Fragmented thoughts of a fragmented mind

12 Jan 2013

keeping a rhythm

I have been writing a post a week and somehow I would like to upkeep the rhythm. And for me, that’s another secret of life. Establishing and maintaining different rhythms and momentums in your daily life.

I used to write whenever I felt compelled to but as a creative professional that is the eternal struggle. When inspiration hits it is like magic. But what about the rest of the time? There is a reason why so many writers and artists ended up insane or suicidal. It is truly depressing to encounter a block. You start to entertain thoughts like, what if it never hits again?

A lot of us tend to find it a lot easier to go into creative sprints when we were young. As we age, these moments tend to be few and far in between. I personally don’t think it is a matter of linear or physical age. As we grow older, we just become a lot more cynical, we don’t allow ourselves to have a childlike mind anymore. We pack our minds up too much. We don’t have space anymore.

One truly life changing habit for me is – drum roll – learning how to make my bed and doing it consistently every morning. That seems so trivial right? Well, I lived 30 years of my life without caring where I slept, much less how my bed looked like. I never thought or believed it mattered.

It all changed when I rented an apartment for a couple of months while I was in Vancouver, the landlord handed over an immaculate apartment to me. I remember feeling like I was stepping into wonderland, especially so because I just moved over from a shared apartment that wasn’t comfortable. So, it was the first time I was truly living by myself and in a really beautiful apartment. I wanted to keep that feeling, that feeling of, “wow”, when I step into the apartment each time I returned to it.

And so I did. The next morning I woke up, the sheets were in a huge mess, it was cold in Vancouver so there were at least four layers of bedding. It was tempting to leave it in a ball, my old theory was, I’m going to sleep in a ball anyway, what’s the difference? But a switch flipped in me that day – I remembered that I wanted to keep that “wow” feeling. Therefore I spent the next thirty minutes making my bed.

Surprisingly, I felt really, really good after that battle with bedsheets.

I felt even better returning to that apartment after a long, tiring day out, seeing a well-made bed. When it was time to sleep, each time getting into that bed never felt less comforting.

That triggered a whole series of new habits/rules/momentum for me. I never leave dishes in the sink for more than a day anymore, I make sure everything in my living environment is organized to a certain extent. Each time I return home, I have a huge smile.

I still have that big smile on my face, everyday now, when I return to my apartment in SF and see a well-made bed.

Why do I call it life changing?

We are so caught up in the busyness of life that we start to be trapped into thinking that there’s no time for anything. Making the bed? Too trivial compared to my world-changing work. I should save that five minutes (yes I’ve gotten better at it) and go straight to work.

What we don’t realize is, when we pack our brains and day up with all that busy-ness, there is no space for us to breathe. Or to remember what is truly important. Making my bed for me is a ritual that reminds me that I should honor my own time, well-being and inner peace no matter how busy or chaotic my life gets.

I kid you not, honoring oneself is hard. I don’t know what’s with us these days, we like beating ourselves up so much. Achieving that inner-equilibrium is a challenge. We numb ourselves with more work. I can have the best ideas in the world but what I’ve discovered is – that inner equilibrium translates into the quality of my thoughts, ideas and work.

And how do I maintain that equilibrium? Apart from little rituals to honor myself, I keep a rhythm in my life. Some people call them habits.

Like I’ve mentioned earlier, I used to wait till I am inspired to write. Now, I’ll try to write a post a week and see what unfolds as I start. And it seems like a story gradually unfolds anyway.

I used to be so afraid that bad writing/work will come out of my own hands so much that I would just end up in self-induced paralysis. But the reality is, apart from rare moments of brilliance maybe some of us are lucky to have a few times in our lifetimes, most quality work is iterative. That’s another life-changing concept I had to learn. Yes, it could start off as crap but give it some time to flourish. Ideas have a life on their own, if only you have the courage to get them out of your hands in the first place.

The other part of the equation is learning to trust myself. That instead of worrying that crappy work would start flowing out of my hands, I’ll just start something and trust that it will turn out well enough, eventually.

So why am I being so public about learning how to make my bed only at age 30? I guess I just wanted to share that, it is really never too late to start learning something new. If you ever start to think that oh well, since I’ve already at X number of years so it is too late by now. Says who? Are you going to waste more years or are you going to make this one count?

They say a leopard never changes its spots – I have found out it does, only with the right intrinsic motivation.

And I want to write a post a week no matter how crappy I think my writing is, because I think it is far more important for the old me to look back and know that each week is lived more purposefully and meaningfully than I have thought. I am writing my own story, week by week.

I actually want to know myself as a human being – how I have lived, 50 years from now. What sort of person was I in the year 2013? What went through my thoughts? Did 5 decades just blink past? Writing something each week automatically gives each week a story, no matter how boring it was. By the time I am 80, if I have lived till that age, I would have accumulate a ton worth of stories. Crappy or not, they are mine to tell.

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