Friday, January 14, 2011


I have to keep a close eye on my obsessive tendencies. My dad struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder for most of his life, and I saw firsthand what unhealthy obsessions can do to your sanity and relationships. Being aware of my all-or-nothing activity swings is the best way to look for early warning signs that something is off balance.

Over the Christmas break, I slowed down in an entirely new way, appreciating leisure at a level I wasn't able to before. By the early part of January, I was rested and ready to go, setting new writing goals for each day and feeling great when I hit them. That went well for a few days, and suddenly I was writing until 10 pm again and not remembering to take a more relaxed approach.

Last night I ended up with a headache, pulsating behind my eyes while I got dinner on the table, and I realized with a start that I had fallen back into my old ways in a very short period of time. It's disappointing to consider how much we can learn to improve ourselves, but when it's time to put it into practice, we can easily slide back to how we used to be, without even realizing it.

If we pay attention to what our physical bodies and emotions are trying to tell us, we can make necessary adjustments. When she breathes in the wrong place or hits a note incorrectly, Ava's voice teacher says, "It takes three times of doing it right to form a new habit." They repeat the correct technique three times in a row, until it feels right to Ava. Perhaps I need to give myself more grace to take the time required to form new habits.

I don't want to do nothing or everything in this period of my life. I want to make choices which allow me to progress in what I'm writing, while spending quality time with my husband, kids and friends, and still provide space for leisure so I'm not grouchy and exhausted by four pm. I thought I was getting better at this balance, and then I hit some interference, but better to hit a speed bump than a brick wall.

Patience is required for personal change. I fully recognize that patience is not my strong suit. I want it right now, dammit. But life doesn't work like that, and changing aspects of who I am which have kept me functioning for 38 years don't change overnight. The word process means a series of actions, changes or functions bringing about a result. A series means one thing after another, building new habits to replace outdated ones, and the words used to define it imply that it takes time.

I think I will always struggle with my obsessions. These things are passed down in the genes the same as eye colour or body shape. If I am aware of this innate overdrive I can manage it a little better, and I'm grateful when my body tells me in the form of a headache or exhaustion that it's time to slow down and relax. Balance is the key, and although there are no easy answers to achieve it, working toward it day by day is a long process with many setbacks, but I want to keep walking this road.

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