Brief update from the front lines of change

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Rather than write about change, which, apparently, is what I write about most of the time here, when I'm not plugging myself shamelessly (see above), I'm trying to actually change. You know, for a change. Haha.

It is HARD. And by "hard," I mean that song I wrote does not come within five-landing-strips-of-a-gigantic-barn close to describing the level of difficulty. As my teacher and many other teachers before me have said wisely and well, however much you dislike the things that are keeping you from going where you say you'd like to, they are the things that have kept you alive, and they are not going down without a fight. Plus they have much, much bigger muscles and much greater familiarity with the dank, dark alleyways of your soul than these fresh little hopes.

Nevertheless, I am making what looks like some small progress in this one small (but terrifying!) area of change. I will reserve my observations for some time in the future, when I'm further on the other side of this bastard, both because I need to conserve my energy right now and because I am in the thick of it, which doesn't give one much of a useful perspective when it comes to analysis. I will, however, float out a few scattered observations in the hope that they may help you or someone you love flail less during the grappling period.

Things that help when you're in the throes of change:

  1. Unbroken blocks of time, scheduled in the calendar. They can be small, but they should be there. Whatever the thing you're working on changing requires your undivided attention, because if you let up for a minute, those gremlins sneak in and take the wheel.
  2. Insane amounts of sleep. As much as you can grab. Gremlin-fighting is exhausting. Water is probably helpful, too. I should probably be drinking a lot more water.
  3. Something relatively non-hazardous that lets you unplug. I sat in an Epsom-salt bath for two hours last night. I haven't done this since I was recovering from my Crohn's onset.
  4. Knowing you can cancel extracurricular plans. You do not have to cancel, but reminding yourself you can cancel may be enough. I think this is something about feeling like you are The Boss of You.
  5. 50/10 hours. That is, 50 minutes of whatever is hard, followed by 10 minutes of something that is easy. It can be easy and pleasant, or easy and boring, or even easy and yucky. But 50 of hard to 10 of easy has helped.
  6. Writing things down. By this I mean both keeping a list of your intentions AND using something to slough off the crazy scribblings the gremlins get busy producing. Morning pages are excellent, but really, any timed blathering on a page will do.
  7. Letting the rest of it temporarily go to hell in a handbasket. The gremlins, they're DYING for you to feel like you have to keep the house clean and keep up with your exercise regimen and and and. Of course, if your change-thing is staying tidy or starting to exercise, adjust to fit. What I'm saying is that perfectionism is a gremlin's best friend.
  8. Calendaring in a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a break scheduled for later this week. During that time, I will not even think about change. It is a change from change. Not that I will use the time to go back to my bad habit, I'm removing myself from the environment, to ensure no backsliding. But it will be a truce. The gremlins and I will be on holiday, having a picnic.

It's interesting, looking at these, because I note that many of them are things my friend Brooks recommends for people who are doing a clutter bust: concentrate on one thing at a time, give yourself plenty of rest, drink lots of water. And it makes sense, because changing a really big, or really small, but entrenched, habit is like letting go of an especially charged piece of clutter: something you've had around for a long time, that you have a lot invested in, but that is no longer serving.

This is already longer than I'd intended. So much so that a part of me thought perhaps I should scrap it or even just file it away and write something much shorter. I was close, until I heard what sounded suspiciously like a chorus of gremlins rubbing their tiny hands together with glee.

I will write a shorter post another day, when I have time. Right now, it's time to change...