Me vs. Mind
My mind has always been my archnemesis.
Right now we’re pretty civil, but that hasn’t always been the case. I remember sleepless childhood nights, consumed by worry about this and that. Add in adolescence and hormones and things only got worse. On the surface, life was relatively simple, but in my mind there were so many “problems” that needed my attention. I use quotation marks because, in retrospect, most of them were fleeting situations or hypotheticals that may never happen. But, to my always-on brain, they were a big deal.
Creativity was one of many stressors, which, to me, is antithetical to everything creativity should be. But alas. For example, I’d always wanted to write a book, but I felt like there were so many obstacles in my way. To try to outsmart this mindset, I started reading books about creativity during young adulthood, searching for the piece of advice that would bring it all together. All the while, I berated myself for not writing, which only made things worse. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize I was the only thing standing in my way — as is often the case when we’re struggling to take action.
Next in my How-Can-I-Put-Off-Writing? escapes, I began studying mindfulness. Although I considered myself well versed in mindfulness when my husband, Ramón, died, his death made me dig even deeper. A friend suggested I read a book called The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Alan Singer. (If you’ve ever considered your mind your enemy, I recommend you read it, too.)
A specific line from the book has stayed with me:
The way you stop smoking is to stop putting cigarettes in your mouth.
I obviously can’t relate because with cystic fibrosis my lungs don’t need another reason to be angry. And in no way is it meant to trivialize how difficult it is to stop smoking. It’s just a simpler way of viewing what is to many people a seemingly impossible task.
I was frustrated with myself for a decade, harping on what I wasn’t doing — writing. And, as silly as this may sound, I didn’t realize how simple it would be to fix my “problem.”
The way you start writing is by stringing words into sentences.
How dare you say it like that! What are you going to say next? That the sentences will combine to make paragraphs? THE AUDACITY!
In an effort to protect myself, I unconsciously created so many conditions that had to be met before I could begin. Imagine if I’d instead channeled that creativity into, well, creativity — rather than concocting every excuse I could think of.
Life isn’t easy, and I’ve never claimed it is. However, most big changes can be boiled down to either adopting or abandoning a habit in order to improve our lives. We know the status quo, but we don’t know what will happen if we venture into the unknown. That’s why we waste time researching and developing a plan. It’s why we spend gobs of money to get all the “stuff” we need for this thing we haven’t yet prioritized in our lives. Rather than getting started, we make it into a “problem” — one that’s bigger than it is.
One of the things I admired most about Ramón was that he was so fast to act. A few years after we met, he mentioned that he might buy his own office space. If I were in his shoes, I would have said that once and then maybe I’d say it again two months later. This process would repeat for a few years. Next I’d move to the point where I was “seriously considering it.” And, at some point I’d probably pull the trigger, but that would come after I’d wasted so much mental and emotional energy that it wasn’t even fun anymore. Ramón, on the other hand, mentioned the idea of office space, then announced the closing date within a week. It blew my mind.
But I guess the best way to buy office space is to purchase office space.
If you’re at odds with your mind, that’s okay. We’ve all been there at times. Just recognize that it’s time to start making amends — to look for the simple amid the mind clutter.
P.S. A friend, Melissa, shared this video with me. Not only is it funny, but it helps solidify the idea! (Warning: It mentions bulimia, which reminds me to add a final disclaimer: nothing about this post is intended to minimize anyone’s struggles.)