I have a dear poet friend who has known me for many years. She watched me year after year, make these very stern lists of goals. Once, we were browsing through one of my old journals and I found a page that demonstrates the influence of the Drill Sargent. In huge letters, thick with threat--it said, "DRINK ONLY WATER." She thought this was hilarious as it is such a ridiculous sort of instruction.
Ever since, I can use this phrase as shorthand to what I experience when I am in the grip of internalized pressure to reach some sort of purity. It is funny now. I was in my 20's when I wrote it and now, in my 40's I can laugh it off as the folly of youth. But this hides the darker reality. The Drill Sargent is part of what has propelled me so far from where I started. He cannot be, and furthermore should not be eliminated. This all or nothing business is part of the disease.
The Drill Sargent has a seat in the boardroom of my mind. But when he gets too much power, his voice booms and becomes more insistent. His role is to challenge, to push, to use shame as fuel. His methods can be very unhelpful though...particularly to the creative process.
I'm working on two different articles. Both "should" have been done by now. The new blog "should" be perfectly designed and featuring both. I "should." Nevertheless, here I sit, besieged by guilt. Flabby and useless and undisciplined.
The question for me today is: how do I integrate what He brings without giving him too much airtime or without pretending he doesn't serve a purpose? Of course, I "should" have done many things, important things, things people expect me to do...and yet, I am stuck in process. I yearn for a new puzzle. Sometimes I wish people didn't expect so much of me. And then I hear another voice in my head (the Wise Woman around the table) and she says,
"You expect too much of yourself. They take their cue from you. You can do more than you think you can when you let go of expectancy. Each moment is a chance to begin again. But in order to tap the wealth inside, you must learn to accept all hardships as gifts. You must take small victories. Shame has no place in good thinking."I know she is right. There is a reason she has a seat closer to the head of the table than the Sargent. She isn't as blustering, but her voice has become resonant the longer I turn my ear to her words.
Today, I tell the Drill Sargent: I will drink water and coffee and juice. Thank you for attempting to corral my restlessness into a clear direction, but I think I need more flexibility than you allow. And to my Wise Woman, for now your voice is amplified. There is only now. What happened or did not happen before now is unhelpful timesuck. What should happen tomorrow is in many ways, an equally unpurposed exercise.
Write what you can. Even if you are only writing about why you aren't writing what you want to write. There is some discipline in recognizing that consistent "some" is always better than iffy "all" or damning "none."