The Daily Dilettante #6: Viva la Resistance! Or Not.
by The Freelance Dilettante
I know this blog post was “supposed to be” about submission, but I have (obviously) not posted it (or anything) here lately, and it’s been a very long gap, so I have decided to write instead about my struggle with resistance.
My resistance is powerful. It is insidious. It keeps me from doing things that are good for me; things I want to do, often until it’s too late to do it well, or in a timely manner, or at all. I have broken promises, let people down, arrived late for dates (once a guy left because I was 10 minutes late), delayed deadlines, or missed them completely (such as the one for that college writing scholarship.) I have lived life under intense pressure, believing I worked better that way (see the word lie in believe?)
This struggle has been my enemy for as long as I can remember. Some might call it procrastination, or ADD, or anxiety, or downright stubbornness, but what it really is is resistance.
At night, I resist going to sleep. Then, in the morning, I resist getting up. I resist doing the yoga that keeps me from feeling pain. I resist taking the painkillers that keep the pain from becoming unbearable. I resist the housework that keeps my life out of chaos and prevents me from losing things. I resist eating in a timely manner, healthy eating that prevents me from binging and choosing my foods poorly. I resist leaving the house, not going outside at all for days in a row. I resist looking for or completing work. I resist praying, meditation, developing my intuition, and counting my blessings. I resist writing/answering e-mails or reading the thousand e-mails in my box (many newsletters and articles that I have “saved for later.”) and of course, I resist my own creative writing.
What, you might ask, do I actually do? I do a lot of puttering. I do some art (nothing serious or time consuming; wouldn’t actually want to produce something), I do some research, a little scribbling, I make lists and shop for groceries. I read. I dabble in long-abandoned projects, whittling away at a years-long “To Do” list. I watch bad T.V., I take care of my husband, I feed the cat, and I spend way too much time online. And what does this get me? A feeling of absolute guilt and shame that I have done nothing, produced nothing. At least, not any of those things that I should have been doing. (Should, that evil word. Of course, I need to and I have to are often just cheap substitutes, ways of trying to avoid the evil word, yet producing the exact same results.)
Over time, I do, through little bursts of determination and action, produce things, but I cant help but feel I am nowhere near where I could (read: should) have been without this dreaded, this evil resistance. (Of course, that feeling’s yet another form of non-constructive self-flagellation.)
For years, while I was lost in a soul-sucking situation of my own making, I refused my deepest needs: for respect, for self-sufficiency, and for creativity. The last one hurt the worst. I resisted writing, probably because I was in such deep denial, I could not risk opening the door to the truth. Finally, in 2009, some of it began to emerge:
I’d like to forget
That it’s really my doing
That I’m not where I thought I’d be.
That I live in chaos.
That I don’t have a child.
That I’m not a published poet.
That I have no money.
That I don’t live la vie boheme.
That I am fat, and unsatisfied.
It would be so easy, and I want to
Just blame someone else,
Like my father. My husband. Dame Fate.
Since I can’t, I try to beat myself down,
Destroy myself so I have Me to blame,
When no blame is really necessary.
So, why is that so hard?
It’s hard because I am scared.
I’m scared that I don’t want to be happy;
I just wouldn’t know how.
I’m scared I’d be neglectful, and my husband would be cruel.
I’m scared I’d resent him and use my child against him
I’m scared we’d fuck up. I’m scared that I’m not meant to do this. I’m scared of being poor. I’m scared of things being just the same, but worse.
I’m scared stiff, so stiff that I can’t move. I can only live in anxiety and fantasy, and this deep, deep denial. Something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta move. It’s gotta be me. Me. It’s gotta be me.
Something is going to give me a shove, and it’s going to be me, with all my best laid plans, all my good intentions, laid in the roadway before me. All my hopes, my lost and half-forgotten dreams. I can’t even get writing, I can’t even get rest, sleeping. I can’t find answers, dreaming.
The anxiety grips me and won’t let me go. I need to climb out of this hole. Make a phone call, keep a promise, one step at a time, one day at a time. one task at a time. Just go. Just go. Just go.
Here I am. I haven’t written in two weeks. Where’s my discipline? Where is my drive? I need to write, to write to stay alive. I feel half dead. this anxiety is my life force struggling to stay alive. my last gasping breath, my intense inner nature. I don’t want to die, I don’t want to be alone. I want a child. I want a home. I want to live in balance; neither order nor chaos… I am going to read tonight, and get some sleep. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to begin fresh and get some things done. Truly. Tomorrow is a new day. A new day. Why then, am I still so scared? Because I am so full of possibility just waiting to be squandered for nothing.
I believe now, as I did then, that the answer is just do. However, resistance is often a brick wall; a obdurate obstacle which makes such a simple solution seem cruelly glib.
In 2009, I broke through. All it took, I believe, was a near-death experience. Not of the body, but of the spirit. In a long-overdue move, I left my common-law husband. I met new people, and kept close with the friends who had stuck by me through thick and thin. I wrote over 60 poems that year. I forged a new life, one in which I am loved, happy, and much more secure.
In chaos, where I spent years and years of my life, inertia was a form of self-protection, the symbolic fetal position I rolled into to protect a fragile psyche. It was also a form of rebellion, of clinging to my own miniscule bit of personal power. The power to shut down, to resist, to do nothing, especially those things I should do.
Even now that I feel more centered (or as centered as one can feel with a lifetime of chaos-baggage dragging behind her) inertia creeps in, insidious as ever. Perhaps it’s the old demon insecurity. Perhaps it’s the thrill of being rebellious, even when I don’t have to be. Perhaps it’s the feeling that I have all the time in the world, a cushion that will catch and protect me if (and when) I fail or fall. Any way I look at it, however, the truth remains thus: persistent resistance is a suicide of the spirit.
Today I went to see a friend; an intuitive counselor who has agreed to help me move through my resistance. The first assignment she gave me is a week with no shoulds. And I am taking this step, by writing about it. This morning I did yoga, and prayed my prayers, and did my meditations. It felt good. I wanted to do it. Slowly, slowly, I will move through this. Some blocks are there for a reason, to keep one from straying down a wrong path. Some blocks are there because one is not yet ready to face the challenges behind the walls. Others are there to present a person with opportunities for growth. For these, there is no way out but through. There is no solution but just do. Not because I should, or need to, or have to, but because I want to, because I love myself and my life enough to want to fill it with things that are good, and creative, and lovely, and soul-nurturing.
And I do want to.
Next time on The Freelance Dilettante: Picture Perfect: Healing my Inner Mary Sue