I was prepared for some major changes when I moved up here. I knew ahead of time that apartment life with a dog would mean that I would have to get up and take Spur for a walk every morning, not just when it was convenient. I knew that living in an expensive city and working a part-time student job would mean that I couldn’t buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store, or go out to eat every day, or buy whichever books I convinced myself I needed. I knew all of this, and so I came in prepared to tighten the old belt, financially speaking, and to suck it up and walk regardless of whether or not I feel like it.
And I have. I’ve been staunchly self-disciplined about our morning walks. In fact, there have only been two days since I’ve been here that we walked less than a couple of miles, and it was because I had a cold. And we still walked, just not as far. There have been very few days that we didn’t have two or three walks in a day. And I’ve been just as disciplined about my purchases. When I go to the grocery store, I keep my eye our for sales, check online for coupons, and buy the store brands (for some things) rather than the name brands. I don’t buy chocolate, or expensive strawberries, or crescent rolls (which I could eat, like, three times a week), or a bunch of frozen meals, or Mint Milanos, or even Dr. Pepper. And I don’t eat out except on Tuesday nights when I meet Katie and Abigail for Coffee Night. Even though I can smell Chipotle’s, a couple of burger places, two pizza places, a Thai place, and a burrito place everyday, which has given me almost constant cravings for greasy food.
But I’ve found that as discipline has increased in some areas of my life, I have become increasingly self-indulgent in other areas. For example, I watch a lot of television these days. Sitcoms, mostly, or House (for which various networks seem to plan all-day marathons on the days when I’m at home, as if they are deliberately trying to diminish my productivity). On a few occasions, I’ve even resorted to Star Trek: Voyager to meet my sci-fi quota. I watch shows that I like, and shows that I don’t really like, and I stay up later than I want to watching them. Sometimes a lot later. As a consequence, I have a hard time getting up in the morning. And rather than being disciplined about it and just getting up when I set my alarm, I hit the snooze for an hour. Or more. I’ve also been baking and eating more desserts than normal. This was, in part, a result of picking eight pounds of apples and needing to use them, but then my apple-picking bounty was an exercise in self-indulgence too. And I’ve been less careful about eating healthy, balanced meals, because apple pie and ice cream is a perfectly legitimate supper if you’re being self-indulgent.
But worst of all, I keep putting off my homework or trying to read in front of the t.v. And that’s not conducive to real learning or brilliant thoughts, and I’m here for those things. So I’ve been thinking about that lately, and I’ve decided that it’s time to get myself together in this regard. So, Monday, I sat at my table (instead of in the recliner in front of the t.v.) and did my reading for class that night. It was a big step. Today, I got up ten minutes earlier than usual. It was a small step.
So I’ve been thinking about my tendencies toward self-indulgence lately. And I’ve realized that it’s pretty typical for me to become increasingly self-indulgent during times of stress, or whenever I have to do things I don’t want to. Like when grading or working on a paper, for example, I tend to eat whatever I want, or drink as much Dr Pepper as I want, or buy books, or spend lots of time on Facebook.
It seems like I can’t be disciplined without also being self-indulgent. I don’t think I’m alone in that. But what I’m wondering now is if I can bargain with myself. If I start buying Dr Peppers and, say, get a pizza or a burger every few weeks, can I convince myself to go to bed earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s worth exploring.