The Recommitment Process: When Good Habits Get Dropped
Have you ever felt compelled to start a discipline which you know is good-producing all sorts of benefits toward becoming more thoughtful/healthy/equipped/knowledgeable person?
You start said discipline, eager, working out the logistics, you feel great about it...to wake up one day and realize you stopped, and can't recall exactly what happened to that awesome thing you were once so excited about?
This is me and my habit is/was this blog.
I opened this page in order to start a writing discipline which I knew would be deeply nourishing for my heart. In 2017 we had recently limped through the excruciating chapter of losing our business of 10-years (see New Mercies) and like a house remodel, I was in the "gutted" phase, which felt like standing in a torn-up, cleared-out room, wondering what went where, and to do next.
Husband got right to work re-building our Health Coaching Business onto an online model, taking everything he had learned in his decade as a trainer, coach and business man, pumping out content libraries, topic based programs and devouring everything he could find on the topic of online marketing and analytics. He was ignited with purpose, pushing past our wreckage in rapid pace. At the time, his approach left me feeling slightly dazed, but this quality in him is something I have come to recognize is a tremendous strength he possesses.
Looking back at that time, I can see now just how lost I had felt. It is hard to run after something when you don't know what it is you are running toward. I needed to quiet outside voices, the "you shoulds", and reacquaint myself with the Lord's "you ares".
So, I simplified. I focused on meeting the most immediate needs around me; my kids, our homeschool, answering the daily question of what to make, out of what remained in the produce drawer, for dinner. I needed family rhythms to anchor our new normal. I prayed. I needed to think deeply about my next steps, and nothing forces this quite like the process of writing.
I started Reclamation Projects, on my personal quest to reclaim my purpose...what ever that was.
I came up with notebook pages full of lists of topics I could explore-from recipe and nutrition tutorials, homeschooling and parenting lessons, healthy-lifestyle regimens, spirituality...what ever I was learning and implementing with any measure of success was on the list. I felt eagerness at the opportunity to work through these topics freely on this space, and even more, excitement that in doing so I might reawaken my sense of purpose.
And yet, here is the thing, forming new habits is HARD work...
and a writing habit is no exception.
1. Writing is a discipline.
Professional writers will insist that you never wait to be inspired to write, instead you sit your butt in a chair and you simply write. If the inspiration comes, great, you both came to the party, voila! If inspiration doesn't show, you are still winning because at least you honored your commitment. The point: You have to show up to the craft consistently.
2. Writing is revealing.
Asking yourself deep questions and trying to come up with the answers that feel the most honest and authentic, but also projects your best-self and fulfills the desire to help others who may also be asking similar questions, feels vulnerable and ushers in all sorts of self-criticism.
3. Writing requires "Deep-Work". (A term from the Cal Newport book titled Deep Work)
"Deep-Work" so I discovered, is something very difficult to achieve in a house full of homeschooling-children. If I didn't carve out time early in the morning or late at night when the house was quiet, it felt impossible to focus long enough to complete a thought, much less allow the completed thoughts to flow into other complete thoughts in any comprehensive way. Husband was hustling to create content so we could pay our bills and buy groceries, and so I could hardly justify taking the afternoon away from the kiddos at a coffeeshop to "blog".
4. Saying "yes" to one thing, means saying "no" to something else.
The tendency to ignore this simple truth keeps people in a constant cycle of feeling like a failure, especially for people who overstate their capacity or believe in the myth of multitasking. And here is where I found myself, battling with the temptation of a 5am alarm in order to do this writing thing, knowing full-well that without the strict adherence to an earlier evening shut-down routine, I was destined to failure, which I proved over and over again.
I knew that without clear boundaries and fierce protection around my writing time, whatever was going on at the moment would easily take precedence, and I grew to be okay with that because my family and husband genuinely needed me.
I am slowly learning as I get older that for most things we want in our life, timing is incredibly important, and when something feels like a no, it is often simply a "not yet."
This felt right. My blog could wait.
5. Writing Requires a Vulnerability Filter
Brene Brown, self proclaimed vulnerability expert was asked about the topic of over-sharing on social spaces. Her response gave me a much needed filter to help me navigate the push and pull of my both my desire and reluctance to write. When it comes to offering our vulnerability, she wisely advised, was to never share anything in which others opinions could hinder the current healing process. In other words, boundary-less emotional exposure of places undergoing healing is not 'for public consumption.'
I can look back at the past several years and appreciate that, against my desire to project outward, I naturally went inward. I understood the downfalls of my Enneagram 3ness, that in order to become a healthier person, others approval and validation needed to become less important. I began to recognize that much of what was stirring inside of me wasn't best to be worked out on display anyway...
It almost felt like a personal winter was upon me, a needed season of dormancy where I spent more time reading than writing, more time deepening my close friendships than cultivating an online community of "friends", more time on walks and in my journal, where my heart could wander freely into spaces where there exists no matrix for success.
I am so thankful that spring always follows winter...
On my 40th birthday in the fall of 2020, pregnant with a 'surpise' baby, determined to not spend another winter freezing in a drafty farmhouse, we drove away from Virginia moved to the state of Florida. So many of the disruptions of covid that year got us longing for a new adventure, and so after string of small wins, coupled with years of evidence that God really does provide for his kids, were infused with courage and we drove south with less than half of our belongings, brimming with hope.
My husband was desperate for the ocean. I longed for a tan. It turned out to be the best thing we have ever done for our family. The past 2 years in Florida have nourished my heart in every way. The birth of our 5th child ushered in tremendous blessing, and in July he gets a buddy with baby #6 on the way. The kids are thriving, our community here is unlike anything I have ever encountered, and I carry with me so many lessons from our season of hardship which have taught me to never take any of this for granted.
I am ready to dust off this little corner of space I created so long ago and give it another go...
And so it is with everything that feels meaningful and important: starting a workout routine, starting a business, learning a new skill, starting a blog, etc...creating a deeply transformative habit requires consistency, bravery and a sacred space to do the work.
To wrap up, here are some tips I thought I would offer as a reminder (to myself) and to anyone who is rolling up their sleeves and attempting something new (again):
Don't take yourself so seriously. Write for the sake of writing. Delight in the discipline. Pray for those who notice your terrible grammar and bless them for them not mentioning it.
If you find yourself slipping off the routine you promised, don't beat yourself up. Become a problem solver. Figure out why, in an honest and logical way, and re-arrange to accommodate priorities. There are no deadlines. Priorities can shift for a season. Don't quit.
You don't need to publish everything you write. If something feels stale, don't stress about it. The point was to wrestle with ideas, thoughts and words. If the result is lying limp on the mat, leave it in the drafts folder and start again tomorrow.
Write for an audience of one. Sometimes this audience can be you, but most of the time, picture just ONE person who would benefit from the words, guidance, or story you are offering. This is incredibly freeing when your audience is one person you care about helping.
Be consistent. Find a time that works, and honor it. Life is full, it will never be not full, so use the precious time staring at a blinking cursor to savor its fullness, extract its lesson then close the keyboard and get back into your wild and precious life, committed to paying better attention to whatever the next moments holds.
So my dear reader, who ever you are, thank you for reading this far.
To end I'l quote one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott
"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere."