You don’t have to do that

My journal is A4. I like A4 journals. Something about the extra space feels good. But what I don’t like? The left hand pages.

I’m left-handed, so writing with paper square on is difficult so I have the journal at an angle. But then the top half of the left hand page is really difficult to reach and yesterday, as I struggled awkwardly with the top half of yet another left hand page, it suddenly occurred to me that I could…stop putting myself through this.

I realised that I could just use the right hand pages. I love the right hand pages. No weird hand manoeuvres necessary. No more trying to haul myself halfway across the desk to get on top of the paper. And no more huffy puffy annoyance at those poor left hand pages.

And then I thought, when I get to the end of the journal, I can flip it upside down and use the pages that I’d left blank which would now be right hand pages. That way not only could I use all the pages, but I could love them all fully too. It’s true what they say about us left-handed folk, we really are geniuses!

I got curious about why this simple and highly satisfactory fix should feel like such an epiphany. And why did it feel a little naughty? Why was missing out the left hand pages and then flipping the journal upside down not already my go to?

I decided it was as simple as the fact that I’d only ever been shown and taught to write in a book one way - from front to back, left to right and top to bottom. And because that way of doing things was so deeply ingrained, it didn’t even occur to me to question the system, even though the system sucked (for me).

It got me even more curious about all the other things I do just because that’s the way they’re done, versus finding a way that might be more efficient, more joyous, more interesting, more exciting, more comfortable etc.

And, of course, it got me going on the whole topic of the way in which we live our lives. Upbringing, education, cultural pressure or simply being in your own long-term patterns - they all have us living life on default, as if that’s the only way it can be lived.

It’s impossible to be alive and to not have patterns of behaviour. There’s nothing wrong with patterns. But life starts to get interesting when we bring fresh awareness to a way of doing something or a way of living because when there’s awareness, there’s choice. We’re no longer in default. We’ve seen something new. And now we can ask:

Do I continue or not?

There are few things more liberating than those moments in life when you realise, “I don’t have to do this.” And you know what? There are so many fewer things we have to do than we think. When we see through the story we’ve been telling ourselves, we might just find that we are far freer than we ever believed.

Love and courage,