Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Rules of Getting Healthier
I find that many things that I do in writing cross over into what I am trying to do in the quest to become healthier. In the book, "Wild Mind" by Natalie Goldberg she has seven rules of writing practice. I am not going to pretend that I thought of this all by myself because I didn't. My partner came up with this when he was trying to get out of bed and into a better life. (I thought he got into a better life but meeting me. Oh well.)
1. Keep your hand moving. When you sit down to write, don't stop even if the house next door blows up. This is a good idea when you are on your plan. Don't get off your plan if your Uncle Joe is getting married or if he dies. I used to say that if it was a holiday, I deserve a day off. Then it became Sunday. Then it became Monday because everyone knew how awful Mondays were.
2. Lose control. Write down what you want to say, what you want to write. Don't worry if it is correct, polite, appropriate, or angry. Just let it out. I get so angry at people who look down on me. I want to tell them to fuck off. So one time while I was standing in line at Starbucks in Sacramento some young woman was criticizing me for taking up too much room in the line. I turned around and asked if she meant me. She said: "Who else, Sister." I told her: "You are really stupid." They did not expect it from me. It felt good. I was a good three inches taller than she was and looked down at her. I also realized that being angry did not mean giving angry retorts to people but not letting them get to me, but sometimes it does mean losing control in an appropriate way.
Goldberg gives an example of Allen Ginsberg was was getting a master's degree from Columbia University. Everyone was doing rhymed verse then. One night he went home frustrated and told himself that he was going to write poetry the way he wanted to. The result was "Howl". It was the cornerstone of the Beat Literary Movement.
3. Be specific. Be specific about what you are writing. If you are writing about a bird, then say what bird it is. It is a crow not a bird. It is not a codependent, neurotic man, but Harry who runs to open the refrigerator for his wife thinking she wants an apple. Don't chastise yourself as you are writing, "I'm an idiot". Just drop down to another level and write the kind of dog you are writing about.
My partner said this was the most important rule he had. First, he was specific in what he wanted to do. He wanted to get out of bed and do something with his life and engage with people again. He wanted to wear clothes instead of pajamas and a robe. He wanted to talk to people without biting their heads off. He wanted to get into some kind of therapy so he could heal after the death of a loved one and find out why it affected him so badly. He wrote it all down in a journal being as specific as he could. Then he learned not to beat himself up because he could not get out of bed for so long but to see it as part of the healing process.
4. Don't think. Just write the first thing that comes into your head. Just practice and forget everything else. In the quest for getting healthier, it is so easy to start to question whether it is worth the effort to eat better or look forward to doing more next summer. I start to think I might not have the money since the price of everything is going up. I think about what I am going to do next month or next week. That is when mindfulness comes in. All I have to do is think about today. Everything else will take care of itself.
5. Don't worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar. Every Friday, I am weighing myself. I put down the weight and if I can get someone to measure my blood pressure that would be great. As soon as I get my blood sugar meter I will put that down too. What I am not going to do is worry about it. I don't measure calories, carbs, points and so on. It seems pointless to me to do that at this time.
6. You are free to write the worst junk in America. Too many people don't write because they are afraid to write horrible stuff. Well, I am going to write even if it is the worst stuff in the universe. I am going to get healthier even if I am make the worst progress in the universe. I am going to do the best I can and that is all I can do. Fuck it if my doctor or some nurse sticks her nose in the air. I have discovered that they usually are dealing with experiences that have nothing whatsoever to do with me. I am going to do the best I can and be the best I can for me.
7. Go for the jugular. If something in your writing comes up, go for it. That's where the energy is. Otherwise, you'll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. This is my most important rule. In becoming a healthier individual, I have to take apart all of the stuff that made me unhealthy in the first place. This is a very scary process and already it has given me nightmares, but once I set myself on this pathway I don't have to visit the same demons twice. No matter what comes up in meditation and in working the program in getting healthier stay with it no matter how many nightmares I get.
These rules don't change in writing and they don't change in getting a healthier living style. I find they blend right into each other. I don't think you have to be a writer for them to work. It is all Zen Buddhism and you don't have to be a Buddhist for them to work either. Stay with them under all circumstances and it will make you stable and that is what you need anyhow as you view your world in a better way. I can truthful say that stability was not my hallmark virtue when I lost my way and became less healthier; but it is all part of the process.