I have always told myself I need more self-discipline–especially considering my line of work as an artist, where there is no boss to tell me what needs doing. “Hey, you! Berry! Get this cloud painted up this afternoon or else!”—these kinds of demands just don’t happen in my studio, or elsewhere for that matter. There’s really only this voice telling me I’m not disciplined enough, not organized enough, not enough—and I know it’s my father’s voice, living in me.
But I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t really want to be more self-disciplined–it reminds me of my father, and every time I think of self-discipline I get this knot in my stomach and a slight headache, because I think self-discipline sucks. That realization in and of itself was a tiny breakthrough for me, except that I still am not more self-disciplined–I still make stupid choices with my time and I still procrastinate my joy. The only difference now is that I realize that I’m not self-disciplined in part because I associate this quality with my father.
I have excuses aplenty—I’m the mother of five kids, so there’s at least five right there, and I’m also married, so there’s another, even though he’s the sweetest, kindest heterosexual man around. But then there’s also excuses like Sudoku, and general computer fiddling that wastes quilt squares of time, till I turn around and lo and behold, there’s the fabric of my life, with vast patches of blank. I feel like I am constantly betraying myself. And so the question I ask myself is, “Why? Why do I fritter away so much time? Why is it that the joy of my life is what I turn away from time and time again? I mean, if it were lack of self-discipline, then I ask, why do I have to discipline myself to pursue what I want? And if it isn’t discipline, if it’s something else, then what? And how do I remedy it?”
The answer comes, simply enough. It is quite simply, will. Not self-discipline, but will. And this is what I find when I look about (on top of the printer) for an answer, an understanding, about will, from “Light Emerging” by Barbara Brennan:
“Our confusion about will comes when we do not understand that our free-will choice of any moment is always challenged to serve our internal divine will. The degree to which we freely choose our divine will within is the exact degree to which we express and act according to our true self.”
Now I ask myself the question again—“Why do I turn away from my joy, time and time again? Why do I willingly choose to waste my time?” and I begin to understand the answer. I see that challenge, that tension between my own internal divine will and my other will, my alter ego, if you will, and I’m still wondering why I don’t choose my joy. Am I afraid, hiding from myself? Am I weak? And I think back to my father, the hard-edged disciplined man who found fault with me again and again, relentlessly, and it feels to me as if there is this a connection between my betrayal of myself and his betrayal of me, and here I am, still shirking from the shadow of his judgment. The father, the one that could have given me confidence in my worth, has failed me in that regard, and he will linger around in my head with his relentless disapproval until I step out of the shadow and into my own light.
So what do I do? I want to be free of this shadow from my father. I understand that really it is my own inner shadow, and at this point has very little to do with my father at all. Or does it? Understanding why things happen inside ourselves is one thing, actually shifting from understanding to action can be entirely different. Will this understanding be enough for me to be more aware of the exact choice I’m making when I choose Sudoku over quality reading, or laundry over going up to my studio, or painting over fucking around in my studio? Is understanding enough to make that change?
I keep thinking about that quote, and the little equation:
degree of free will choosing divine will=degree true self expresses itself
and I know that this is the equation that expresses the elusivity (new word, better than elusiveness I think) of Self.
Every decision is always internally challenged, so that it might serve my own internal divine will. And now I see myself in a different light. Instead of lacking self-discipline I have lacked self-confidence. And when a choice presents itself to me, and I feel that tension between what is joy and what is not, I can choose with an understanding of what elements are at play within me, and kick some ass at Sudoku.