When I began my career in writing, I thought that 60 hours a week (about the same minimum I worked as a college administrator each week ) would be a boatload of time to plan the life I imagined. And here is how the life I imagined would look: 90 minutes of exercise a day (including Pilates and lifting and yoga), lots of walking the dog, biking or walking to all meetings, dates within town, daily journaling, daily reading time, daily creative writing time absolutely separate from the writing work that I was being paid to do, homemade meals every night, volunteer regularly. Let me tell you how many of these things I have accomplished from that list above: 1.75. I do volunteer regularly (1 point). I exercise, but it’s not daily and it’s not for 90 minutes (.5 point). We eat homemade meals some but not nearly as much as I would like (.25). I walk the dog when my husband’s sick (read 2x a year); I usually work at my desk until 2 minutes before my meeting in town and then shoot out the door and zip over there in the loyal VW. Journal daily? Not unless it’s one of the magazines I write for that has Journal in its title like the Philanthropy Journal. But here’s the thing: What’s the point of dreaming of the life you get to live one day if you aren’t going to live it when you have the chance? I am the first to admit that it is absolutely ridiculous that I don’t live the life I imagine because I am too busy working at my desk. This when I am my own boss. I’ve been a boss a couple times in my life, and I believe the people I supervised (or, at least, they led me to believe) thought that I was a good, accommodating, thoughtful boss. I was the one that forced them home when they felt they should work late or on weekends. I forced balance upon them, encouraged them to explore their interests outside of work. And, yet, I am the worst boss that I have ever had. I think there are two reasons why this is true. The first is that when you are self-employed and responsible for finding all of your own work (so that you can get paid and thus eat), you are convinced that the one more, two more, three more hours at your desk after dinner will make all the difference in the world. You can’t dismiss something from work that is on your mind because it’s just so easy to go check on it in your home office. So part of this is the nature of the beast.
But another part of it is the nature of this beast— my own, silly, stuck in my habits nature. The writer, Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art described this force as resistance—that inner-life force that stands between us and the life we imagined. Here is some of what he wrote:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance… Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet… To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be… We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From age 24 to 32, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face…. Resistance defeats us… Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has a thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it then you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.
And when I read this passage in this book, I found the word to describe my problem. Resistance. Not in my professional life but in my personal life. If I go after the whole life I imagined—it means that I have to be more efficient at my desk, it means that I have to tell people no (even when I know I want to say no, I don’t say no. I am a notorious yeser), it means that I have to let the yoga asanas (poses)—which I haven’t done in a year and a half—might kick my butt all over town and back. It might just mean that I don’t get to be all routineless and willy nilly. So resistance has been standing in front of me for a while now, with its two hands on my chest, pressing back against me, and I have finally decided– with the help of The War of Art– that I just can’t let it bully me. So begins my experiment against resistance, my desire to fully incorporate the above things into my life so that my vision will be realized. I might decide that I don’t like Thing 1 or Thing 2 and, if I do, I’ll drop the stuff that doesn’t suit and regroup. I’ve made a chart of the next few days, giving my days structure so I can easily see where 90 minutes of exercise, time for cooking dinner, and everything else fits in. And I am going to do my darnedest to play by the rules just enough to get to the life I imagined, to become the boss to myself that I have always been willing to be to others. I’ll keep you posted (but only during that spot on the chart that says write and post blog)!