Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Failure of the Day: Now with More Self-Loathing!

Over the last couple of days, I have grown increasingly sick of myself. I’m just tired of my same old thoughts, and anymore, my personality irritates me.

I used to be better at getting out of my own head, not surprisingly I suppose, during the time when I was feeling the most trapped in my body. These days though, I think that perhaps because I am less my own physical enemy, I am more of my own psychological enemy. (I expect to pay big time for typing that I am physically kind of OK, by the way; if I’m in traction by xmas, you’ll know why.)

I was lying in bed this morning waiting for the alarm to go off, and I tried for around the millionth time in my life to concentrate on my breathing to the exclusion of everything else. I’m really terrible at that. I have all these yoga tapes that I thought I would be really good at since I’m so limber, but the skinny white lady in the leotard keeps badgering me to focus on my breath, and the minute I try to do that—well, what happens then is that I fall over because seriously, those positions are pretty hard to be in even when I’m focused on my legs. When my attention shifts, my balance just evaporates into a roomful of little popping bubbles.

Even when it’s some sitting down position, though, I just can’t think about only my breathing. It’s boring. And when I start to concentrate, my mind starts to cheer itself on: “Yes, now you’re really focusing! You’re blocking everything else out!” But of course, the fact that I’m thinking that means I’m not focused on my breathing; I’m focused on thinking about focusing on my breathing, which I realize immediately and then start berating myself about—“Gah! You’re not focused on your breathing! You’re terrible at focusing!” And then I’ve got a whole spiral of meta-thoughts, which is of course the exact opposite of silencing the internal monologue.

I think this inability indicates a fundamental flaw in me. It probably means that I am superficial and self-obsessed and 16 different kinds of immature, not to mention pathetically bad at yoga despite the fact that I can scratch the top of my head with my toe.

It’s not entirely hopeless though; when I’m copyediting a good bit of text, my focus is pretty sharp and I’m not thinking the same thought about what the title of my novel should be for the squillionth time or very much else except whether the comma goes before or after the coordinating conjunction in an adverbial clause. And come to think of it, when I’ve run a particularly good search for orange flats on zappos.com, I could really give a shit about whether or not I said a stupid thing to a co-worker that I need to re-live a couple hundred times. Grammar wonkiness and shoe shopping isn’t exactly enlightenment, but I suppose it’s better than obsessing about my own stupid breath.


  • At December 15, 2004 6:01 PM, Blogger Eli B said…

    I have no helpful insight, but: did you ever see that movie SWEETIE? There's a half-minute scene in a yoga class that has the best depiction ever of serenity-failure.

  • At December 15, 2004 8:21 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    Damnit! "Serenity Failure" is totally what I should have called this entry!


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