Me contemplating taking a walk.
Perhaps some of you faithful readers have noticed that I’ve been putting up my daily blog whole hours later than usual. It has, heretofore, been my habit to wake up at the derriere of dawn, drag myself into some kind of awake state by drinking an entire pot of dark black tea out of a mug the size of the ocean after “listening to the Bible” which just meant pushing play on the app and going back to sleep and then waking up again groggy and guilty, and then, in a flurry of rage, blogging. This was the way I managed to “write every day” which was also the way I kept myself from being devoured by the Scylla of depression or the Charybdis of anxiety (or is it the other way around?). The daily blog was the anchor by which I achieved some splendid moments of mental health. But it was also–back then–what I called a “treat.” I “treated” myself to writing, which meant I had to pay myself back for the rest of the day by doing laundry and dragging my kids through the school day.
I mean, I feel like I must be some kind of knock-off brand of Rachel Hollis. Instead of waking up and dancing around to Taylor Swift, I woke up and cursed the darkness. Still, it is essentially true that getting yourself to do stuff you don’t want to do is essentially a mind game, and blogging at the cost of everything else was the game I played. On Sunday’s it meant waking up at 4:30 and posting by 6:40 so I could still rush into church by 7:50 to start making the coffee. And, frankly, while it has probably made me a better writer, because, in order to be a writer you have to write–I KNOW, there has Got To Be A Better Way–when covid hit, I was definitely frayed along the edges.
I mean, don’t worry, I am not about to say anything good about this wretched year, don’t worry.
But one of the downfalls of writing a lot and getting better at it, and thinking that it is a sort of private amusement, is that the thing grows in time and space. I like writing, and so, when given the chance to write, I always say yes. And as I have continued to say yes, I have had more opportunities to write things. But then, along the way, I have begun to have deadlines that are imposed on me by Other People. Sometime last year I began to feel like I was back in school. My little mind game (perhaps a better word is Crutch) upon which I have so relied has gradually been crushed under the weight of reality. What Is Even My Purpose In Life I too often ask myself. Is this a mid-life crisis? Is this my job? But I have five other jobs? HOW WILL I EVEN TREAT MYSELF if writing is my job?
I am able, of course, to swim around in my own pond of self-consideration, of wondering about identity bla bla bla because we have carefully lived on one income, and have been homeschooling our hoard of children, which doesn’t allow me very much leisure, you know, but a little bit–that bit you grab between 4:30 and 6:30 in the morning.
So anyway, the ‘rona came to the world and my life did not change except that I didn’t have to go anywhere, and I also stopped caring any more about anything, and I guess I have sort of naturally eased up over the year. You’ll have noticed that I’ve taken whole weeks off from blogging, that sometimes, when something came up unexpectedly, I didn’t blog at all, and that on Sundays I don’t post until after 8 am. At first I was terrified to “relax.” What if blogging the way I do is some sort of magic? If I don’t do it in exactly the same way every day, will I be able to do it at all? If I take even a day off, is it gone forever? But, strangely, that turned out not to be true. By blogging so relentlessly for so many years, it turns out I can just blog whenever I want. The hour of the day isn’t necessarily what produces the biting prose. Especially since the internet is always a dumpster fire and there is always plenty to complain about.
Moreover, I have worked hard to shift my “treat” from writing to reading. This, of course, only worked by intense labor on my part, because by having so many children I had learned, whenever my eye fell on even a single word in a book, to fall immediately into a deep sleep from which I could not be wakened except by the irritating scream of a starving infant. So, building that muscle up took work.
I guess that’s really the thing I’ve discovered over the last year–everything is just about building muscle memory. If you want to do something, you have to do it. If you don’t like it, you might as well quit (unless it’s something like showing up for a paying job or something like that). But if you like it, and want to do it more and better, you have to just keep doing it, as much as possible in the same way at the same time over and over and over. I know, literally everyone in the world knows this but me.
But also, the sad thing about life is that it is always changing. Just when you figure something out, that is when you have to alter it. So, writing is good for my mental health, but taking a few moments of exercise is becoming a more pressing necessity than it was a few years ago. Fitting that in has jostled the morning blog around. That and needing to actually get enough sleep. It irritates me a great deal that there are So Many Things that have to be accomplished in a day.
Look, this is not about human flourishing. I’m not turning into a functional person, I’M NOT I TELL YOU. And look, it’s 9 am, which means I have to go stare out the window disconsolately at the stupid snow. It’s what’s next on my schedule.