When I learned that self-control is an exhaustible resource, insight flowed into me regarding my recent emotions and behaviours. I’d been too keen to pile on more and more things to do, constantly reorganizing the kitchen and pantry; put out the latest podcast; completely change the way I shop for groceries and cook our family’s food; pack and un-pack clothes for endless trips; build physiotherapy into my daily life (I buggered my foot up, again, a few months back); much more I’m likely forgetting. All new things requiring self discipline and none of it on auto-pilot. When I needed my self-control, like dealing with a screaming irrational infant or not telling Janine the first thing that came to mind, it wasn’t there. I’d used it up. I must realize I’m not an automatic machine; I may fool myself for brief stretches but no matter how convenient it’d be if I were, I’m not. The illusion collapses when the self-control reservoir is gone. And when it’s gone, quite unlike a machine, I go batshit crazy .
I was short on sleep and carving myself into smaller and smaller pieces. For our recent anniversary, Janine sent me to a spa for a relaxation massage (Have I mentioned lately how much I *LOVE* my wife?) and I was required to fill out a form that included the question “What are your relaxation activities?” I laughed out loud. Then I thought that’s probably a bad sign.
Even as my worst day was happening, I was self-aware enough to write “I am pulling myself in too many directions at once and the attachment to all these things appears to be causing me some deep deep suffering.” I’m feeling better these days. Things are better. I need more energy to tackle these new projects, so where will this energy come from? What will I give up? When I sat down this morning to write out how I’ve been trying to be different, these six things emerged…
1 Only one or two drinks a day, only at the supper table, from now until the end of 2010. (With advance permission to ignore this rule at my brother’s bachelor party)
As Cliff told me, you’re going to have days where that depression gets the best of you, and honestly, THAT’S fine as long as it doesn’t take a bottle of Jack to climb back up. *eh-hem* Yes, well. *eh-hem* It’s not always Jack Daniels? Yeah… there’s a reason I’ve already told this rule to my spouse*, and now I’m writing this publicly. Moderation isn’t one of my strong suits and drinking to excess when I’m not well is not a good combination. James likes beer. Beer doesn’t give a rat’s ass about James. Nor does scotch
Some days that wine glass might get really full. But only one or two. Never three**. Attachment to alcohol has been causing me suffering. Time to fix that.
* On our anniversary, the day she sent me for a massage; it was lying on the table being forcibly relaxed for an hour, with time alone to think and reflect, that I decided to make this step and just be brave about it. Thanks Janine, for giving me time and space to heal myself.
**In less than two weeks, I’ve blown it twice; once involved cheese, the other ribs. Doesn’t change anything.
2 No cigarettes. No weed.
Never set an end date on this. Well, clandestine runs to the convenience store to buy cigarettes late at night was just one more obligation. An addictive and habitual one. Imma let go of that whole bullshit thing and find a bit more time for myself. Hopefully remembering that one cigarette always leads to another.
Now, if anyone passes me a joint, I’ll smoke that thing ’till the filter. But I’m not going to seek it out. Weed is like an alternate form of meditation for me. It mellows me out and keeps me level. It’s my Xanax. Hardly a coincidence that my recent mental breakdown was preceded by exhausting my cannabis supply. It’s also a bit of a crutch some times. It’s too easy to lean on cannabis instead of correct inherent imbalances in my life. So I’m gonna work on keeping myself mellow and level sans the sticky icky for a good long while and see where that leads me to
3 During Nathan’s nap meditate then watch Firefly
I’m half finished re-watching the excellent tv series Firefly and I suppose I’ll need to find a new series once I’ve run through it. (Sepinwall's summer rewatch prompted my choice) When I had an office job I was good at maintaining a work/life balance. Only now work and life have blended in weird new ways and I need to make some time for myself. tv’s also addictive and habit forming and eats time but I deserve some time where I’m not trying to accomplish any minor nor grand goals. I currently get extremely anxious while doing this thinking of all the things I’m not doing; I’m working on it.
I need to meditate. It’s so easy to put off, but if I’m not smoking weed, I must meditate. Mediation is the mental equivalent of going to the gym: do it regularly and you build muscles. Maybe you’ve never meditated but I’ll bet everyone knows why people avoid the gym. It’s hard and it’s not fun – same with meditating.
Watching a show of my choosing, like mediating, seems only to happen when I am alone and/or the house is asleep. Nathan naps once per weekday, which means I have the opportunity to recharge once per weekday.
4 Try to go to sleep when Janine goes to sleep. Get more sleep
This is difficult. I’m an insomniac and Janine goes to sleep around 11.30p. My natural rhythms prefer 2a. Additionally, the previous rules now preclude having a few drinks before bedtime, or a quick marijuana cigarette to help me drift into the land of nod. Last night I tossed and turned for hours, wide wide awake. The summer blogging challenge might help, though, as I’m striving to rise early and write. Early mornings might help me go to sleep early. And public humiliation via non-blogging might be just the incentive I need to resist the snooze button (because my true alarm clock is a screaming infant two doors down the hallway)
5 A few points less formal
Learn to say no more often. Learn to stand up for myself a bit more. Keep things off my to-do list instead of putting more on. Just chill the fuck out a bit more. Go for a walk, hopefully with Nate & Janine, after supper every day. Cultivate an awareness that I need to move life in a new direction. As Erron advised, I need to let it take over slowly, becoming a crazier hippy (re: food) doesn’t happen over night, it’s going to take a lot of practice. Probably a lot of other little thoughts float around my head too, but there’s already a lot of words in this here list.
6 Realize that my job is hard, I have made it harder, and I’m on my own
So I can stop feeling sorry for myself on nights where it’s 10.30 and I haven’t had a break yet, because I’m choosing this life. Not every day ends at so late, and I am supported in many ways, by many different people. That includes my wife and my family and my friends and just talking about my life online turns out to have been the right thing to do, because of everyone who talked back to me. Y’all make me feel much less alone than I thought I was. Thank you.
By blazing a new path for our family, however, I am by definition going to spend more of my time pursuing things only I currently see to be of value. Spouses are not obligated to read my book, nor feel the same way about bread or meat or potato chips as me. That’s not going to change, so I best stop resenting it. I’ve chosen to work against the easiest path, which is buying pre-made sauces, dressings and main courses and not thinking to hard about how our meat is raised. Hell, I barely know any vegetarian recipes other than “salad” and I want to reduce my mean consumption to less than once/day? Dear self: for fuck’s sake, this is going to take time! There are new things I need to learn, and do, and this all take time and energy.
What am I going to do instead? Watch television? If all went to plan I already did that, during Nathan’s nap, as well as meditate and have a pleasant stroll after supper. If those things didn’t happen for some reason then I can reasonably expect them to happen tomorrow. And it’s almost bed time. I no longer have to wait for everyone to go to bed so I can stay awake hours more and drive to get cigarettes and then smoke weed and watch hours of television and feel guilty about not blogging and it is no longer an obligation to force drinks down my throat just so I can fall asleep.
In fact, all that shit is against the rules, right? Rules you went and posted on Feelings of White. Haha... yeah, I rhymed on purpose. I’m a dork ;)
The origin of suffering is attachment.
By shedding attachments I ease my suffering.