Sometimes Showing Up Is All You Can Do

Lately I have been having a hard time writing posts. It’s not that I am out of things to say (although that certainly is a minor worry of mine), it is more that I do not feel inspired nor inclined to put in the mental effort of crafting thoughts into a coherent and interesting piece.

A tiny and ever increasing little voice in my head seduces with words like, “Why don’t you take a break? This isn’t work or anything important. Who gets hurt if you don’t post? What’s the big deal? It’s just for fun. Just skip today. Or a few days until you get back in the mood to post.”

I want to listen to this voice.

Currently, another, louder, more insistent voice is holding a slight edge. “Get up,” she urges. “If you give in now, it will be easier to give in the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll blink and it will be months from now – maybe even years! Then it will be even HARDER to continue writing. And you want to write, don’t you? So get your ass up and write something. Anything. Even if it’s crap.”

So here I am. There is a post for today.

Writing on this blog three days a week is part of my goals for the year – one small goal in a series of goals I’ve set for myself. True, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. But that’s like most things we want or work towards in life, right? But then again, if I do nothing, nothing I WANT will happen, either.

I used to believe many lies about art and creating art. Shoot, it doesn’t have to be art – it could be anything (like getting in shape, studying, a career). I erroneously thought that art required inspiration and without inspiration, it would be hack work. That anything that was “forced” and didn’t come in a flurry or an immediate “in the zone” effect was worthless because it required effort – and True Art was supposed to be effortless. Furthermore, not only was art supposed to be effortless, it was supposed to come out perfect right out the gate. (While we’re talking about stupid art myths, how about we add the “tortured artist” to the list?)

What a load of tripe. (Mmmm… tripe.)

Most art and anything worth attaining is acquired by hard work. Yes, talent has some say in the matter, but talent can only get a person so far. (A post for another day.) And sometimes, the hardest part is overcoming inertia and just showing up and hacking away until you press pass a block. Maybe the block will last a minute. Maybe it will last years. But unless you show up, putting in the time, pounding out words (in my case), IF and WHEN inspiration strikes, you might not be in the place (talent or expertise-wise) to take advantage.

I highly recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s a sample:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

This book wormed its way into my brain and I am glad. It helps add fuel to the voice which urges me on, pushing me past the dreaded blank page. “Want to be a writer? Then write.”

So here is my exhortation for you this Monday: Want to be a writer/programmer/analyst/consultant/parent/musician/runner/etc.? Then write/program/analyze/consult/parent/compose/run.

Somehow, it always comes back to this for me: Fake it til you make it.

Resisting the Urge to Curate

So last night, this happened on Facebook:

Actual internal conversation I just had with myself: Was Ben Franklin a US President? I can’t believe I don’t know this. I should ask FB. No, I should wikipedia it. No, I should Google it. Wait. He is on money. Only dead presidents are on money. Ok. Whew.

Within minutes, I was served notice (kindly, mind you) of my multiple errors of 1) Ben Franklin NOT being a US President, 2) dead presidents NOT having exclusivity on currency, 3) relying on Notorious BIG/Puff Daddy (he was still going by Puff Daddy at the time) and Jay-Z songs as legitimate resources regarding money, and 4) me NOT fact checking and drawing from my pathetic and faulty “knowledge” of US history.

My UCLA education hard at work. Granted, I didn’t take history at UCLA so one can hardly blame them. We’ll just blame high school. Yes. And the internet for banishing all real necessity for recalling facts. And user error of the internet.

I will confess, I was a little embarrassed by my public gaffe (though truly minor and all in good fun). I felt like I just fell on my ass in public. Of course, my first instinct was to hide it and delete the post. But that is silly and speaks volumes of my own latent (now highlighted) insecurities. After all, although my post didn’t say too much about me (other than my complete failure to retain basic facts), my deleting it certainly would.

Who knew I cared that much about how I looked?

Everyone crafts their Facebook image – some more meticulously than others. Personally, I tend to post pics of my kids, the occasional rant, links to things I find cool/horrible, and status updates that perhaps mock myself and Hapa Papa. You know, like real life only better (and funnier). For the most part, I don’t mind laughing at myself since it’s all in good fun. And it’s talking about me, so there’s that going for it.

So what was the big deal about this post? It’s because my idiocy was inadvertent. I guess I don’t mind falling on my ass in public if it’s a scripted pratfall, but I do if I accidentally trip on a crack in the sidewalk.

Ultimately, who cares that I made a mistake? Why is that so bad that my first instinct was to hide it? No one expects me to be perfect or always correct. I certainly don’t expect it of others. I can only hope I have responded to my friends’ mistakes as graciously as my friends did to mine. (Sadly, this is actually in question. I know. I am an ass.)

Hopefully, one day, I will be secure enough in myself to not care about my image (Facebook or otherwise). For now, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with pretending to not care until I don’t.

Acting on Faith

The other day, I briefly mentioned in my post about how I used to fake believing I was loved and lovable until I actually believed it. It occurs to me that perhaps I made it sound so much easier than it actually was. So, here is my advice to you if you find yourself in a similar situation (either in not believing you are loved or any type of belief you want to change). Really, it is just cognitive behavioral therapy, but hey, it works.

Stop. (I know. This is exactly what you’ve been trying to do.) But just stop. Stop figuring out why you’re a certain way. Why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Why you feel a certain way. If it’s wrong, the way you’re feeling and reacting. Just stop.

Do something else. Fill your time with something else. Even if it seems like a cop out or running away from who you really are.

Stop.

I found that when I was in the midst of a downward spiral and over-analyzing my actions and motivations that I just kept getting sucked back into a negative feedback loop of just how awful I was, how I was horrible and would never find love and be loved.

Then, I just stopped thinking about it. It was super hard, of course. But I stopped. I stopped journalling because all I did when I journalled was talk about it. I tried to stop talking about it with my friends. I read books that did not trigger these emotions. I watched shows and movies that didn’t trigger these feelings. I actively went out of my way to deny myself these triggers and feelings. I filled my mind and time with busy-ness and activity.

I stopped praying. (It was too much like journalling and wasn’t helpful.) If I DID pray, I would pray something like, “God, help me choose the things that I would choose if I believed I was loved and lovable.” Other times, the only prayer I could pray authentically was, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Then, I lied to myself. I faked it. I pretended to act as if I believed I was lovable and loved. I forced myself to act as if I were a whole and complete person who made good decisions.

Every time I was confronted with my old habits, I would actively choose to do what I thought a normal/healed person would do. I would ask myself, “What would a person who believed she was lovable and valuable do in this situation?” Then I would do it.

I would rigorously police my emotions and thoughts. Sometimes, it was all I could do not to go insane and say, “Fuck it. This is crazy. Who lies to themselves like this all the time and pretends they are ok?” I would despair that in one hour, I would be confronted at least five or six times with my old habits and have to “lie” to myself and talk myself out of it.

But you know, a lifetime of habit and thinking cannot be re-written immediately. It takes time. And eventually, what I was faking became second nature and real. Eventually (and it was a long time – at least several months before I stopped being depressed and sad ALL THE TIME) I was in an OK enough place to go back and examine what happened, why I did the things I did, and doing so no longer made me feel as if I was the worst person in the entire universe.

Eventually, I made it. I believed and actively lived as if I were loved and lovable. (Keep in mind, this took at least a year or more – and I still struggle with this every now and then, but the more I have ingrained in myself the new habit of acting healthily, the healthier I became.)

And you know what? That is what faith is. Choosing to act as if what you believe and hope to be true IS true. Acting before seeing. Shit, it’s even Biblical. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Of course, this isn’t the ONLY way to go about it. This is how I got through it. And it occurs to me as I write this, that on a much smaller scale, I’ll get through this time of stress with the kids and that my problem with yelling and screaming has to be done the same way I changed my habits of thought. I have to catch myself in the act of yelling and stop. I have to pretend and lie to myself that I am a person who CALMLY deals with (or ignores) my children when I’m angry. And then I have to do it.

It will be hard at first. I will fail and blow it repeatedly – sometimes in quick succession. But then, gradually, I will have brainwashed myself into being a kinder, more reasonable mommy.

Of course, prayer and hope as well. But as my old boss used to say, “Hope is not a course of action.” Hope is fine and good, but it is through the act of doing, of slogging through my crappy temper and purposeful action that is the real work of faith.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

That Even My Edges Are Loved

So, the new John Legend song, All of Me, just destroys me. I haven’t yet broken down sobbing while listening to it, but mostly, I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t be able to stop.

My favorite part is the chorus with the lyrics (full lyrics here):

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

When I told Hapa Papa that I loved this song, he incredulously asked, “So, you’re telling me you love my farts? I’m pretty sure you do NOT.” I wanted to deck him. I guess he thinks he’s proved himself right on the impossibility of loving all of him. Well, I never said I loved the song because I loved all of him. Hmph. 

I love this song because I so desperately want it to be true for me. That all of me is loved and lovable – even my edges (and I certainly have many of those).

One of the side effects of having Daddy Issues is that for so long, I thought there was something wrong with me that made my father leave. I thought that if I just behaved a certain way, was more loving, sweet, and “Daddy’s Little Girl” that maybe just once, he would choose us. Every time he came home, I knew I was crazy to hope that he would change. Yet each time he left, I felt abandoned all over again.

The other day, I was reading the blog of someone I used to know through church and I just wanted to weep for her. She’s five years younger than I am and her entries reminded me of who I used to be – so broken and jagged, unable to believe I was loved and desperately wanting to be.

I recall the despair I used to feel constantly. That no one would and could and should love me because I was a horribly broken and shattered person. Who would want to hitch their wagon to that type of baggage? Even when I was loved, I couldn’t receive it. I didn’t believe it. I thought it was all a lie. I would do everything in my power to make myself as unlovable as possible, lashing out at the people who cared and loved me the most. Then, when I pushed people to their breaking point and they would inevitably leave, I would point to that example as proof of my unlovableness. That those people who “loved” me were made out to be liars.

I used to be somewhat dramatic.

Even now, after years of therapy and mostly healed relationships, every now and then, slivers of doubt and self-hatred slip into my thoughts. It used to happen when Hapa Papa would point out something horrible about my character and I would downward spiral into bouts of intense self-loathing combined with wanting to push Hapa Papa as far away from me as possible. But instead of wallowing in the despair as I used to, I now try to nip the unhelpful thoughts in the bud as quickly as possible.

A lot of it was me being unwilling to look at my own selfishness and sinfulness. When I finally chose to look at myself with as little self-condemnation as possible, I could see how Hapa Papa wasn’t attacking me or telling me that he didn’t love me. He was trying to love me by being honest with me in as kind of a way as possible. And truthfully, I am an incredibly selfish person (more so than most people), so the fact that Hapa Papa rarely pointed out my faults just meant that he is, as my brother said, The Most Patient Man in the World.

I can now say that I am in a mostly healthy place and can take Hapa Papa’s concerns about my character as him asking me to change because I hurt him with my selfishness vs. him asking me to change because I am irreparably broken and no one will ever love me and if they do, they are utter fools and completely deluded and once they find out what I really am, they will leave me.

I’m not even sure how the change in me happened except that I had to fake it until I made it. I have always hated that advice. It seems so insincere. But truthfully, that is what happened. I had to fake believing that I was lovable and loved and acted as if I believed that it was true until I actually believed it. At some point, I CHOSE to act AS IF what I desperately hoped to be true (that someone could actually love me), WAS true. And eventually, it was so.

This is just my really long-winded way of saying that I love this John Legend song because it reminds me of what I ultimately long for deep inside my cold, dark heart. That I am loved and lovable – edges and all. I suppose it took this many words for me to finally figure out the why and to articulate the sentiment.

IMG_0020

Proof Hapa Papa loves me (or did).

It is also my roundabout way of saying that this is how I feel Hapa Papa loves me. Perhaps he is not quite as romantic as John Legend, but Hapa Papa acts as if he loves all of me (even if he says he doesn’t love my horrible, selfish parts). Every now and then, I ask him if he still loves me, and he hems and haws, but I know he’s doing that just to tease me. (At least, I am choosing to think that.)

So even though Hapa Papa calls this an “idealistic, fake song,” it still makes me think of him. After all, I have his love for me caught on film. (Even if it was seven years ago – it’s still proof!)

Geez. When did this post devolve into a long mash note? Enough of that. Here’s the YouTube video of John Legend and his real wife, Chrissy Teigen. Beautiful people in a beautiful video.