the healing power of daily discipline
You can do anything for 30 days.
I said this a few months back — before I’d really thought it through.
I’m a great starter. I’ve got vision, enthusiasm and energy for something new almost always. But finishing takes every ounce of discipline I don’t have.
Take the “30 Day Shred” for example . . . I enthusiastically accepted a friend’s challenge and kept at it for approximately ten days.
And then we went camping. And then I had to write a website for a client. And then, no matter how much Jillian yelled there is no modification for jumping jacks! I make 400 pound people do them you can do them, too! my ankles and knees began to tell me things I’ve never heard my body say before . . . things I really can’t repeat.
I’m a big thinker. A dreamer. But the daily grind, the day to day . . . it takes everything I have to fold my clothes and put them away. It’s so daily! That’s why cooking is my favorite home chore. I can create, dream, and delight my family. Frankly, no one is all that delighted by my tidy room. I’ve asked.
To be fair, it’s not that I’m completely unable to do anything consistently. I brush my teeth every morning and every night. I’m just not so disciplined.
Over the years, I’ve embraced this freedom and turned it into an art:
- I’m spontaneous, creative, I do my best work at the last minute. (All true.)
- There are more important things than having a clean house. (Also true.)
- I’m a Mary not a Martha. (Not so much true. I’m more of a daydreaming Mary who decides at the last minute to be a Martha and then pleads for all the Marys in the house to help.)
This “procrastinating perfectionism” has worked for me for years. Years. In just about everything.
At least I was. Until I hit a wall.
About a year ago, I ran out of words and writing became a chore. The problem is, writing is my job, so I had to find a way to recharge. Plus, I love to write.
I read books. Memoirs about writing. Self-help books for writers. I did exercises. Nothing really worked. I was deeply discouraged and it affected everything. I withdrew. I gained weight. I became listless and apathetic.
And then I came across a book about monks and acedia:
The desert monks termed acedia “the noonday demon” because the temptation usually struck during the heat of the day, when the monk was hungry and fatigued, and susceptible to the suggestion that his commitment to a life of prayer was not worth the effort . . . .
. . . . I have come to believe that acedia can strike anyone whose work requires self-motivation and solitude, anyone who remains married “for better or for worse,” anyone who is determined to stay true to a commitment that is sorely tested in every day life.
That was it. Acedia was what ailed me.
Anxious to discover the secret to defeating this demon, I devoured the book in a week. If you’re anything like me, you are not going to like the answer I found. To battle acedia, monks turned to simple, daily discipline serving through the doldrums. Working with their hands while talking to God, creating a rhythm that renewed their passion for prayer.
I know this to be true. If I was writing at home, I washed dishes and carefully cleaned the kitchen, praying as I cleaned. I spent four hours deep cleaning my bathroom. I washed everything in the house and folded every piece. I went for walks with my boys. I said yes to invitations and activities. After a while, I needed a pen and a notebook next to me while I was making dinner again.
I wrote and wrote. And it felt so good to be writing again.
About that time, I ran across another month long challenge: writing every day for 31 days.
I mentioned it to Dave — who is very happy that I’m writing again. But he said, “You’ve never done 31 days of anything. The last 15 days will be a surprise.”He’s right. So I’m taking lots of pictures just in case I give up and this becomes 31 Days of Cats.
But I figure, maybe I’ll have to clean something every day in order to write every day. In theory, if I am successful, I should end up with a spotless home. In theory.
I settled on a theme, wrote out a list of posts and ideas, tidied the blog, played around with graphic arts and I’m ready to go.
My theme for the next 31 days is contentment: Live the season. I expect I’ll write about parenting, recovery, being 45, and relationships among other things. Some days will be serious and others not. I mean, I’ve never done anything like this before. Who knows what will happen?
No matter what season you are in, I hope you’ll follow, add to the discussion and share posts with friends.
We’re all in a season of something, we might as well live it.