Mind the Drudgery

December 13, 2020

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

– Octavia Butler

Three specific words have been floating around my mind lately. All week last week, I kept coming back to this single phrase. 

Mind the drudgery

The definition of drudgery is “hard, menial, or dull work”. The word itself sounds heavy, boring, and requiring strength to overcome. Whenever the phrase crossed my mind over the last week, I kept picturing a thick swamp filled with mud, overgrowth, and an uneven bottom. It takes effort to wade through it all and the journey seems never-ending.  It’s physically challenging, but the body is strong enough to make it to the other side. The real fight is in the mind. 

It’s a battle we’re in right now. COVID has rocked our country and the light at the end of the tunnel has only just appeared. We’re still in the thick of it, waiting to see the shore on the other side of this terrible journey. Patience is wearing thin and our spirits are weary.  This is the time to take a breath and mind our minds. 

Over the past 5 years or so, mental health has become a passion as I’ve learned how to walk with anxiety every day. Last March, I struggled with anxiety in a more painful way than I have since I initially sought medication. It was hard, but I’m not there anymore. Instead of falling into a sense of powerless over this reality we’re all in, I had to adopt habits that kept me moving forward. I had to mind my mind. 

Last week was difficult for my mental health. It was emotionally challenging and I wanted to throw a tantrum more than once. Yes, at 29 years old, I wanted to throw my hands up and complain about how much this sucks and how desperately I wanted to leave my apartment. “Oh poor me, my situation just leaves so much to be desired!”  I wanted to feel so sorry for myself and justify stuffing a carton of ice cream into my mouth. It would feel good for a second, but I’ve learned that the frustration any tantrum stems from is really just impatience coupled with a closed mindset.  Instead, I needed to lean into the habits that keep me centered and open my mind to some other possibilities.  It was time to mind the drudgery.

I had to lace up my shoes and do the workout I (stubbornly) didn’t want to do. I had to sit down and start the timer on a meditation I didn’t want to breathe through. If all else failed, I’d force myself to watch a YouTube video from a COVID unit to remind me of the “why” behind all of this. 

Has life been flipped turned upside down? Yes. Am I feeling the effects of month ten in a tiny space? Yep. Does it all suck? Yup, but this is not going to last forever. What can last forever is the habit I choose to manage stress. What can last forever is a set of empowering habits that become default when life sucks. 

I firmly believe that we’re capable of changing our lives by changing the way we think. When I didn’t have tools to manage my anxiety in a healthy way, I quickly fell into anxiety attacks and/or comparison. Now, I have tools that help me choose better thoughts. Instead of thinking about how much COVID life sucks, I choose to search, HARD, for the reasons to be grateful. As hard as 2020 has been, we’re not getting this year back. Wishing it would all move faster and complaining about how awful it is only makes us lose valuable time. Yes, this time feels like drudgery, but it is time you GET TO LIVE. 

298,000 (United States alone) people don’t get to see today.  298,000 people who very likely did not get to see their families as they took their last breaths. 298,000 people who were dropped off at a hospital by a loved one they would never see again. That is also the reality of this year. Two truths existing simultaneously, each laden with emotion and pain. The major difference being one truth gets to breathe another easy breath. The other, will never breathe again. 

This year has been difficult. That word seems so inaccurate when I consider the last 9.5 months. Arduous, onerous, exhausting, backbreaking, embittering… those words are closer to accuracy. Minding the drudgery is a practice. It is a commitment to keep going, to focus on the end goal, rather than getting disheartened by the effort it takes to reach the end.  You’re fully capable of controlling your mind to maintain your focus. 

Said another way, this is what it feels like to be persistent. 

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