I went to see Anne Lamott – one of my all-time favorite writers – give a reading many moons ago, and something she said during the Q&A stayed with me.
Lamott is a smart, quirky, funny, cool, liberal, born-again-Christian writer (quadrupled oxymoron?), and I positively love her stuff. She was promoting her book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, so many of the questions after the reading were about faith and god, and her experience of those.
I’m not remotely religious, and not sure I believe in “god,” so sometimes I get tripped up in her language, but I’ve learned to listen for the concepts, and do word substitutions in my head. When she says “god,” I say: “the universe,” or “creative force,” or “The Force.” (but i digress)
At one point someone asked her if she believed in the devil, and Lamott said she did – but not an incarnated devil – instead (and i paraphrase here) – “The devil is the voice in your head that whispers: Yeah, you know you have to quit smoking, drinking (or engaging in some other addiction or behavior that enslaves your spirit or keeps you out of integrity) … and you will … of course you will. But, the devil will say: not today.”
The reason this stuck with me was because, as you might suspect, I’ve had one or two of my own “not today”s in my life.
My “not today”s were behaviors – things I’d come to depend on; habits that wouldn’t bring me what I wanted in the big picture if I kept it/them up, and were slowly eating away at my spirit. But in many ways, they were like beloved friends, I didn’t want to shake them up.
While I live pretty intentionally most of the time, the things that hang on, hang on hard, and I had been quite happy to keep listening to that voice: You will … of course you will. Of course. But, not today. Because changes like that are hard as hell. They feel like psychic surgery. Like removing an organ; something that has helped hold you together and keep you going.
And life’s hard enough without taking those things away, right?
So, every time I’d look at the equation, I’d still listen to the voice telling me it wasn’t today, not today, not today.
And then, one day it was.
How/when that happened is probably a story best left for another time (because: 1: not just one issue that required a “today” and so therefore, 2: long). But what I know now is that, even when it’s hard (and it will be hard – i’m not gonna lie), making a “not today” into “today” is good. It opens up new space for healing and growth. So even with the aptly named growing pains: good.
There are still times when I wish there were some magic wand that would poof everything and help me by-pass the hard stuff that still rears its head at unexpected times. Or that would make it OK not to have to change at all (or change some things “back”).
But those moments pass. And I know that the only way out is through.
Luckily, I have tools for that “getting through” part. While my practices and tools might not be the ones that work for you, it is SO important to find those that do.
Because the voice that insists that it’s “not today”? It’s deceiving you. It’s telling you that you have all the time in the world to live fully and without apology, and that there are limitless tomorrows to turn your “not today” into “today.” But you don’t. And there aren’t.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to “not today” myself into a place of regret. I don’t want to wonder what life could have been if I’d been brave enough to face the hard stuff.
And while there’s no magic “poof” for the hard slog through, on the other side? There’s more of YOU. More of who you are without numbing, purposeful forgetting, avoidance, and fear. And with that, you can make changes one day at a time. One step at a time. One increment at a time.
Of course, I’ll suggest writing practice as one of the best tools to help you through all this. (duh.)
This kind of writing isn’t about The Great American Novel, fabulous blog post, or sales page. It’s a conversation with yourself on paper – an intentional exploration of what that “not today” voice is protecting or hiding, a deliberate exploration of where you’re stuck, and a brave, vulnerable search of what your heart is really calling for – and it can help pull you through.
If you know you need to face your “not today”s, but the whole endeavor seems overwhelming, my soon-to-launch Unwritten program might be just the thing for you. Four weeks to start or expand a writing practice to explore your life. All with boatloads of support in a safe, encouraging community … with me, as your been-there-getting-through-it fearless leader. Find out more here.
Here’s to standing strong against that devil that says “not today.” To claiming the life you really want, and for bravely taking new routes (even when it’s hard).
Here’s to today.