Body for Life, the Universe, and Everything

Being a description of the author's thoughts on the experience of participating in the "Body for Life" Challenge, questions of great philosophical import, and randomly selected topics of no significance whatsoever

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Location: Missouri, United States

In no particular order, I'm a professional lettering artist, a yoga practitioner, a cat lover, a vegetarian, a reader of everything from books to cereal boxes, married to a very attractive guy named Tom (nope, no kids), an exercise enthusiast, and a lot of other things I don't care to admit in a public forum. I have a BS in applied math that I haven't used in over 10 years, and I can put both feet behind my head. What else would you like to know?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Year's Resolve

Tom's started another BFL Challenge and is posting to his blog again, so that has inspired me to get back to mine, even though I don't think anyone is actually reading it....

I was whining to him on New Year's Day (what a guy; he puts up with so much from me!) about how frustrated I was with myself because I can't seem to get anything worthwhile done or make any of the significant changes I'd like to make in my life, and he had some very interesting points/suggestions. One of the big problems I've had is that I might wake up excited about working on some project or doing something creative or fun, but by the time I've slogged through my two-plus-hour "morning routine" involving my daily exercise and all these chores and things, I've completely lost interest in whatever I woke up excited about doing and so I never do it. This is why there is so little fun or creativity in my life: The unbelievably long routines are crushing it out of me. I procrastinate partly because I feel there are so many things I have to do before I can get to something I enjoy that it doesn't seem worth trudging through all the "have to" stuff, so I just want to punt all of it. Tom's response was to talk about how I seem to have myself in this box with my thinking ("I can't do this until I've done that, and before I can do that I must do the other, and before I can do the other..." ad infinitum). He suggested that I need to let go of my "boxed-in" thinking and loosen up my schedule.

For Christmas I created this massive calligraphy-based wall hanging for him, and I realized while I was working on it that not only have I had the idea for over a year without actively working on it (I actually planned to do it and give it to him last Christmas!), this is the first time in eight years that I have done any calligraphy that wasn't for client orders or classes or absolutely necessary marketing materials. (Well, any calligraphy more involved than envelopes or designing our (sort of) annual Christmas card, which I don't count.) In other words, I haven't actually done anything creative with my art unless I was doing it for a class assignment or direct payment. Or even practiced a lettering style I'd like to improve, when I didn't have to. In eight years. And the streak would be even longer than that if it weren't for the fact that eight years ago Tom and I decided that I'd make some calligraphy pieces as Christmas gifts for several relatives instead of spending a lot of money we didn't really have. If you don't count that one situation, it's been considerably longer than eight years. And I wondered, what happened to the passion I used to have for my art? I read all the time about how changing one's hobby into one's livelihood tends to kill one's creative joy in that activity, whatever it is, and I knew it had happened to me, and I had done some things to try to renew it, but nothing had really taken. So Tom had a suggestion for me. He said, "If I were in your situation, I would start every day by doing at least an hour of calligraphy." I said, "You mean, get out of bed and put on some clothes and go do calligraphy?" He said, "Yep. I don't care what you do there, as long as it's calligraphy. Don't do all that other stuff first that you think you have to do. If calligraphy is a big rock, do it first. Don't worry about the gravel." I knew he was talking about Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," in which Covey does a discussion/demonstration on how if you put the gravel and sand of your life (gravel and sand representing the trivia in your life, like picking up dry cleaning or mowing the lawn) into a jar first, there won't be room for the big rocks (the truly important things in your life, like your relationships or your career); whereas if you put the big rocks into the jar first, you can then pour in the gravel and sand and it will fill up the spaces in between the rocks and everything will fit into the jar.

After Tom made this comment, I thought about what my life might be like if I started putting the big rocks first in my schedule like that, rather than just first in principle, and I wondered why something so obvious had never occurred to me. Apparently it was due to my "boxed-in" thinking. Then the next thing he said was, "If you were going to start spending an hour a day on calligraphy other than what you needed to do for the business, how would you spend that time?" So I started thinking about that.

So the end result of all of that was that the very next day I started trying to change that. I started beginning my day with an hour or more of calligraphy. I spent four days practicing a style in which I have always wanted to become more proficient (Gothicized Italic). Then I spent two days working on a major calligraphy project that I started in a class over a year and a half ago and never got anywhere close to finishing. Between January 2 and January 10 I spent over 11 hours doing "pure calligraphy"--in other words, working on something I didn't have to do. This is over 11 hours more than I had managed to get in during the past eight years, up to the time I started working on the Christmas gift for Tom in mid-December, a month ago. I also started eating more meals per day (something I've been trying to change for a number of years) because I was starting earlier on them instead of feeling like I had to wait until after I'd exercised (which I couldn't do until I'd done several hours of other chores...). And amazingly enough, I was mostly getting all of those other chores and things done too. I was thrilled with the improvement in my accomplishments.

After January 10 I started slipping into my old habits of "gotta do this first, then this, then this..." before I felt I could go into my studio and start playing. I think it has something to do with my depression, because I don't feel that I deserve to do something fun until I've done a bunch of obligatory boring or annoying chores. But I will keep working on this! I really want to change. I am tired of being where I have been; namely, stuck in a rut. I will keep tweaking this and looking for feedback. This year I will stop making excuses and start succeeding!


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