choosing flexibility over consistency
on bad body days
Every couple of years, I go through a “self-help” phase. I borrow books from the library. I redesign my entire life. I consider therapy, only to remember that, actually, the last thing I need is to sit and stare at my wounds forever.
These phases tend to fizzle out pretty quickly. I’m all for self-betterment as a tool, but there’s only so much meditation and self-reflection a person can do before their hearts get weary. But things seem to be sticking this time around, more than I could’ve expected.
I came home from California with the irrepressible urge to commit arson. And by that I mean I wanted to start from scratch. I wanted to burn my old life to the ground and, in witnessing its destruction, make room for something new. I wanted to begin again. So I did, haltingly at first, then with vigor.
Sometime in July, I took the plunge and bought Marie Poulin’s “Notion Mastery” course. It came with a pretty hefty price tag, but I knew it would be worth every penny. And it was. Poulin is well-known in the Notion-sphere, and while her course certainly focuses on Notion, it’s more about life design and the intersection of wellness and productivity.
As part of the course, Poulin recommends several books, several of which I’ve been reading this summer.1 Some were phenomenal; some were just okay. Some I probably didn’t need to read, but by the time I realized that, I was halfway through the book, and determined to add it to my “read in 2022” pile.
Just yesterday I started WORK CLEAN by Dan Charnas, which investigates the culinary practice of mise-en-place. Again, not something I necessarily need to read — I’ve applied most of Charnas’ theories by way of Poulin’s course. But it’s interesting all the same.
Yesterday was a bad body day. I spent the weekend in Wisconsin, entertaining relatives and wishing fervently that I was home. I’m always tired after a trip, so it’s no surprise that I woke up sullen and unmotivated. But it was more than exhaustion. It was fatigue.
I wish these days were few and far between. But the truth is they’re becoming more and more frequent. I never know when they’re going to happen, only that they will, instigated by everything from hormones to an increase in activity. Some days I feel fine — easily distracted, but otherwise capable. Then there are days like yesterday, where it’s all I can do to survive.
To design your life is to design your day. I want to have perfectly balanced, color-coded time blocks. I want to move through my day with ease, content in the knowledge that I am giving my all. But like many things, that just isn’t possible with chronic illness. I make all these plans, only to realize that, nope, nothing is getting done today, may as well pack it in.
As I reflect on designing my day and, in turn, my life, I find myself choosing flexibility over consistency. The writer in me craves regularity. I want to be able to predict how long it will take me to draft a 100,000-word manuscript. I want to show up, because it is in the showing up that one develops mastery.
But I am preoccupied with the hard and holy work of staying alive. I never know how things will turn out, which is nightmarish for my type A brain. As much as I want to develop a consistent work schedule, my body won’t let me. I wish things were different, but they’re not, and so, as they say, it goes.
The older I get, the more I am interested in liberation. I am tired of berating myself for not thriving under late-stage capitalism. Maybe it would be good for my craft if I wrote every single day! But I can’t, and therein lies the opportunity for experimentation.
I can’t work a 9-to-5. But maybe I can work smarter. Maybe I can work in a way that doesn’t alienate my bodymind.
I don’t know what this will look like. I’m figuring it out as I go, and therein lies the magic.
Tomorrow I’ll follow Brian Moran’s time blocking guidelines. 25-year-old me would’ve scheduled her high-yield tasks early in the day, because that’s just how things are done, but 27-year-old me is kinder to herself. She’s learned about chronotypes and sparkle hours. She’s embraced the meandering slowness of her days.
Today I wrote this newsletter. Tomorrow I’ll create a daily schedule — or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll wake up and know with unflinching certainty that my body is struggling.
Maybe, for the first time in my life, I will let myself be.
So far, I’ve read:
THE 12 WEEK YEAR by Brian Moran: Insightful but longwinded. An unnecessary read, given that I implemented much of the concepts as part of “Notion Mastery.”
BODY OF WORK by Pamela Slim: I wanted to like this, but didn’t get much out of it, maybe because I grew up online and learned at an early age how to sell my story.
Next up is BUILDING A SECOND BRAIN by Tiago Forte, because I really want to get better at taking notes.
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