DisciplineThursday, October 06, 2011
I have none.
It's the story of my life. As a wee girl, I would come up with a million different ways to avoid the monotony of cello practice. Then when I eventually sat down, bow in hand, I would limp half-heartedly through a couple of toneless scales before quickly launching into whatever pretty tune had been assigned that week. Scales were boring. Scales were dull. If I could get away without doing them (and as it turned out, I could, just about), then why bother?
As the rigours of school and nightly homework gave way to lecture theatres and seminars and "independent study", I was always the one who left things to the last minute. I would spend leisurely days eating toast and rolling my eyes at my friends holed up in the library, those idiots, how boring, until I inevitably found myself typing frantically through the night, racing to get the damn essay finished. (Once, I even had to get a taxi to the university to hand an essay in before the 4pm deadline. A taxi. It was a fifteen-minute walk away.) But still, because I was reasonably clever, I could get away with it.
I will admit that in my final two years, when it actually counted, I realised that being reasonably clever wasn't going to cut it forever. I reached deep within myself and somehow found the discipline to put the hours in every day because God damn it I was going to get a first if it was the last thing I ever did. I even managed to get to the library by 11am! Every single day! Oh, but I was exhausted. Self-enforced studiousness does not come naturally to me, unless there is a big juicy carrot to keep me on the right path. I seem to have mislaid my internal stick.
And it isn't only academically that my lack of discipline has surfaced.
There was a certain dark-haired gentleman who I rather fancied around this time, but who seemed curiously unresponsive to my advances. Perhaps because my advances consisted of ignoring him 80% of the time and then pouncing on him without warning after my third vodka and lemonade. Naturally, my friends and I agreed that I was simply "playing it cool", which was the right and proper thing to do, while the only possible reason that he wasn't falling at my feet and professing his undying love was because he was a dick. Obviously.
One evening, I resolved to play it even cooler and it was decided that I would not, under any circumstances, allow myself to succumb to his wily charms that evening. My dear friend, who was studying psychology, left a note on my door with the definition of self-discipline written on it in black ink, as a stern reminder of my pledge. She obviously knew me pretty well, though, because the note was accompanied by the promise of a free smoked sausage, if I behaved. (Did I mention I was living pretty much exclusively on smoked sausage, super noodles and cheese at this point? I'm still amazed he could resist me.)
It remains a source of pride to me that I earned that smoked sausage, fair and square. But he got me in the end.
It's the same with food, with exercise, with money - always the same. I still eat like I'm seventeen. I don't have a monthly budget or any sort of long-term financial plan. I go to the gym semi-regularly for weeks and then don't go again for a month. I always get up ten minutes (okay, forty minutes) later than I should. And don't even get me started on the decluttering debacle. I diligently combed through my wardrobe (Do I love it? Does it suit me? Will I wear it?) and filled bag after bag with too-tight, too-old, too-bloody-ugly clothes, only to then put the bags back in the wardrobe. So all the crap is all still there, but instead of being hung in nice neat rows, it is piled up in giant plastic bags. And has been for a month. I'm not sure I can call that a success.
Then, of course, there's the writing. I was always a last-minute blogger, staying up late to get posts finished, planning only maybe a day or two in advance at most, but at least I was doing it. Now I can barely scratch out five posts in a month, never mind a week. And in case you might think I am devoting all my spare time to writing mysterious, exciting things, I'm not. I'm mainly looking up leather chaps on the internet, and things of that ilk.
I keep thinking that one day I will wake up (early!) and get out of bed (eagerly!) and suddenly find that I am diligent and responsible and capable of denying myself that which I want, in the pursuit of that which I want even more; in other words, self-disciplined. I believe this mythical state is known as Adulthood. But so far it doesn't seem to be happening of its own accord.
So, I have decided I'm just going to have to make it happen, by the application of external factors. In other words, we're getting a dog. A wee little creature who is going to rely on us to feed her, water her, even take her to the toilet. She's going to make us wake up early. We'll have to keep the house tidy and free of chewable things. Somewhat bizarrely, *I'll* be expected to teach *her* about discipline, which sounds like the blind leading the blind. I'm hoping we can learn together.
More details to come on the little lady when we get her - she won't arrive until the start of November. She's a rescue greyhound, she's just about to turn two, her name if Smidgen and if one more person says to me that greyhounds are ugly they can just fuck right off.
How do you keep yourself focused and motivated? Do you think self-discipline comes naturally, or can it be learned? Can you please remind me to feed the dog?
All images by Dane Shitagi of the Ballerina Project. These figures, to me, are the epitome of discipline and grace. Neither of which I possess.