I spent all day painting (it was actually priming) my 1,500 square foot apartment. I have souvenir calluses on three fingers on one hand and my hands feel arthritic as if they’ve engaged in extensive bicep and forearm calisthenics. Tomorrow I have to do it again, this time, two coats of Benjamin Moore “Smoky Embers” will glaze the walls which were damaged in the flood a month ago. My shoulders are sore, my back hurts, but I feel good because at least I’m moving something forward. Working physically was helping me feel productive.I didn’t expect to find myself in a surprise renovation, yet here I am.
Throughout my childhood, my mother used to repeat a Russian saying, “if you don’t know how to work with your brain, work with your hands.” I understood what she meant, but never understood why the two are mutually exclusive. I love using my brain; in fact, I use my brain too much and often I need to quiet it down. The way I get out of panic attacks is to clean my hardwood floors. Focusing on a task so detail oriented takes me outside my mind and painting 1,500 square feet of walls has a similar calming effect.
Except with each stroke of the brush or every up and down of the roller, I’m seething at the insurance company for the money I’m still owed. A month into the claim and every week I’m sending an invoice, he takes two days to review it, and then says he didn’t receive it, I resend it and he says he’ll look into it and gets back to me in a week. I’ve sent the same document three times now. Jeffrey at State Farm is this close to getting a voodoo doll made out of him.
At the end of the day, physically exhausted from painting and emotionally spent from dealing with Jeff in Texas and I remembered it’s time to write. My self-inflicted Life Course on Commitment 101: Vowing to write every single day this year NO MATTER WHAT and an unexpected flood is not an excuse, it’s just another life club to join.
I’ve had a hard time with commitment most of my life. I’ve tried different exercising regimens about 45 different times and I always break. Somehow commitment doesn’t give me the comfort of routine and predictability and instead makes me feel trapped like a caged bird. (Even if I’m the one who put the bars and constraints on myself.) It’s easy to stick to something when things are good and easy like running during a quintessential fall day or your marriage during the honeymoon phase and writing when you have no deadline and plenty of inspiration.
However, in the course of the year, it is inevitable there will be complications, distractions, and difficulties which can tempt me into giving up. It is precisely during those transitional moments when I want to climb into bed instead of writing another blog post (after I’ve written 270 essays in a row!) in my self-inflicted free internship. Instead, I sit down at the keyboard and form thoughts into cohesive sentences. In those moments, I feel most proud; not on the days when I had five hours and I wrote a profound 2,000-word essay. Like those times when I spent all day in the hospital with my mother or with my son in the ER or after I spent four hours in traffic court or after I watched a funeral online live stream or after I had a panic attack – and I KEEP ON KEEPING ON! I could have let myself off with an excuse but I stuck to my commitment instead. I tend to think of this project as a tattoo; once you start, you can’t stop in the middle.
There is something more gratifying about the days where I have to jump over the hurdle to achieve the goal. Of course the day I find a big fat check in my mailbox and buy myself that Montblanc pen will be hard to top and the struggle that got me there will be miles behind.