After writing yesterday, I felt my brain going almost manic. For the rest of the day, it fired a hundred ideas a minute for the next post: life as a stepmom, lists of books, life after trauma, life after academia, living in Paris as an ethnic Chinese who speaks French, English and Chinese, the intersectionality of racism and sexism here and elsewhere, pen recommendations, recipes and the list could go on for quite awhile, but I chose to stop listening.
Choosing was easy, but actually stopping was incredibly hard.
Instead, I made a promise to myself to write and to post just once a day. For a fixed period of time, I will sit down and write everything down for one post. I can go back to it, edit it, or change it up completely. But when the time is up, I will stop and call it a day.
The thing is that I am no stranger to this feeling of manic writing frenzy. I remember when I used to embrace the sudden burst of creativity and would let myself sit down and write paragraphs that turned into chapters overnight. I loved, and welcomed, these moments which (to nobody’s surprise) usually came in the beginning of a project. What would inevitably happen is that the “burst” would inevitably live up to its definition and fizzle. The outpouring of ideas that I had in the beginning would slowly taper off and I would feel incredibly guilty for no longer churning out several chapters a day and that would lead to a cycle of guilt, pressure and shame that would then transform into the infamous writer’s block.
This was more than five years ago.
I have come to realise that the best way to make this a steady and long-lasting habit, or ritual, even, is to go slow. Write a post a day, and then close it. Do not give in to write down all the ideas that tickle my brain just yet. Believe that if an idea is important enough, it will stay with me until the morning. Believe in the limitless possibilities that this writing medium offers.
As I got to thinking about nurturing habits, ny thoughts went to my teenaged stepdaughter, whom I love and of whom I am so immensely proud. She radiates light when I look at her. Whenever she talks to us about something that she is passionate, I see roads opening in front of her and I swear I would chop off an arm if it means she could get a chance to walk them. She is also brilliant at testing my patience and sanity. The prevailing issue with us concerns rules, how to set them, and how to enforce them.
She and I share the same size for most clothes. I enjoyed this from the start and loved loaning her pieces from my closet when she went out. It began to grow into a habit that I called her out on. The next time that she took clothes without permission, she also went into our bathroom and used my perfume and makeup without asking. I spoke to her again, writing her a very long letter explaining that I love sharing things with her but that asking me before using them is a bare minimum. It does not matter that each time I say “yes” to her. She cannot take that “yes” for granted and just assume that she can go ahead and do whatever she wants. Now that half a year has passed, she is doing it again. As they say, old habits die hard.
Included in these old habits of hers are the following:
- Constantly asking for new clothes when she clearly has enough. I am aware that they are not the latest style, but that is not what she is saying as she obviously knows that if that is the reason she brings up, we would shoot it down right away.
- Not taking care of her belongings and when called out either says that she needs to be taught it (instead of just going ahead and doing it) or that she does takes care of her things, just the things that she happens to care about.
- Complaining that she looks to her parents for discipline. Problem being that firstly, I do not discipline teens, nor does my partner, and she knows that. There are rules that are understood in our household and they are to be followed. Secondly, the brand of discipline that she is looking for is that of her mother’s. I have no problem with that, it’s just that they are not mine nor do I share her values and therefore not mine to set. Thirdly, is the way she feels entitled to set the rules for us by passively aggressively letting things slide, ignoring rules that have been set and feigning ignorance when called out.
I am tired of going over the ground rules again and again with my kid, only to have them ignored all over again. I am exhausted to have to explain to her how her actions violate my privacy and trust, or to have to explain to her why her intentions do not matter when her actions indicate something grossly different. I am pained each time I do the mental dance of asking myself is she or is she not being manipulative. How do you deal with a person who maliciously ignores your requests, such as please return my belongings immediately after using them? At some point it is not about the person not knowing better and it becomes clearer that the person is blatantly ignoring what you have asked them. What to do then?
How can I teach my teen to be considerate? How do I nurture respect and selflessness in her? What does the world “belief” mean to someone of that age?
Checklist of the day, AKA my brain is registering all the sounds and nothing else:
- My typing, or I am smashing ants on my keyboard
- The dog barking next door
- The light coming through the living room and kissing my basil
- The low hum of the refrigerator
- My kid’s half-eaten sandwich and thermos of coffee sitting on the kitchen counter (for which I woke up at 6 to prepare)
- The bunny pushing around its dish