I've had a couple of occasions recently to be reminded of things I had forgotten. Man I hate that shit. I mean I'm glad anytime a solution for a problem is found, but whenever it's a reminder rather than a discovery I always get a bit annoyed at myself. Cycles, learning is relearning, yeah yeah, I know. Sometimes it just bugs me. Like now.
First example: My sister reminded me of a very useful technique last night, called the Twenty Minute Rule. The idea is simple; when faced with a task that one is at all resistant to, one simply decides to tackle it for only twenty minutes. After the time is up, one is free to go onto something else, guilt assuaged, one's inner Puritan mollified. Can one really get anything done in twenty minutes? Surprisingly yes, more than one usually expects but, in any case, one gets more done in twenty minutes than in zero, which is often what I've been giving my chores. For my sister (who really should have a blog of her own, but refrains for some very sound reasons) the task she's recently found daunting is her garden. She and her husband Tony have a beautiful place (see photo), that I covet with a most unbrotherly passion, but she reminded me how easily its care can turn into obligations which, depending on time ignored or one's general state of mind, can become reproaches. It can, in fact, quickly become ample evidence in the growing case one is building (somehow I ALWAYS have time for this) for why one is an utter waste as a human being. In the case of the garden, deadheading, weeding, pruning, planting new plants, checking for voracious bugs, are just a few of the tasks that go into making something look that good and 'natural'. So she recently reinstituted the twenty minute rule, the garden is happy, she's happy, it's all good. Of course the secret weapon of this technique is the way it fools our inner Couch Potato; often after an hour she will find herself still happily puttering away in the garden, actually enjoying herself. It's best to ignore this side of the technique though, so as not to betray the Couch Potato's trust. If you say it will be twenty-minutes, and anyone (your Inner Child, Inner Couch Potato, Inner Naysayer, Inner Crank, whatever) is not having fun at the end of twenty minutes, you stop. Follow the rule, or it won't work in the future.
Heartened by this reminder, I've used it repeatedly all morning. Being unemployed, it's an especially good way to structure my time. Here it is, 1:30pm, and I am sufficiently ahead in my chores to feel that a few minutes writing on my blog (in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY?) is permitted.
Man, I hate this shit.
Second example: I had reason to be leafing back through some fairly old emails, from 2002-04, and while I was seeking specific information, easily fell into the trap of rereading old notes just for the hell of it. Naturally I discovered that three to five years ago I was frustrated by many of the same things, complaining about the same things, struggling with the same self-doubts and confusions, same problems all around. Subsequent emails showed me how I began to fight my way out of that quagmire and surprise, many of the discoveries I made and things I tried are the very ones I've come back to recently, including, of course, the twenty minute rule.
I really really REALLY hate this shit.
Okay, so I'm on an upswing of sorts at the moment, it feels like the sludge is getting broken up JUST a bit (don't want to jinx it), syphoned off, that's all just absolutely NIFTY, I'm not really helped by bitching about how long it took me to learn STUFF I ALREADY KNOW. I really want to, though.
I'll give it twenty minutes.
Now, perhaps as tonic for my own grouching...
When I'm modeling for college drawing classes at the beginning of the school year, quite often first year students will become so disgusted with their efforts, so horrified at the ugliness that is their art (and by extension of course, their very being) that they will choose to crumple the offending, hideous, EXCREMENTAL page into a tiny, diamond-hard ball, and throw it away, getting the offending sheet as far from them as possible. (As a side note, is there anything more melodramatic than a teenager, regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation? Drama Queens, the lot of 'em). Usually the teacher takes that opportunity to remind them that they are being graded on their PROGRESS throughout the semester, so they should save everything, to have an accurate record of the semester. Most of them accept it gracelessly, since, hey, apparently it's a RULE... but you can tell they resent it. A lot. It's usually not until much later in the semester, or year, that they experience the pedagogical beauty of this rule. As we progress in anything, so does our gauge of excellence. We forget the lessons we already learned, and focus only on the impossible task before us. So sometimes, a student will be faced with a new frustration, a new thing she's just not getting, and the teacher will make her look at one of her earliest sketches. Suddenly, she'll realize how things that used to seem impossible now are second nature. Usually she also makes the leap that if she did it before, she can probably do it again.
As an actor, it is perhaps a bit harder to find these records of past efforts, a collection of my past 'sketches.' I'm smart enough to know NOT to look to videotapes of live shows for this experience, and while previous films MIGHT work, I don't have any film work to look at yet. Rehearsals, like performances disappear the minute they are over. This is the beauty and the heartache of theatre. Nonetheless, I think I benefit greatly from looking behind me, and realizing I've actually progressed, however minimally. I just have to remember to do it, and how.
I will forget all this again, apparently. Forty plus years of experience shows me that, at the very least. So maybe I'm leaving this entry as a note to my future self, for the next time when I feeling trapped, blocked, or useless.