Friday, 23 July 2010

Self-Discipline: Explained

A friend from my church moms' group called me after she read the last post.  In the group we have a rule that if we say anything negative about our husbands, we have to say two nice things about him.  My friend said that rule should apply to the times we say bad things about ourselves too.

She's right.  I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  But I do want to clarify my last post.  It is perfectly clear to me, but I realise that those who do not live inside my head or inside my house may not think I lack discipline.  Here's the background.

When I was growing up, my dad had a brain injury and was unable to be the head of the household, either spiritually or materially.  My mom took over.  She had to raise and homeschool four rowdy kids, care for a tempermental husband, care for the house (including renovations and landscaping), and somehow contrive to make enough money to feed and clothe us, without working outside the home.

I'm sure some people thought mom should just suck it up and get a job, but she strongly believed that the place of a mother (at least for herself) is in the home.  Besides, it would have been tough to get affordable childcare for all of us.  As good as Mom's intentions were, keeping the house clean was way down on the priority list.  So our house was usually a mess.  In need of tidying, vacuuming, scrubbing, sweeping, etc.

So that's how I grew up.  We would have massive cleaning days which we all hated (I'm sure mom hated them too), besides our chores that we did half-heartedly somewhat regularly.  I never learned the discipline of putting stuff away.  I never learned how to organise.  I never learned the value and rewards of making myself do something that I didn't want to do.  I don't blame my mom.  I do not know how she held everything together for so long.  She's my hero, and my example of perseverance, determination, and strength.

When I got married, I was rather terrified that my home would be in the same state of constant chaos that I grew up with.  I scrubbed our little one-bedroom apartment every Saturday morning.  After a while, Kevin objected to my using up a quarter of our weekend that way.  I heard about the idea of doing a little bit of the weekly cleaning every weeknight evening so it didn't have to be done on the weekend.  So I thought I would give that I try.

I really don't remember why that didn't work.  I couldn't stick to the schedule.  My cleaning degenerated to just the essentials unless we had someone coming over, then I would scrub the house madly (we lived in a 3-bedroom townhouse by then).  It was stressful.  It was hard work.

Eventually, I relaxed and gave myself permission to stop trying to be Martha Stewart.  I figured no one would see the upstairs, so I concentrated on the main areas when we had company.  The upstairs and the basement were cleaned occasionally.  I didn't vacuum often enough, of course.

That's how things progressed for a while.  Then we decided to sell our townhouse.  It had to be spotless for the entire two months that it was listed, in case we got a showing booked on short notice.  It was lovely to have a spotless house, but it was truly exhausting.  When we finally sold the house, I breathed a sigh of relief and quit cleaning.  I packed.  I got pregnant.  I had morning sickness.

We moved.  I unpacked.  I still had morning sickness.  Ever since then (a year and a half ago), I just can't get my head around the cleaning in this house.  It's awful.

Besides cleaning, I also can't discipline myself to get writing.  I have a half-completed column proposal that I've stopped working on.  I just can't make myself do it.  I'm not interested in my novel or story writing either.  Right now, I'd rather read or sew or decorate in my free time.

Then there's exercise.  Oh, I hate it.  I love being fit and active, but I hate exercising.  It sounds like a contradiction.  It probably is.  I have great intentions, and I know I'll feel much better if I try to get fit, but I just don't do it.  We have a treadmill, a Wii Fit, and a lovely neighbourhood in which to walk or run, but I stay home and read or sew or decorate.  Or bake cookies.

Lastly, there's my sugar addiction.  I'm certain I'm addicted.  It started when I was pregnant with Juliana.  I've always had a sweet tooth, but now it's out of control.

So.  That's my lack-of self-discipline.  Now I have to think of two nice things to say about myself (though from this post, I probably now owe more).  Hmm...  When I was talking to my friend, I could barely think of any.
  1. I customised my blog template all by myself.  I figured out enough html to get done what I needed.  I only had to use a tutorial to figure out the 3-column layout.  I tried for a week to figure that out on my own until I discovered that I could use a tutorial.
  2. I make good cookies.


  1. I can certainly empathize with your situation. I grew up in a home that was constantly in physical/non-orderly chaos. Housekeeping is a constant struggle for me. Even as of this minute I should probably be folding the pile of laundry that is on the couch or straightening some other area of the house. Because our house is small and I really don't have a craft area, my craft stuff is almost always taking over the kitchen table. I think it is important to just do the best you can at that moment and try to move forward. Have you heard of Fly Lady? I did try to follow her system for a while and it did help me, but I've fallen off of that wagon.

    I think that telling yourself two positives for every negative is a good way to get started back on the track you want to be on!

  2. Oh Jo! You are such an amazing person! You are truly talented with crafty things, you are an amazing friend, you are a super mom!, you are TOOOOOOO HARD ON YOURSELF!!!!
    (Seeing that chocolate and sugar is a food group - there is nothing wrong with being addicted! )

    A :)

  3. It's so important to always be positive. Good job at telling yourself two positives for every negative!

  4. I also relate - no habits formed in youth because my parents were told that I would not live past 16. It has taken years to develop a consistent pattern of keeping things in order, which still fails far too often to suit me. I am my own worst critic! Have you tried She says to start small. Her website has become too cluttered (ironic)but she does have good ideas.

    I met you at a writers' conference. Good to find your blog!


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