discipline

I love this time of year, the transition from summer to winter. I used to be a summer kind of girl, but as I’ve grown into adulthood, while my worship of the sun abides (although now I put a sturdy layer of spf 30 between it and me) I find myself a bit resentful of the season. It seems we’ve crammed it full of weddings, graduations and a bunch of other obligations and the lazy summer days I remember from childhood just drift around my memory, taunting me of all the possibility that existed before the crackberry was invented. I also hate traveling in the summer – the congested roadways, the overtaxed rest areas, the higher prices of everything – nope, as I’ve aged I’ve come to appreciate how much easier everything feels once you are wrapped up in a cool scarf and exchange all those sandals for all those boots.

I also don’t think the rest of the seasons transition as beautifully as summer does to autumn. Right now, when I first wake up and go outside for the paper the air is chilly, nearly cold. As the sun rises and the air turns to summer as the day moves along there are still so many signs of a new season…a few fallen leaves skirting down the street, the pine-like smell emanating from the old homes that dot the street where I live after a day of sitting in the sun, a sky deeper and richer blue than a month earlier, nights that come quickly. With autumn, it’s something in the air, the shadows, a quickening and then a pause. It’s delightful.

I cried a lot yesterday. Sometimes I do that. I need the release. But mostly the tears came from feeling overworked and despite all the hours I am putting in at my job, feeling as though no matter how hard I work it will never, ever be enough. I cried because when I began to think of the mountains of work to do an all-consuming panic rose in my chest, and I cried because I no longer seem to have time for simple chores like dropping my dry cleaning off or stocking food in the house or reading a book or exercising. I hate it, as I explained to S., when everything needs to be done at once.

While I worked, S. cleaned the whole house and it feels brand new. That helped so much. But during the worst of my distress, I wondered aloud if I should quit writing, quit exercising, quit this blog (please please don’t see this as an entreaty to keep blogging, I absolutely am. I’m simply sharing just how I felt!). “Life would be so much better,” I told S., “If cable and my tivo made me  happy.”

See, I don’t dislike working, and a lot of the time I really enjoy my job. I BELIEVE in work. I am not one of those writers who thinks the world should support her. I am happy to write in the cracks and crevices of a busy life…the problem comes when those cracks and crevices are increasingly filled with my job, housework, phone calls to return, and etcetera, the omnieverpresentetcetera. And for a moment or five I really did think I should trash the novel, donate my workout clothes and settle in for a long fall and winter of television watching.

But of course, OF COURSE, none of the above is going to happen.

“I don’t want to be around you if you don’t write or exercise,” S. said. “I believe you’d become impossible. What we need around here,” he gestured widely, “is a little discipline. We’ve had a fun summer but now it’s time to restore some discipline to our house.”

I thought about that for a few minutes. I knew it to be true. We have spent much of the last month going to restaurants instead of cooking in, going out for drinks in lieu of going to the gym, meeting up with friends instead of cleaning the place we live. We’ve been categorically chasing fun, and having a blast doing it, but too much restaurant food and too much drinking leads to things like sleeping in that extra hour instead of working on the novel or going for a run, things that balance the body and the mind MUCH more than vodka tonics and pasta.

As much as I hate to admit it, S. is right. I need to restore some discipline to my life. Blog while eating oatmeal, instead of reading People while eating donuts from the bakery down the street. Turn off the reality television full of people I just really hate and read again. As much discipline as it takes sometimes to do things we don’t always enjoy, like scrubbing the floor or putting money into our savings account, it also takes an odd sort of discipline to do the things we enjoy, like exercise, writing, reading. It turns out there is a reason so many people watch television and eat pastry…those decisions are certainly the easier ones to make.

But I don’t want to die without having read all the great books. I don’t want to die without writing every single story jumping around my head. And I don’t want to fulfill my genetic prophecy of heart disease, morbid obesity and diabetes. Especially I don’t want that. And so, discipline. I had a great August with my husband – a superkafrajalisticexpealidotious month. I don’t regret it. But it’s time to reign myself in, to remind myself that I choose how I respond to those I work with, and I won’t let their hysteria undermine the good work I do, and that I choose what goes into my body, and what I do with it on a regular basis, and as much as I wish it did, Fun doesn’t always equal Healthful or Happy.

I wonder if this sounds all stern and protestanty? I guess I can’t be worried about that. Discipline. Here at everythinginbetween, it’s this fall’s new black. Anybody else find it much easier to make resolutions on the academic calendar instead of in January?

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This entry was posted in Everything In Between, Hopelessly Indulgent Reflection, The Private, Time for a Hundred Visions and Revisions. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to discipline

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    Well, as a teacher, I’m stuck with the academic calendar, and so it definitely is a good time to think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I need some discipline right now too — no more wasting time on the computer (I don’t mean blogging, I mean stupid web surfing), no more eating badly, no more spending too much money. I’d like to lift weights too. I think I’ll join you in the discipline thing! 🙂

  2. Emily says:

    First, you made me wistful for the season I won’t get here in LA.

    Second, I think you are absolutely right. There is a time for all things, and fall is the time for just the change you describe.

  3. yogamum says:

    Yes yes yes! Me too! I have been slacking in all the same areas, but today I did get up and do yoga before heading off to work, and I *do* have a dinner plan for tonight. I also have a rough plan for how to work the writing into the “cracks and crevices.” This is the first week of school for me and the kids so I’m hopeful that we’ll get some discipline going around here!

  4. Litlove says:

    I have had such a slack summer, but not for good reasons like yours of fun and pleasure, but for awful overly emotional ones where I’ve let stress and worry get the better of me. I love the transition into autumn too (and you write about it beautifully) and I’d very much like some of that discipline. My son’s gone back to school today, like yogamum, and I’m hoping to find my space again and to make effort in the right places to use it!

  5. kimhaasdesign says:

    Me too! I love the possibilities that fall brings. I love the “structurelessness” of summer but by the time September rolls around I am desperate for some structure once again. I keep focused on the exercise/yoga side of my life but the writing side fell to the wayside. I am working on ways to tap back into it again. Love the phrase that it takes “an odd kind of discipline” to do these things that are so good for us and yet we still resist them. Hey… I should go write about this on my own blog which I have woefully neglected this last month.

  6. Courtney says:

    dorr, personally I really need to work on upper arm strength and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while…I will join you!
    emily, I will try and write about autumn as though you can experience it without wistfulness!
    Yogamum, I am returning to my yoga practice tomorrow, post-haste. I have no idea why we wait…
    Litlove, thank you for the kind words. I am looking forward to joining you in an autumn of discipline AND determination.
    Kim, lord, how I miss you! I stopped by your blog to comment but really, we MUST finish our novels this fall. We MUST.

  7. musingsfromthesofa says:

    Autumn is my favourite season and I am begging for it to kick in here. We just had another week of horrible hot weather.
    And I’m right with you on discipline, or as a friend and I say ‘You have to have rules’. I find that’s what allows you to get more stuff done, and you get to break them occasionally.

  8. Emily Barton says:

    Oh, you are so right about summer being the packed, over-crowded month! I love fall, too, as well as winter (winter is such a great excuse to stay indoors and read). Living in farm country, it’s become much more obvious to me that the notion of a “long, lazy summer” is ridiculous. Winter is when the land and, thus, people get to relax.

    And you don’t sound protestanty at all, just very wise. (Then again, being a protestant, maybe I just can’t tell?)

  9. debra says:

    I love this post and it has given me much to think about. My life could benefit from some discipline as well. Summertime is about being lax and enjoying more freedom than usual…it is now time to buckle down and add some structure to my days.

    Thank you!

  10. Meriah says:

    I’m inspired! I completely agree. Cheers to fall!

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