Monday, January 10, 2011

The Audacity of "No"

Despite a constant treadmill of thoughts, analysis, and decision-making that actually occurs in my life, I realize that I haven’t been delving into anything of any real substance here. So I’m going to try to put some of it down into words.

That was the whole point of this project in the first place. It was somewhere to chronicle my experience so I could go back to it, somewhere I could put my thoughts – clear or jumbled. This isn’t for you, reader; it’s for me. In the rush of doing, I’ve neglected to document, and I’m going to try and remedy that.

So… where’s my head is these days? I’ve adjusted to my new job, adjusted to my new habitat, adjusted to my not-so-new solitary state. I seem to be focused on attaining larger goals through denial - which is odd for me. I’m not a “no” kind of girl. I spent the whole of my twenties saying yes: to food, to purchases, to ill-advised romantic entanglements. It was a decade characterized by experience for the sake of experience. No real goal – just living in the moment and placing the consequences of actions in that box over there labeled “Later." I placed blame for uncomfortable or unattained things on vague externalities and ran off in random directions to see if that thing over there was better than what I currently had.

But that started to change, in small degrees, when I went back to school for my Masters. I was 28 at the time. It was a true challenge, since I used to hate writing. I hated process and methodical anything. I was rash, impatient, impetuous, impertinent, and stubborn. I wanted to jump from idea to conclusion without bothering with the middle bit. But I was determined to succeed, so I learned to make lists, think through things and start tackling projects with smaller steps. I learned that I had the strength to ignore distraction and meet procrastination halfway.

A bit of fallout from the degree and time that came before was debt.

When one is rash, impatient, impetuous, impertinent, and stubborn, one tends to gather debt. There is no such thing as “saving up” nor is there the inclination to deny oneself anything. So I just kept adding to the debt with the belief that one day I would be able to painlessly manage it.

But that was only one of a litany of unrealistic expectations. I assumed that by 31 years of age I would have traveled the world. I would have a small wardrobe of clothes tailored to a body that was much different from the one I was actually lugging around. I would have the mutual and unwavering love and adoration of a brilliant man. There was no plan for how I would achieve any of these goals – they were just goals.

I think I may have actually believed that one day I would wake up and magically things would have fallen into place overnight. My bank account would always be overflowing (without having to attend to it), my body would reflect years of tireless training (without sacrificing the time), my soulmate would be at the ready (without having to search for him or compromise anything.) Instead, I was carrying around a decade worth of plane tickets, suits for interviews, the GRE, entertainment, gas bills and groceries – my past was keeping the present from happening.

In fall 2007, I saw the debt was becoming a problem that could no longer be ignored. I firmly said, “STOP.” And thus began the time of fiscal austerity in earnest. I stayed put to save money, I cancelled all my credit cards, I created a budget and learned to tell myself no.

That final bit, the learning to tell myself no, was hard.

Is hard.

So very, very hard.

But “No” seems to be working for me. I am nearing the end of my debt. By late spring, my car and consumer debt will be 100% retired.

Since I seem to be doing so well with these self-imposed austerity measures, I went ahead and decided to return to vegetarianism - something I left behind long ago when I lost the willpower to deny myself Dad's barbecue. Then I decided to tackle the weight thing, with a fairly high degree of success.

Now, before you get to thinking I’m all smug with my almost-retired debt and loose pants, know this. There is a price to be paid – there’s always a price to be paid – and that price is the word “No.”

I hate that word.

I want that word to die and to go to hell.

Despite how well that word is working out for me, I hate it. Hate it hate it hate it.

Daily – Daily! - I say “No” to myself exponentially more times than I say yes. And I have ADHD, so imagine how many disjointed ideas, thoughts and concepts are freely bouncing around while my pre-frontal cortex is left cowering in the corner.

But ugh!, “No” – that word pulls the plug on indulgence and makes the hubristic assumption that there will be another day to travel, another cupcake to eat, another man to love. Saying "No" in the present in order to have delayed gratification means you truly believe that the day will come when you will reap your reward. And for some reason, I have to work really hard at that.

I see Now and I see vague, blurry Tomorrow – but this whole attainable future thing to almost too much for my head and heart to handle. I come from fatalistic stock - a people who assume the worst and can pick out the one grey, gloomy cloud in perfectly blue sky. I have an authentic optimistic streak, but at my deepest, darkest core, I seem hold a belief that It Will All End in Tears - so eat the god damned cupcake, kiss that questionable boy, and put it on the credit card, since you may not even be here tomorrow.

So I'm treating this as an experiment. I've traded the small and ill-advised indulgences of the present for restraint that will bring me a greater measure of freedom and health in future I can't yet imagine.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Thank you for sharing that. Well said. I need to apply this principle to my own life. Hope to see you again at RC before too long.

-- Leslie (aka PhoebeSnow)