I generally do not make New Year's Resolutions. For the most part, I think it's a rather pointless exercise. I've always felt that resolutions are just a way of setting oneself up for failure. I mean, the new year starts dead smack in the middle of the coldest, darkest part of the year. It's a time when the body naturally wants to slow down and rest - why would I choose to try to force myself to develop new habits during this time? I would rather wait for spring, when I am energetic and excited about life, and the days are long and filled with sunshine and new life blooming all around.
But this year, I decided to make one resolution - just one...to shut up the little hater that lives in my head. I'm borrowing the term "little hater" from Jay Smooth who talks about it as that negative voice that tortures and distracts creative people. I think everyone, creative or not, has a little hater. Mine is a big beast, that doesn't limit itself to creative endeavors. It rides my back through every day, and every aspect of my life.
I've spent the last couple of years hiding from, tricking, and sneaking around behind the back of my hater. And I've been pretty successful at it. Mostly, my approach has been to take tiny steps and to wait until the last minute to do things. The hater tends to be kind of lazy, and if it doesn't think I'm doing too much, it will mostly let me alone.
Using these approaches, last year I managed to do a lot - I started running, lost more weight, moved into a new apartment, and started really doing some worthwhile writing. I began coming into my own, despite the hater who, whenever it figured out what was going on, would rant and rave. And even though I kept going, and did what I had to do, there were times when the hater brought me down for a while.
In fact, it was the hater's last big attack that convinced me to make the resolution to work on silencing it once and for all. Without going into detail, all I will say is I spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving, in my bed crying with the covers pulled over my head, convinced that that I was a complete and utter failure as a daughter, a writer, a woman, a friend, and a mother. It was ugly.
So, when New Year's Resolution time rolled around, I decided mine would be to attack that nasty-ass little hater and take it down. I had NO idea what my approach would be, just that I wanted to do it, and I would find a way - even if it took me all year.
Now, as it always happens, when you make up your mind to do something and are REALLY ready to do it, things just somehow come together and opportunities appear out of nowhere. This time it was a conversation with a new friend, Steve, about exercise.
I was lamenting that after coming so far with running, the cold and dark of winter had me slacking off just when what I really wanted was to take my commitment to shaping my body to the next level. He offered to be my trainer and I accepted without having any clue that I was about to be engaged in a full-on, knock down, drag out, battle to the death with the Little Hater, that makes a scene from Spartacus look like a dance lesson.
And that's how I came to find myself lying on my stomach, screaming, "I CAN'T"into the floor boards beneath my face. Two feet away, Steve sat with his legs crossed, smiling at me and saying, "You really can be quite dramatic, you know that?" His choice of words was unfortunate, but how could he know he'd picked one of the phrases that feeds the hater beast?
When I was a kid I was told, on regular basis, that I was being dramatic whenever I expressed my displeasure or discomfort. According to all the adults around me my reactions were always over the top. Were they? I didn't know. I still don't. I always thought that I was expressing exactly what I felt and that the accusations of drama were actually saying that either I shouldn't be feeling what I was, or that I shouldn't express it. Either way, the little hater memorized those words, and has been using them my whole life to convince me to stop whatever it is I'm doing.
Whenever I hear that I'm being dramatic about something, I tend to drop it. For me, drama means failure. It means I'm trying to do something that is too hard, arguing a point that's not worth making, striving to achieve something I have no right to. It means that my struggle is inconveniencing others and I should just put a stop to it. It's the surefire way to make me put down my sword and turn my back on the dragon. And the little hater smiles when my dreams burst into flames and disappear in a puff of smoke.
So, there I was, lying on the floor, being dramatic. Every muscle in my body was limp and quivering the way cooked spaghetti is in a bowl. And Steve was telling me to start the next exercise. Tears squeezed out of my eyes as I struggled with my resolve and the hater, that evil little fucker, gently whispered in my head, that it wasn't worth all this drama and I should just give up.
"It's OK that you can't do this," whispered the hater, "You've done a lot already. He doesn't understand that you're at your limit. Look, you're crying. If it's so hard it makes you cry, it's not worth it. Just stop." The hater is good at seeming supportive and caring while tearing me down.
Still, I remembered that I'm supposed to be fighting the hater. I wiped some of the tears away and tried to push up off the floor. The hater came at me from another angle, "Look, you've changed your body enough. Do you know what's going to happen if you keep going? You're just going to have all this loose skin hanging all over your body. You're not young anymore, that skin is not snapping back like it used to. You won't look better, you'll just look different. Muscle with loose skin is not prettier than being a little plump. Just stop."
I wavered. I started to lower myself down. Really, who am I, at my age, to believe that I can now have a body that makes me smile when I look in the mirror. I need to be content with where I am, accept what I've got and stop torturing myself and putting Steve through all my drama trying to achieve something that I'm never going to have anyway.
And just as I was about to flop back on the hardwood floor, sweaty, sad, crying, tired and broken, I saw the hater smile. Now, I know the hater is a voice in my head - a collection of voices really, a combination of every critical sound that has ever been aimed at me. So, how could I SEE something that has always been a silent, imaginary voice? I can't really describe that, and I suppose it makes me seem a little crazy, but I saw that mother fucker smile. Triumphant and smug that it didn't even take a month to crush my resolution. Confident that it would live on, with years of sweet, evil whispers about what I can't do.
"Ahhhh!!!" I yelled as I pushed myself up into a plank and held it - forcing the wobbly spaghetti of my muscles back to something firm. I could feel my body trembling all over. I breathed deeply, shifted my weight, held steady. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I held it.
The hater stomped it's feet and screamed about weakness, my past failures, my fat belly, my dry hair, the new line I noticed on my forehead a week ago, the project at work I'd been procrastinating, the novel I've only written four pages of, old boyfriends; it even pulled out the big guns and told me I was being like my mother - placing physical appearance above common sense and the things that are really important in life.
I held that plank. I held it and I cried and I let all the haters words wash over me again and again and again. And then I heard something else...the sound of a timer going off and Steve's voice saying, "Rest."
I collapsed on the floor and started complaining about how much it hurt and why I had to hold the plank for so long and...yes...I was being dramatic. Because that's who I am. And I'm learning that every time I accept my drama and keep on going, I'm pushing that little hater further away. Diminishing it rather than myself.
It's a fight and I am going to lose some of the battles. I've already lost a couple. But that day I won. And win or lose, as long as I'm fighting, each time I learn a little more about how to just keep going.