[Note: this was written six months ago, while I was still pregnant.]
I think a lot about willpower and discipline, which might be because I wrestle so much with actually building them. I often act like a part-way sort of person: I build really good habits part of the way and then call them good enough, because that’s when it gets really hard to keep improving.
I don’t eat sugar often. People like me say we’re “sugar free” and it really is true; but even though I don’t eat sugar and I DO eat tons of veggies, I also eat lots of heavy food. Like cheese. I eat a LOT of cheese. (And eggs. And sugar-free, flour-free scones, slathered in butter.) So my friends are always impressed when I order a simple coffee with heavy cream or an almond milk latte with sugar-free vanilla, or something. And they admire my willpower when I don’t eat pasta. But my zucchini noodles are literally dripping with alfredo sauce. It’s a healthy habit that’s been built up part-way and then left.
I’ve done the same thing with writing. I get a few guest posts published, get paid for an essay I submitted to an outdoor writing site, and I think I’ve arrived. I stop working so hard. I write less and less frequently. And then suddenly my own blog is facing neglect and I’ve started using my toddler’s nap time for Gilmore Girls instead of a writing session (while I eat a low-carb pizza piled in pepperoni, because you can’t watch Gilmore Girls without eating.) And all the while people keep telling me what a great writer I am, so I don’t get bothered about the good habits that I haven’t kept developing.
In my more discouraged moments I think of myself as a part-way kind of person. I take on the whole persona and in an instant I can see a whole future for myself full of part-way plans that part-way succeeded. Maybe they’re enough to help me stand out just a tiny bit from the crowd, but I know that my habits and efforts will have more potential if I will sit down and put in the time. When I call myself a part-way person, it’s like claiming an identity. I don’t just picture that half-fulfilled future, I start to believe it’s all I’m capable of. I start to believe I’ll always quit just before the finish line, right when it gets the hardest. When I think of myself as a part-way person, I start to move in that direction.
That is exactly what I don’t want for us. There is never a reason to believe that we’ve failed until after it’s actually happened. And even then, failure at one step or stage or goal can just be a catalyst to the next one, if you respond to it that way. Why imagine the worst and subtly call ourselves back and downward in that direction? I don’t believe that whatever you imagine or believe hard enough will just happen to you, but I do believe that if we consistently tell ourselves we’re going to fail, that eventually we’ll stop trying not to fail. We’ll stop trying at all: there will soon be nothing left at which to fail.
This letter is a tiny success story in itself. I set a goal to write every day. It’s an indefinite goal because I have a baby coming sometime who will absolutely interrupt that streak. But let’s just say right here that I plan to write every day until my baby is born. So far, I’ve reached day eight. I don’t think I’ve ever written for eight days in a row before. This is something new. This is me leveling up that writing habit I’d already created.
I have goals to improve my eating habits – less cheese and butter, more healthy carbs. I have goals to improve how I spend my time – more reading, more cleaning, more time with my toddler; less social media. I’ve gotten stuck on these before, pictured that bleak future in which I’m only capable of part-way achievement. I don’t want to let myself walk that direction anymore. I’m sitting down with these habits and believing they can change, no matter how slowly and incrementally.
Here’s to us, babe. Here’s to the habits we’re willing to cultivate beyond the part-way stopping points. Let’s do this.