Monday, November 22, 2010

15 Minutes A Day

Could it really be this simple?

I was passing time this afternoon cruising the web via the addictive, when I stumbled across 

The premise is this:  It takes 21 days to develop (or break) a habit. On HabitForge, you type in the habit you want to develop. You are emailed daily with an inquiry about whether or not you met the goal for developing the habit the previous day. You click yes or no, and that's it. When you're feeling daring, you go to the website and check your stats. If you miss a single day, you have to start at day one again.

This is my first day one. The habit I am trying to enforce is to write 15-30 minutes a day. I did not specify what I would write, or in which journal or blog I would write. (I have three that I will tell you about.) Just that I would write 15-30 minutes a day.

I can do that, right? Just write. For 15 minutes a day. 

(I think I am going to LOVE this particular application of technology. It's like a gentle, personal nag! But without all the noise.)

I have three blogs/journals currently built and ready to fill. One is the one you are currently reading. I have another one in which I will do writing exercises from a few books from which I've blown off the dust -- THE ARTIST'S WAY and THE WRITER'S IDEA BOOK.  The third is dedicated to my son, and that one is currently private. I may start a fourth private journal for all those terrible, dark or deeply personal thoughts and feelings that I'm just not bold enough to express publicly. Yet.

One of the things I will strive for as a writer is openness and complete honesty. I wonder if that's even possibly when you've attached your name to the venue of expression. How honest can I be?

I was once accused of being "honest to the point of brutality." I will never forget that moment. All the details are etched in my memory so painfully, so sharply. It was during a counseling session with my ex-husband. He was late for the session. He arrived inebriated. I didn't want to go ahead with the session, but the counselor insisted. I was asked how I felt at that moment, about my soon-to-be-ex-husband's tardiness and condition, so I answered. I told them both that I was angry and disgusted. That I was tired of being told that I shouldn't be angry because "alcoholism is a disease." I was disgusted, by that point, with the very sight of the man. I didn't love him. In fact, I'd never been in love with him, and I told him repeatedly before we married that I'd only end up hurting him in the end. He didn't listen. He wore me down, with the help of friends and family on both sides. 

Oh, yes. It all came out in quite a torrent, but I never raised my voice. I spoke calmly and pointedly. I sat very still in the cushy chair, and I looked both of them in the eye while I spoke. I felt strong and empowered. The sun was setting and a ray of light was coming in the window at a slant across my hands, which were folded in my lap.

When I was done, a sudden and heavy silence fell in the room. Then he said it. The counselor said, "You know, Jeanne, there is such a thing as being too honest."

"Excuse me?," I said, my voice rising with emotion for the first time. "EXCUSE me? Are you suggesting that I lie? That I lie in a counseling session rather than tell the truth?"

I looked over at my ex-husband who appeared to be totally disengaged. (In fact, I am quite sure he doesn't remember the session at all, although it was our last.) 

The counselor then spoke the words that pinged around in my head like a bullet shot inside of a tank.

"You are honest to the point of brutality."

And there you have it. 

Before that day, which was over 16 years ago, I'd believed that complete honesty was a good and noble practice. I was stunned into silence. All I could think about was the brutality to which I'd been exposed. The brutality that comes from the gut of a wounded, angry man who sought oblivion in a Budweiser bottle, and why was that okay... and honesty not?

I got up and walked out, and that was that. When my ex-husband sobered up the next day, I told him I wasn't going back to the counselor with him. I reminded him that he almost didn't show up, and that when he did, he was drunk, and that it obviously wasn't doing either of us any good. I also told him about the comment equating the extent of my honesty to brutality. To his credit, he apologized and told me that I should always be honest, even if it did hurt, if what I was speaking was the truth. 

I felt a little better about it, but since then, I've spent a lot of time mulling over the nature of honesty. I still believe that honesty is the best and most noble route, but I also understand that one has to exercise care with honesty. Care with the time, the place, the circumstances in which it is expressed, as well as the intent with which it is expressed.

Sometimes silence... or even "a little white lie"... just may be the lesser of two evils.

And that is why there are some truths that will most likely remain tucked away in the safety of a private journal. I'll follow Mark Twain's example, and allow its release 100 years after my death. 

Ohmy! 34 minutes of writing! Fascinating where the mind takes you when you just let it go, huh?

Before I finish this post, I want to state that less than a year after that counseling session, my ex-husband put down the bottle and never picked it up again. He has been sober ever since. It wasn't what was needed to save the marriage, and we both grew to realize that we didn't really bring out the best in each other. We divorced more-or-less amicably, are still committed to the raising of our son, and both moved on in the love department. I learned a lot from my first marriage, including what I really want and need in a relationship, and found it, joyfully and thankfully, with my current husband. All is well!  

Now I must venture out into the unusually warm, stormy night to take the Pom out for a pee! That's about as real as it gets!

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