When I recently began starting my days at the shop by writing a letter, something of a seismic shift occurred. I am generally full of intentions -- beautiful ones! -- that never see the light of day. In my head, I celebrate occasions and write effusive thank you notes and know just the right moment to pop a hey, hello, you're on my mind in the mail. In my fantasies, I maintain relationships with the many people I love and the many I'd love to get to know better with time and thought and care. In reality? It is hard to make it the ONE BLOCK to the post office, and the unrealized intentions pile up and up and up until they regularly collapse on my guilt-ridden psyche.
So this new habit, this daily letter, is a powerful thing. It's a good intention realized. Performed. Released into the world. And instead of walking around as a person who'd like to write letters but isn't, I'm suddenly a person who is writing letters and connecting with people in meaningful ways. This habit is helping me be the version of the self I want to be. The fantasy version rather than the defeated-by-life version.
Here's another fantasy: I don't just write letters; I write poetry, too. I wake early, before the kids or Josh have risen. The house is quiet and mine. And I come up with some good stuff. And I send it off to publishers, and I'm not afraid to read my work aloud to actual people. The reality? A poet was in the shop this past week, and he asked me if I write. "Umm... well...," I hemmed, searching for the correct answer to that question. Do I currently write poetry? No. Do I have inside of me the capacity to write poetry, and do I want to be doing it? Yes.
Why is there so often such a distance between who we are day to day and who we long to be ultimately? And how do we close that gap?
Last night, I had the insane pleasure of hosting both Nebraska's current and former state poet laureates, Matt Mason and Twyla Hansen. They talked about their writing practice, and it's truly all about habit. Matt Mason has to have a new poem underway every week by Monday night. Twyla Hansen also sets herself weekly deadlines. Ted Kooser, I know, credits his body of work to the daily practice of rising early. Habit. That's not all it is, of course, but then again, THAT'S ALL IT IS.
Which has me thinking a lot lately about my daily habits. Allowing myself to look at my phone in bed first thing in the morning? Not a great habit. Skipping breakfast? Nope. Instead: making my bed, walking, reading before bed: all good habits that I sometimes practice but that I often don't. And giving myself space to write? Almost never, except here. Which I decided back in April to make myself do weekly, so again: habit. Intention realized through practice.
What habits have you formed that have helped you grow closer to your best version of yourself? Pray tell. I'm taking notes in the hopes of becoming my fantasy self.