My dream life consisted of supporting myself through writing, forging a truly creative life, traveling, enjoying better health, having a positive impact upon the world, and maybe, I don’t know, even being somewhat financially stable. This wasn’t all of the dream, but it was a really good start.
I wanted to have work—and not just a job—that made me want to jump out of bed in the morning, jitterbugging with joy the morning (or afternoon as my dream would have it), ready to accomplish great things. I wanted to be excited to be up and about in the world.
But I lacked integrity.
One of the Mirriam-Webster definitions of integrity is “being whole or undivided.” The truth is, I was divided. I said I wanted that sort of life, but my actions weren’t supporting that sort of life. They lacked integrity.
That’s the opposite of integrity: when our intentions and our actions are not aligned.
Something—many things—needed to change. Rather than tackle everything at once and ensure neural short-circuiting and guaranteed failure, I decided to attack the problem—the problem being my lack of integrity in this sense—in stages.
First of all, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t live the life I wanted to have right now, not completely, but I could—if I really wanted to do so—live a smaller version of that life right now. A microcosm of a life. So I went back to the first part of what I wanted my life to look like:
#1 Supporting myself as a writer.
First, I couldn’t support myself through writing if I lacked focus. I have about 1000 things started and nothing finished, and that just wouldn’t cut it if I wanted to move forward. I had the habit (and, ahem, still do, but to a lesser extent) of starting and stopping nearly every little thing that floated through my head. While I had picked up some odd jobs here and there, those opportunities came about mostly by chance. They weren’t a product of my actively and mindfully working toward that goal. My odd jobs couldn’t pay the water bill reliably, much less a house payment.
My first goal was to wake up early. I had many near-misses until I finally got to the point of waking up with more time than just the minutes required to run through the shower, throw on some (semi) clean clothes, and make it to work. This was probably in February of this year (2018). Give or take.
A few months later, I had established a somewhat usual routine of waking up early. Let me stress that I am SO not a morning person, but my job has had me on a day schedule for almost a decade now. It’s quiet and dark and allowed me to get some work in—or at least dawdle—before heading to my job. So, my first goal of waking up early, fairly usually was a semi-success.
Too bad I spent the time reading headline news. And playing Candy Crush.
And I stumbled, losing focus. I was floating, some ethereal, nondescript goal somewhere out in front of me. Somewhere. At some point in the future. Something.
It took me a few months to come back around and begin moving forward. Sure, I was waking up early but not really accomplishing much else. So, time to set another goal, this time actually with a definable goal. Thumbing through the Michael Hyatt book, I realized I had lost sight of any sort of plan, regardless how gossamer they might have been.
As I said in my welcome post, I have grand vision but I screw up a lot. Many, many of those screw ups are because I have the tendency to be crippled by doubt and fear. But I’m also really clumsy. And I drop shit. A lot. And stumble. Also a lot.
I have the tendency to start things and not finish them. Sometimes I think it’s because I unconsciously fear what would happen if I finished them.
What if no one read it? Or liked it? What if a LOT of people liked it?
I think that second one is actually my fear. If people liked it, there would be expectation, triggering another round of the fear and doubt. But sometimes I think it’s because I get bored. Easily. I want to learn everything; I want to read everything and write everything. But that is not realistic. At all.
So in order to tackle some of those doubts and fears, I began dealing with my emotional fucksticks, or as Michael Hyatt called it, the emotional domain. I needed to get out of my own way and chill with the fear and doubt and boredom. I needed to find a simple thing, a simple habit, that would yield positive results. So I started working with affirmations.
They sound silly, but, I figure if you repeat something often enough, sooner or later, it will become true. After all, we’ve seen a LOT of that in the past two or so years.
My first affirmation was “I love myself.”
This sounded ridiculous to my ears. It STILL sounds ridiculous, nearly four months later. It was painful, absolutely painful, to say at first. At my first “I,” my Adam’s apple grew how Sea-Monkeys were supposed to grow. I was pretty sure it was the size of the Epcot Center, and the words would get stuck, unable to navigate around the giant golf ball. I lost my voice, quite literally.
As the sun begin to peek its head through the trees, I spent forever analyzing the mimosa leaves backlit by sunshine. I watched as the flies cannoballed into my coffee. I wondered if they would stay away if I did the Truffle Shuffle.
I am super-duper good at resisting. Through distraction (Hellooo Doctor Who, it’s been so long) to reading, to eating even. I can always find some method to avoid anything.
Maybe that’s my third superpower.
But I stuck with the decision to dance with affirmations. After a while, the sound of it out loud was still ridiculous, but at least I wasn’t choking to death. The process of beginning affirmations was not like a rom-com when the guy wakes up (isn’t it almost always a guy?) realizing that he’s loved the girl all along. There was no magic moment, no singular moment (so far, anyway) that I’ve yelled, “Woo-hoo! I love myself and feel confident and grand, and able to take on whatever life throws at me. So, come at me bro!”
No. Nothing like that.
But I continued. I still continue, although the affirmations have been changed up a bit at the beginning of a new month. I kept at it despite seeing no evidence whatsoever that it was doing any good at all. Because I know that I know that I know that by repeating something often enough, it becomes believable, even if it’s not objectively true.
Case in point: the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Or that vaccines cause autism. In both cases, there was a single source of the original premise and everything following was based on a false premise. There was proof that both statements were false: an actual birth certificate (and not the fabricated one) in the first case; several studies which could not reproduce the results of the original study and retractions from both the author of the first study and the journal in which it was published.
But the beliefs grew and grew and one day grew up to be a beanstalk that reached the clouds.
Even if the premise of the affirmation is not objectively true in the beginning (and then again, why would we need to convince ourselves of something if we already believed it?) it can become true for all intents and purposes, because affirmations don’t necessarily change things objectively, at least I don’t think so. Affirmations tend to change how we subjectively see things, which changes things in a sense.
If I say a billion, billion times, “I have more money than Scrooge McDuck,” it won’t simply become true because I said it a bunch of times. I mean, it’s not very likely to drop from a balloon over my head at any given moment. But saying something to that effect can change the way I see money and lead to potential ideas to generate income.
Because “I love myself” is subjective, it’s measured indirectly by actions that stem from that love rather than measured objectively by having more than or less than money than Scrooge McDuck. I don’t even know how much money Scrooge McDuck has, but apparently someone tried to figure it out.
So I kept at them, making tally marks on my paper for each time I repeated the phrase. And after a couple of months, small, barely noticeable things started happening.
In fact, clueless as I was and so prepared for nothing to change, I didn’t even notice then until far after the fact. I didn’t even realize things were a-changin’ until after they had already changed.
Like saying “No,” occasionally to unreasonable requests. Or caring less for what people thought of me. Or finding more things for which to be grateful. Or pushing past what had been perceived limits. Or losing weight without particularly trying to do so.
Little things. Subtle things.
I began wondering in an abstract way what I deserved in this life. Did I deserve to be a writer? Did I deserve a better job? Did I deserve a vacation, something I hadn’t done for 8 years (or more) when I took off a Friday and a Monday and took a road trip to Atlanta? I didn’t have answers to them, but I was asking, which was more than I was doing four months ago when I started.
It’s a sort of beginning, anyway.
Random Only Semi-Weird Shit
I was first introduced to affirmations while leading a book group many years ago at a Unity church. The group discussion was on Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, a book I don’t think I read a single word of before I began leading the group. In addition to learning mediation skills, I learned that you don’t have to buy into a whole ideology to pluck the good things from it: discernment is key. Some of Hay’s statements were a little woo-woo for me, but I did find some things that helped with assertiveness, compassion, and dealing with grief. You can find 101 of her affirmations here.