Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Promises, promises

Yesterday I read this post at Fierce and Mighty. In it, Kevin talked about being upset with himself for not being as organized as he felt he should have been and missing out on something as a consequence. True to my nature, my knee-jerk reaction was to tell him he was being too hard on himself and I said as much in the comments. But then I thought about it last night and I realized that my reaction had very little to do with him and everything to do with me.

There are times when I am clearly too hard on myself - fatalistic, even. It goes something like this - "I forgot to pay that bill on time and I have to pay a late fee. I am the biggest flake in the entire universe and I'll never be good at anything. Ever." In other words, I engage in a total waste of mental energy that leads me nowhere. Having been in an emotionally abusive marriage, it's not surprising that I would get to that place sometimes. But I'm not making excuses. I'm an adult and I know how silly and over-dramatic it is to say those kinds of things to myself.

But more often, I cut myself a hell of a lot of slack. When I flake out on something, I tell myself it's ok. Tomorrow is another day. You'll do better next time. Blah, blah, blah. It's true that I've been through some hard times over the past couple of years. And there were times when - for the sake of my mental health - it was necessary to cut myself slack. But I'm at the point now where it's time to buck up a little (or a lot). It's time for me to really and truly stop thinking (and acting) like a victim of my circumstances and get a move on.

As I've written about recently, I'm participating in The Complete Flake's 2500 word challenge. I've committed to write 2500 words a day, every day, for at least a month. Yesterday was the seventh day for me and I hadn't written anything as of 11:30 pm. And I was falling-asleep-at-the-computer exhausted. So I started telling myself it was ok to skip it. It had been a long day. The girls had friends over early in the day and we went to the movies. Then I spent the afternoon and evening at a Memorial Day party at my Dad's. By the time I got the girls into bed, it was very late. No one would have blamed me if I didn't write my 2500 words. The other challengers would have been very supportive. It would have been so easy to slack off and just not do it. That's what I've done a lot of times in my life. In a lot of different scenarios. But last night I decided it was time to do something different.

Living with integrity involves keeping the promises we make - not just to others but to ourselves. It's important that we be mindful when making promises so that we're not over-burdening ourselves or doing things that aren't in line with our values or goals. But once we make a promise, we need to keep it - even when (maybe especially when) it's difficult or inconvenient to do so. I'm not saying that there aren't times when keeping a promise is impossible or is so difficult or inconvenient that it might as well be impossible. And I'm not suggesting that we beat ourselves mercilessly if we fail to keep a promise. But what I'm saying is that we (I) should be as mindful about breaking promises as we should be about making them.

All this is to say that I wrote 2500 words last night. It was complete and utter crap - mostly things like "I am never going to be able to write 2500 words tonight because I am falling asleep" and "why the hell didn't I start this writing crap earlier so I wouldn't be doing this in the middle of the freaking night." So it wasn't great literature or even great blog post material. The point was that I made a promise to myself and I kept it. And I feel pretty good about that. (Oh, and you can bet your sweet boopie that every one of the 889 words I've written here will count towards my 2500 words for tonight.)

What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to apply this in other situations. I'd like to be eating better but sometimes when I get tired and cranky, I turn to Hint of Lime Tostitos for comfort (those things are awesome, by the way) instead of doing something healthy. Like getting enough sleep. Or taking a walk. All that means is that there are times (when I'm tired and cranky) that keeping my promise to myself (eating better) becomes hard and inconvenient. If I can write 2500 words when I'm exhausted simply because I promised that I would, then I can turn away from the chips for the same reason. Now, if I can apply this to getting my files organized, I will officially be in love with myself.

What about you? What promises have you made yourself and how are you about keeping them? Do tell.
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