Slow and Steady

I was going to write this post about religion, but every time I try to write about religion I realize there’s no way I can condense my thoughts on it into a blog post of less than 1000 words, so instead I’ll write about diet and exercise. And Neil Gaiman.

I read a response Gaiman wrote to an tumblr ask from a 14 year old about struggling to finish anything because he felt his stories were awful. Gaiman’s response was:

[…] Think of it this way: if you wanted to become a juggler, or a painter, you wouldn’t start jugggling, drop something and give up because you couldn’t juggle broken bottles like Penn Jillette, or start a few paintings then give up because the thing in your head was better than what your hands were getting onto the paper. You carry on. You learn. You drop things. You learn about form and shape and shade and colour and how to draw hands without the fingers looking like noodles. You finish things, learn from what you got right and what you got wrong, and then you do the next thing.

And one day you realise you got good. It takes as long as it takes. So keep writing. And all you need to do right now is try to finish things.

As an oldest child, an adult child of an alcoholic, and someone who was identified gifted/talent in elementary school, I don’t know how to practice anything. When I first started playing the piano, I took to it. Likewise with the violin. I gave up both of them in part because of committing my time to other things, but in part because I reached a point where I couldn’t get any further on natural talent. There were other things I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to take time away from those things to practice music the way I needed to in order to excel.

In a lot of ways I did the same with cosplay. I loved cosplay–and still do–but as it got more mainstream and the standard for what was considered “good” skyrocketed, I couldn’t skate by, procrastinating and taking shortcuts, and still be above average. In this instance, I got pregnant around the time I hit the “I’m going to need to invest actual time and effort into this to get any better” point, so I had a built in excuse to back out of it.

The depression doesn’t help. Depression tells you you aren’t good enough anyway, that nothing you do will ever be good enough, and that you don’t deserve good things, so it makes it a lot easier to give into that urge to cut and run once effort becomes necessary. “You’re not going to be able to do it anyway,” the voice says. Or if you try and something goes wrong, “See? You shouldn’t have even bothered in the first place. You’re useless.” And my favorite, which is when making an effort coincides with something else going wrong in some unrelated way, “This happened because you did something for yourself. You tried, and this is your punishment.” 

So how this relates to diet and exercise.

I think dieting is crap. It doesn’t work, there have been multiple studies proving it doesn’t work, and I firmly hold the belief that dieting culture is a business, and businesses are about making money. Plus there’s the whole idea that diet culture is based around convincing people–usually women–that they aren’t good enough.

So, as someone who already believes I’m not good enough, it’s something I should just stay the hell away from.

But I was talking to a friend the other night about this, and we were discussing how the real reason we hate dieting is that it’s about a goal that’s easy to corrupt. “I just want to lose 10 pounds.” “I want to fit into this dress by next month.” “I need to tone my arms before my wedding.” They’re easy to drop if progress doesn’t start soon enough, and they’re easy to talk yourself out of. We were talking about how making lifestyle changes is better–and different–than dieting, because the goal is the change itself, so as long as you’re doing something, you’re succeeding.

I’ve told Billy countless times that before he can be a writer, he needs to write. That he’s never going to be a writer, if he waits for it to be perfect, but that as long as he’s writing every day–or mostly every day–that he is a writer, and that he can always edit later.

Easy advice, coming from someone who is terrible at not being perfect out of the gate. but writing is different, somehow. Maybe it’s because, thanks to fanfiction, I have built a semi-habit before the depression really set it–because I was writing a lot until it got so bad I couldn’t write around the depression. But for me, the stories get jumbled in my head if I let them sit there for too long, and it becomes harder in the long run. Kids, work, the business of running a household, get in the way. But the habit was there, once, and it will be again.

I don’t know how to tell the depression that the goal is a lifestyle change. That the goal is doing 10 minutes of exercise every day even if it takes months to see results, even if the results are only visible in it being a little bit easier to hike uphill. I can tell other people, but I don’t know how to convince myself of this. Other than to just do it.

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