Structure and discipline.
Not exactly popular words in today’s culture of liberty and freedom [wants and desires]. But I’m telling you from first-hand experience routine and self control are worth their weight in gold, especially in times of uncertainty.
First of all to qualify myself: after being blindsided with MS fourteen years ago some of the highlights are: Last summer my drivers license was revoked at the same time my scooter broke down which took three months, three summer months, to replace. Being completely grounded from a 40 year driving career in a blink. Not unlike the twelve days spent in an emergency ward bed that came from left field, or giving up gainful employment in exchange for a government disability pension at age fifty, bearing my soul to a million strange suits in the process. So I walked through screeching halts more than once and lived to tell about it. And more happily because of them I might add.
So here’s what I learned. At first, with no structure in place I would lollygag in my pajamas with books, puzzels, and computer games till noon, thinking it really didn’t matter because I didn’t have to do anything anyway. Besides I worked hard up until this point and deserved to take a break. I put my feet up and kept them up until my back ached. Wrong.
Fortunately I didn’t let sloth take root and recognized it for what it was. And did something about it. For starters I changed the station of my self-talk, reeling in any thoughts of why bother? Or the what-ifs.
With no routine in place (and no money) I had to create structure out of dust. And it began with a $5 three-part 200-page notebook. (Roughly one book lasted two years. I just tossed several of them when I moved here.)
The first section was for a time sensitive, weekly to-do things. I headed each page a seven-day date range, allowing only one page per week. Beginning on Sundays, a Sabbath day where I don’t do any work, I’d jot down things as they came to mind. Return library books, month-end financials, Aunt’s birthday, renew BCAA, cat food, mend green sweater, etc. There was no particular order, just things written down before I’d forget. It was a dynamic list ever evolving and items being crossed out and added over the week.
Next section is the creative section (which is inherent to my being). With no time line in this section I’d write down ideas that bubbled up. Looking at it with fresh eyes over the coming days and weeks would either inspire me further to take action or fizzle out as a lousy idea. As the pages accumulated I could flip back to see which projects came into fruition, which ones propelled me further, and which ones were dead horses, but sometimes triggered new horses.
The last section, again non time-sensitive, is the spiritual section where I would record words, phrases, Scriptures or other inspiring thoughts that lifted me up. Things ofgratitude I saw or heard. An ongoing list of recommended spiritual books I intent to look up in the library (and would!) or my list of all-time favorite spiritual books worth re reading. Bible studies, bible reading, notes from my favorite radio talk shows. Anything to spiritually build and develop, meditate on and give careful thought to went in this section. Again to flip through, add to or ponder on over the coming weeks and months.
The notebook would stay open on the kitchen table as a permanent home base. It became somewhat of a roadmap, a crutch when I didn’t know what to do with myself. But I needed the discipline and self control to actually follow through on getting those things done, following up on some of those ideas, a little each day.
The way I figure it, we as humans beings are all made the same - body, mind and spirit, or some people prefer tobreak it down into physical, mental, emotional and spiritual quadrants, or even simplier work, play and rest. Regardless I feel to live fully, it is imperative to feed each of those departments in balanced ways, each and every day.
At first I needed to physically time myself – an hour doing this, an hour doing that. Something physical and taxing, something gentle and light. And that’s where the discipline came in. I couldn’t forgo my drawing exercises because I’m into my novel, or forget about doing the paperwork because the tools were already out to finish repotting the rest of the house plants. Kind of like Vitamin C and it’s non-storing qualities, I couldn’t take an abundance today for it to be enough for tomorrow. It needed to be a little bit each day.
But when I did, crawling into bed at night was sweet. I‘d reflect on the day and would feel pretty good about it. My best days were always the highest mix of activities. And days turned into weeks. And weeks into months. And months into a new life. Then one day I realized the crutches of structure and discipline turned into the freedom of best friends that I loved and were no more a hardship than sitting in the sun.
So while Covid19 recalibrates the world, perhaps this is the opportunity to re- calibrate our personal lives alongside it. And begin using the crutches of discipline and self control to aide us into a life of healing, strength and love.