Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 - Off to A Good Start

Discipline is not a fun word. It seems to have the word "slip" built mockingly into it, and it feels that way in the mouth. It's a word like the last bit of a soap bar; you would unwrap a new one, but feel guilty for wasting what's already there. It's also a word I mistype almost every single time.

Until they come up with a way to make everything that is good for us fun, however, it is pretty much the only way forward. A fair amount of research points to the idea that discipline works like a muscle. The good part of that is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. The bad part is that just like your muscles, it gets tired and eventually quits when overused, and while a sprained discipline won't put you on crutches, it can derail projects and lead to moping.

I do not like moping. I do like feeling like I'm making progress toward my goals. Therefore, some studious application of discipline has been in order this past week. It's been a good week, an encouraging week. Part of that comes from knowing myself well enough to know where my discipline is likely to wear out. I like being productive, but that doesn't mean I like working harder than I have to. Hence, my efforts to make discipline as easy for myself as I can.

First off, there's going to the gym. Yes, I joined along with the rest of the herd. I know from years of painful experience that the only way I will make it over there is to make the process as free of conscious thought as possible. I go early in the day, when there are no realistic excuses I can make to avoid it (not being able to sleep past five is in this case an asset). I pack my stuff and lay out my sweats the night before, so that all I have to do is pack a lunch, grab my ridiculous number of bags, and trudge out to the bus stop.

Packing a lunch (and breakfast, for that matter) is important for both fitness and financial goals. The most important thing I did for this effort so far? Stocking up on yogurt. I will only eat one kind of yogurt, and it's a kind that my normal store doesn't carry. I can get through my day on a half a bagel and a sandwich or whatever leftovers are around, but only if I have my yogurt in between. If I can't, then I'm going to eat an entire bagel for breakfast, and then I may as well go out for lunch since my day has already been calorically blown. I do realize this is silly, but there's no addendum on "know thyself" that says "but only if what you find out is not too silly." By giving myself this one thing (which is even good for me!), I make it easier for myself to eat decently during the day.

I do allow myself treats. There is no reason to be ridiculous about things, after all. I have adopted vending machine pretzels as my standard afternoon snack, which is probably better than M&Ms, and I give myself the occasional visit to Dunkin Donuts.

The third discipline is writing. This is actually a lot more difficult than getting myself to the gym, but it's been pretty successful this week. Inspired by this post on Terrible Minds, I had to admit that I spend an awful lot of time doing things that are not in fact writing. So now, after the gym, I sit down at my desk. I open up my document and -- this is the important part -- nothing else. No email, no IM, no browser. Just my book. I set the timer on my phone for one hour, and I work until that hour is up (also I drink tea and eat my bagel, which tastes pretty damn good by that time, let me add).

Can I keep this up? Remains to be seen. So far, it's been a good month. I've been to the gym every (week)day. I've revised the first 3,000 words of Fury's Flight, nearly 1/3 of what I need to apply for Taos. I haven't gone out for lunch even once, though I think I will need to schedule in some breaks in that; boredom does not make for a happy, productive me.

Finally, in what is perhaps a fit of insanity, I've signed up for the new Tuesdays with Dorie project, which starts in February. The fact that they're every other week this time was a big motivator; I should be able to bake twice a month! Serendipitously, while I was thinking about whether or not I should try to participate, my mother let me know that she had a copy of Baking with Julia that she had picked up free somewhere and wasn't using. The book has obviously been well-used by someone, and I look forward to adding my own sprinkles of flour and spatters of chocolate to its pages. Although I did a lot of baking for the holidays, most of it happened in something of a frantic blur, and it's been something of a sugar drought since then (I did mention that treats are good?).

If I was doing a Happiness Project, it seems that
  • January = Body & Writing
  • February = Kitchen (& Writing, since you are supposed to blog about the recipes)
I'm sure I will think of something to do in in March. With writing. 

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