About 2, maybe 3pm every day, I hit a wall. Hell, it’s not just a wall. It’s a mountain. NAP MOUNTAIN. With craggy peaks of sweet torpidity, with mighty spires of somnolence. I hit the mountain, and find a small mountain town called Sleepysburg, and there my body is just like, “Fuck this, fuck all of it, fuck you, just — just give into the glorious miasma of lethargy.” And then I lay in the marshmallow streets and stick to the taffy-molasses puddles and —
Well, you get the metaphor. I nap. I fucking nap hard.
Sometimes it’s a 15 minute power nap. That’s usually all I can manage with a toddler running around. Once in a blue moon I manage a deeper dive, and I fall into what could only be described as a nap chasm — me falling into a crater of pure unconsciousness. I can fall into this crater for two hours. I can lose part of my life in this thing. I wake up and forget my name for 15 minutes.
This desire to nap — it times out with the weather.
I look outside, I see gray blah. Like a choir of ashen ghosts joined hands and filled the sky. Everything bleak and blasted and wet and cold. When that happens, my body is all mm blankey and pillow so warm and just shut the crap up and nap already you foolish mortal.
See, but —
When the weather was warm, I’d sometimes use that time to run.
And I remind myself, you should do that now.
And my brain is like BUT BLANKEY
And my brain is also like hey, you should run
And my brain is then like PILLOWS SWEET PILLOWS
And my brain is back to no, but what about running
And my brain screams JESUS CHARLESWORTH CHRIST RUNNING IS TIRING AND YOU’RE ALREADY TIRED SO WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN IF YOU RUN, DINGWHISTLE, YOU’RE JUST GONNA GET MORE TIRED SO STICK WITH THE PLAN ALREADY
And today, I was like, yeah, whatever, you might be right but I’m gonna go get on the dumb elliptical anyway, and then I sashayed my grumpy bear body over to the elliptical and clambered onto it, and before I knew it I did a good three miles while I watched a back episode of Gotham. (Which, incidentally, I think is getting better with every episode. Still have a couple to go, though. No spoilers, or I spray you with hot cat urine.)
I did it.
And I wasn’t tired anymore.
I was actually feeling pretty energized.
I took a quick shower and I was ready to conquer the world.
I made a bad-ass dinner and ran around with the toddler and here I am, writing this blog. And now I’m reminded that every day, when I hit that wall, I’m making a choice. I’m deciding whether or not I’m going to take the easy way or the hard way. Am I going to give in, or push back?
The easy way would’ve been to nap. The easy way would’ve been to exude all my willpower from every pore in my body in an aerosolized mist and then just flump down on the bed and that’s that.
The hard way was to admittedly do something not that hard — it’s not like I had to go fight in a war or wait tables at a busy Manhattan restaurant — but it was still a lot harder than napping.
The easy way would’ve paid off in the short term. Immediate pleasure-spike.
The hard way paid off bigger in the end.
The easy way is the short con. The hard way is the long con.
The long con almost always pays out better.
I mean, okay, this isn’t universally true. If one choice is, “Walk over to that picnic table and eat a delicious slice of pie,” and the other harder choice is, “Enter that bouncy castle over there, the one full of hunger-mad raccoons,” yes, granted, the easier choice is truly the wiser one. Picnic Pie over Raccoon Injury any day of the week.
Certainly it’s worth looking at if the harder choice is also the smarter choice.
But in general, y’know, it’s always worth taking the time to make that assessment.
Sometimes the short walk will get you there faster. But sometimes the longer walk is the prettier, more interesting walk — and it’s the one where you have more time to think, get more exercise, see new things. Like two Yetis making love on a hammock made of human skin.
Park close to a store — easy to head inside. Park far away — longer walk. Seems dumb. Isn’t dumb. Again: more exercise. More blood flow. Better chance of seeing something funny happen in the lot, too, like a couple seagulls fighting a preschooler over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve never seen that. But I want to see that. I bet that’s amazing.
Fast food is easy. Home cooking is hard. But, y’know, about a thousand bazillionty times better. For you, for your family, for the Pink Slimecubes that must be destroyed in the dungeons beneath Ronald McDonald’s clown-vomit murder factory.
Art is like this, too.
It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper. The thing about the easy way, though — the thing that’s seductive — is that it’s a known quantity. We know what we get out of it. We’ll get it quickly and without complication and likely with great (if momentary) pleasure. The hard way is a question mark bolted to an iron door. The door will be hard to open and the path beyond it, potentially treacherous. Its reward is unknown, uncertain, and seems counter to what we really want in the first place. You’re tired? Nap! Ta-da! Why would you run when you’re tired? How dumb are you?
Except, it’s not dumb. It pays off.
Sometimes, you do have to take the easy way. Sometimes, you really need a nap, or a cookie, or a day off from whatever it is you’re doing. That’s okay. You can push too hard. Bend too far and you can break. But just the same — sometimes you really have to push.
Hell with the easy way. Dying is the easy way. Living is the hard way.
So keep going.
Keep making cool stuff.
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