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experiment awry

December 19, 2011

Over the last 13 months, I’ve gradually discontinued a lot of familiar and almost-unnoticed habits, creating new ones largely by default. I’m only now realizing that their cumulative effect is rather unfortunate.

I stopped sitting up straight, and instead hunched over in various poses. I stopped doing targeted exercises (shoulder, back, abdomen, legs) regularly. I kept changing my diet, trying to add more foods that I like, but now most of those (liked) things are unhealthy. I knew from my physical therapists that I shouldn’t do any one activity for more than an hour or two without a break, but I continued to sit or lie in one spot and read or do computer things for long stretches of time (sometimes as much as 6-8 hours, with hardly any breaks). I stopped dancing. I’m a night owl, but I’ve taken staying up late to ridiculous extremes, then slept in until late morning (occasionally near noon) fairly regularly. I resisted doing anything that I didn’t want to do.

The idea of disciplined practice at various things (meditation, exercise, writing every day, etc.) kept popping up in my mind, but I always carefully explained to myself that “I was a ‘free spirit’, and discipline would clearly cramp my style. Hey, I’m not gonna live forever you know — I gotta do my thing(s) now, while there’s still time!”

So, the results are in, and this accidental experiment was mostly a disaster. Overall, I’ve become a blancmange. I’m in the worst physical shape of my life, which I’m reminded of every time I get winded walking a few blocks at a brisk pace. Since I’ve largely confined myself to only the most basic movements, I start feeling pain or discomfort right away whenever I start doing them, even if I just woke up. So now I have to consciously rotate my movements, with all sorts of body parts. Sitting, in any position, becomes painful very quickly. I’ve had to try all sorts of arrangements on chairs, and my bed. I’m now finding ways to stand and/or walk around more often. Yet, since I’ve also developed plantar fasciitis, standing and walking around have to be preceded by stretching my feet and ankle muscles, or else they hurt too. Sleeping more to compensate makes me groggy and cranky, so it’s that much harder to want to change these newish bad habits.

I’ve known for a least a year that I want to start cooking regularly. Not only have I not done that, but to myself, I’ve whined and complained that Spouse should do it for me. Even though I know that, were Spouse to learn to cook, the kind of foods he would want to eat would not really overlap mine very often, since he is a carnivore who doesn’t like vegetables or fruit, and I am mostly a vegetarian. (We do both like pasta and bread.)

Years ago, I read one of those books targeted to corporate business people about how to improve their productivity. It advocated that everyone should concentrate all of their effort on improving their strengths while ignoring their weaknesses. I thought the idea had some merit but I also thought it was probably unrealistic unless you were a CEO or something similar, because who else has the luxury of being in situations where your weaknesses will not be a problem? Every job I’ve ever had, and many interpersonal situations, have required me to deal with my weaknesses far more than they have allowed me to showcase my strengths. To me, that just seemed like how the world works: you can’t dictate the circumstances through which you interact with others, nor can you control how they think of you.

That’s been more of my problem right there. I rarely interact with anybody (human) in person. My world has narrowed so that I am largely in control of circumstances. Which is actually not just unprecedented but odd because I wasn’t directly seeking control at all. In fact, ‘control’ is something I’m always deriding as an illusion fostered by Judgers, who seem to be running the world, to the detriment of us Perceivers, who know better.

For a person who has fairly recently discovered that she really likes conflict (as long as it doesn’t become violent or dangerous), my accidental level of control has meant that I conflict with no one but Spouse.

I did know about inertia, of course I did, but I didn’t realize how easy it would be to take a bunch of incremental steps in a bunch of unrelated things and end up producing emergent phenomena that is precisely what I don’t want.

I’ve decided the antidote is committing to concrete goals, that don’t allow me to wiggle out when I don’t feel like doing something. Because I now know– only too well — that I may never feel like doing anything beforehand, but when I allow that to dictate my actions, I eventually become a bowl of pudding.

When I remove all obstacles and limits, there’s nothing to exercise my creativity against. My world narrows to only what I already find interesting — it’s much harder to surprise myself. Perhaps discipline is even more essential for free spirits.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kendra permalink
    December 23, 2011 00:36

    This is a very well written entry and I am sure, eye opening to your readers. KDahl

  2. December 25, 2011 00:09

    I’m the opposite, in that I set goals that are way too ambitious for anyone to get done, do a lot of work, and then get annoyed when I still can’t do everything.

    At the same time, a little bit of discipline is useful. Perhaps the idea of focusing on your strengths is a good place to start, because at least it’s focusing on something you enjoy. For example, it’s a lot easier for me to be disciplined about cycling regularly than it is strength training because I (usually) enjoy cycling while I hate lifting weights. Perhaps you can get more into cooking if you pick a food to cook that you really enjoy.

    • December 27, 2011 17:21

      Spouse does what you do, Shannon. Except that he often does accomplish a lot of those things – by pushing himself way too hard. And then he thinks he should always be able to do that. I keep trying to get him to relax and take it easier.

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