Even when I haven’t moved house and had a baby, even during my most inspired periods, I struggle with sabotage. Why is it that I do the things I know don’t make me feel good, that get in the way of the work I want to do? Why do I procrastinate? Especially when I have such little uninterrupted time?
I am reminded of a passage from the New Testament, Romans chapter 7:15 “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” The context is about sin and justification through the law, but this understanding of humanity has always stuck with me. Why do we work against our own good?
There are a few kinds of sabotage. There’s the sabotage that comes from the outside. Sometimes it’s not even intended as sabotage. I am pretty certain my kids don’t think of their interruptions as sabotage. They need and want me – and they’re my first priority. But they are a disruption to so many things I want to do: write, yoga, meditation, all forms of spiritual work, read, think, eat, finish my cup of tea, use the bathroom alone, and so on. Even without kids we all have external things that need to happen, like dishes, laundry, work that pays the bills and so on.
There’s also the muddy middle ground of external-internal sabotage. Some people want to tear down the good work we do. When some people get threatened they will try to belittle our work or attack it. I’ve written a bit about that before. Haters gonna hate. While it’s natural to want the support and approval/appreciation of others for our work, we cannot rest only on the opinions or approvals of others.
Some degree of resistance from others can also be a sign that we’re on to something. Maybe our work needs to be adjusted somehow. To bring up Doniger AGAIN, I don’t think she’d be so polarizing if she wasn’t at least onto something. Maybe her tone needs to shift. Maybe she needs to do more work around colonization and imperialism in scholarship. But if she was out right ludicrous no one would make a big deal about her.
We can’t let others sabotage our good work. As a wise Faery friend of mine says often, other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
This kind of personal, external sabotage is the easiest for me to disregard. The mundane aspects of life are harder to dismiss. This is where self-sabotage comes in. I often use the necessities of every day life to sabotage myself. We all do this. We procrastinate by finishing up loose ends on other projects. We find that chore that needs doing. That email we forgot to write. That errand to run. Oh hey, I haven’t read to the kids yet today. Totally need to do that. Before I know it, the day has passed and I haven’t done the few things that rationally seem less important, but in my heart are as important as my kids, as important as my clean house.
It’s not just writing that I’m talking about. It’s yoga. It’s spiritual practices. But it’s also things like eating well. In general my diet is great. But faced with three parties in a weekend I will snack my way into a junk food coma. Why? Why would I do that to myself? Why would I sabotage myself like that?
Resistance is rampant when we are facing work on the things that matter most to us. Resistance says “this is important and you might fail.” We don’t want to fail. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to say no to that slice of cheesecake, because it’s so good and I don’t want to admit that I want to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight. That’s shallow, right? I don’t want to admit just how desperately I long for the gods and for a private hermitage. Because what if I practice all day every day and the gods don’t show up? I don’t want to sit and write that book review because what if I’m an ass in public? (Oh….. wait.)
In thinking about my own resistance I have to remind myself of all the times I did take a risk. I was an ass in public and no one burned my house down. I did tell a close friend some meaningful truths about myself and she stopped talking to me. But I’m still standing. And other people showed up in my life. I may be giving myself a pep talk here, but I know I’m not alone. It bothers me that I continue to sabotage my own good work at this point in my life, but I know that I’m human and not alone in this tendency.
How do I move past sabotage? Some days I just accept it. I say a loving Fuck It and I do something else. Why force it? Why make that thing I love into something of a burden? Some days I take a deep breath and go back to it. Again and again and again – however long it takes. Some days I get a pep talk from my husband. Some days I need to change my environment, get outside, or move my body. I remind myself to use the tools I know work. Some days I need to remind myself that some things just take longer while parenting.
How do you deal with sabotage?