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My beautiful friend, Diana.
I was talking to Diana after we’d just completed a Bikram yoga class that had started at 6am.
Some friends had given us both just the teensiest bit of shit for being willing to get up at 5am to make a 6am yoga class. There seemed to be a consensus that people who do things like juice, get up for early yoga classes, go to bed early, meditate, or attend empowerment workshops were a bit too straight-laced, and that doing such things made us into completely un-relatable human beings.
This struck me as a backlash effect that was not particularly…kind.
But here’s the thing: disheveled is not a credential. It is not more “authentic.” Choosing to put one’s messiness on display doesn’t make you any more real than touting a raw-foods-vegan-organic-sustainable lifestyle as being better than everyone else.
No one has it all together.
Really, what we’re talking about here is this: the ways in which people use the “this messy life” identity system to justify themselves as “better than.”
If someone owns that they’re messy and disheveled, beautiful.
If they take that on as an identity system and then use that to treat others in a condescending manner…that’s not so beautiful.
It’s the backlash thing. It’s snarky.
–Yeah. That’s not serving anyone any more than if someone were being arrogant and holier-than-thou about their master cleanse.
Yes–there is something really powerful in owning where our vulnerabilities and weaknesses are. What I hear people say most often about when others expose their rough patches is that it makes it easier to accept their own–and that’s true for me, too.
The line blurs when it starts to either directly or energetically create divisions, with the “people who have it all together” on one side getting labeled as conceited or arrogant, while the crowd who views themselves as “more real because we don’t have it all together” on the other, using “disheveled” as some kind of credential for authenticity.
No one is winning at that game.
The so-called perfect bloggers, the advice columnists, the woman down the street who looks like a Stepford Wife…we do them a collective disservice when we do not fully “see” them for who they are, when we isolate away from them when we decide that in response to the illusion of perfection, betterness can be proven by displaying dishevelment as a new identity.
Authenticity is living your vision for your life, and that’s what you make it. Burn brightly, go forth with courage, own the disheveled bits with transparency as they arise, and–don’t make the flaws into yet another identity to disentangle from.
I found this meme at a blog and started looking around to figure out who started it, and didn’t find it (everyone was linking to someone else who linked to someone else…) and now I’m not remembering the blog I found it on. Well, then. Sheesh.
I don’t usually get into memes and things, but this one struck me as tender. I am in one of those cycles where I am noticing all of my tender places and feeling them more acutely and wanting them to be less hidden.
One of the hallmarks of the inner critic is “all or nothing” thinking: If it’s not all happening right now, it’s not working. If you change an old habit three times and then “mess it up” the fourth, it’s not working. If a bad habit didn’t stop the first time you tried, it’s not working.
I also think of this kind of thinking as “I don’t want to water the plant” syndrome.
Plant Care, People Care
When we buy a houseplant, we take it home. We fully expect that to keep it alive, we’ll need to, you know, water it. Routinely. On a schedule.
We don’t stand around looking at the plant going, “Why aren’t you growing faster?” We also don’t tap our foot and say, “I watered you last week. Why aren’t you staying fully vibrant and alive without watering, this week?”
So, yeah–people? And especially people changing habits? They need regular watering. And sometimes plant food. And the right amount of light and heat. The occasional stirring of the soil. And sometimes? A total overhaul–a new pot altogether.
And okay, the metaphor is not exactly deep so much as it is obvious, but it’s fitting. –Because when was the last time you knew of someone who said they were going to make some kind of change and then they started and then somehow, it didn’t quite reach completion? And did you hear them say things like or take on an attitude of, “I’m a defeated failure/loser/flake who can’t stick to anything”?
Have any of those people you “know of” lately been…you?
In those moments, you conveniently don’t want to “water your plant,” so to speak. Not wanting to put in the time, over time, is treating our desires like a one-stop shop
Sorry, friends. It doesn’t work that way.
Creating Consistent Habits
Now, I mention that the impulse to avoid “watering my plant” is there, and most of the officious self-help articles I’ve seen focus their time on getting people to stop having any impulses not to water their plants.
“Here are 10 easy steps water your plants!” says one article. “Need motivation to water your plants? Here it is!” says another. Then, a third: “Here’s how you can water your plants even less and still keep them alive!”
These articles often strike me as babying, almost coddling. Helpful perhaps with tweaking some details, yet not always so helpful in the long run, because there’s an element of doing the “Look! Look at the airplane!” to them.
You don’t need to be tricked into wanting to water your plants or to get motivated to water my plants.
We just need to have the simple reckoning that if we don’t water our plants, they get sick, and then they die. Then you gotta start over.
It’s that adult, and that simple.
Care Varies by Plant Family
Like plants, each project or new habit also has its own watering schedule. It takes time, sometimes, to learn what that is.
When I was in college, my first plant ever was a little cactus perched on my dorm room windowsill. I watered it like crazy and it died. I had made the classic mistake of confusing lots of water with lots of LOVE. Nope. Dedication and determination are highly individual. I needed to adjust the watering schedule to the task at hand.
For instance, I recently started Bikram yoga. When I first began, I needed to “water my plant” by going every day. I knew that if I didn’t go every day at the beginning, I’d be more liable to quit. Someone else might know that for them, every day would be too much and a recipe for quitting. It’s all a highly individual thing, this watering schedule business, and it is learned over time.
Also, it is helpful if we do not make watering my plants my new life or death Story.
Sometimes we miss a watering. Sometimes we miss so many days or weeks that the plant…dies. Then it’s time to head back to the nursery and get a new one (because plants are good to have around, you know? one wouldn’t want to give up on them altogether).
We try to catch all of our under-watered, under cared-for plants in their sick and ill stage so that I can try to shore up their health before they hit the dead and wilted stage. When I am not able to salvage anything, and death happens, I think a little healthy grieving could be in order (“Leafy was such a gooood little guy!”), but not too much.
And to carry this metaphor just one inch farther, I’ll share that I do not think it’s good to keep the old, dead, wilted remains of a plant laying around. This becomes a Graveyard of Failure, and who needs it? Sometimes I can tell that people are keeping these things around (sometimes I discover one or two of my own old dead things in a corner), and it doesn’t serve anyone.
Plants work with what they got. It’s this time, this soil, this plant life. We start again and again with the moment that we have, the resources that we have, the lives that we have. We can choose to water, or not water, our projects and undertakings.
It always boils down to choice.
Click to tweet: Make sure you’re watering your (interpersonal) plants.