Self-care rather than self-discipline

Hello friends, and happy holiday season. I’m coming to you from a very cozy little Airbnb above a cactus shop (!) in Minneapolis, and if I weren’t taking a plane home I would be down there buying up their stock, let me tell you. We’re here because Scott’s family is all in the area, and there’s this holiday thing people gather for…

As some of you may recall, I spent the entire month of September either on the couch with the flu, or on the couch recovering from having the flu. (Get your flu shot. Seriously.) I’m still having some lingering issues as it triggered the heck out of my usually mild exercise-related asthma, but I’ve gotten back into having the energy to take care of myself in more meaningful ways than eating food and showering every couple of days, and trying to get back into a regular schedule of work and exercise and vegetables—especially in the wake of America’s national Day Of Overeating—has got me thinking.

It’s got me thinking about how we beat ourselves up, how we tell ourselves that things we do are insufficient no matter what, how we hold our art and ourselves to some ill-defined but amorphous standard which is always about two degrees closer to perfection than is realistic. How we tell ourselves we have to do things—exercise, take care of our pets and our loved ones and our house, eat well, not overindulge in intoxicants, get our work done, practice our art—and how ineffective that tactic is.

I don’t know about you, but when somebody tells me I have to do the dishes and clean the catbox, I get pretty grumpy about it and don’t want to, and become avoidant, and then I waste all day on the internet and what’s the good in that?

I get much better results by reminding myself that doing the stuff I often refer to as “touching the puppethead” (a They Might Be Giants reference that doesn’t so much date me as ask me to go steady and wear its letter jacket) is not about just doing the thing I have to do; it’s about getting the result I want to get. Yeah, sitting down and meditating for ten minutes seems fussy and annoying, but being less stressed and happier is great! Daily yoga, what a thing to have to cram into my schedule… except that being in less pain and more mobile is wonderful and makes me feel better. Guitar practice, how annoying. Being able to play music with my friends (badly!)—what a joy!

Going for a run in the cold, obnoxious. Lifting weights, ugh I have to leave the house. both very unattractive right now when they leave me wheezing half the time, also.

Staying independent and strong and alive for as long as possible, though, that sounds pretty great! And so does the feeling of being able to pick up a heavy thing without struggle, or walk all over a city I’m visiting without getting tired.

Cleaning catboxes, vacuuming, showing up at the barn for horse care… chores, chores, chores. Having a clean house to live in and a large shaggy animal friend who comes running up and nickers with joy when he sees me—delightful.

And setting down to get the damned words out to write a newsletter or a novella or an article… sigh. I guess I have to. There are bills to pay.

But wait. I want to reach out and stay in touch with you, my friends and subscribers. I want to tell this amazing story about missing persons and bioprinted unicorns I’m working on. I want to pass on my knowledge about the art and craft and business of writing to people, so they can learn from my experience and maybe make better mistakes than I did.

I want this stuff. This stuff is good. It has good results. It’s good for me.

And i don’t have to do so much of it that it makes me miserable and wears me out. I can just do as much as is good for me, and as gets the job done.

There’s joy in the work, it turns out, if you treat yourself as an adult and a partner rather than a recalcitrant adolescent who has to be browbeaten into doing their share of the chores.

Heck, it might work on adolescents too.

Well. Occasionally.

***

While I’m here, by the way, I wanted to let you know that the USA trade paperback of Ancestral Night is now available for pre-order, and will be released on December 3rd.

So if you’ve been holding out for the paperback, now’s your chance. And if you want to make sure you grab a hardcover, get it while the getting is good!

best,

Bear