I am in the midst of an epic battle with myself to re-find my rhythm. My flow. I’ve had it at several intervals over the past decade, but I haven’t regained it since I rid myself of Mack nearly three years ago. I got close a couple of times, but the deaths of my father and brothers in rapid succession sidelined me. As I try to recover, to find balance, new responsibilities and challenges keep arising as a result of those deaths. I can’t seem to get a foothold. The world is not stopping long enough to allow me to find my center. My daily walks have been sporadic, the insomnia is back, my bladder is in a constant state of spasm, my eating has been less than stellar, my drinking has been more than I would like, and my writing has been less. My weight is yo-yoing, along with my motivation to take good care of myself. I’m falling back on old, bad habits of using food, and alcohol, and mind-numbing activities (tv and internet) to distract me from my less than fulfilling life.
Instead of making a healthful and fulfilling life in the present, I’ve been fantasizing about having that life in the future. When I retire. In 10 years. (Assuming all goes as planned.) Even assuming I live to be 100, 10 years is one-tenth of my life. Quite a large chunk during this current period of good health. So instead of fantasizing about retirement houses in the San Juan Islands on Trulia, it’s time to focus on finding fulfillment in the here and now. But how?
I’ve decided that to find my way to current fulfillment, I need to start with getting my life back into a healthy rhythm. Finding my flow. Flow, for me, is a by-product of healthful eating, moderate alcohol intake, writing, good sleep, and exercise in the great outdoors. Common sense stuff. The trouble is, I can’t seem to get myself to do these things consistently. Sporadic is doable. But sporadic won’t get me the brass ring of flow.
So I began researching motivation and self-discipline. (Likely a fancy form a procrastination.) Currently, I’m reading Willpower, Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Baumeister and Tierney. I’m only half way through it, and while interesting, I’m not finding what I was looking for. It contains lots of studies on willpower and motivation, but not much in the way of solutions. At least not so far. Which has my will to finish it flagging. So I switched and did some research via the Google, which repeatedly has me bumping up against the same advice: engage in a regular mediation practice.
Meditation. How can that be helpful? Just sitting? I’ve done it before. I can’t recall whether it made a difference. But maybe it did. Maybe it was during one of my flow periods. It certainly can’t hurt. After all, one of my biggest problems right now is stress. Anxiety. I know that’s why I’m waking up at 3:00 a.m. each night, and I know that’s why my bladder is out of control. Meditation. OK, then.
So Wednesday night, after an extremely difficult day sorting out how to deal with (evict) my nephews from my mother’s house (which could be the subject of an entire post in and of itself), I knew I had to do something. I. Just. Needed. To. Breathe. I went into my bedroom, pulled out my meditation cushion, turned down the lights, set my iPhone timer for 15 minutes, and sat. I focused on my breath. The thoughts swirled. My breath, cool as it entered my nose. But my work. The new case. My nephews. Why can’t they get jobs and straighten up? Why must history repeat itself? My breath. My chest falling as I exhale. Cat gallops by. Is she going to tussle with her step-sister? Slow, deep inhalation. Cool breath. Is it 15 minutes, yet? Exhalation. Warm breath. My nephews. Just breathe. Focus on your breath. Exhale. The breath is warm. Inhale. The breath is cool. But what if they end up like my brothers? Back to the breath. That’s right. Just breathe. Tinkly music. The iPhone timer. I had made it through 15 minutes. Yes, it was challenging. But I felt calmer. Some of the day’s anxiety had eased.
Sort of how I felt when I was here last year:
I’ve repeated sitting for 15 minutes in the evening for 4 nights running, now. Already I’ve noticed a shift. My sleep has improved. As has my bladder. It’s actually quite remarkable. And I’ve established a foothold just in time for my writers’ retreat–a course in memoir writing on Orcas Island. My flight to Seattle is on Tuesday. I had intended to begin writing a piece (part of a memoir) to work on at the retreat and share with the group. I haven’t written anything. More anxiety. What will I share? What if I can’t produce anything? Will they think I’m a fraud? Have I not written out of fear of sharing?
My goal for the trip is to use it as a springboard to establish a regular writing practice. A daily practice that will get me to my goal of writing an entire memoir. Not in 10 years. But right here. Right now. Meditation and writing. The stuff that flow is made of.