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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Life is like a handful of water

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Time is like a handful of water slipping through your fingers. One moment your hand is full, and the next, it’s gone. Fleeting though it is, its touch is familiar, and curiosity gets the better of you. You watch it for awhile, eluding you. Feel it, cool, trickling over your skin. Listen to the tinkling of it dripping into the sink, the pond, the ocean. Only reluctantly do you turn away and return to the task of living.


As you can see, this is a short piece. I’ll probably continue the trend of posting small pieces, short thoughts. I haven’t posted on my blog in months, but I’ve been writing the whole time. The question has been: what to do with it? Post all of it? None of it? What’s “appropriate” for the stage of life I’m in right now? Let it all hang out, be conservative, or somewhere in between? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with. For now, I’ve concluded that I want to share some of it. For what it’s worth, which may be something, or nothing. Either way is fine with me.

My apologies to those who may have reached out to me in months past that I did not reply to. We’ll see how this goes, and I am planning on replying to comments and reading others’ material and leaving feedback in return.

Best,

Jenna

Love is a safe harbor

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Love is a safe harbor,
a refuge for the grieving,
a shelter for the windworn,
a steadfast tree in a storm.

Too often we think that love should be a whirlwind
of desires long unfulfilled, a reflecting pool
of our deepest, most secret wishes.

Love for me is more a steady beating,
a slow but sure walk home,
a light leading me through fog and dark.

Do not get lost in dreams of not enough.
Listen instead for the familiar greeting
of another weary traveler returning home.

~

I wrote this poem thinking about the most steadfast loves in my life. None of them resemble the dreams my mind shows me of great drama and romance. The greatest loves in my life are truly “safe harbors.” And for this I am grateful. I now challenge myself to be a safe harbor for my own self, as well! For someone reminded me recently that before we can truly love others, we must love and honor ourselves.

What does love resemble in your life?

Peace be with you,

Jenna

 

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 🌟