Grandmother’s Peirogi by Yuri Pancirev

I seem to be drawn to images of domestic harmony. I appreciate this painting for its tender depiction of the baking woman, the sturdy strength of her arm muscles, her sharply pointed elbow and age slackened flesh of her forearm in contrast to the youthful naked curves so often shown of women’s bodies (as in The Model, by the same artist). my husband says that male artists draw women’s bottoms because they like looking at them, and there isn’t much arguing with that. I have nothing against bottoms at all, in their place (!) but there is more to us than that, I think.

as in this painting, with the hands intent upon pressing and firming and shaping the dough. one is drawn to the calm concentration on her face and then to count the rows and rows of dumplings, the grandfather sitting alone in the other room, in almost painful isolation, watched curiously by the ginger cat. for whom is she baking? what vast array of persons, what event calls for such largesse?

I am a prodigious overthinker. I pour time and energy into pondering ways and means and habits I can incorporate into my life to improve it. I spend far too much time reading online when I oh fuck here comes THAT word SHOULD be doing something more productive. had you noticed that this is one of those pieces I am writing in order to work out what I am thinking about something?! well, it is 🙂

eg I have a ridiculous number of cook-books but never ANY idea what to make for supper and in reality it is often my husband who cooks, which is a relief to us all, frankly. I’ve just been and counted the cook books, by the way. FIFTY TWO*. I wish I were exaggerating.

bet Grandmother didn’t have fifty two bloody cookbooks. bet her mother taught her how to make the best peirogi in downtown Minsk and that was that. on the other hand if she and her husband hadn’t eaten quite so many peirogi they might not be shaped quite so like dumplings themselves…. (latest cookbook on my shelf is Deliciously Ella, who is more of a sweet potato brownie kinda gal.)

so I veer between inspiration and chaos. between tightly controlled regimens that last for five days and a free for all that means in practice that we eat tuna pasta and pesto on the one night I end up cooking in the week.

and this doesn’t mean I am weird, or unusual, merely that I am human, and a working mother and wife with mouths to feed some of whom don’t like sweetcorn or mushrooms and others of whom consider a meal is incomplete without a large chunk of MEAT in it whereas I would be quite happily go vegetarian as long as thai green chicken curry counted as a vegetable.

first moments flicking through a new cook book always bliss. Hugh Fearnley Eats It All for example has recently converted to the joys of veg in his River Cottage Veg Everyday book. I leaf through it and realise that all of the dishes would go down very well in this household as long as they were served with a nice roast chicken. maybe that’s the way. not either/or but and/also?

this is me trying not to do yet ANOTHER bloody post on this blog about habit change. I may need to set a new habit in place of not thinking about habits 🙂

the thing is that it is so key to living in accordance with my priorities. deciding what those are and then putting them into practice. because not doing that got me into the booze trap and doing that got me out.

in some of my internet meanderings I came across James Clear. he’s written some great posts on habit change. in one post on identity-based habits, he says:

The root of behavior change and building better habits is your identity. Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

so to change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.

how did I do this when I got sober? I literally created a new identity for myself, as Primrose. that identity was shaped and grew in my interactions with others both online and in real life. Primrose is an aspect of me but I am not always Primrose… I write this blog for my own purposes, first and foremost, and I am astounded, thinking about it, that ‘her’ identity has grown so strongly within me. it’s more than just accountability – although the thought of going online with a story of falling into a bottle of Cloudy Bay was distinctly off putting in the early days. it is more that I built up my own belief that I was a person who could do this, by doing it and by documenting the doing of it, so I could refer to it again when I was wobbly.

(which is why at seventeen nearly eighteen months sober I am still finding value in sober blogging, even though the actual not putting alcohol in my mouth isn’t a big deal AT ALL these days. if you are a blogger, is this your experience? if not, what is? how regularly do you write? do you blog because you think you ‘ought to’? do you blog to a schedule, or at whim? if you don’t blog, why is it that you don’t? what is putting you off?)

the thing I like about this approach is the advantages identity-based habits have over goal-based habits – in particular, when our perfectionist selves fuck it all up by not being utterly perfect! as James says:

First, identity-based habits focus on you rather than your goals. It is surprisingly easy to achieve a goal and still not be happy with who you are as a person. Society pushes us to obsess over results: What are your goals? How busy are you? How successful have you become?

And while there is nothing wrong with achievement and improvement, it is also very easy to forget to ask yourself the more important questions: Who am I? What do I believe about myself? What do I want my identity to be?

Identity-based habits are one way to match your values and beliefs with the outcomes that you want in your life. 

Second, the idea of “casting votes for your identity” reveals how your daily actions add up over the long-term. Your actions drive your beliefs and each action you take is a vote for the type of person that you believe that you are. What beliefs are you expressing through your actions?

Third, this framework helps to remove the “All or Nothing” philosophy that can so easily wreck our progress. For some reason, we often think that if we fail to follow our exact plan step-by-step, then we have totally blown it. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way at all. If you make a mistake, remember that it’s just one vote. Be aware of the votes you’re casting and try to win the majority. Every action is a vote for your identity.

who are you voting for yourself to be, today? love, Prim xx

* plus three more beside my bed. ahem.