Learning To Love Five
I wish every month was Na-Something-Something-Mo.
Some months could have designations that are fluffy and easily achieved, best saved for those short on days (February) or with pre-existing labor-intensive holidays (December):
Na-Clo-Cle-Mo (National Closet Cleaning Month – by then end of which you have a sparkling, organized wardrobe of perfectly coordinated outfits).
Na-Plu-Ha-Mo (National Pluck Hair Month – pluck 1500 individual body hairs every day for a month and be completely smooth from top to bottom in the grand reveal).
Na-Mee-Nei-Mo (National Meet Neighbours Month – knock on one door per day until you have 15 new friends in both directions of your front door).
During the months with lots of daylight and no significant holiday, we could up the ante with some heavier challenges:
Na-Nu-Lan-Mo (National New Language Month – learn a different language everyday and by month’s end you’ll be able to speak 30 languages!).
Na-Dri-Aw-Mo (National Drive Away Month – get in your car on the first of the month and drive in the direction of your choice for 3 hours per day. On the 30th donate car to charity in whichever location you find yourself and embark on the next challenge below).
Na-Hi-Ho-Mo (National Hitchhike Home Month – similar to previous month but in reverse direction begging rides from strangers).
I like a challenge. I like a deadline. I like the word “GO!” and I love the word “STOP!”
I like periods of extremely heavy work followed by periods of intense rest. It’s a pattern I see repeated again and again as I look back over my career and personal endeavors.
A friend recently asked why I don’t perform music anymore. I wrote and recorded two cds of original music, played solo shows and music festivals, and marketed my indie album to music stations across the nation. Then I just stopped.
“What happened?” he asked, perplexed by the sudden change.
“It’s my pattern,” I said. “Balls to the wall until I crash. That’s how I roll.” This had us both laughing, partly because of my ridiculous choice of words and mostly because they so perfectly described the trajectory of my songwriting career.
“I can’t just play guitar by a campfire. I can’t just write a song and leave it at that. I have to record. Have to perform. Have to push the album. I didn’t even like most of the work involved, I was just doing whatever it took to get myself on stage because I like singing for people. I hate setting up equipment, hate travelling to gigs, hate asking for my pay, hate selling cds, hate the stage fright and the awkwardness after the show when I’m still shaking from adrenalin but people want to chat with me. I got to the point where I was doing a thousand things I hated in order to have one hour I enjoyed, and it wasn’t worth it. So that’s that.”
As my mom had said with earnest pity, “You’re just so driven.”
I don’t know about that. “Drive” implies an and goal and a plan. “Compelled” is likely a better word.
Compulsion (kuhm-PUHL-shuhn) noun
A strong usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one’s will.
As Ellie once said on The Bubble Hour, “Alcoholics love ten and zero, but we hate five.”
Recovery has been a journey towards embracing five. It is a lesson in balance, in avoiding extremes, in accepting that I don’t have to be either glorified or shattered to be alive.
I’ve learned that the secret to loving five is to stay present, to really take note of what is going on around me. This is hard for an anxiety bag like me to do; I am always rushing forward in anticipation of the next challenge, disaster or reward.
Sometimes this feels quite positive. I open my eyes in the morning and immediately look forward to coffee and the paper. I can’t wait to see what each day holds. Would it hurt, though, to linger a moment longer and enjoy a luxurious stretch under the warm covers, listening to the quiet breathing of my husband beside me? Could I take one extra moment to be grateful and feel the joy of safety and comfort and love in that room?
Gratitude is a key component in overcoming an addiction. My pattern was to numb anxiety with alcohol while simultaneously creating more of it, perpetuating the cycle to which my brain had adapted. We learn what we are taught and our habits train our brains. Now that I live alcohol free, I work to curb the forward-thinking that fuels anxiety (what if…it will…I must…it might…) and focus on what is actually happening around me in that very moment, finding something for which to be grateful (this is…I am…I feel…). Breathe. Focus. Do.
My purpose for joining NaBloPoMo was to challenge myself, grow my blog, and create some better writing habits. I must confess that I momentarily considered doing NaNoWriMo as well, because I want to be the girl who does BOTH. I immediately recognized this compulsion towards an extreme; a self-destructive rush in the direction of perfectionism, competitiveness and the false safety of superiority. Easy girl. Five, not ten.
I am doing all I can to ensure that my month of daily posting is not only accomplished but also thoroughly enjoyed. I make writing the morning priority so I don’t spend the day worrying if it will get done. I take time to poke around other blogs, learn more about the art of writing and business of blogging, and expand my network a little. And then I stop, and turn my attention elsewhere. I try to keep it at five.
Because five is good. Five is where I need to be. That’s how I roll.