Monday, October 1, 2012
Already Dead (Five lessons before 10AM)
New journals are always an exciting idea for me. I look at each journal as a separate book in the story of my life. In reality they're more like chapters or subchapters, but each journal signifies to me that there's a brand new chance to start all over again and do it differently, to do it better.
I LOVE having a new journal.
So today being the first of the month, a Monday, AND the beginning of a new journal struck me as a sign: Today was the perfect day to start a new habit.
Lesson number one: Laura, dear, stop taking everything so seriously. Some coincidences are just coincidences.
Lesson number two: No day is the perfect day to start a new habit and for that reason, every day is. Starting a new habit is hard, it takes a lot of going against what your subconscious has already been programmed to do, and that takes a lot of self discipline. And, let's face it Laura, you're not so great at self discipline just yet.
Nevertheless, I went to bed with this brilliant idea of starting a new habit in the morning, on the perfect day to start a new habit. There are many habits I want to develop but I decided to start with what I was pretty sure would be the easiest one: Exercise. I have, after all, only had my gym membership since June. It's about time I used it.
I'm convinced that some day they'll have a magic pill for weight loss and historians will wonder why we ever put ourselves on these torture devices.
I took the half-hour opportunity while on the elliptical to read my bible. After all, what else is there to do for a half hour when the gym music sucks and the news is the only thing on TV? Yeah, I'm still working on the whole discipline and priorities thing, but I'm getting better.
As it turns out, the elliptical is actually the perfect place for me to read my bible! I hadn't realized that my previous better-than-nothing-but-still-not-awesome habit only took 8 minutes to complete. Not much room for any real bible time in 8 minutes.
As soon as my half hour was over I raced home, took the fastest (and coldest) shower I've taken in a long time, and hurried to get ready. I was running a little bit late. Actually, a lot late. Fortunately, I tend to be half an hour to an hour early for work most days, so late didn't really matter.
Lesson number three: Adding a half-hour habit to your day means that you have to sacrifice a half hour of something else. Probably sleep.
I finally got out the door *just* in time to make it to work on time and - reminding myself to be calm - popped in a motivational CD for the drive. After all, if I'm going to spend a half hour in the car, why not make the most of it? (see, I'm getting better.)
About halfway there, I realized something dreadful. I was driving our Spectra because Dearest needed the Prius today for his running around, and the Prius key was still in my purse, which was right next to me in the car. And I had *just* seen that 167 northbound (the road I'd have to take to get home) was stopped up because of a multi-car collision.
I was going to be very late.
Lesson number four: Accountability goes a long way. I'm usually quite early to work, so my bosses thought little of it when I called and explained what happened, apologized, and told them I'd be late.
Lesson number five: No matter how wrong your day goes, your response to it really is your choice. This has been a hard lesson for me, one I've failed at and had to repeat many times. Today, I could have been very frustrated. I had every right to be. I tried to do a good thing and it screwed with my entire morning, ultimately contributing to me being late to work. However, it is in these times that I've been taught to talk to myself. Self-talk can be an awesome tool. The odd part is what I was saying to myself:
It's all right, I'm already dead.
Before you start worrying, this is an affirmation that my husband actually uses for himself when his anxiety starts to spike and it's biblically based. Sort of. The place he gets this affirmation from is where it talks about not worrying so much about what other people think about us because we've died to our old selves. We're not tied to the world in the same way anymore, we're not the same people we used to be, those old selves are dead.
It's all right, I'm already dead.
The first time my husband told me about this affirmation it was a little weird for me. Many of you know that he had some serious health challenges last year and it was a really hard time for us - a time during which is most frequent statement was "I just want to be dead." So you can understand how I would be taken back a little by an affirmation stating that you ARE dead! But I tried it today. Stuck in traffic and very, very late for work, I made a choice. I loosened my deathgrip on the steering wheel, leaned back in my seat instead of forward , and said "You know what, it's all right. I'm already dead anyway."
To my amazement, it worked. The tension slowly left my body! So I tried it again, and again, feeling lighter and more at peace each time. By the time I was home to give my husband his car key I was relaxed and only regretted that I couldn't curl up in bed with him and take a nap. I finally got to work (not as late as I thought I would be after all, though still late) and was able to actually smile. Sure, I've had a hectic morning. But what does it matter anyway? What's the point of getting upset that it didn't go the way I wanted it to if I'm already dead?
I think sometimes, when we decide to do good things that we haven't been doing before, life (or the devil, depending on how much credit you want to give that jerk) will throw stuff in our way. It's like Newton's first law of physics: A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.
Change is hard, it's hard on our minds and hard on our bodies and sometimes even hard on our spirits - even if the change will benefit us in the long run. Developing a new habit takes rearranging your schedule a little bit, probably sacrificing some sleep or some free time for at least a while until you get things figured out. It requires things like dragging yourself out of bed when your whole body is crying out for just a little more sleep. "Five more minutes!"
But the difficulty, how hard you have to work for that new habit, is part of the point. It it was easy, everyone would do it. Things that are good for you tend to be difficult to pull off, to follow through on, to even start in the first place. It's getting through that difficult part, telling yourself whatever you have to tell yourself to get up and get dressed and get out there, or keeping yourself calm when the new habit throws your day a little bit - it's responding to that difficult part the right way that makes the difference. That's what makes the victory worthwhile.
So here I am, ten in the morning (well, ten thirty by now), five life lessons richer, violating every story-writing rule my grammar teachers taught me, and feeling pretty good about myself. Because today my morning was hard, but I got through it, and I did the right thing anyway. And one of these days, when I'm down to my ideal size and full of lean muscle, I'll be able to look back and say "It was a Monday, and the first of the month, and the first day of a new journal, and because I decided to do the right thing that day, that's what started it all."