Day 60: Self-Control

60 Days. That’s really something. I mean it’s not 100 days. Not yet. But it’s something.

So far it’s 600 minutes practicing meditation. It’s (nearly) 60 days of pilates exercises and morning walks. It’s gotta be a good 25 kids craft projects. (A lot of worn out markers, colored pencils and coloring books.) 10 or so books read or listened to. It’s 60 dinners planned but better –it’s 60 dinners eaten together. 60 bedtime stories read. It’s 60 days of life chronicled and it’s 60 stories shared with you.

The writing and the cooking and making new ice cream flavors have been shifting my perspective. It turns out that focus and practice were the drill sergeants I needed to find order in the chaos, to create a framework where I could exist, and be most creative, happy, energetic and present.

Recently I read a book about Genghis Kahn by Jack Weatherford. A line from the book stuck with me. It’s about the sons of Genghis Kahn and what savage and successful warriors they were. The line goes something like this: Able to conquer every nation, the one thing they could not control was themselves.

It stuck with me because I realized that so much of our dissatisfaction and unhappiness comes because we don’t do what we mean to do. Think about that.

I always thought self-control meant: stopping yourself from doing what you want because what you want is probably bad. I thought self-control meant: Forcing yourself to do what you should do.

I never thought that self-control meant: getting yourself to do what you actually want to do for yourself.

You want to read more? You want to get up early? You want to spend 3 hours a week only thinking about strategy? You want more satisfaction? You want to start your own business? Learn to play an instrument? Go to bed earlier? See the world? Get out of debt? You really want to drink less? You really want to—fill in the blank–

What do you really want to do that you’re not doing? What’s stopping you?

Before you get really irritated, let me say this: If you are doing everything you can just to survive, I see you. Stay with me.

A long time ago I used to share this meme:

If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.

I used to think people who didn’t just change their circumstances were lazy. (Sorry. I know.)

Then I had kids. All of the sudden doing what I wanted to do, in a time frame that seemed reasonable to me, was impossible. All the inspirational quotes that rang true before didn’t feel like they applied to my life at all. That’s nice for you, I thought, good for you people who can move because you’re not a tree–but I’m a mom–a tree is exactly what I’ve become.

I felt trapped and stuck. It’s not that my situation was bad in fact it was lovely in lots of ways. It’s just I couldn’t do anything that I did before. I couldn’t pursue anything. I could hardly set goals or talk about dreams. Everything felt like trying to swim through molasses. My life was unrecognizable to me. And I knew it was the choices I had made. I made the choice to get married. I made the choice to move to Germany. I made the choice to bring these beautiful, stunning little humans into the world. No one forced me to do any of that. At the time I never considered what I was going to sacrifice. I only thought about what I was going to gain.

So, by the time this quarantine rolled around I had really grown to hate this meme about the tree.

I see now why I only focused on what I was going to gain. None of us would ever be able to take any huge leaps if we thought about what we were going to lose. And things do settle down. The chaos of whatever phase of life you’re in– it will calm itself.

More, as that happens, space opens up. There will be peaceful moments. They will be very short to start, but they will happen. The first time you won’t know what to do with yourself. But as the fog begins to life, our eyes become clear again. The water isn’t so choppy. And in those spaces we can move.

This bizarre time has been a deep dive into creating a routine, recognizing those spaces and mindfully filling them. This little movement is allowing me to finally feel like a person. A person who is a wife, and a mom, and a friend. A writer, and a gardener, and a teacher–an expatriated person, a bi-lingual person and a person who used to be a ballerina. I am all those things. I’m not stuck in the middle of them anymore. I’m not trying to get back to them. I am all of them at the same time. (Now I just need Whitney Houston to sing I’m every woman and life would be complete.) 🤣

No, but seriously. 60 days ago I made one very big statement to my partner about my need for daily exercise and alone time. We came to an agreement about how to manage and from that moment on it felt like everything changed.

Except the only thing that actually changed is my perspective. Consistent alone time, a few minutes of mindfulness, a focus on practicing something, some sunshine and endorphins– well and the attempt to not look at the phone until about 10am everyday. (I don’t always stick to this but I notice a serious improvement in my mood when I do.) Anyway, that’s what it took.

Now let’s get back to self-control. Once you figure out what you need, once you find a time slot for yourself—You’ve got to do whatever you’ve set out to do. Because now I get it–self-control is successfully getting yourself to do what you really want to do with the time that you have.

Until tomorrow,

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