Sunday, October 14, 2012

My rusty writing...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the thoughts we tell ourselves, and about the habits we create around those thoughts.  I have been thinking about how difficult it is to change those thoughts, and how it's even more difficult to change the habits we develop.  Even as a behavior therapist, behavior change certainly doesn't come easy.

I'm thinking in particular about the thoughts and habits I've developed surrounding writing.  For a while, I was writing several times per week, if not daily.  When I was writing so often, writing came easily.  The words just seemed to flow out of me, and I would go through my day "hearing" what I would write about in my head.  I lost some of the perfectionism I have surrounding writing as I wrote more, because it just didn't matter as much.  If what I wrote today sucked, I would be sure to write something better tomorrow.  Writing daily, or almost daily, became a habit, and a habit that I craved.  It was time when I could sit with myself and find me again, back at a time when I was someone I wanted to spend time with.  At a time when I was someone I wanted to find.

My writing started to become more and more infrequent, though, which for me, just isn't a good sign.  The more infrequently I wrote, the more pressure I put on myself to write, and to write something "good."  The pressure to write - and to write well - made it even more difficult to actually get words on the paper.  Writing infrequently, and stressing myself out about writing, became a new habit.  I craved the feeling of writing that I knew from before.  I hungered for the comfort the words would bring me, and the ease with which they used to wash over me and flow onto the paper.  When I wrote, though, there was no ease, and there was no comfort, so suddenly, the response effort was just too much.  Why would I want to sit with myself and attempt to find myself again?  I did not want to spend time with myself.  Squeezing those words onto the paper was not the joy-filled experience it once was.  It seemed better just to let the habit fade.

Even now, it's not that I want to write.  Quite honestly, I still kind of don't want to, but I have to.  There is a voice inside of me that just keeps pushing and pushing and pushing, insisting that I have to sit down and make myself do this.  I have to push through the "I don't want tos" and the "I have nothing to says" and the "I don't want to write about thats" and the ultimate anxiety that sets in as I make myself continue to write. 

So I'm trying to re-teach myself how to write.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm trying to re-teach myself how to find my writing self.  I'm trying to re-teach myself how to allow the thoughts and words to coalesce and form sentences.  I'm trying to be mindful of the emotions that come up and channel them into writing, rather than gathering them like rocks that are collected only on the off-chance that there MIGHT be fossils in them.  It's like going through habit-reversal training.  I have to identify when those old thoughts come back (You can't write.  It's not worth the time.  You're not worth the time.  No one wants to hear what you have to say.  You have nothing to say), and I need to intervene with a competing thought (I am worth it.  I have something to say). 

All of this is, of course, true and also part of the larger metaphor of the ways in which I'm attempting to live my day-to-day.  There was a time when life was easy.  And then there was a time when the response effort for life was just getting to be too much.  But that's changing.  I want to write to document that change, and I want to write to ease that change.  Writing has always been the way through which I come to understand my life, and this change is important.  It's worth understanding.  Behavior change isn't easy, but if I'm going to be making new habits, I want them to be ones that kindle life inside of me.  I want to ease those wedges out of the cracks holding open the broken places.  I want to take the energy that's been created as I aimed my life towards survival and channel it into health and creation.  I want to rediscover the places in my body where the words are hidden and coax them out.  It's safe now.  We can all come out and play.

This song has been going through my head all day:


It is probably not the song writer's intention, but I think this song resonates with me because I'm feeling like both the young child and the "old folks."  I need to treat the part of my self that is struggling to create these new habits, the part that is doing all this new learning and hard work "like an orchid/ so rare and hard to find."  And this old part of me that I am shedding like a snake skin--all the old habits and pain and choices that no longer work for me - they've "given me the future" and "taught me what I know" - so perhaps I should be "gentle, wise, and kind" to them as well.  It's easier said than done.

Writing, then, is my love song - for me and for the world.  When I don't write, it's because I can't find enough love for either one of us to fill that space.  It's time for me to start singing again.  My voice is a little rusty, and I apologize...but my heart has just been quiet too long.

How do you sing your love song for yourself?  How do you sing your love song for the world?