Happy New Year, I Burned a Book

“Get off the path; do something different.”

Wise words from my yoga teacher this morning. 

“Do something different every day,” she said. “Brush your teeth with your left hand!” 

Here I sit now, doing something different. I’m writing a blog post on my computer. It stands to reason I’d write all blog posts from my computer, but I prefer that divine, tactile sensation one gets with the physical journal. Plus, I hate technology—but that’s another story.

I’m also writing from PJ’s Coffee uptown, far from my normal stomping grounds, having just completed an 8:30 AM yoga class with one of my best friends after getting 6 hours of sleep. All different.

Coming to my blog on a Monday morning is also different. It’s an intention I set back in September, but one I didn’t stick to for a variety of reasons, most of them fear-based.

All of them fear-based.

But I’m reinstating “Monday blogging” as one of my “new year’s resolutions.”

New year’s resolutions…I guess that’s what I’m writing about. Seems like an obvious choice, a cliché, but alas: some clichés are cliché for a reason.

One of my resolutions is to detox from judgment—I’m reading Gabby Bernstein’s The Judgment Detox now—and judging choices as cliché or obvious, and thinking I’m somehow “above” these, is something I’m guilty of.

I’m hesitant to make resolutions, however—or at least to call them such. In the past, they’ve served as impossible expectations that set me up to fail, particularly in middle school: my “chubby years.”

“Work out every day.”

“Lose 2 pounds per week.”

“Lose ten pounds this month.”

I spy a recipe for self-hatred.

Keep in mind that these are the aspirations of a 12-year-old. Look at how they’re worded. Exercising and losing weight for the sake of health are beautiful things. Beautiful, when they’re necessary. But exercising and losing weight out of shame? That’s another story, especially when you’re 12.

These resolutions, like this topic, are also obvious choices, but some clichés are cliché for no reason.

While my goals and aspirations no longer pertain to weight loss, they still risk setting me up for failure. That said, I’m wary of setting them now. But I’m also working on balance, and I’ve come to realize that the key ingredient is intention.

Intention is the difference between structure and rigidity, between spontaneity and impulsivity. So that’s what I’ll focus this post on: intention. My current, salient intentions which just happen to coincide with the start of the new year. 

As I said above, back in September, I set the intention to make every Monday my “Writer’s Retreat.” I write daily regardless, but I wanted to create consistency around my posting. I wanted to devote one day of the week to creating something new and putting it out there. In a short fiction class, I based a character on myself who set a similar intention:

“Every Thursday, between 4:32 and 9, she’d write a brand-new story, plumping her portfolio beneath a lavender sky. She never missed a week, and that she could give herself such structure not-so-subtly turned her on.”

But unlike this character—Pam—originally named Mikella—I’ve missed many weeks. The primary reason is fear, majority of it old: fear of getting boring, of overstaying my welcome; fear of running out of things to say. I’m also crippled by speed of thought. When I write, my mind moves so fast that I feel hopelessly out of control.

I often feel that writing has replaced exercise and weight loss as my new addiction. In the past, I’d spend my days anxious and distressed, unable to relax until I’d exercised. Now, I feel the same way about writing. Every day, until I’ve written, I’m unable to relax, and once I do start writing, I can’t decide when to stop. No matter how much I write, it’s never enough.

My dietician in rehab said to me once, “The thing I observe about anorexia and orthorexia is that it’s never enough. If it’s an egg, it becomes egg whites.” This has become true of my writing. If it’s not one addiction, it’s another. 

Before I went to bed last night, I decided that today I would blog. I even left this notecard on my desk to remind me:

IMG_3399

On my yoga mat this morning, I set the intention to focus. After the practice, I would open my laptop and let my spirit do the rest. In The Judgment Detox, Gabby shares her experience participating in interview. After the 2016 election, she received the following question: “Gabby, the nation is divided and we need your help. What is the spiritual way to handle this?” Before she responds, she silently prays, “Spirit, please speak through me.” Then she starts with her truth, and effortlessly, the words pour out.

This was my intention for my blog post today, and I recalled this intention on my mat. Once I did so, however, idea lava spewed out. 14 different essays begun to take shape in my head. It’s a vicious cycle, one I relive over and over with one of two responses: become manic, or shut down.

So often, I’m stopped before I start.

Step 1 of my Recovery program says, We admitted we were powerless over _______, that our lives had become unmanageable. In Alcoholics Anonymous, the original 12-step program on which my own is based, the word in the blank is alcohol, but you can replace that with any word of your choosing. I’ve been powerless over relationships, I’ve been powerless over food, and right now, I am powerless over writing.

One element of this powerlessness is quantity. I completed 7 journals last semester alone, and I have 18 full volumes on my shelf:

IMG_3317 2

I intended to read through them during my 5-week winter break, publishing valuable content, but I don’t know where to begin. I have two more weeks at home, not enough time to meet this intention, and I can’t haul 18 journals back with me to New York. I’m already lugging 4 empty ones.

I have to accept that at this point in time, I cannot publish everything I have written. This makes me feel hopeless; it’s another reason I avoid blogging. I’m not satisfied with what I publish because it barely makes a dent in my what I have on tap to share. 

But I love to write. I need to write. And I love and need to share what I write. There must be a way to fulfill this need in a way that is manageable for me.

And there is: I can apply the tools of my program. I can accept that I am powerless over quantity and time.

I can trust that what I share at any given time is what my higher power wants me to share at that given time. I can trust that what I share is enough.

I can trust that my journals will be there when I am ready to revisit them. I can relish the fact that I have beyond fulfilled my dream of writing a memoir. 

I can apply the 12-step slogan, “little by little, one day at a time.” 

Speaking of this slogan, let’s talk about elephants. My nutritionist used to say to me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 

I always found it ironic that she used an eating anecdote for someone with an eating disorder. In what universe would I ever find myself putting knife and fork to an elephant? But I see her point. My blogging, like my recovery, must be taken one bite at a time. 

TAT
Always relevant, and as of last week, one year old♥️.

My fear of rigidity has also kept me from blogging consistently. I fear that giving myself structure (like Pam does) is an unhealthy assertion of control. I am addicted to control, but unlike alcohol, control cannot be avoided entirely. Take my education, for instance: my program requires me to design my own major. I must use control to do this. But because of my history with control, I struggle to trust when I am using it properly.

Is blogging weekly a form of rigidity? Once again, it depends on intention. If I can miss a week and not feel like all is lost, then it’s probably okay. But its a subtle art, this art of discernment. In fact, Gabby writes about it in The Judgment Detox. She writes that judgment—like control—is necessary, but proceeds to alter her wording: 

“We can use logic and intuition to discern what feels right for us without being judgmental,” she writes. “It’s the habit of condemning and criticizing that we must left go of.” 

After reading that, I’ve chosen discernment as one of my “new year” intentions. It’s up there with patience and authenticity.  

Another intention is to eliminate clutter—both physical and emotional—and to cultivate myself a safe space. Letting go is a core element of my recovery, and in addition to letting go of emotional baggage, I want to sever the attachments I have to physical objects. I’ve spent the past 9-days-or-so cleaning out my bedroom, beginning with my two Ikea closets.

I got rid of all of garments but the essentials and filled the shelves with my journals and books. But this purging process has triggered some uncomfortable behavior—some manic, compulsive, binge-y behavior—including trying to read every book I own before deciding to keep it or give it away.

Several of the books in my closet have sat there unread for years, and many of them I don’t want to read. Furthermore, I have a stack of books that I do want to read—Judgment Detox being one of them—and limited time to do it.

So I decided that I would marathon read every “bad book” I own in a period of 24-48 hours, to “get them out of the way” before reading the good ones. I chose to do the same thing with the stack of American Theatre magazines I’ve amassed through the years.

I read so fast I was making myself sick, and making very little headway. As I read, I could my stomach clench. I began having indigestion. It was as if I was binging, but on words rather than food. 

Anyway. 

One particular book rubbed me the wrong way. I won’t name the title, as another one of my intentions is to practice anonymity, but I will say that it prescribes “rules” for the acting industry. I found the content despicable; almost all of it clashed with my artistic values. It made me nauseous. But I was determined to finish it.

As I crouched on my floor, muscling through it, a memory entered my head. On the last day of fiction class—the one that birthed Pam—the book The Reader came up. This one I will name, as it’s both famous and fictional. It’s about an illiterate woman who becomes a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. “I never throw books away,” said my professor, who herself is a published author. “But I threw that book away. I couldn’t stand the idea that being illiterate would cause someone to become a Nazi.” 

I recalled this as I crammed my bad book, stomach on the verge of explosion. This was poison, I realized, and there was no reason to feed it to myself or anybody else. My nausea was so intense, I knew that to purge the toxins I needed a cathartic release, so last night I burned it. I had a similar experience when I threw away my sports bra after performing “Carnivore.” These objects have bad juju. May they rest in peace.

Fire
Special thanks to my companion who documented the moment.

Disposing of this book was the right move, and burning it was a choice I made mindfully. However, not all of my “spring cleaning” has played out in this manner. One of the items I tossed in the donation pile was a pillowcase from high school that my senior classmates signed. “It’s a physical object,” I thought. “It’s meaningless.” 

Fortunately, my mom pulled it out of the bag and returned it to me, at which point I panicked. Why am I going so fast? I’m moving recklessly, rapidly, mindlessly; I’m racing to the finish line which is a clean space. 

I do want to clear my space of items that don’t serve me, but I also need to monitor my intentions. Am I getting rid of something because it no longer serves me, or am I getting rid of something to feel in control of my belongings? 

Taking out the trash, for me, can serve as a form of restriction. I want to weigh as little as possible translates to I want to own as little as possible. It’s a symptom of my obsession with smallness.

I often use gift-giving to the same end. I re-gift in order to downsize. I’m embarrassed to admit this; some people reading this may have inherited one of my unopened stocking-stuffer cosmetics or unread books. But no more, I promise. I simply want to carefully consider which items I toss and which items I keep.

I want the only physical objects I keep in my space to be functional items that I use every day, like my beloved candles and yoga mat, or personal artifacts, like my completed journals. Ultimately, throughout this “new year,” I intend to organizewith discernment.

I could elaborate on my intentions to release judgment and practice anonymity, but I’ll save that for another date. Instead I’ll share my most pressing intention, which is to approach my life with confidence.

My life purpose, I realize now, is single-fold: to be myself. 

I believe in reincarnation. I believe in past and future lives. I believe that my spirit has existed before and that it will exist again. Thus, my purpose now on this earth, in this life, is to be Bella Florence. To commit to her 100%.

I’ll close with another quote by Gabby Bernstein: “When one person remembers their true nature, they light up the world.”
—Gabby Bernstein

Happy New Year,
Bella

In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not resonate with everyone; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.

Thoughts? Share 'em!

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: