When I think of the word discipline, I think of being punished. I think of nuns and rulers and plaid skirts and chalkboards and detention and sitting on the stairsteps and counting to 100. I am not Catholic, never attended Catholic school and really most of my ideas about nuns and Catholic School come from The Sound of Music and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. But I definitely sat on the stairsteps of our house a whole lot of times counting to whatever number was appropriate for my age at the time as a punishment for doing something wrong. Probably being a smart-mouthed sassy pants.
Still gets me into trouble today.
But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the other kind of discipline. The kind that athletes and classical musicians have. Like 7 hour work-outs discipline. Like Yo-Yo Ma discipline. Like so-focused-on-a-goal-you’ll-spend-copious-amounts-of-time-on-tedious-tasks-and-miss-out-on-other-wonderful-life-moments-in-order-to-accomplish-said-goal discipline. I’ve been thinking about that kind of discipline. And about whether I have any.
I know that the person I want to be is someone who is capable of discipline, but I’m not sure that anyone in my life would use that word to describe me. At least not right now. I certainly have had pockets in my life where I have been extremely disciplined. I realize that losing 105 lbs requires some amount of discipline and that keeping off 90 lbs also has some discipline involved. But discipline is hard. And boring. And I’ll start tomorrow. And I don’t wanna.
Oh man, I’m having a flashback.
When I was in the 4th grade I began taking clarinet lessons. I liked the idea of playing the clarinet but when it came down to it, did I practice? No. I mean, yeah, a little, but like a really little. I wasn’t very good. It was so boring. And hard. And truthfully I had no actual desire to play the clarinet. The only reason I chose the clarinet in the first place was because I wanted to play the saxophone. But apparently saxophones are very expensive so first they make you play the clarinet—another, less expensive, far less cool sounding reed instrument—to prove that you really really really want to play the saxophone. Which in hindsight was a pretty smart move because I apparently did not really really really want to play the saxophone if it meant first spending years learning a musical instrument I did not want to play. Thank God nobody bought me a saxophone.
Even now, whatever zeal initially comes with trying to master something—a skill, a habit, a routine—eventually wains for me. And then I’m left to choose—discipline or…whatever is the opposite of discipline…..laziness? Man, that’s depressing.
Again, I’m being hard on myself, I know. But here I am, going on 5 years of trying to shed the last few pounds and it’s getting kind of old. So maybe, it’s time to be a little hard on myself. Time for a progress report, if you will. And under “discipline, focus, hard work” I think I have to give myself an S-minus. Needs improvement. It gives me over-acheiver-3rd-grader chills.
Because I know I can do better.
It’s time for me to go after something with some discipline. Time to hold myself accountable, to accept some responsibility for my choices. And I will do that by making a public commitment, so that I will feel the threat of public humiliation and shame to motivate me.
For the holiday-cookie-cocktail-party-month of December, I, Jen Reiter, commit to attacking the following with discipline, focus and hard work:
- Eating a substantial snack before every holiday party in order to stay in control when faced with a platter of fill in the blank. Like a hard-boiled egg or an apple and a big bowl of kale. Something that on a Tuesday, I would call lunch.
- Spend at least 2 hours a day moving on my feet. Whether it be a walk, or housework, or grocery shopping, or a full-blown work-out or some combination, it doesn’t have to be all at once as long as it happens before I go to sleep at night.
- Lose 1 lb. by the end of the year. 1 lb. In 4 weeks. An average of 4 ounces a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day and certainly not while they were at war with Holiday party season.
I can totally do that. And when the strength of my commitment fades, I will channel my inner running back, my inner Yo-Yo Ma. I will remember that I am exercising a muscle that has not been used in a while, but that must be worked in order to do the heavy lifting with more ease in the future. Eventually, my discipline muscle will grow. Eventually, it will require less effort. And eventually I will form a new habit.
And if that doesn’t work, I’ll picture Whoopi Goldberg dressed as a nun threatening to smack my hands with a ruler while I sit on the stairsteps and count to 100.