What I know for sure (thanks Oprah!) is that I completely suck at consistency. Please don’t ask me to tell you how many times I have had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself about how my life is all over the place and I need to FINALLY GET MY SHIT TOGETHER. These moments almost 100% of the time come at a restaurant where I am eating alone and furiously scribbling notes on napkins about how to make my morning routine kick ass so the rest of my day follows suit.
I have A LOT of brilliant life plans written on napkins.
So as I sit here with a weekend alone while my husband is on his annual boys weekend skiing, I am wondering how the house is so clean when I am supposed to be creating a curriculum for a meditation practicum I am starting in 27 days.
The house is clean because I am a freaking great procrastinator.
The trash has been taken out.
The cardboard broken down like the recycling people prefer.
The kitchen sink has been cleaned AND the rack that sits in the sink as well.
ALL the laundry is washed AND folded AND put away.
The dog has been brushed.
The picture that’s been leaning up against the wall has been hung.
I mean I am making it rain over here and getting all the little things done that don’t need to be done because I have a deadline for this curriculum.
But…the house is clean.
So what is the deal with this behavior? Because I know literally everyone procrastinates. And I know most people would see themselves in what I described above. Avoiding whatever thing they believe is too big to deal with by doing whatever small things they can in effort to feel productive.
Its not a mystery to me why I struggle with focusing and doing the thing at the top of my list. And its not a mystery to me why I avoid things that are good for me, like daily meditation or going to bed at a reasonable working-adult hour.
Consistency and follow through require me to be mindful. They ask me to slow my roll. To recognize my anxiety and my whirling thoughts. These two beasts of productivity and success make me face my inner 4-year-old that whines and says, “I don’t wanna!”. They remind me that discipline is strangely a form of freedom.
I don’t have ADD per se, but more like the normal fractured attention that 99% of us have these days. We are trained to move our attention from thing to thing EVERY 15 SECONDS. Seriously. Look up some studies on marketing and advertising.
To be consistent with a habit or a practice means I need to be aware of how easy it is for me to follow my emotions and thoughts ABOUT that habit or practice. If I want to be able to set a goal and follow through, then I need to be aware that at times I will not want to do the things that will get me to the end stage. And just because I don’t want to do something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t, or I can’t.
Its just an emotional reaction.
And probably a few, or 20, thoughts that make up a story about the thing I am supposed to be doing.
When I sit back and slow down and break it down, I realize I am just dealing with several parts of my personality in a tug-o-war match. One part wants me to GO FOR IT and do all the nitty gritty research on a topic or type out a shitty rough draft, all so I can experience the fulfillment of reaching my goal. And the other part of me wants me to play the short game and just do what is right in front of me and score a quick win. Back and forth they go, and I am in the middle feeling restless and hearing my inner critic take my inventory.
What I know to be true is that I alone am the one that stops that tug-o-war. I KNOW the skills needed to be consistent and follow through. I know them so well that I continually write them on napkins to remind myself that I have the tools right now to make things different. But what will make things different? What will bolster me and motivate me to stay the course?
Getting tired of the tug-o-war. (By the way I always thought it was “tug-OF-war” but apparently, I stand corrected.)
Getting so tired of being scattered.
Tired of the thoughts and emotions that come with that fractured attention.
Tired of the inner critic chattering away.
Tired of seeing the napkins pile up on my desk.
When I get there…the restlessness finally gets my attention. My FULL attention. And because of my mindfulness practice I am not lost adrift trying to figure out how to make myself feel better. I am starkly aware that the feeling is the signal. The restlessness and scatteredness and agitation inside ARE me. It’s a part of me that is calling for me to pay attention. And so, I do.
I usually lean towards a dramatic flair, but I try my best to simply just STOP. Like stop right where I am. Mid stride. And I breathe. Jack Kornfield reminded me recently that the breath is a constant. No matter what the experience is, being in awe of a spring flower, or being in the middle of a leg cramp, the breath is there. Its an anchor.
So, I stop and I breathe. A few deep breaths and I put my hand on my heart and I say to myself,
“It’s okay. You are okay. This is just an emotion. Its just a sensation in the body. Its just a replay of old familiar stories. Feel your feet. Find your breath. Take in your reality. Get out of your head. Get in your body. The truth is you are okay and yes, the list is long, but it just a list. Take a breath and just start over. NO ONE is grading you. You are okay.”
I learned this through mindfulness and self-compassion practices. Lately I have been using my napkins to write myself daily short letters about how I am okay. In those letters I acknowledge myself. I give voice to what I wish for and what I currently have. I let myself know that being human is sometimes complicated, but only when I live in my head. That being human is also simple. Sometimes I remember to remind myself that all I have to do is what is in front of me. I don’t have to solve the world’s problems. I just have to enjoy the fresh food on my plate.
So, I am coming to terms with my inconsistency and lack of follow through. Its just parts of me. And I am human. And I am really okay. If I ever sit to meditate EVERY DAY for a year, I will let you know. Not likely to happen, but if I score big, I will share that. But right now, I am enjoying the smell of my Doterra oils diffusing and hearing the soft snores of my senior dog laying next to me and I am excited to open a few books and make some notes for my meditation practicum curriculum.
Because this is my life right now.