Negativity is a Practice. “Same shit, different day” – a bumper sticker, t-shirt, mantra. It takes work to maintain shortness of breath, limitations in vision, distrust, anger, avoidance, forgetting ourselves. It is a commitment usually aligned with our understanding of the vocabulary of our family of origin. It is a Practice that leeches sweet wonder.
By Practice, I mean that the sense of the world, of ourselves in the world, is supported by deliberate action, even if it is in the form of nonaction. The Practice begins immediately each day. Perhaps I wake up late, already several steps behind where I long to be. Resignation a steadfast companion. Or I get up too early, having slept badly, the residue of what is unfinished swirling too fast and furious to let me rest. Perhaps I turn on the television or go to Facebook (instantly bombarded by others’ views, voices, Practices). Perhaps I eat what I know is not nutritious (we always know). Perhaps I drink a cup of coffee before I even acknowledge my thirst. Perhaps I reach for a cigarette, drink, drug, hateful thought toward self or other. Perhaps I look at my partner or children without allowing gratitude and love to fill me first. A sure path to disappointment. Immediate, urgent, just as I expected. Perhaps I let myself slip away at the dawn of today’s awakening. Again.
Along with this Practice – whatever the details – come the perks of being accomplished at something. We get so good at it that we hardly notice our expertise. Just as in learning to swim, we are suddenly, one day, held steadily by the stagnant waters we tread. We don’t have to give attention to the specific strokes or how we hold our head. We may not know exactly when it happened, but we have gotten very good at depletion; deprivation; same shit, different day.
Of course, we cannot remember choosing this way; and we usually insist to ourselves that we are not devoted to it and so look for external oppressions to explain ourselves to ourselves. And, they are always there. The world has whatever we want. But we only half believe the explanations anyway. Convincing myself, yes, a Practice.
Now what? A new Practice. It begins with a small step. Anything. A walk in the morning. Meditation, if it fits. Reading a poem. Arranging the flowers. Writing to the young you, letting her or him know what you will do with this time. Or perhaps before going to sleep, making a list for the next day, and putting it in a box in the kitchen, somewhere out of the sphere of rest. Releasing it for the moment. Rising a half hour earlier (or later) to settle into yourself, to account for yourself before others move toward you, whether in your home or on the street. Walking, rather than drifting, into the present. Deciding on food, on drink, on ritual. A fresh starting out. The beginning of a Practice that accounts for self. Each shift, any shift, invites the day to unfold slightly differently. And more good steps naturally gather around the first one.
In the moments before what is to come, we can prepare well, whether for challenge or joy, by gaining access to that well-spring of strength, clarity, wisdom that exists alongside the stagnant pond. It is an everyday Practice that requires ignition. And then it needs time and consistency. Making a Practice of well-being can remind us that we are worth standing by, fighting for, loving generously. What will be the next change to my dedicated Practice of negativity? It is a creative exploration that leads me into a more open and flowing reciprocity of relationship – with myself, with others, with all that is difficult and all that is beautiful.