Column: Beware the Groove of a Familiar (but Bad Habit)

(On the subject of habits and grooves, may I offer a big congratulations to Winds of Change Steering Committee Member, Cedric Jones, who just celebrated his 21st “birthday” of sobriety. What an awesome commitment to wellness and walking the red road. He shared his story in an Annual Report for the Lil’wat Nation and it’s well worth a shout-out.

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Back to the column, which runs every other week in the Question.)

After I finished binge-watching Sons of Anarchy, I realized I had invested more psychic energy in a cast of fictional outlaws that month than any living human being in my life, (apart from the two people I live with).

Vaguely alarmed at how much easier it is to be emotionally available to people (including the morally complex ones) when they’re not actually real, I powered up the interweb to stalk these characters who, as despicable as they were, I was missing.

I discovered Katey Sagal, who played the clan’s matriarch, has started a blog.

“I grew up with grumpy, moody people,” she writes. “I am drawn to those types in my grown up life. I always have lots of them around. I don’t always like it. But we fit. I understand the conversation, or lack of one. My mom popped a lot of pills when I was a kid, because of her illnesses. I am drawn to addicts and alcoholics. I’m at home when they keep me a little off-balance. I know the dance. We fit.”

It’s an insightful piece. And after I had closed that tab, and moved on into my SOA-free life, this nugget remained: fit is comfortable even if it’s not healthy. We seek the familiar. We repeat old patterns, even when we’re aware they’re not good for us, even as we’re complaining about the situation, we’re doing nothing to change it, because there’s some deep comfort in remaining with what we know.

It takes a lot of poems to workshop your way out of that, (so kudos to you, Katey Sagal), because what she’s talking about is squaring off against the invisible force, that Steven Pressfield has identified as Resistance.

Pemberton’s Shannon Didier nominated Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, as a #2015WellnessRead. Geared towards creative practitioners, Pressfield offers a game-changing way of thinking about the things that hold us back from the lives we really want to live and the work we want to do.

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it,” says Pressfield.

As Didier says, “even super-awesome change that you really want to happen, or a thing you want to be doing, triggers Resistance.”  Didier recognizes it when she should be studying, but finds herself organizing the utensil drawer.

In Pressfield’s theory, Resistance is impartial, a force of nature like gravity, that comes at you with genuine intent to sabotage. The trick to disabling its power, is to realize that it’s actually a sign-post, a neon flashing light that says,

“Hey! This is the way!

This thing that you really, really, really don’t want to do? Yep. It’s your calling.”

As Sagal writes, and I’m paraphrasing her poem,

“Sometimes I forget that these are my lessons, that this is just what I called forth, in order to do it again and learn from it. Until I can, at last, let it go.”

That peace is something that Dawn Johnson connected with this week, on her bike and feeling that maybe, signing up for NIMBY Fifty, taking on a new work contract, another volunteer commitment, an additional veggie garden, adopting a dog, “and even wondering if I was done having children” was a sign she’d finally gone off the rails.

But then she tuned in. This feverish energy is just right, is what is called forth by the frogs and the garlic tops and the bulbs and the tacky trails, by the bursting mania of spring. Just as the Cardinal Directions and the Medicine Wheel teaches — the east being all about renewal, enthusiasm, birth, inspiration, ego, sunrise and energy.

“The spring-like weather has awakened all of the desires that had been happily hibernating away for the last few months, simmering in my subconscious waiting for the soil to be ripe for planting.”

Which makes me think, given I’m no longer hopelessly addicted to a television show, that now is the time to make change. Now is the time to write a new story. Now is the time to take too much on. After all, it’s in the air.

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