Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Editor’s Note: after proofreading this for publication, CL would like you to know that while this may sound ranty and marginally phrenetic, it is not meant to be. Consider it “thinking aloud enthusiastically.”
I slept late today. After my monthly reflection last night, I decided to stop fighting myself on everything. Go to bed when I “should”, get up when I “should”, eat when I “should”.
So the alarm went off and I stuck the pillow over my head and went back to sleep. I woke up when Ralph peeked to see if I was still breathing. It was 8:00.
I’m working on my new Bullet Journal principles, namely doing what works instead of trying to make something work that doesn’t.
It’s the mental form of flipping the beanbag upside down. Instead of insisting on fixing something, change it. Question your premises. You know, think.
Here’s how that manifested: instead of making myself go to bed early last night and get up early today and eat three meals and all this other stuff we’re taught to do, I just did what worked.
Going to bed early didn’t work for me. Sometimes I like to be awake at night.
Maybe I’m having tea or a drink. Maybe I’m on the balcony with the pretty lights on. Maybe I’m a hundred things, but ready for bed because “it’s time for bed” is not one of them.
Then I stress that I have to get up.
But do I?
What is this imaginary reason I have to get up? Will my boss get mad if I show up to work at 9:02? Will Saturday fall into the ocean if I spend the morning in bed playing my 2,372nd card game?
I don’t have to get up and make the donuts. No train will leave the station late if I ignore my alarm.
When I was doing my habit journal I’d sit down at the beginning of each new month and reflect on the prior one. Not what’s the meaning of life sort of stuff, but did I actually wash the dishes after dinner and if not why not?
I liked doing that, not least of all because it was part of my new beginnings ritual.
Stuff I asked myself: was what I did working for me? Was there a point to it? Or was I just making things up to do because I was supposed to?
It’s a thing you have to ask yourself or you end up doing things just because. This, more than anything, is the thing I want to reflect on.
It’s so beanbag.
I forget what all my habits were but there were a bunch around health. Some relating to work and some to people.
I know for a fact that I put things on there that I took off after a month or two, because the answer to “why” was “because.”
Mostly because it was a thing I thought I was supposed to do. Ought to. Should do.
And then I asked myself, says who?
If there is anything that’s going to drive me nuts in the world it’s doing things just because someone else said so.
I mean, if someone has a great idea and you want to follow along, that’s fantastic. But I don’t have to get out of bed at 4:30 every day just because every pretentiously successful entrepreneur on the planet tells you their key to success is getting up at 4:30 every day to do an hour of meditation and a ten mile run and getting all the emails answered before coffee.
You know what makes me successful? Starting work at 8.
I love working at night. I mean, I love doing other things, too, but if I have a crap day and a lot to do? I’ll pick up my laptop, go outside on the balcony if I can, and have myself a four hour lovefest with work.
Do you know when I answer emails? When I open my laptop.
I’m not a heart surgeon, and my clients can text me if there’s an actual emergency. I think I have earned the privilege to say, you know what, I’m sleeping in and I’ll answer emails at 10.
I know I keep harping on sleeping, but that’s mostly because it’s a concrete thing I can hang my thoughts on. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing.
I have earned the privilege of taking Thursday off because it’s Thursday, and not even going on a hike or a ten mile run but not getting off the couch at all.
Except to make sure I don’t break my Peloton streak again.
I have earned the privilege of eating cake for breakfast and scrambled eggs for dinner.
It sounds stupid, but it’s the little ruts that will kill you. A little rut here, a little rut there, and next thing you know you’re somewhere in a ditch and there isn’t a single slice of cake in sight.
Ralph likes to be contrary like that. He orders dessert first in a restaurant. You have to see how it throws people off.
You’re supposed to eat dessert after dinner. Except… says who?
Who are these people who keep making these rules?
I really don’t think I was a particularly rebellious child. If my parents had to measure my teenage angst against others, including at least a few of my brothers, I think they’d say they got away pretty scott-free.
I had my three minutes of omg I hate you so much why are my parents so mean!!! But I literally never stayed out past curfew and if I was going to be late I called to let them know – and this is in pre cell phone days, take that Gen Z.
I didn’t take the car, didn’t hang out with degenerates, didn’t do drugs. I babysat and hung posters of Simon Le Bon on my closet door for a good time.
So yeah, not much of a rebellious streak.
Maybe that is why I am so keyed in on the tiniest hint of a rootless rule nowadays. After years of doing what I should, I’m wondering… why should I?
I ask… says who?
Not even people I know, I mean it’s not like there are a contingent of them wagging their fingers saying, you should be in bed now, little girl! It’s all made up in my head anyway, just a neural wiring that happened over years of conforming and reading everyone’s rules of success and trying to find the right box to put myself in so nothing would hang over the edges and look stupid.
It’s also bad for your brain.
A long time ago I read an article, probably in an actual magazine and before you could Google things like “neural plasticity”, that advised you – among other things – to drive a new route home from work.
Considering this was also likely pre Mapquest, that was a pretty daring statement.
The premise was that if you do something differently than you’re used to doing it, it helps your brain create new neural pathways. Lights it up, so to speak. Gets a few of those dormant neurons firing, the ones that go on autopilot when you take the same road day after day after day.
It was just one example of how you can change up your thinking patterns to ward off aging and mental stagnation.
Driving the same road is easier, I’ll give you that. With all the questions to answer in a day, like what do you serve with lamb burgers and where the heck did that pea fly off to, you sometimes don’t want to start thinking about new ways to get home.
There is a certain comfort, a certain pleasant lack of energy required to just get up and do the thing. Let someone else figure out how. Oh, lunch at noon? Cool. One less question to answer.
The socks are supposed to go in the top drawer? Nice. Got a blog to write, no time to think about socks.
But when things start to feel noticeably automatic, then it’s time to reflect. It’s time to ask if what I’m doing is working for me. And whether there is a point to it. Or if I just make things up to do because I’m supposed to.
Then I have to ask the big questions in life, like who said laundry has to be folded? Seems to me it’s just as easy to pull underwear out of a basket.
This was stupidly long and I don’t even know that I made a point. I’m not trying to pretend like I know how to do this or that I have answers. I just wanted to reflect. It started with a beanbag and sort of escalated.
And then that question… why?
Why should I? Says who?
Nobody. It’s just me.
These things make me sound like I’m moralizing or just being stupid about things that were never a big deal to begin with. Ok, so I don’t want to eat lunch at noon. Then don’t. Did it need a whole blog?
I guess for me, it did.
I really think that the small things, they’re just the paper cuts. The big thing is that too many of them and you’ll bleed out.
For better or worse, this is how I reflect. A lot of words that sometimes make no sense but eventually I’ll either wear myself out and get on with things, or I’ll actually flip the damn beanbag upside down and improve things.
It does beg another question, though. If my rebellious streak maxes out at “And I refuse to eat all my peas!” is that a relief, or a curse?
Photo: my birthday last year, when Ralph took me out for ice cream. Right before dinner.