Today, I have to admit that I am weak, and have cracked like a weak-shelled peanut under the pressure of a rather simple goal.
As I talked about Sunday, Week 4 of The Artist’s Way prescribes a week of no recreational reading. (I started Week 4 on Sunday.) I knew I wouldn’t last a week, so I set the goal to run through today, and possibly break it tomorrow morning.
The truth is, I just can’t do it. Even my subconscious wouldn’t let me.
Last night I didn’t sleep very well to begin with, since my usual winding down ritual is reading the day’s reading from Meditations from the Mat and maybe something else, depending upon how tired I am. Not reading made it difficult for my body to grasp that it was time to go to bed, as an integral part of the nightly ritual was missing.
Once I did get to sleep, I read what seemed like the whole night in my dreams, things my sometimes photographic memory had apparently stored for a rainy day. My dream self read legal briefs, legal statutes, and Court decisions. I dreamed of reading parts of Twilight, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love in the Time of Cholera, the Psalms, The Dhammapada, and even parts of some of my old university textbooks that I haven’t looked at in years, most of that from my social psychology textbook which I loathed because nearly every paragraph had at least one sentence that was structured, “Indeed, _______________.”
I don’t think Julia Cameron had taken into account photographic memories when she imposed a reading ban. Given I spent my whole night reading , I’ve already broken it.
However, I did get something of value out of my time off from recreational reading.
Monday without reading was actually pretty good after I battled my compulsion to read for a while. The beginning of what I think is a short story grabbed me and made me write it. I think I’ve found a way to write the novel I attempted in November, tackling it from a different angle so that it will actually get written, which also happened on Monday.
Yesterday was pure Hell, though. Without others’ words taking up any space in my head, and having a very stressful workday, my Inner Critic came out roaring and ran amok all day. I got to see just how terribly I can treat myself, and how critical I can be of every little perceived fault, blowing them all tremendously out of proportion. To try to get a brief respite from that howling monster, I played innumerable games of computer Solitaire and Mahjong when writing in my journal wasn’t working. I tried just listening objectively, but I couldn’t do it. I’m going to do my best to tame that monster, to be more compassionate toward myself. Yesterday certainly drove that point home.
It boils down to this: I can’t handle another day like yesterday with the way things are right now. I just can’t. I need the emotional and spiritual sustenance and escapism that comes with reading, the bolstering of courage and solid proof that I’m not alone in my foibles.
That being said, I may try the recreational reading ban again, but not until more favorable weather arrives. I may have made it to my goal if the weather had been fit for getting outside rather than cold, wind-driven rain the past couple days, and high winds and ice and snow today. In more favorable conditions, I could get outside with my camera and take some photos of Mother Nature’s finest on any given day. When I’m taking photos outside, I’m so focused on seeing and capturing what I see that there’s little room for anything else. Also, if I decide to do it again, it may just be for a day or two scattered out instead of a solid, days-long block of time.
I don’t feel great about not living up to this challenge, but I think admitting defeat in this case is better than the alternative.