Day 24. Just listen, the 3rd

Happy Friday.

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Day 23. Don’t break the chain, apparently

I’ve had a very angry couple of days. I’ve been angry at myself, at friends, at people I work with. I’ve been the cynical kind of angry where I assume people to be bad and selfish, and judge their actions accordingly. It’s my least favourite kind of angry (and also the most likely kind I am to feel, because mental health reasons), so experiencing it seemingly out of the blue is a little scary.

I wasn’t this angry before, I’m not normally this angry. I have no reason to be this angry, Except … that I haven’t meditated in 3 days.
Is this possible? Is it possible to have withdrawal symptoms from meditating, after only doing it for a month?

This morning I did a quick Google on “meditation withdrawal symptoms”, and among a lot of tips on how to use meditation to combat withdrawal symptoms (duh), I came upon a forum thread discussing exactly what I’ve been feeling: unreasonable crankiness, mood swings, and all that.

It’s mind boggling that this could happen to me after only 26 days of meditating (that was my longest streak ever, too … sigh), but it seems to be the case. My brain has gotten used to those fifteen minutes of silence. So today, before I left the house, I sat down and listened to my breathing. Over the past 10 hours I have felt motivated, alert, and emotionally stable, more than at any point in the last week or two.

Well. Maybe there’s something to it after all.

Day 22. Recap of Week 3

We’re nearly there, folks.

No spending
This is still beautifully easy, I never would’ve thought how easy after the spending frenzy that was February. I still do the odd bit of window shopping, largely for running gear and theatre props, but that’s about it so far. I have everything I need. (In fact, a clearout is ahead this weekend. I have more than I need.)

Internet restrictions during the week
This has gotten a little less hard thanks to running. Before I started, I used to go to a Monday morning yoga class; now I have two additional days on which I run in the morning. Making myself face the cold morning air is a different mental struggle, but it keeps me off the internet. On the evenings when I can, I cherish my early bed times.

Internet restrictions during the weekend
As I said, I slipped a bit last weekend when I was watching movies. I’ll sort that out over the coming weekend, but the general idea still stands: (far) less Youtube, limited aimless browsing (each time I do this, I give myself a 10-minute window and so far that’s worked), no distractions when a movie is on.

This week is a busy one. I’ll do my best to keep writing (because I’d really like to say I made a blog post for 31 days in a row.), but there’s little time to reflect on intentional living when so much living is going on.

Day 21. Some thoughts on writing

I don’t know why I thought I could write every day. I just looked at my week ahead, which is full up to Saturday morning, and I’m wondering where to fit in writing.

Writing is hard, man. Even these little blog posts, which I often post as I wrote them, with very little editing, because I have no time to thoroughly edit them. (I wouldn’t recommend daily blogging if you have a day job and a social life.)

I’m actually a slow writer. Sometimes, like when I do book reviews, it just flows. But mostly, it’s heavy drudgery. The essay I recently submitted to a magazine went through at least 6 drafts, and each poem that I make myself perform takes the entire month we have between events.

When I was younger I just used to write all day. I wrote fiction, even. (Which is the hardest genre of all for me.) I don’t remember doing much editing, only Word documents, 40 pages or more long. A couple of years ago I did NaNoWriMo. I suppose all the fiction I had in me went into that, because I haven’t attempted it since. (And felt bad about it each November I don’t do NaNoWriMo.)

I still do love writing; I’m not entirely sure why, because doing it is no fun. The fun part only comes days, weeks or years later, when I look back and find that some of the words I squeezed out of myself when I felt like an absolute mess of a human being are actually quite good. So I suppose there’s that little bit of rewards. That, and the moments when I perform a piece I wrote, and somebody comes up to me afterwards and told me how relatable it was. Those are the moments.

Day 20. I broke the rules

Birb.

I broke my internet rules yesterday. I’m pretty sure my total time must’ve up to about 3hrs instead of 2, because there was a movie on Netflix I wanted to finish.

Here’s why I don’t feel bad:
This weekend was a busy one. I went out to meet people, I exercised (a lot), and I finally did a painting I’d been wanting to try for quite a while. I did all these things because I wanted to, I didn’t need to be online for them, and when I came home feeling very tired, a movie was what I wanted.

When I came up with these rules, the goal was to create space: space to do the things that felt productive and more fulfilling than being stuck on Youtube for hours (and really Youtube is the root of all evil here; without it, my risk of wasting hours online is strongly diminished). That is what happened this weekend, and if I want to watch a movie (without constantly changing tabs to browse, may I add), that’s fine.

My next weekend will be less busy and more indoors-y, so the rules will be back in place to ensure everything gets done.

Day 19. I got nothing

I am tired. What a weekend. Hopefully I’ll be more coherent tomorrow, but rest assured that I spent no money and did everything with intention today. As I’ve read and heard many times before: when faced with a choice between sleep and getting something done, choose sleep.

That’s what I’ll be doing right now.

Day 18. Decisions and habits

About 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Avoidant Personality Disorder. Jenny Lawson has called it “social anxiety disorder on speed”, so that’s probably all you need to figure out what it does: it makes you so scared of people and social situations that you do anything to avoid them.

I got help for it at the age of 20 (when leaving the house became difficult), so that’s a good 20 years of getting into the habit of not doing things. To counter this habit, I developed a new one: in German it’s called “Augen zu und durch”, which translates literally to “eyes closed and through” and semantically to “Just do it”. (I should get sponsorship; my whole life is a Nike commercial.) In other words, I just pushed myself to do things, no matter how uncomfortable they seemed.

So the new habit replaced the old: I started saying yes a lot more and have had amazing experiences as a result of it. In general, it’s a good thing.

It’s also led me to saying yes to too many things, especially in the past year or two. Somehow, no matter how much I say that I “want to slow down”, the old habit hits (or a sense of duty, or FOMO, or something) and I say yes to the fifth thing that month even if that means I’ll have to forget sleep if I want to get it all done. So how to find a balance?

Today I had a swing dance class booked. It was three hours long, I knew it would be physically exhausting, I didn’t feel like being around people, and I recently lost my enthusiasm for dance. I really didn’t want to go, and that feeling stuck with me for the first hour. As I kept thinking about whether or not to leave, it struck me that, having lived between the two extremes of do nothing and do everything, it is hard to figure out what I should be doing. I fully believe in cancelling something you’ve already paid for if you’re really not up for it on the day, but … what if I’m just Avoiding? But … what if I only said yes in the first place because that’s what I do, even though I didn’t actually want to do it?

The one solution I have found so far is to ask myself: Is there something else I could be doing right now that would be more enjoyable?

Today, there wasn’t. I had nothing I urgently wanted to get back to, so I stuck with the dance class and had a good time. Last November, I left a concert by my favourite after an hour because I realised I’d be happier at home in bed. No regrets there.

Obviously this question isn’t always appropriate (unless we’re talking about career changes, asking myself if I’d rather in the park than at a desk on a Wednesday morning is a bit pointless), but for me it helps identifying whether one of my habits has taken over the decision-making for me. In situations where we can afford it, the question “Do I really want this?” is always worth asking.