free-writing: jaded

free-writing: jaded

It's past 9 P.M. and not a single soul is asleep at home. Thanks to an afternoon nap, D is wide awake, and we went down for a 'late-night' snack just now as his little tummy was growling. He was so excited about it. "This is so awesome," he said, grinning widely, as he and I walked down the stairs, hand in hand, for a glass of milk and a plate of biscuits.

I yearn for that child's wholehearted enjoyment of the moment, whatever it brings. Because when I first came to write this post at about 4 P.M. (a few minutes before D woke up from his nap and I aborted the earlier beginning of my free-writing session of the day), I had only one word in mind to share here. And that was 'jaded'.

Jaded was how I felt about everything for most of the day today – writing, parenting, going for a walk, picking mulberries, staying at home, going out.

This morning, I went to the beach for a change of scenery, but I remember standing there, looking at the sun in the sky, the waves crashing on the shore, and thinking, "Even coming to the beach does not assuage me anymore."

Go for a walk in nature is such an oft-repeated piece of advice doled out to people who are feeling low or down in the dumps. But nature is also something 'external' to us. If the 'big house with the big backyard' or the 'job title' or the 'flawless skin' are external things to turn to for validation, for comfort, so too are the trees and the squirrels and the blue sky and the white clouds.

I was so jaded I was thinking of making this my last free-writing session.

What do I write about here? It feels like everyday I boast or rant about the same things – having written a lot or not having written enough, having been present or having slipped away from presence altogether into a past and future all of my own making, having enjoyed time spent with D or having been too listless and despondent to even find joy in playing with him, having managed to remain calm or having lost it completely.

(By now you can tell I haven't managed to write a single word in my manuscript today, which is almost always where my world starts to feel like it's headed towards unavoidable doom.)

But ... – and I think this is why we build conspiracy theories involving the Universe – my earlier attempt at writing this post was thwarted, and in the interim, I had the opportunity to reconnect with D, to eat chocolate (that must have been the salve), to read a story to him, to have a new experience with him by way of a late-night snack, to have a chat with him in bed about all sorts of random things ... and life feels bearable once more. It feels like something I can manage alright. It feels like something I've not screwed up completely ... not yet, at least.

I can go to bed tonight, not dreading having to wake up tomorrow, not exactly expecting to jumping out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but knowing that I can will myself to get up, to play, to write, to cook, to eat, and find some joy in the doing of all that, and some joy in the doing of nothing at all.

I had been so jaded for a while that I have not managed to read books. These past few days, I've started and abandoned more than 10 books or so at the 20% mark or thereabouts on my Kindle. A range of fiction and non-fiction works. All the words had started to blur into meaninglessness.

I don't watch TV. Occasionally (by which I mean once in 3–4 months), I'd look up the latest on Netflix and more often than not find nothing of interest. This time I found Elite and watched Season 1, then abandoned Season 2 about 20 minutes into the first episode.

I no longer watch shows or movies in English. Sometimes I find it impossible to keep thinking in that language, even though that's become my primary language now after decades of using it both at home and in the workplace. I don't think in Tamil anymore, if ever I did in the first place.

And I think that over-familiarity with the language sometimes makes it difficult for me to write in it, robs the magic from it, even though I'm sure I don't even know half the words that make up the English dictionary. (Now that's something I haven't considered before. The over-familiarity.)

For as long as I lived in India, Tamil and Hindi were the languages I had become so used to hearing that reading or writing, especially fiction, in English seemed to have its own novelty. A newness, not eroded by constant use in each and every context. Each word presented its own melody. Each sentence had a lilt to it. But now, on several occasions I had preferred silence, perhaps not realising that it was not so much silence that I yearned for but for some distance from the English language.

Several years ago, when I lived in Singapore, I was learning French. I remember switching to thinking in French to gain familiarity with the language. Perhaps, I could resume learning French to rekindle my interest in both French and English!

Well, well, well! Just as I was thinking of abandoning my free-writing efforts, I come up with an epiphany that most likely revealed itself to me in the course of my writing these thoughts down, writing these words down, for myself. So let's see if I come back here tomorrow.

Better still, I hope I can make some headway at least on that manuscript. I keep thinking I should abandon this constant yearning for a daily practice. But I think, instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach, I'd like to be OK with having non-writing days and not worry that a day or two of not writing will snowball into weeks of not writing and that I'll end up never having written another book ever again!

For some reason, I've adopted the attitude that because I'm looking to make a full-time living from my writing (and also because I'm not working elsewhere or earning anything else right now), I must devote every waking hour to this and ramp it up very, very fast. The more books out there, the better the sales. It's as if I wanted to reach that milestone as of yesterday, instead of the years it's going to take. I find it difficult to even take a two-year view of the whole thing!

Kendra Adachi touches on this very fallacy of the 'Go big or Go home' approach in her book, The Lazy Genius Way, and argues that it's actually the small steps that help us in the long run.

We can't do it all, so we don't do anything. Stuck.
You probably think small steps are a waste of time, and for a while, I was right there with you. I believed small steps don't show big results quickly enough. I saw them as pointless and frustrating and thought, 'Shouldn't I be disciplined enough to do more than this one tiny thing?'
Movement, not necessarily a finish line, is the new goal.
One image that helped me view it differently comes from social reformer Jacob Riss: "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before."
We don't give enough credit to all that goes before, but that's precisely why small steps matter: they're doing invisible work, and we can trust that process.
You've probably had someone from an older generation tell you "There's no substitute for hard work" or "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well." True enough. But we assume, then, if we're not sweating because of it, we're not benefiting from it. That goes for exercise, doing laundry, and combating loneliness. If we're not working excessively hard to make something happen, we might as well give up until we can put forth the effort required.
That might be how a genius approaches goals and growth, but a Lazy Genius starts small.
Small steps are easy.
Easy steps are sustainable.
Sustainable steps keep moving.
Movement, not necessarily a finish line, is the new goal.
~ An excerpt from The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn't, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi

It's way past 10, and I'd like to get into bed with a book. I actually found one a while ago and the first few pages were very engrossing, so looks like this present reading slump might be tapering off for now.

That's it from me today.

À demain!

Image Attribution: Photo by wilsan u on Unsplash