Okay, that’s it. I’m officially unmotivated. What the hell happened? I was doing just fine. Well, mostly fine.
I’m never doing THAT FINE. I’m something of a disaster, most of the time. But I DISASTER WELL.
Disastering is one of my most reliable talents.
Does that ever happen to you? You’re going along with your life and it’s pretty cool when all of a sudden BOOM. Monotony. Boredom. It all feels worn out and tired and lost and weird and possibly, at 2am, utterly meaningless?
Or maybe I feel worn out and tired. One can never be sure.
I like to feel sorry for myself. It’s my special spot I love to hate. My therapist – who my friend and I (yes we oddly have the same one) lovingly refer to as The Jedi Ninja – says I like to beat myself up mentally. Something about shame.
So, she’s given me some affirmations. I’m supposed to say them. As in, to myself.
As she sat there across from me in her immaculate office smelling vaguely of peppermint and excessively healthy houseplants, I thought to myself “No way in hell am I going to spew nice little affirmations, lady. I LIKE MY PAIN.”
I’m not Stuart Fucking Smalley.
Come to think of it I’m not Jesus either.
But I started thinking about how after I yell at my kids I start a tape in my head: “Figures, Janelle. Of course you do that. You’re an asshole. And mean. A mean asshole. You’ve been that way forever. Remember when you were a kid? YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN A DICK.”
Or after I eat the 3rd cookie because I “need something to pick me up,” a new tape starts: “Fat ass! Nasty human. What the fuck is wrong with you? Remember when you were SKINNY? Remember THAT? Oh you loser. You’ll never feel that good again. You’re disgusting.”
I’m good enough and I’m smart enough and doggone it people LIKE ME!
Oh, fuck you Stuart. Nobody likes you.
When I got sober, the person most pivotal in my recovery told me something profound. And I don’t mean sort of profound. I mean like SUPER FUCKING DEEP AND LIFE CHANGING.
Sit down, and listen. It goes like this: Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Whew. Yeah. I know.
Go ahead, Take a moment if you need it.
No no. Don’t turn away. That right there is some crazy shit: We have to physically, actually DO something different if we want new things to happen in our lives. WE CAN’T JUST THINK ABOUT CHANGING.
We have to move our feet in new directions. And our arms. And even our hands. ALL THE BODY PARTS. We have to move our bodies in completely new ways to make new shit happen in our lives.
As I write this I’m realizing this information is probably obvious to every adult on the planet.
Oh well. Whatever. I got sober at 30 and that thought had never occurred to me. I truly believed that if I THOUGHT something enough times it would happen.
I believed if I thought about something, it would change.
The fact that this never worked was insufficient evidence to deter my faith in the efficacy of Thinking About Doing.
And that’s what’s up with these stupid mental tapes. I realized recently that some silly part of me seems to think that if I BEAT MYSELF UP enough times, my behavior will change under the weight of my wrath, or something.
Funny thing though: That never happens.
You know when I lost all that weight? When I started exercising and eating better. WHO WOULDA FUCKING THUNK IT?
Turns out self-hatred is a terrible calorie burner.
You know when I became a writer? When I started writing the words.
I know. I know. I’m a pile of wisdom.
Somebody build me an ashram.
Anyway, I’ve been trying the mental-bashing-routine for a few thousand years and it appears to have gotten me precisely nowhere, so I decided I’d give that old therapist a try.
So yesterday in the shower I started repeating the most ridiculous parental goodness affirmation I could think of: “I am a patient and loving and compassionate mother.”
I said it over and over again. Out loud.
I felt like a fucking moron.
Later, in the evening, I made a joke with my oldest kid. I did something nice then said “You know, I did that because I am a PATIENT and LOVING and COMPASSIONATE mother.” I exaggerated each word.
She smiled and said “I know.”
And I almost fell over. I am loving. And I am compassionate, but patience has never exactly been my um, thing. Actually no. Wait. I’m super fucking patient.
For 2 solid minutes.
TWO SOLID MINUTES folks. You can’t teach that.
It felt nice to hear my kid say that, though. It made me smile and I realized I’m probably not quite as bad as my brain would have me believe.
I don’t know. This has been a tough year. And just when I was in a bit of a groove I decided to take on a couple classes at a local university because I love this school and I love the professor who asked me but now I’m working 5 days instead of 3 and I’m no longer solely “self-employed” and I feel set back a bit, like I had a good thing going and “ruined it.”
And when I teach I have insomnia. It’s a thing. I must have a sleep-stress threshold past which my brain is all “fuck you and your desire for rest,” and apparently, teaching college crosses the threshold. And when I’m tired I lash out irrationally and lose it even more, and faster. I’m tired of Mac working out of town. I miss my baby. I’m sick of driving kids everywhere all fucking day forever into the night.
I AM A LOVING AND PATIENT AND COMPASSIONATE MOTHER.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. Let’s affirm. I’m affirming my ass off.
Okay fine. It feels good to switch up the narrative a bit, even if I do think it’s bullshit. And I’m tired of the ridiculous brain punishment. That shit doesn’t work either. At least this is more pleasant, and vaguely amusing.
I am Stuart. Hear me roar.
Therapy hour with Janelle has come to an end. I gotta go pick my kids up from school.
With patience. Compassion. And love.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Wait. I’m not done. My good friend told me the other day she just feels numb, like it’s all work. And I want her to know I feel the same. I feel the same sometimes, CL.
We get lost. We get found. We get bored. We get beat down until we change. We repeat the same same same until we throw our heads back and scream a new line.
Sometimes it’s “FUCK THISSSSSSSS!”
Sometimes it’s a ridiculous affirmation.
Our kid turns 10. The years seem stolen. Our oldest says she knows we’re patient and loving. We laugh cry silently.
We get a Jedi Ninja therapist we join a gym we get a kitten and name it Kimchi we pick up our kids we blast some music we miss our lifecrimepartner we make it one more day.
We write insane shit and remind ourselves “Doggonitpeoplelikeme!”
Until next time, whackos, I’m yours in the crazy.