The Need to Do (a ramble about motivation)

So motivation has been a big struggle for me recently. Not just motivation to write, but motivation to do do anything, motivation to wash my clothes, motivation to wash myself, motivation to get up in the morning, motivation to eat. Motivation to do much of anything besides lie in bed and watch Supernatural all day (nearing the end of season 5, it’s bated breath and cold sweat good, for the most part). Of course I don’t sit around all day and watch Supernatural (most days. I am a weak willed sack of monkey meat and sometimes the siren call is too much), instead I aimlessly surf the internet looking for enough dopamine to make the hours of pointlessness worth it… but it never is.
Instead both Friday and Saturday last week I wrote a thousand words of my novel. Not only that, but I fleshed out my outline a bit and learned more about my world. I need not tell the writers out there how good that feels. It’s a flood of happy hormones injected right into your pink-squishy grey matter, by your pink-squishy grey matter. It is a call to arms against the apathy that has plagued me pretty much since the end of school last year. I have been lethargic and despondent, and I put it down to not having a set in stone plan for the coming year (a situation that had since changed, Bachelor of Arts FTW!!!) but even since I have been accepted into my Bachelor of Arts, which sorts out my next three years for me, actually doing anything still seems to not being on the agenda. Until last week.
Last week I put together two pieces of flatpack furniture, because I really needed a new desk and the poor little cane ‘bookshelf’ (that was originally intended to be a shoe rack, but it was nineteen dollars and flat enough to hold books) was all but falling apart at the workload I was putting on it. So I retired the little guy and replaced it with one of those handy dandy cube storage units cunningly turned ninety degrees sideways so it would fit under my window. That and the fact that I’ve recently been reorganising my bedroom/office had led me to a conclusion…
It feels way better to do something, ANYTHING, than it is to do nothing, BUT it’s way easier to just do nothing and watch the world go by than it is to actually take on/complete a project, and all too often being the easier option is all it takes.
Another example, I could watch Supernatural as I eat dinner tonight, or I could read the wonderfully poetic book that I picked up at a closing down sale of a local bookshop the other day (a phenomenon of book stores closing down is one that gives me mixed emotions, because on the one hand you have a book store closing down, always a tragedy, but on the other you have really, really cheap book. ARRRRGH!! THE CONFLICT THAT RAGES IN MY SOUL!!!… ahem. Moving on). This book, The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi is spectacular, but the language, while gorgeous, requires mental activity to equate the beautiful, beautiful words to the action. With Supernatural (or any other kind of TV… if you’re into that kind of thing) there is no such process. The action is right there in front of me with everything explained neatly and simply for a mass-consuming audience, and yet, reading Age of Orphans not only makes me realise that you can be poetic without straying into overdone purple prose, but presents a captivating tale of a young boy dealing with one of the most turbulent times the middle east has ever known. I can feel my understanding growing as I read it, and I know it will impact my writing in the best possible way and yet… I want to watch Supernatural.
So often we don’t do things because they’re hard. For years now, I have a avoided coming out as bisexual to one vast majority of my family who I really, really don’t think will have good reaction. It’s hard and I don’t want to do it. But one day, I will have to, just because that level of deception is just not a sustainable or healthy way to conduct any relationship. And it is the same, albiet with less potential for shouting matches around the dinner table, with writing.
It’s hard, but we all need to suck it up and just do it, because it’s important. Important to our mental and physical health (not saying writing will give you an awesome six pack or anything, but doing something that you are proud of, even just a little bit, every day must have a good impact on something physical, right? Like the old psychology adage, ‘everything mental is physical’). And if this week has taught me anything, it’s that the best motivation is momentum. I started out by rearranging my room, which let me to buy and put together new furniture, which led to finally getting a desk space I am happy with, which led to me writing more, which led me to reading more and that whole thing has led me to write this blog post. A thing that I am proud of, and that must be having a good effect on my brain because I feel way more active writing this now than I did watching that episode of Supernatural earlier today (like I said, weak-willed sack of monkey meat).
As people we must do to keep on doing, once something is set into motion it will stay in motion until something stops it, and once it is stopped it will stay stopped until something moves it (Newton’s Laws of Motion: helping to create motivational speeches and blog posts since 1642). And here’s a thought, that thing that always moves or stops this metaphorical object that is your motivation, is you. Not to get all ‘self-help: the power within’ cliché here, but the outside world can only give you the idea to push yourself away from Sam and Dean Winchester, it’s you that sets that ball rolling. Always. And that, is pretty damn amazing. But once the ball is rolling it’s just as easy (a lot of times way easier) to stop it again, but then, dying can sometimes seem easier than living, and everyday people choose the harder option. Why? Because life is important, your life is important, because no matter how lethargic you are now, you will do things in your important life, and doing things is important, and there are some important things that only you can do (like write YOUR book, for example). So go out there, and DO a THING. Because it’s important, and also because the dopamine rush is really, really good.

Tune in next time when we may or may not discuss villians vs heros and why Batman is cooler than Superman, but why Hannibal Lecter is cooler than both of them.

Till then, thing doers, I bid you good luck in all the things you end up doing (…*snicker* GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER)

Ashlee

That One Girl on the Bus

So, the other day I was on the bus. It was one of the few times when I had ventured out into the great wide world without the precious protection of my musical earbuds. Thus it was that I could hear everything on the bus, which wasn’t so bad as this particular bus was empty. That is, it was empty until The Girl got on (dun Dun DUN). I never learned her name, but if I had to guess she’d be about fourteen or fifteen. She was wearing the uniform of the local private school. She was fairly pretty in an unremarkable way, long straight blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail by a pink, fluffy scrunchie. She was tall, and not stick thin but far from overweight. Over the course of the entire bus trip we didn’t say two words to each other. All in all there was nothing remotely special about this girl at all… Apart from the fact that when she got on the bus she was holding two large milkshakes.

It is now time to discuss the bus driver. I don’t remember what he looked like, except that he was pretty young, about early to mid thirties, and very talkative. I know he was talkative because he had previously tried to engage me in conversation that same bus trip, a feat not attempted by most bus drivers (and a near impossible one to accomlish when I’m tired, stressed and just want to get home). In any case, he put up a braver front than most, mainly because he had that casual, joking way of talking that tends to put people at ease. Unless that is, you’re insecure about something.

So, the bus pulls up to the stop and the girl steps on, holding her two large milkshakes awkwardly. The first words out of her mouth are:

“These aren’t both for me!”

But the bus driver, in his jovial wisdom, either doesn’t hear her or ignores the statement and replies with:

“How are you going to get through both of those, then?” You must understand, this was said as a joke, a light tease.

At which point the girl, now obviously deeply embarrassed, says: “One of them’s for a girl at school. I’m not fat, I promise.” She then walks up the aisle between the seats, red as a tomato and sits down with her two large milkshakes. Within minutes the feeling is passed and she is intent upon her phone. But my mind lingers on that brief exchange.

“I’m not fat, I promise.” 

Personally, I find that statement appalling. Not because the girl said it, but because she felt the need to say it.

I’m not fat, I promise.

As if ‘fat’ was a personality trait, and a bad one at that. As if she must justify her perfectly reasonable actions by assuring a stranger that she does not fall into the abominable category of Fat. The way she said it put me in mind of someone defending a distasteful joke. “I’m not racist, I promise.” Except, instead of offending entire proud cultures, this young woman was simply doing a favour for a friend.

Now I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it disgusting and deeply, deeply sad that this girl feels the need to say something like that. What is wrong with us, that teenage girls feel the need to seek approval from strangers for every action that seems vaguely out of the ordinary. I mean, I am positive that teenage boys suffer this as well, but let’s be honest, what young man out there has ever felt so embarrassed about taking an extra bit of food or drink onto the bus that he felt the need to defend his actions to the bus driver? What bus driver would tease that young man in the same way he teased the girl? Whatever the percentage is, I’m guessing that it’s far lower than the amount of young women who encounter the same thing.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning light hazing. I think it’s a vital part of human interaction, and a very common one at that (case in point; whenever I am walking my dog by myself, and I am passed by a gentleman out for an evening stroll I almost always hear some variation of “who’s walking who?” which, aside from getting monotonous after a while, hurts neither me nor my dog. Although it could be seen as derogatory, I like to credit myself with more sense of humour than that.) So, teasing and hazing are awesome (kinda), but what is not awesome is the instant judgement that is made when anyone, particularly women, are seen with an unexpected amount of food or drink. I’m not fat, I promise. 

How dare we tell this girl that she can’t have two large milkshakes? How dare we make it so that she must justify her completely innocent actions by explaining her reasoning to a total stranger? If she had fifteen milkshakes, twelve hamburgers and a trash bag full of McDonald’s fries, it is neither mine nor anybody else’s business what she intends to do with that food.

Now, of course, she’s a teenager and all teenagers are insecure about how they look to other people, right? Well, yes and no. Of course teenagers are insecure about pretty much everything to some degree, but once again, what teenage boy is going to assure his bus driver, of all people, that he’s not fat?

I don’t care if your fifteen or fifty, actions that don’t impact upon others are not the business of others and hold no shame, no matter what. Now, if you’re torturing a cat, or breaking other people’s property, then the police and a few other people (myself included) might have something to say. But eating? Drinking? Are we really so obsessed with our own fucked up notion of beauty that we deny people, anyone, the right to eat as much as he or she likes? Because, Lord forbid, they might stray into the dreaded realm of ‘Fat’. What a calamity that would be.

Not much humour in this one guys, sorry about that. I’ve been wanting to talk about something like this for a while and this particular instance stood out to me. Words have power, the words we use can define us. We all know this and yet we fling them around like they mean nothing. Anyway, if your looking for a really awesome exploration of the ideas discussed in this month’s blog post, I heartily recommend you read Robin Hobb’s Soldier’s Son Trilogy. Politics aside it’s also got solid characters, and a compelling storyline. I may write a review of it in the future, but only if you’re good.

And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bid you adieu.

Ashlee.