the paradox of self-discipline

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My immediate association to the phrase “self discipline” is “yuck.” That sounds boring. The opposite of the joyful, spontaneous life I want to create. And yet I’ve learned that without self discipline, those wonderful things like joy, spontaneity, and creativity don’t come easily.

There’s nothing Puritan about my definition of self-discipline. It should never resemble self-punishment or self-denial. But it does mean doing things you don’t want to do. You do those things because you value the outcome. Short term pain, long term gain. And the more practice you have under your belt, the less “pain” there is in the “short term pain” stage. This quote puts it perfectly:

“Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” -Mark Twain

With practice, you can beat resistance. I’m all about making this easier. Break tasks up into small chunks! If you have to do dishes and you hate doing them, set a timer for ten minutes. Or five. Whatever you can stomach. If you’re dreading going to work, remember you only have to get through today. One day at a time. You’ll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

I’ve found that fulfilling responsibilities (“adulting”) and fun have a special relationship. Each feeds the other. If I don’t go to work, keep my house clean, or care for my body, I won’t be able to do what I love at all. I’ve had a couple brief periods of unemployment, and it’s amazing how little fun I had. You’d think with all that free time, I’d be living the life of Riley. But in reality, being sedentary and without direction really hinders my creativity. The momentum I build getting the adult things done helps me get the creative things done, too.

Perfection is not the goal here. There is such a thing as working too hard. My sink perpetually has dirty dishes in it, and my clean laundry is rarely folded until just before I put it away. I only have so much energy, and I prioritize creative activities over having a perfectly clean house. But I do maintain a moderate standard of cleanliness. For me, it’s about finding the middle ground.

What motivates you? How have you balanced adulting with what you love to do? Or are you one of those people that adulting and fun are one and the same? I’d be interested to hear other people’s perspectives.

Peace,

Jenna

Image courtesy of LibelSanRo, Pixabay.com

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A Blog of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Indeed, many great female writers were blessed with both luxuries. Austen. Dickens. Chopin. But I read an interesting counterpoint (I wish I could remember where I read it): what about women like Phillis Wheatley, who did not even have the luxury of owning her own life, and wrote anyway?

When embracing your creativity, it’s tempting to shut out the world. Believe me, I’ve been there. Caught in the tide of what some call “creative illness,” I’ve spent many days shut away alone, succumbing to the promptings of the Muse. But I reached a point where I didn’t want to exist in a bubble anymore. I wanted connection. I wanted to give back. I wanted to take action in the world according to my own values.

But how to do that without sacrificing my artistic soul?

Women like Phillis Wheatley were, and are, at the opposite end of the spectrum of freedom—they can scarcely call their life their own, much less have money and a private room. Millions of women across the globe live without formal education or economic support. And yet many of these women create.

Perhaps the “room of one’s own” exists not externally, but inside the woman herself. “There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind,” Virginia Woolf also wrote. Maybe she sensed that her private room was merely a reflection of the freedom she possessed within herself. It is the ultimate freedom of thought and feeling that every woman and man on Earth possesses.

It is true that life is easier if your external existence supports your internal–if you have a private space to match your private thoughts. But I have found it best to live in compromise. An introverted and highly sensitive soul, I need a calm, quiet place to rest, recharge, and create. But that isn’t my full time gig. Much of my waking life, I now spend out—out of the house, among people, showing my face. Talking. Interacting. Connecting.

Being out and about gives me tremendous anxiety. I deal with it every single day. But I come home at the end of the day with the kind of elation of a warrior who has just wrestled a grizzly bear. I may have some wounds to nurse, but dammit, I confronted something terrifying, and came out alive. There have been days, months, even years when the bear has swallowed me up and spit me out, and I barely feel up to wrestling her again. But I have a hint for you: Choose your bear carefully. And if you can’t choose your bear, see which choices you do have. Such as starting your very own blog, and creating some space for yourself there.

Peace be with you,

Jenna 🌟

Why I Deleted My Blog…And Started Again

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Three (maybe four?) years ago, I had the urge to start blogging. One of those nagging longings that stuck around in the back of my mind so long, I knew I had to take action. I found the perfect name scrawled in purple graffiti on a harbor pier and located its origin in the poet Rilke: Face to Face with the Sky.
I started a Tumbler. And it went nowhere.
Maybe a year after that, I knew I had to try again. I discovered Word Press, and launched Face to Face with the Sky again.
That went also went nowhere. My content sucked. It lacked focus; it lacked depth; I wasn’t sharing what was real and on my heart.
Another year went by, and my mental health, which I have struggled with all my life, was deteriorating. Writing become my refuge. Scribbling and typing my solace. Somehow I decided to share this writing with the world.
I started another blog, The Wishing Well, and wrote honestly about my mental health ups and downs. In one year I had over 500 followers and lots of activity on the blog. The content was good. It was real. I was sharing what was on my heart.
So what do you think I did?
I deleted the whole thing.
I abandoned my followers. I didn’t even have the heart to respond to the most recent comments, so ashamed was I for running away.
What shifted? In short, there was a war between my public and private life. My inner and outer worlds. My inner world was complex, heartbreaking, and beautiful; and yet, I was only sharing it with people online. Only a few people in my real life knew about my writing. The rest of the time, I was presenting a “presentable” self. To my boss. My coworkers. My landlord. Even some of my friends and family. The tension between these two selves reached a breaking point.
Steven Pressfield wrote in his wonderful book Turning Pro about migrant workers who “rode the rods,” or stole away on trains across America. The migrant workers have a saying about what it means to abandon one job, one place, and move on to another. It’s called “pulling the pin.” The metaphor is that two train cars are attached by a single “pin” holding together their joined parts. Pull it out, and the car would roll away, no longer attached to the train.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve “pulled the pin,” or completely bailed out of things in my life.

When it comes to writing, I don’t want to do that any more.
All of this has been a long winded explanation of what I’m trying to accomplish with this renewed attempt at blogging: healing the war between these two selves.
Let this blog be the place where I can merge my inner and outer worlds.

Peace be with you,

Jenna

P.S. You can expect two focuses on this blog: mental health, and spirituality.
P.P.S. I love Instagram! @face2facewiththesky
P.P.P.S. I am excited to join you and witness your heart’s journey.