I have often, over the years, complained to my friends that I don’t have any discipline. I’m usually greeted with much resistance to that idea. “Oh no! You have plenty of discipline.” they say, “You write in your morning pages, you feed the kids, you have kept up a weekly blog now for over 9 months.” There is no point in arguing but I laugh to myself.
I really don’t have much discipline. Discipline implies an orderliness and consistency. One of the definitions in my Apple laptop New American Dictionary is: to do something in a controlled and habitual way. I may write my morning pages, feed the kids and keep up a weekly blog but there is nothing controlled or habitual about it.
What I really am is persistent. Again with the dictionary: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. (I think the little detail that I’m also usually the one providing the opposition is a topic for another blog.) So either with discipline or with persistence I seem to get things done, but somehow I believe it would be easier for me if I could ease up on the persistence and acquire some more discipline.
Now I suppose I have to provide examples to explain my thesis. This weekend (I think) I have managed to take my blood pressure medications every day. I dole them out along with Orion’s meds first thing in the morning. Of course on a holiday weekend this may be closer to noon, but it’s still first thing. (This counts as discipline except when he’s not here and I forget to do it at all.)
Somehow I can not manage to actually TAKE the medicine when I dole it out. (Again, that would be discipline.) Instead I put it someplace (like on the kitchen counter) where I can’t help but see it, often, throughout the day. Each time I see it I think, “I should probably take those.” Holiday weekend aside, I’ve taken my meds closer to 8pm than the usual 8am all weekend. Nagging at myself until I actually do it, that’s persistence.
Likewise today’s blog. Monday was Memorial Day and so I went out on Sunday morning and took pictures for a blog memorial. I figured I would write it, sit on it, edit it and even if I chose to take the holiday off it would be ready to go Tuesday morning. I would have done all that too, if I was disciplined.
Instead I decided that the memorial blog was a bummer. If I was going to continue to court joy I needed something a little more upbeat. So I changed my focus from a memorial to fond memories. Sounds almost as nitpicky as discipline vs perseverance doesn’t it? The change in wording did change the tone of my thinking and I proceeded to think about fond memories. Then I started to think about photographs.
I have photographs (in theory) for the fond memories blog. They are probably in my flooded and moldy basement. They are not in electronic media. They are not in any particular organization (unless I pull them out of the scrapbooks my mother made for the kids when they were little- her discipline not mine.) This task, besides being daunting, came along with my current frustration with the technology of a new phone. (Karina and I upgraded to smart phones last week and I’m totally lost.)
The nice thing about persistence vs discipline is that persistence is about the outcome and discipline is about how you get there. I’ve actually lost friends (and maybe a husband) over this small distinction. I am very good at fulfilling my promises. If I give you my word I will do what I said. I may, however, not meet your expectations of what I meant.
The friend that I lost asked me to come over and help her with prep for a catering event she was running. She knew it would be an all day affair and I agreed to come in the morning and stay until we were done. She estimated 8 hours. I was having what turned out to be a torturous and complicated pregnancy. The complications started with me throwing up that morning.
I showed up when she asked willing to work. I was really out of it, really sick (but pregnant sick so doing food work didn’t seem problematic). and still persevered through-out the day. I did step out to take a nap at one point and the 8 hour day became closer to 14 hours. I was literally dying (although we didn’t know that at the time.) My friend was really angry about writing me a check for the hours I’d worked. This in spite of my saying “I really don’t know how long I worked or how much time I put in. I know what time I arrived, what time I left and that I took a nap in the middle. I have no idea how much time I lost napping or running to the bathroom.” She expected discipline, I persevered.
So here we have a wordy blog going out quite late in the day on Tuesday, not Monday. The topic isn’t memorial. The photos are essentially nonexistent. None-the-less I continue to produce a weekly blog. Don’t mistake this for discipline. It’s simply persistence.