In 2018, Dedication over Discipline

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

If you live in the Seattle area, I’ll be performing a pastiche piece of works that I’ve written this year at Amplifier Art Lab on Thursday, January 4th at 6pm, alongside my friend and fabulous artist Jess X Snow. Tell us you’re going on Facebook and I hope to see you there!

[Image description: cross-hatched pen drawing on December planner pages of a person with red earrings, wearing a blue headscarf, with eyes closed]

This year, I’m dedicated to:
-        Returning to good body practices and rituals (such as exercise and meal planning)
-        Re-forming a relationship to my interests outside of work (Bangla, tabla, derby, yoga, crafts, etc.)
-        Reconnecting to long distance friends
-        Continuing to pursue all my creative projects, including editing a novel, writing a show, making a new zine, blogging, and drafting new short stories
-        Keep delving deep into vulnerability

The end of 2017 came up fast for me, much faster than I expected. I have a pretty regular seasonal practice of going through my things and clearing out what no longer serves me. It’s always a tug of war between my inner archivist and the part of myself seduced by minimalism. The first one has saved every paper journal since I was 4 years old, and has no plans on changing that. The second – with that first taste of fresh blood – wants to get rid of entire rows of unread books and whole segments of my closet.

As I was assessing things to give away, I also looked back in my notebooks from the course of the year. I was mentally building my list of intentions and guiding lights, which are my preferred terms for “resolutions.” If you look back in my planner for 2017, you’ll see that I made goals and guiding lights every month, right below my accomplishments and celebrations. This year, I saw note after note mentioning “a return to [xyz].” A return to exercise practices. A return to taking vitamins daily. Return to cooking at home and waking up earlier in the morning. Return to playing tabla and having dedicated empty time. All of these things that I had at one point been doing and stopped, for a short time or a long one, and that I hoped to make happen again.

With the coming of the New Year, I sometimes get excited to start doing New Things. Let me just excise all the bad habits and mistakes of the last year and start anew. And particularly in what was a shitty year politically, it is easy for me to be seduced by the idea that if I just get this one little thing right I’ll feel better again and more motivated to take on the world. But most of what I found is that I have already learned what is nourishing to me and there’s nothing really “new” about it. So, if I already knew what I needed, why did 2017 feel so draining?

Because I treated everything on my to-do list with equal weight and worry. Because I had cascading to-do lists that filled up every minute of my time. Because I let perfection be the enemy of good. And when I couldn’t live up to this impossible standard, I felt bad about the things I was leaving aside.
There was another section I found in my planner that I liked a great deal, a note to self that said: “You want to recommit to your practices, but I feel like you’re using routine as a stick to beat yourself with. What are the things that [actually] feed your passion?” Yeah, what am I doing? Is it the carrot or the stick? When does “a discipline” transfer over into discipline?

I completed a lot of material goals in 2017, but that productivity hastened me into burnout and new physical pain. In 2018, my goals have shifted only slightly, but I want to work instead on my mentality towards them. I want to find ways to dedicate myself rather than discipline. To “refill the cup” as they say, and to practice more self-care than I talk about it.

The theme of my year ahead is: get out of your own way. If there’s anything for the minimalist in me to pare down, it should be that old attitude.

Let me know what you are dedicating yourself to this year. And kindly subscribe to my email newsletter below! It will feature updates on my work and life, as well as little goodies every once in a while.

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