One of my favorite writers, Leo Babauta, is known for his work on mindfulness and simplicity. His blog, “Zen Habits,” is one of few newsletters that I intentionally keep up with. My personal resource database is full of Babauta’s articles — a testament to how much I appreciate his work.
An important component of mindfulness is focus, or in Babauta’s words, “meticulous attention.” The chaos of modern life stems from fragmentation. Instead of sinking into the present moment, giving the task at hand our full attention, we jump from one thing to the next. We are serially distracted. But, according to Babauta, we can move through our days with serenity and ease by cultivating an attitude of relaxation.
Babauta also addresses the Catch-22 of our expectations. In a recent post, Babauta argues, “If we think about it, there’s nothing in most situations that we face that makes them inherently difficult or annoying. We create the difficulty.” In other words, we are responsible for much of the difficulty we experience. Instead of seeing our expectations for what they are, we embrace them as an unalterable narrative. We get stuck, and devote most of our time and energy to resisting.
I’m seeing this play out in my lazy summer days. I’m not in school. I’m not juggling work and social events and a burgeoning creative life. I am, for most intents and purposes, single-minded right now, with the all-encompassing goal of revising my novel. I don’t have reason to be stressed, yet I’m running around like a chicken with its head chopped off — deluded by my perception of busyness, and fragmented by my inability to cultivate meticulous attention.
I went into this summer with expectations. We all did. And I think it’s safe to say that, for one reason or another, few of our expectations are panning out. According to my revision schedule, I should be wrapping up the first round of edits. Instead, I’m two-thirds of the way through the manuscript. The end is, unfortunately, nowhere in sight. The logical part of my brain recognizes that revision schedules are, ironically, subject to revision; the emotional part of my brain, with its Instagram filters and library of expectations, is hung up on the perfect narrative.
Even writing this column. My expectations were high, fueled by visions of effortless poeticisms. Instead, I spent a good 15 minutes glowering at an empty page. The words weren’t coming. The logical part of my brain recognizes that writing is hard, and effortless poeticisms are rare; the emotional part of my brain is throwing a fit, because I’m a writer, and where’s the glamor, the rose-colored hue, in wrestling with a draft until you’re a body of sweat and blood?
Here’s the truth. My revision schedule was idealistic, as most dreams are. I’m behind, not because I’m lazy or undedicated but because life got in the way. And that’s OK. As Babauta puts it, “In reality, it’s just life. The world, and life on earth. It’s just molecules and energy. We create the narrative that it’s bad or good. We can let go of the narrative.”
The other day, I was intent on finishing chapter 21 of #WaxingCrescent. I had plans, and the plans hinged on me eschewing everything that wasn’t the book. But then life happened, which is to say my period punched me in the face, bringing with it a fatigue like no other. I wanted to write. I really did. But my body was tired and needed to rest.
I, of course, kicked myself for being weak-willed and — ugh — human. But then, almost as though Babauta were speaking through me, I thought, “What would it be like to stop resisting?” What would it be like to forgive myself? To give my body what it needs? To let go of the narrative, and live with more ease?
There was complaining involved, and a whole lot of bitter monologuing. But eventually I gave up. I played some video games, watched some TV, and slept for 11 hours. I woke up the next morning tired and vaguely PMS-y, but with renewed vigor.
When I stopped resisting, life got easier. Funny, that.
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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.
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