me, whose mind is all over the place and head is usually in the clouds (or as Yoda put it, “never his mind on where he WAS! WHAT he was doing! Adventure! Feh. Excitement! A Jedi craves not these things.” To quote another friend, that Muppet knew a lot. But I digress… hence the need for the breathing exercises ;). She’s wanted me to practice three different exercises for three minutes each, daily, and the first week she assigned that to me, I did it. The week following, I did it less, and eventually, I ended up not doing it at all. I figured I had mastered the exercises, and was doing them in the moments I needed them enough, so I didn’t need to practice.
Now I think I’m wrong about that.
See, those exercises are not just for situations in which I feel upset about something traumatic. They work in other contexts too. Getting overwhelmed with emotion, like I did in my previous blog posting? Breathe. Getting flustered at work? Breathe. Trying to talk to a pretty girl and focus on the content of her character, not the elements of her beauty? Breathe. The breathing exercises are important to and for me. So I need to get back to practicing them.
So here’s what we’re going to do.
On reading: I am going to make a list of all of the various blogs and sites my support system has sent me, and read ONE of them per day. Since the TV season has ended, I have a lot of free time during prime time. If I can commit myself to spending at least an hour when I would otherwise be doing nothing of value, I will be able to read, follow, and hopefully react. Articulately. And maybe that will get me somewhere.
On breathing, I think I need to break up the exercises. I will try initially by doing them at different TIMES of day: pick one exercise and do it in the morning, before work, while I’m sitting in the car, waiting for the day to start. Since it’s baseball season, there’s less to listen to on the radio, so that shouldn’t be too hard – really, the “Marketplace Morning Report” will be the only thing I actively want to hear in that time slot. Then I should do one after work. Finally, I should do one right before or as I drift off to sleep. That should make this a habit over time, I hope.
As is always the case with kaizen, if that doesn’t work, make the step smaller. Breathe ONCE a day. Read a website once a WEEK. Make the adjustment until it becomes a habit, and then gradually inch back upward. If I can do it for my medication, I can do it for this. And this I need to do, because this is my life, and there’s no Mekhi Pfeiffer.
I am in the final act, at the crossroads, “hero at his lowest point.” Time to end this baby with a victory…