This morning in the space between snooze alarms, I noticed myself feeling doubtful. More accurately, I noticed the doubt a bit later on, after I had brewed coffee and meditated and then wrote from a prompt to warm myself up after realizing I didn’t know what to write about today. My train-of-thought this morning struck me as especially self-involved and a bit whiny, to tell you the truth, more journal entry than prose or poetry. I thought about that space in between snooze alarms as I was writing, that time of lying in bed awake but not really in the world yet. My mornings all look the same, purposefully so that I don’t have the obstacle of needing to make any decisions at 5am, yet that snooze happens at least once or twice nearly every morning. Sometimes it feels like a meditation, feeling J breathing next to me, and I can lie in gratitude. Sometimes it feels like a planning session, mulling the last details of something over in my head. Today it felt like a debate, the part of me that wants creative space in the morning and to do for myself what I know keeps my brain balanced had to confront the part of me that is not innately a morning person and that wishes I didn’t “have to” be so rigid and that can slip into a sort of frozen state of guilt-ridden inaction. I had doubts as to my ability to keep finding the time for writing and running, doubts as to my ability to have difficult conversations (specific ones, not in general, so they spooled around in my head), doubts as to my novel being any good, doubts as to if I’d be motivated enough to run in the rain.
These doubts aren’t exactly me berating myself or putting myself down. I’m not telling myself, “You’re such a failure, you can’t even…” The doubts are more like a slight buzz reminding me that no matter how I can structure my life to lessen the decisions I have to make or the chance to make excuses, there will always be a choice in the background. And that choice is sometimes confounded by depression or anxiety, by rainy mornings or the anticipation of a long day, by guilt and by, well, doubt, which makes the choice very, very hard.
What I am trying to remember is that just because something is a choice, and just because sometimes that choice seems hard (everything is hard for me at 5am), doesn’t mean that I could have done something differently in order to prevent that choice. Life is never linear nor is it an easy path.
These doubts are usually silenced with trust. I can also decide to trust myself, that in moments of more clarity and insight I have set priorities and structure so that 5am-me can be on a bit of auto-pilot. That structure makes it possible (if not easy) to get out of bed, anyway, to give myself space for a spark of “no, this is what I really want to do” to shine. I can trust that I know what’s important even if it feels hard. I can trust that these doubts are not a sign of weakness and that 5am is not the time to make life decisions.
We all sit, every day, with contradictions. It is part of being human, as is our desire to define things, to categorize and name, to make things tidy. This is the original contradiction: we are internally contradictory and also internally wired for categorization.
These doubts feel contradictory to my goals and to my discipline. They feel contradictory to my desires and the kind of person I want to be. Just because the doubts are there doesn’t mean those other things aren’t there, also. I can create the space for contradiction, to know some mornings those doubts will feel strong and that some mornings I may even stay in bed and cuddle with J and decide not to run and let my mind turn over a particular problem. AND, that on those same mornings I can want to get up early and write and run and be in the present instead of plotting out conversations and…
In my writing and speaking, I’ve been trying to use “and” rather than “but”, which automatically creates the possibility of contradiction. It sounds simple, but just notice the difference between, “I’d love to see you, but I have a conflict and can’t go” and, “I’d love to see you, and I have a conflict and can’t go.” To me, the first sounds like you have to choose between loving to see this person and this other thing you have to do. Like, you going to this other thing makes you not love to see the person. Of course both are true, you would love to see this person AND you can’t see them because you’re doing something else. Both can be true.
So I can have doubts AND be on the right track. I can have doubts AND trust myself. I can want two contradictory things and know that choosing between them will sometimes be hard and that doesn’t mean I could have avoided having a choice in the first place.
(See, I could have written “but that doesn’t mean…” and it would have totally changed that sentence.)
If doubts turn into indignation, into me wishing things were different so that I didn’t have to make a choice, then I’d really struggle. That’s what I need to catch. I’ll never be able to totally prevent the doubts from arising. I can try to prevent them from turning into “if onlys” and making myself a privileged martyr—if only I didn’t have to wake up at 5am, if only it weren’t raining, if only I could work at home today, if only I didn’t have to talk to that person.
So today, I tried to find the trust that I would find something to write about. The trust that on some days, I’ll be more grateful that I have written or have run than I am doing the writing or the running. The trust that I’ll feel okay once I get out of bed and have some coffee. The trust that I have the internal barometer to know the difference between something being hard and something being wrong.