Ugh...I hate it. Have railed against it. Yet, there is this part of me that craves it.
Discipline is the battleground of my will. It is on this principle that I fight and lose all the time. Except when I am losing, I am winning and when I am winning I am losing...
I am very disciplined about some things:
Not eating meat
Not eating sugar (relatively new thing)
These are easy for me now. I don’t really think about them all that much, I do not eat meat ever, I write daily (though I don't always post it), I avoid sugar, I show up to work whether I want to or not and I do not drink in liquid or solid form, ever.
These are my win-wins. I do them and my life is so much better for them. All of them. But I had a lengthy battle with all of them. I lost for quite some time before discipline won out. And there was also some grace involved...
I started being vegetarian when I was 13 but I was 38 before I was able to just accept this way of life and live it true.
I have been writing since I was 10, but it was only a few years ago that I began to do it daily and really commit to it.
Sugar I have battled my whole life. Eating it, not eating it, but usually binging on it with very brief bouts of cessation. Until about four months ago, I never made any real progress.
Work may seem like a weird one, but it was really something that I avoided...I hated working for other people. It made me feel trapped and it was like the moment I arrived at work, I just wanted to get the hell out of there. That changed for me when I started my own firm in DC. I found that being my own boss was better for me. I could and would do what was necessary to get the job done. And doing that, allowed me to now work for someone else with the same dedication that I did for myself.
Not drinking was hard. Really hard but I saw that if I continued the way that I was going, I would never get anywhere in life that I wanted to go. I received a moment of grace, which provided me the willingness to move forward and do the work that I was asked to do. It was not easy, pain was involved.
So for all of my losses in this area, those battlegrounds that I fought and fought for so long, they became the basis for success and discipline that has become so ingrained that I don’t even think about it anymore. I do not ever think:
“Maybe today I will have a hamburger”
“Maybe today I will not write”
“Maybe today I will eat a box of chocolate”
“Maybe today I will skip work”
“Maybe today I will have a whiskey”
I know that the discipline I do on all of these areas provide me a stable base to live my life. No question...some more than others but they are all important in different ways.
But there are so many other things that I am not disciplined about:
These are very much up for grabs in my world. I shop, date, meditate, yoga and hike when I feel like it and don’t when I don’t. Whatever discipline I have for the first five areas, seems to be lacking in all of these.
How can I have so much discipline in some areas, and so little in others?
I am not sure. I think the precursor to discipline is willingness. In all of the areas I excel in being disciplined, I am still willing. I am willing to see how much my previous lack of discipline in these areas really affected and screwed up my life.
But I lack the willingness to get beyond my own story in all of the areas I just mentioned having an issue with...
Shopping - I am not willing or able to see that I do not really need a new pair of boots, a sweater, a whatever the hell I think I might need. I lack discipline here because I lack willingness. And, let me be honest, it isn’t a big enough issue for me. I am still getting the effect produced and I like it. So I persist...
Dating - oh, I am super all over the place here. I want a committed, loving, life long relationship so I have been told that I need to date. However, I am the worst online dater ever! It lights up my addictive issues and I am like a gambler in Vegas with a wad full of cash and eight ball. I am gone man, just gone. I consume the endless stream of available choices, lowering my standards and what I want with each swipe. I am super compulsive about it. I have learned that I can’t really do the online dating things successfully. Oh, I like to think that I am in charge, but I am not. I am really just standing there at a slot machine, all coked out of my mind, believing that with every swipe this time it will be different...Nope. Not ever. So I have decided that online dating is off limits to me...but what about dating in the wild. Well, during a pandemic that proves challenging...so I am not dating out of default. But I want to, I miss it. I have been told that if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, the bad news is that you are going to have to date...so I persist.
Meditation - I started doing this when I was 14. I have had a love/hate relationship with it ever since. I start, I stop, I begin again. If I am really honest, I hate it. I resent the time I sit there doing nothing. I am so much better as a being in motion than a being sitting still. But I know that this is just another lie I tell myself. Probably the most productive thing I can ever do, is to just sit there and watch my mind throw about a whole host of things, and watch it grab onto them and weave them into a storyline that will usually spell my ruin. If I do not spend the time on the cushion, I am fucked. So I do it, imperfectly, haphazardly and painfully because I know that I need it. I need the down time, the stillness and the quiet. I hate it but I know that it benefits me and supports my growth. But most of the time, I like the effect produced by being busy...so I persist in avoiding the cushion.
Yoga - I love the way it changes my body, allows me to move without pain but I hate doing it. I resent the time it takes and do not want to do it more often than I do. I love the effect produced but in some ways, I want to reap the benefits while only really paying lip service to the practice. I really like the effect produced but resent the effort involved, so avoid and I persist.
Hiking - now I love hiking. I love being outside and I love moving. I am a mover. Hiking has been my salvation. I have walked hundreds of miles with my pain. I have cryked all over Southern California. I have taken to the path and gotten lost in the beauty and the serenity I find there. But recently, I have found it hard. I have met my own resistance and have begun skipping days. I was so disciplined about my hiking, but then almost as quickly as I started, I began to avoid it, to find excuses to miss it, to not go. The discipline that previously came so easily, gone. Where did it go and why? It left because I realized that hiking was giving me space to be alone with my thoughts and that my thoughts recently have been super painful. In the middle of a growth cycle, obsessive thinking and ruminating causing me to be lost in my past and my future. Both of which really remain beyond my sphere of influence...so I persist.
The above five things all are a mixed bag. They provide me relief from me on some level so I keep them around. But how much relief they provide is still under review by me so therefore I am not completely sold on the idea that becoming disciplined about them is really in my best interest...except I know that isn’t true.
I can’t buy anything that will make me feel ok, really.
I can’t date anyone that will make me feel ok, really.
I can’t meditate myself into feeling ok, really.
I can’t yoga myself into feeling ok, really.
I can’t hike myself into feeling ok, really.
See it is my intention about all of the above that results in the lack of discipline...it is this fundamental belief that somehow if I do these things that I will be better, more ok. And to some degree that is true...well maybe not the shopping but the others for sure. However, my intention to do things to get something is the issue. So long as I am doing any of the above to get some feeling of being ok as a human being, like I am somehow better because I shop, date, meditate, yoga or hike...a not so subtle violence to who I really am.
The fact remains that none of those things make me a better person...and if I am totally honest, I have used them all as props to delude myself into believing that I am better than I am...
I do not eat animals or sugar because those things in fact make me happier and more content in my body. I work because that provides me a stable foundation to support my family. I do not drink because if I do, I will die...probably in fairly short order. I write every day because it gives me access to a part of me that I cannot seem to access any other way. The words on the screen coming from some other place than the one I inhabit typically.
None of these are props...I do not lie about doing them or not doing them. They are absolutes in my life. I do not waiver from my commitment to them and this is discipline for me. I do them because they are pillars to my life not props to make you think something about me. They are things that I do, or don’t do, that provide me value and meaning and a way to live.
Until and unless I am able to do the same with shopping, dating, meditating, yoga and hiking, they will always be more or less up for grabs.
This takes me back to the wining and losing thing...I am a perverse person. I have to win to lose and lose to win. It is just how my life works. If I just win, without loss, I miss the lesson. And when I lose to win, I don’t always see the value in the moment, but it has happened often enough for me to see that some of my biggest successes occurred when I completely failed.
Discipline is more than just control gained by enforcing obedience or order for me. When I am controlling, I am losing...every single fucking time. When I think that I know, I am usually screwed.
Discipline is not punishment for me either. I never really leaned anything by being punished except to find new ways to avoid getting caught.
For me, discipline is orderly, prescribed conduct that results in a pattern of behavior. Which supports self control. It is doing the things that are good for me because they are good for me, not because you will think better of me, like me more or because you won’t think those things if I don’t...
Discipline is following the spiritual principles even when I do not want to...even when I can concoct a pretty amazing story as to why this time I am absolved of having to stay the course and do the work to get the result.
Discipline is not routine but there is routine in discipline. I am a fairly routinized person but throw a monkey wrench into my routine and it has historically fallen apart...but discipline is different. Throw whatever you want at me and I will not drink or eat sugar or skip work or miss writing. Because my intention matches my effort. I want the effect produced in these areas by the application of prescribed conduct.
For shopping, dating, meditating, yogaing and hiking my intentions are not clear so my course of conduct is a bit sketchy. I have to clear up my intentions in order to find the self control to make these non-negotiable for me and that is hard when I still have delusional beliefs about these five.
So the discipline I can find with these errant five is that I can examine my motives and see where I am off course. I can see where I am using props to try to appear better than I am. For now, the discipline I bring to all of them is a blind benevolence that they are all here in their present and fucked up forms to show me things about me that I need to know. Shopping, Dating, Meditating, Yogaing and Hiking are my current teachers...showing me, yet again, how much work I have to do and the effect produced by my lack of discipline.