Today’s the day! The day is here – the day I change for good!
Have you ever woken up to these thoughts? Or gone to sleep wishing that you’d wake up an overnight success story? No, me neither.
Okay, let me sing you a different tune…
The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Now read that again. Suck it up. Breathe it in.
She’s really something, huh?
When I read these lines from On The Road, how I yearn to be this burning, mad to live one who never says a commonplace thing like “How was your weekend?” or “Good but too short” or complains about the weather. But I don’t think that someone who puts that much thought into whether it feels more like a blue pen or black pen day or who knows how to use the semi-colon properly was really the kind of chap Kerouac was referring to. Lol.
He ignores regular grammatical conventions like ending his list with ‘and’, he uses commas without inhibitions, free like his words, commas that are desirous of everything and everyone, like spider legs dropped across the page.
But me, even if I had ‘burn to live’ tattooed across my forehead and grew a shaggy beard, I still wouldn’t cut it. No sir, Kerouac and his buddies wouldn’t have spoken to me at a party.
And that’s okay.
I’d rather bitch about the weather than be friends with those guys anyway.
But do these mad-to-live people still exist even? The world seems different. There’s just not the same romanticism about being on the road without funds. It was fine to be a starving artist back then. It was expected even.
These days, no one wants to starve. No one wants to die like Van Gogh with an ear lobe missing and only one painting sold. That’s just tragic. We want to thrive and be recognized, at least so we can keep doing the work we love. This is freedom.
Bob Marley said,
Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.
This is why I fight for freedom in my own life and especially on Monday morning.
But this ‘fight’ isn’t about a simple fisticuffs in the backyard – this fight is a slow evolution. It’s about letting go more than holding on.
I seek the freedom to change.
What if we could start our life over? Well, we can. The only thing stopping us is fear.
I know I talk like I’m Tony Robbins, when really I’m just a student with many teachers.
In order to be a leader in the self-development world, you definitely need a transformation story. We want to see the before and after picture. You could’ve been broke, addicted, fat or with crazy rashes all over your body – or all of the above – the more the better in fact. Then you have more reason to relate to us. You know us. You’ve been in our big-ass shoes.
It seems like you have to be really down and out to make a huge quantum leap. And what if you’re just okay? Can you make a big change? Well, small steps over time add up to one long March – just ask Chairman Mao.
I must warn you though, you will come up against adversity along the way – those who want to beat you down so you stay small and stop marching. Mostly this will all be happening in your own head. The ego is that voice that tells you that you can’t, it’s too hard, it’s silly, it’s easier to stay the same, it’s more fun even, just give up now, you know you want to.
You will never win against the ego.
So don’t try. It can’t be reasoned with and it doesn’t fight fair. It will attack when your defenses are down.
So how can we deal with the ego then?
One way is just to make small changes here and there. My ego is loud. As soon as I make huge promises of the ‘I’ll never again’ kind, the ego is alerted and comes banging at my front door. I give in. I buy the cookies without resignation, with glee in fact. It is too much.
This is why I’ve never really been on a diet. I can’t handle restriction. As soon as I feel deprived I start obsessing about food and put on weight. I’ve never had a huge overnight sensation weight loss – so what would I know?
Well, I’ve found handling the ego in this situation is just like any other. As unexciting as it may be, for me it’s about being moderate. I start with small steps.
When I wanted to write a novel, I started with an hour a day (I’ve heard of other writers who do 1 or 2 pages a day). Not too long after I pushed it to two and stayed like that for at least two years, in the last year pushing it to three hours. Over four years, doing this four times a week, this adds up to A LOT of writing and editing. More than what is needed in fact.
Likewise, I’ve heard personal trainers, saying what counts is consistency. You get bored of one exercise? Try another. And do it often.
My wisdom to add to that would be – don’t try too hard. Just do it. Perhaps this goes against most of those in the know would have you believe, but the diet industry is worth billions and still the western world stays fat. I know there’s a time and a place for pushing past your limits, but most of us don’t really want to run a marathon. Am I right? Most of us just want to feel good about ourselves day to day.
From writing, what I’ve found is the hardest part is starting, so don’t make huge promises to yourself that put you off. Try to find something or a way to do it that you enjoy and then make time for it, schedule it into your week, and then be proud when you stick to it. Don’t beat yourself up thinking you have to do better. You probably can’t see your progress from the ground – but still it exists!
By making small changes, we slink on by the ego like a cat, silently padding through the house to get to the prime spot on the good couch.
And the sneaky thing is that with this gradual evolution we are actually pushing past to the places we had never been before. We are reaching new heights without setting off any alarm bells.
You feel amazing. You feel like you’ve beaten that fire breathing dragon and now have the keys to the King’s treasure. Hell, you are the King.
But the ego never dies. Just at this time the ego is back with a vengeance, ambushing you when you least expect it. It pops up with jack-in-the-box speed, with a mega-phone, to rain on your sunny parade.
Fear not friends, it is especially in these moments that we must stick to our positive habits because this is where the quantum shifts happen. Learn to sit in the discomfort. Jump into the witches cauldron with both feet and watch the water around you bubble. Sit in it and stew.
So how can we stop from giving up at these moments when the voice in our head is telling us we can’t, we won’t, we’ll never?
Yesterday, I had some time to think about this because it was a glorious sunny day and we set off on a 30km bike ride. So yeah, I’ve never run a marathon and I’m not an extremist but I do know some stuff about the voice of the ego.
After about an hour of riding in the beautiful sunshine surrounded by rolling green velvet hills and all the signs of first spring, the ego decided we were sick of it and wanted to complain. I did complain and brought in the expertise of the world-class whinger that has been inhabiting my body since childhood, possibly from when still in the womb even. This is not nice. I realized it wasn’t nice. I shut up. Still, the voice in my head grew louder but now I was conscious of it.
This is a pattern of mine. Perhaps you can relate or maybe you have another way to trip yourself up when you could be making the biggest leaps.
So what did I do?
I decided that this was the moment to practise what the gurus had proclaimed. Yes, it hurt and it sucked but by focusing on the voice of the ego, it only grows louder. So I did the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “tra-la-la”- I started repeating mantras in my head, positive ones that started with “I choose to…” and are too embarrassing to write here. I didn’t feel like it and it felt fake but I stuck with it. And soon I found that the ego can’t be heard when you’re playing another tape. Yes it certainly feels like a tape, a pre-recording, and not exactly your own voice, but it is hypnotic and meditative too and it silences the ego. It did its job. We rode on.
This is how I fight for freedom.