12.15.18 - " I push her away... I push her away... I push her away..."
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk to you about persistence.
This morning I was laying in my bed, in a room that was shadowed by the black curtains that hang in my windows. I was awoken by the plaintive mews of my cat, Tessa. Her breakfast time is a good, sound 8 am, and has been since I adopted her four months ago, but, be it because of daylight savings, or her mere insistence, she has recently decided that 7:30 suit her as a better time. She begins my mornings by meowing loudly and rubbing her ticklish whiskers against my face until I acknowledge her with a cracking of my eyelid. She will then proceed to get my attention by attempting to eat my plant.
I have a beautiful ivy plant growing in my window sill. I purchase it shortly after moving into my new apartment, and it has been steadily growing ever since, filling my window with bright green that glows brilliantly in the sunlight…and Tessa seems to enjoy goading me by trying to chew this ivy to death. She will slip beyond my black curtain to gnaw at the leaves and the largest bits of stem to both silence her hunger and inspire me to awaken. After nuzzling and purring at me, she will go for the ivy, I will push her away, and she will return to nuzzling and purring at me, to repeat the whole Sisyphean exercise again…and again…and again. We two become locked in this battle of persistence until my alarm at 8 am, when I rise to finally succumb to feeding her breakfast.
This is all to illustrate a very important thing about persistence: if at first you don’t succeed, do not simply try and try again.
Y’see, every time Tessa attempts to go for my plant she doesn’t simply try and try again. There is a method to her madness. At first she tries sneaking behind the curtain after awakening me. I push her away. Then she attempts distracting me with purring and nuzzling, and then going for the plant. I push her away. Then she attempts distracting me and slyly inching closer to the curtain. I push her away. Then she attempts to go straight for the curtain. I push her away.
It has been said that the definition of insanity “is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” The madness of this whole interaction does not truly lie in Tessa, but in me. Due to my exhaustion, I attempt to simply push her away, expecting her to stop trying, though evidence does not support this. Tessa, on the other hand, is going about persistence in a much more effective way. With every attempt she learns, as if asking herself, “what went wrong, and what went right?,” and then adjusting her approach properly.
It is important that, with your persistence, you employ learning as well. Like Tessa, ask yourself, with each new attempt, “what went wrong, and what went right?” How did your previous attempts get you closer to your goal? How can you expound upon those tactics? Where did your previous attempts fail? How can you avoid those tactics? How can you effectively change?
Now, there is one very important thing I would like you to be aware of in your persistent pursuits: feelings are important. When you are looking at yourself and your attempts, and talking yourself through your successes and failures, how you speak with yourself is important. If you berate yourself and belittle yourself for every failed attempt-
“You’re so dumb! Why did you think that would work?”
“What kind of worthless idiot would have tried something like that?”
-you’re going to end up talking yourself into despair, and all motivation to grow and learn from your mistakes will dissipate. It is surprisingly easy to fall into this kind of negative self-talk. So the next time you find yourself failing at something, I want you to take a moment. Look in a mirror or simply imagine yourself in your minds eye. Sit yourself down and talk to yourself as you would a smaller child or a baby animal. Address your failures with the understanding that you’ve done the best you can, and that you still have worth, and that you still love yourself.
Now, on the other hand, if you focus on only your successes-
“That was utter perfection in every way.”
“No one could have done that any better than you.”
-you’re going to end up talking yourself into delusion, and all subjectivity you have with yourself will be false, and people will begin to shy away from your egotism. It is also surprisingly easy to fall into this kind of over-confident self talk. So the next time you find yourself succeeding at something, I want you to take another type of moment. Sit yourself down again and give yourself all of the time you feel you need to praise yourself. Write down your successes, if you want. List everything you like about yourself that you have worked to accomplish…and then, for every three successes, list one thing that you want to work on.
It is much easier to remember and hold onto negative things. Negatives are great teachers, and our animal brains hold onto negatives to keep us safe-
“The fire burned me, so I need to remember not to touch it.”
“That man bumped into me and made me fall down, which hurt. I need to avoid that kind of interaction in the future.”
-but, positivity can also be a good teacher. Negativity is what we strive to avoid, but we need to remember to also keep our eye on what we are striving to reach. Balance, once again, is the key.
So, sweet babe, what are you going to use persistence to achieve?