After many many attempts to quit sugar, I finally did. I’m on an anti-metric kick right now, which means I don’t know how many days I’ve been sugar free. Theoretically I could figure it out and at least get pretty close, but it doesn’t matter and I’d rather not know.
When I run, I don’t know how long or how far I go. I just go. When I swim I don’t know how many laps or how fast or how long. Eventually I decide to stop.
I hate hate hate counting calories so I’m not. Smaller portions, especially of the carbs. No snacks after supper. It’s all very general and the only reason I know I’ve lost a little weight is because my jeans are more comfortable.
So I don’t know how long I’ve been sugar free. Sometime in March I decided to be 100% sugar free until my 39th birthday (May 28). Well, until that weekend, which is graduation weekend. Mom is going to make Better than Sex Cake for my birthday/ Nell’s graduation.
I already didn’t quite make it 100%. Friday on the way to Kansas I had a milkshake. It was a small shake, and I couldn’t finish the whole thing.
But Monday was a disaster. My allergies were acting up so much that the roof of my mouth itched like crazy. I hate that feeling and a carbonated beverage is just the thing to combat it. I was tired and I forgot all my little tricks for not getting sugar.
- I could have gone to the grocery store and gotten an Izze. (Carbonated, no sugar. High GI but not as high as a coke!)
- I forgot entirely about my bamboo-breath exercise which works by distracting me from thinking about the coke & candy bar.
- I could have gone for a walk. More than once–including this time–I head down the street to the gas station and as soon as I’m walking I don’t want so desperately the thing I’m walking for.
- I could have found someone to talk to. I love talking and that will distract me from anything.
So I ended up walking down the street and getting a coke & candy bar. And I drank the entire coke. It made me a bit light headed. As I walked to the gas station I thought of all those things I could have done instead. Could be doing instead. But once I’ve decided to sin I don’t waver. I persevere in the face of all obstacles.
But I was more prepared the next day. I took my allergy medicine and had the various tricks at the front of my mind. I didn’t need them.
I still have a chance to make it to my 39th birthday 99% sugar free. Which isn’t a metric because it’s a made up number. To get a metric I’d have to know how many days it was when I made the decision to be sugar free and figure out what percent of time (in days? hours?) I was contaminated by sugar.
There were way too many cookies & cakes around for the funeral. That was a little frustrating.
I’ve been reading about the unconscious and how much stronger it is than we realize. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the real reason I had a coke on Monday (and a candy bar) is because I didn’t have carrot cake, chocolate cake, and assorted cookies all weekend.
That carrot cake was really really good. I know because my little cousin Vivian was eating a piece and I got her a 2nd piece that she wasn’t supposed to have (she & I both knew she wasn’t–but she was so cute and liked it so much). A little bit of frosting got on my finger and I licked it off. Oh my gosh was it good.
I gave her a cookie too but her mama saw eventually and took it away. She didn’t know I gave it to her. She thought Vivian had gotten it herself, and she moved the cookies to the back of the table where Vivian couldn’t reach. Vivian didn’t need to reach because there were lots of long arms that could reach for her.
It’s not that I have no shame and that nothing can embarrass me. It’s that I know that there is nothing new under the sun. What I experience, thousands (at least) have experienced before and thousands (at least) to come will experience it. In talking about my experience with leaky running, I hope to bring comfort and perhaps solutions to other people.
It doesn’t make me feel embarrassed at all to announce that I am (sometimes) a leaky runner.
Just google “incontinence and running” and you’ll see what I mean. There’s tons of articles. It makes me sad to think of all the postpartum, slightly (or more) overweight women who don’t run because they are embarrassed.
I had been running for a couple years without any problems. I’ve steadily been gaining weight over the same time (my bike commute is too short and sugar is my nemesis), and I’m about 15 or 20 pounds overweight now. Not a lot, but just enough. With everyone around me worried about 50 or 70 pounds or more, I feel pretty silly to worry about 20 pounds. I have the “heart of an athlete” (a resting heart rate of 54 bpm), I sleep well, I eat lots of fruits & vegetables (and, sad to say, sugar), and the only reason to lose 20 pounds is vanity. Vanity, and so I can bike faster.
Being able to bike faster is a good incentive. But not quite enough. And ultimately, that is just vanity as well. For what do I need to bike fast? Even if I get a little faster than I am now, I’m not going to win any races. If I could win a race, I don’t care to.
Anyway, I had no reason to lose any weight, until I had stopped running for a little while and started back to it and discovered to my horror that I leak when I run.
The only thing that has changed since I had last run a few weeks before is my weight (and of course my age, by a few weeks). Only by a few pounds. I think there is a threshold weight above which I am a leaky runner and below which I am not. Years ago, long before I started biking, I had gained weight and I tried jump roping. With a small child at home it’s hard to go out and be active. Jump roping was something I could do at home. Only it’s awfully bouncy and I was awfully leaky and it didn’t last. I’m nowhere near as heavy now as I was then, plus I have a lot more muscle than I had then, but I guess I’ve crossed that weight threshold.
I made three changes with almost instant success. (It’s been about 3 weeks.)
1) I run slower. The leakiness is worse the bouncier I am. Running slower is less bouncy and less leaky.
2) I had just stopped eating sugar and I went lower carb for a while to lose some of the extra pounds. Of course I’d like to go all the way to “ideal” but the most urgent incentive is to get below the leaky threshold. I’m not really doing metrics but my slacks are fitting better. I think I was barely at the weight threshold and I’ve already gotten myself below it. I’d like to have a wide margin so I’ll stick to the lower carb (and no sugar) for a while longer until my clothes are too big.
3) Kegel exercises. All the time.
I thought about buying adult diapers to run in. I suspect they don’t make them with running in mind. Anyway with those 3 tactics, I have circumvented the need.
That reminds me of a story from grad school. Gather round, kiddos. My adviser had his own Cessna 5-seater airplane with a gold-plated engine. He was in the habit of loading up the entire lab (he always had a small lab) and taking them to conferences. By the time I was a student, he had mostly quit doing that, because he was so busy traveling to Japan and Italy (not in his own little plane of course) for meetings and publicity. We did take a trip in his plane once to visit a collaborator in Pittsburg, PA once. That was fun.
Anyway, one student who predated me went with him and others to a meeting that was a 5-hour flight. During their stay, she was looking for a drug store. “I’m trying to find some adult diapers,” she said. Like most grad students she was young–too young to need adult diapers–and they were concerned. Was she ill?
“Five hours is too long for all the coffee I drink,” she explained. Rather than forego her coffee, she was going to buy adult diapers–and use them.
“The plane can land,” our adviser told her. “You don’t need to buy adult diapers.”
So she didn’t. And sure enough, a couple hours into the flight, the plane landed so she could use the bathroom.
Most people don’t believe this. I’m certainly not the stereotype. But yes, I was a cheerleader one year. I count it as one of the 3 big mistakes of my life. The other 2 are not applying to more than one med school/ going to grad school as a back up plan for not getting into med school (I know, that’s 2 things, but they go together), and moving to Chicago for a postdoc when Iain didn’t have a job lined up and we couldn’t afford Chicago on my postdoc salary.
These 3 mistakes were made at ages 13, 24, and 29. I’m probably due for another.
That’s not to say I’ve only made 3 mistakes ever. Those are the 3 big ones. Other mistakes are less memorable.
Anyway, back to the cheerleader story. My class had very few girls. Only 3 were popular. There were 4 or 5 of us who weren’t. I’d guess we had about 30 in our class at that time and the rest were boys.
In middle school, 4 8th grade and 2 7th grade cheerleaders were selected every year by vote. Cheerleader tryouts were in front of the whole school, but it was really a popularity contest. Since only 3 girls were popular, we were 1 short for cheerleader when we got to 8th grade.
Two of the popular girls asked my friend Kerry to try out. She was borderline popular-unpopular. She could have been popular if she wanted, I think. She didn’t want to be a cheerleader. So I said, “I’ll try out.”
I’m not really sure why. They hadn’t asked me–they had asked Kerry. They didn’t want me. I did not harbor any delusions that being a cheerleader might make me popular.
I think I was experimenting with different identities. It’s an adolescence thing.
I tried out, the school voted, and because they were instructed to vote for 4 8th graders and 2 7th graders, and there were only 4 8th graders trying out, I made it.
I was unprepared for the scorn & derision of the other students. Not that I wasn’t scorned and derided routinely already, but it increased in the spotlight.
The other cheerleaders, particularly the two who had asked Kerry but NOT me, weren’t at all welcoming. They scheduled the 2-day cheerleader camp during the only time all summer I was gone. (I forget where I was that weekend.) To be fair, I don’t think they did that intentionally, but neither did anyone check with me. I didn’t even know there was a cheerleader camp I was supposed to attend until the week before.
It wasn’t all bad. I liked learning the moves to the fight song. I still remember the fight song. I liked some of the cheers. I liked learning the dance routine that we performed for the school. I liked the costume. I mean the uniform. (I still like costumes. Bike jerseys & bike shorts. Business suits. Etc.)
But in general it was a pretty miserable experience and then one of the other 8th grade cheerleaders, the only nice one, died in a car wreck. I wanted to quit but our “coach” (the person who was nominally our coach though he never had much to do with us) wouldn’t let me. That is, he persuaded me not to quit by dint of shaming and bullying and calling me a quitter. We only had a couple games left anyway.
I might have pictures somewhere to prove it.
I’m going to call it on the Lent project. It was fun at first but it definitely fizzled during the 2nd half.
This week was supposed to be all about me: Think kind & loving thoughts about myself, Accept that everything about me is as it should be, Celebrate everything about me, Give myself something, and Contemplate my relationship with myself.
Only there just doesn’t seem any point to all that because I’m feeling so great. I’ve been 100% sugar free for nearly two weeks. I started Couch to 5K this week and swimming on the alternate days. Work & family are all happy and good right now.
So I just don’t have any motivation to think deep thoughts about myself. There is no challenge at all to accept myself: Today I’m perfect.
I’m not complaining! Just explaining why the project fizzled.
I biked to the city council candidates’ forum tonight. Having interviewed a whole lot of city council candidates recently, not just Kirksville’s but several other communities’, I have a great appreciation for this forum. Other cities could not or would not give me contact information for their candidates. Kirksville willingly and promptly gave me the contact information. I doubt that other communities have a candidates’ forum. I have no idea how people find out about their candidates.
When I was in college, my advisor was on city council. When elections came around, I asked him who he supported. That’s who I voted for. I scheduled a meeting with him after I graduated just so I could ask him who to vote for. I didn’t know how else to get the information.
In retrospect, I could have asked him how to get the information. I wonder why he didn’t direct me to newspaper articles or the city clerk, or tell me about the candidates’ forum (if there was one).
Fast forward a decade and a half, and I know all sorts of things I didn’t know then. But even last year, I didn’t know about the candidates’ forum until after the fact. So this year I was determined to find out about it and get it on my calendar. Which I did.
Of the 5 candidates, 1 didn’t show up. All of the candidates who attended came across as someone who would make a decent city council person.
I should interject here. The #1 qualification for city council is that you’re not corrupt. In the 1990’s Kirksville had a corrupt city council. They sold the city out for personal gain. They even got investigated (although nothing came of that). Intelligence is nice, but not necessary. Not being corrupt is the main thing.
As far as I could tell—and granted, there’s not a lot of information to go on—none of the candidates are corrupt. By that I mainly mean that none of them are in real estate, none of them are developers.
Experience is the 2nd qualification. I would like to have heard one of the candidates say something like “Ever since I decided to run I’ve been attending city council meetings.” Even better one might say “I attended a couple meetings and then decided to run, and I’ve been attending meetings whenever I could ever since.”
But none of them said that and the only one with experience is the incumbent, Mayor Detweiler. Glen Moritz has a brush with experience—two of his uncles served on a commission or two in their day. Which was about 40 or 50 years ago.
I do plan to vote for Mayor Detweiler, mainly on the “not corrupt” (I think) and “experience” points. Other than the ridiculous dog ban, I don’t think he’s done anything else too objectionable, and he’s been favorable about biking & walking.
Glen Moritz is the other candidate who impressed me the most favorably. I’m a little sad about that because I really wanted to vote for someone younger. I hate that city council is inevitably a bunch of old white guys. But Glen really got my vote when he said in his closing statement that he believes in equality and he knows that some people have lost their job in Kirksville because of their sexual orientation and he thinks that is wrong. Even if he’s old, he’s jumped on that bandwagon which shows he’s not that old.
After the panel, I was chatting with Rebecca McClanahan (former state rep) and I was astounded to see that people were waiting to talk to me.
There were people I wanted to talk to as well. I chatted with John Buckwalter (Public Works Director) and Mari Macomber (City Manager) about what it takes to serve on the Airport and Transportation Commission. (The main qualification is to be interested.) I talked to Glen Moritz a little more. I asked Jason Hunsicker, the Daily Express Editor and the forum moderator, who was responsible for the forum. Was it the city?
No—it was the Chamber of Commerce. Well done, Chamber. And well done, Daily Express for providing personnel. In addition to Jason, two other Daily Express editors asked the questions.
Day 31: Mar 19. “Prayer” and “other people/ career”. Think kind & loving thoughts about my career and employer.
Day 32: Mar 20. “Penance” and “other people/ career”. Accept that my career & employer are everything they ought to be.
Day 33: Mar 21. “Repentance” and “other people/ career”. Celebrate that everything about my career & employer is as it ought to be.
Day 34: Mar 22. “Alms giving” and “other people/ career”. ??
Day 35: Mar 23. “Self denial” and “other people/ career”. Forego evening computer time and contemplate my career & employer.
Sunday: Mar 24
Day 36: Mar 25. “Prayer” and “myself”. Kind & loving thoughts about myself.
As you can no doubt tell from the lack of posting, I have lost enthusiasm for this project. While I gave some thought to it on each of these days, I lost track of where I was. Also I’m somehow a day off and will finish on Friday instead of Saturday.
So in one sense this is a failure but in another sense it is still being useful. I have a more positive attitude about my job. It doesn’t seem so far fetched as it did last time I was in this cycle of the Lent project to accept and even celebrate my career and the path I took to get here.
The day I was supposed to give something to my employer/ career, I was in Bethesda at an NIH study section. So unintentionally I was doing something good for both of those. I’m feeling pretty good about the prospect of applying for a grant in October, which is good for my career and my employer.
Today I gave myself permission to be a joyless & negative person. I didn’t even know what day it was in the Lent cycle, I just remember being on my bike this morning thinking “It’s ok to be joyless and negative. I’m not a naturally happy person and I don’t have to be. It’s ok that my natural state is to worry about the uncertain future.” (That was this morning. Tonight I’m wondering, is anyone “naturally” happy? Possibly. But it doesn’t matter. I am who I am and that is all that matters.)
I have heard several people say that their 40′s & 50′s were the best years. I haven’t been too impressed with any decade of my life so far so I am really looking forward to that. As I approach the last year of my 30′s, I want to do everything I can to set myself up to be in a position to take full advantage of the “best years”.
Lent would have been a logical time to give up sugar. Luckily I’m rarely accused of being logical.
The best benefit I get from giving up sugar is mood swings. There will be a couple really awful days each month when I get terribly scared. I hate that feeling. I keep trying to not have sugar and I do sort of ok and then not really that great, and after several months of this half-way giving up sugar those mood swings are starting to get really bad again.
I want to be 100% sugar free from today until my 39th birthday. (About 2 months and 1 week.) After that, maybe not 100%, but with all the training and healthy eating I think I can be mostly sugar free. I’ll reconfigure the rules when/if I get there.
Injury Free Ambitious Me
I’m gearing up to run a race a month for the next year (or a timed 5K+ on my own if I can’t find a race that works for my schedule), including attempting the swim portion of the NEMO Triathlon. I am a very, very, very slow swimmer and I honestly don’t know if a) I can swim 3/4 mile or b) if I can swim 3/4 mile in 45 minutes, but I am going to try. I am going to bike to all 40 Missouri State Parks that have campgrounds in the summer of 2014, so this summer (2013) would be a great time to get some miles in and get in fabulous shape for that. Swimming, running, biking– that’s a lot of training. That will go hand in hand with healthy eating. It’ll actually help me eat healthier because it gives me something to think about.
So much for my earlier goal of “This year I want to not injure myself”. At least I’m starting it with a nice and easy Couch to 5K program (and then running a 10K before I even finish the Couch to 5K program).
Part 3: Happier Me
It’s easy to focus on the physical part of it. Losing weight, eating right, exercising. Those are the keys to living a good life, right? Well. They are important. (Sleep is actually far more important than any of those, but I was blessed with a superpower: when it’s bedtime, I fall asleep. In fact, I can’t stay awake to save my life. Good thing I’m not an
astrologist astronomist astronomer.) But the social aspect of life is probably a little more important than all the rest. I’m really into a type of book right now, not quite sure what to call this genre, “self help” really does not hit the mark at all, but it includes “The Happiness Project” and “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” and something that’s not a book at all, “The Quantified Self”, things like that. It encompasses my latest Lent project and taking 2 Coursera classes with my husband and letting my daughter be the adult she is. It includes some deep thinking about my career and questioning all the negativity I’ve built up around that. (Wouldn’t it just be easier to start a new career? Come on.) Trying to find new ways of thinking about things that let me be happier with the world as it is–happier with myself as I am.
The Coursera classes are an absolute blast. One is “Math Thinking” and the other is “Know Thyself”. We’ve both had lots of math and we’ve both had philosophy but we are working hard to keep up and we’re having a great time. We have long conversations about logic & implications over dinner, washing dishes, taking a walk, even in bed. (“Bidirectional implications in bed” sounds a lot sexier than it is. Trust me.) These courses have turned out to be an amazingly fun (and free) couples’ activity!
I don’t have a nice neat little plan for this part of it. It’s really a lot of self awareness and asking “Why am I doing this right now?” and taking time to think about it. “Why am I snarling at my husband?” or “Why am I feeling irritated at ____?” “I’m craving sugar. Is there anything else I can do, like take the time to eat a messy orange & clean up instead of a less messy coke?” Ironically, I spend more time doing nothing (deep breaths, or close my eyes, or lay down) yet I’m more productive. (Probably because it cuts down on my habitual facebooking. Facebooking is the new comfort food.)
And if this year turns out to be amazingly fun, I’m just getting a head start on my 40′s.
Day 27: “Penance” and “my daughter”
Day 28: “Repentance” and “my daughter”
Day 29: “Alms giving” and “my daughter”
Day 30: “Self denial” and “my daughter”
I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the 2nd run through these. The first run it was nice to know I’d have a second chance at it, but it’s turning out the second chance just isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention.
However I have at least sort of mentally kept track of where I’m at. I came up with a good idea for a gift yesterday (Day 29) but I don’t remember what it was, or if I did it. At least I did a good job of keeping my mouth shut and didn’t remind her of anything she didn’t want reminded of. I don’t know that I did much reflecting today (Day 30) on my relationship with her, and I didn’t do any self-denial to make extra time for that (I was actually catching up on the Team Estrogen forums earlier tonight, which I’d gotten way behind on). On the other hand I’m aware each day of what I’m supposed to be doing so I’m not falling into habits like worrying about her homework or her college choices.
Tomorrow starts a new cycle, “Prayer” and “Other people”.
Day 24: “Alms-giving” and “my husband”. The gift I came up with was to play a computer game with him! It didn’t work out quite as well as I intended, because we ended up cutting our playing short because something else needed done. But it was a nice thought and I can (and will) do it again…probably when it gets cold again this weekend & I don’t want to be outside!
Day 25: “Self denial” and “my husband”. In theory I was to forego crazyguyonabike journals (which I haven’t been reading in a while) or at least evening computer time and spend time thinking about my relationship with him. In reality I was teaching the bike class all evening and not thinking about him at all.
Day 26: Start of a new cycle! “Prayer” and “my daughter”. No challenge at all to wish for good things for my daughter. This is her spring break but we haven’t seen her too much–between my activities, and she’s put in a lot of hours at work and a lot more hours with her young man. But today the young man came to our house so we got to see them both.
Tomorrow is “penance” and “my daughter” so the task is to accept that everything about her–such as her lack of progress on her online class that she had intended to finish this week, or her insistence on the most expensive college when there is one option that is almost free and a couple options that are substantially cheaper. I will focus on letting her make her own decisions, which might be mistakes or they might not be, maybe I’m the one whose judgment is in error. I surely made my share of mistakes when I was her age and my judgment today is not infallible by any means (or even better than it was then).
Day 22: Saturday was “penance” and “my husband” so I was to accept that everything about my husband is as it should be. Again no particular insights or challenges. I just remembered it from time to time. It’s nice that some of these are coming so easily to me now.
Sunday doesn’t count toward the 40 so I took a break.
Day 23: Today was “repentance” and “my husband” so I was to celebrate that everything about him is as it should be. He had a bad headache, one that threatened to turn into a migraine. It’s daylight savings which means fatigue which for him means headaches and migraines. “I’ll come home early to take care of you,” I told him. He objected but when I came home he appreciated me making him sit down quietly and drink water.
So it was an easy one to celebrate. Of course I don’t want him to have a headache, but I enjoyed taking care of him and I got a huge kick out of being the reason he felt better.
Tomorrow is alms-giving. I wonder what inspiration will come to me for his gift.
Yesterday was “prayer” and “my husband”. Nothing interesting happened, no big (or little) insights. I just periodically remembered through the day and asked myself right now “What can I do that is kind & loving?” and decided I was already doing it.
Unrelated to today’s activity, I had another insight on the sugar thing. I learned that a strong temptation moment is when I run errands before work and my route takes me past a store that sells coke & candy bar (Hyvee, Westlake, gas station). Yesterday I was just a tiny bit hungry when I left the house, but I thought I’d eat my banana when I got to work. I should have eaten it before I left because after my errand, I was a little bit more hungry, craving sugar, and passed a gas station. I think I could still have been ok if I had been prepared for it. Or, I could have taken a different route– but the decision moment was actually before I got to the gas station. So eating myself stuffed all morning plus being prepared for those decision points are 2 important strategies to kick the sugar thing.
Day 20 was “self denial” and I was my focus person.
Having my no sugar plan in place ended up being the main focus of my day. I had an insight, which is that sometimes I’ll get a coke/candy bar when I don’t want one because I have the opportunity. The reward then is that of stocking up or taking care of something. For me, that feeling of being organized and prepared is very calming and powerful.
Today I start over the whole thing: Prayer and my husband. Time to think some good thoughts about the guy!
Today was alms-giving, focus person me. My task was to give myself something. In light of the celebration of my sugar habit/ addiction, it was easy to give myself permission to eat crap this morning, which I did. But that wasn’t what I really wanted to give myself.
It’s funny how the perfect idea occurs to me at some point during the day. Like all the other days, the perfect idea came to me this afternoon. I’ve recently read a book about habits which recommends a habit-breaking approach that is grounded in scientific evidence AND uses quantified-self style experimentation.
I love planning.
I love quantified self experiments.
I love anything grounded in actual, you know, evidence. (As opposed to traditional medicine AND new-age voodoo.)
I really really want to kick the sugar habit/ addiction for good. (According to the book, the difference between habit and addiction is mainly a matter of semantics and pejorative.)
So, my gift to myself was making a plan to kick the sugar habit.
Here’s how it works. Habits have 3 parts: cue, routine, reward. You don’t just end a bad habit. You have to over-write some or all of it with a new habit. You can over-write the routine and/or the reward.
The reward might be the sugar rush. It might be the tingly feeling of fizzy soda on my tongue. Or, in the case of an almond joy candy bar, the crunch of the almond with that unique coconut texture. It might be the distraction of getting up to fetch the junk food, especially as often I will walk down the street to the store. There are other rewards that I’m NOT getting from the coke/ candy bar which might be a stronger reward, such as talking to people.
The way to identify the thing that is rewarding my habit is by replacing the coke/ candy bar with something else, then observing 15 minutes later if I still crave the sugar. (For a while I’d licked it by drinking Izze soda– all juice, no sweeteners added. I felt it was cheating a little.)
I have a feeling it is probably the sugar rush that is the reward. So I will have to replace both the routine & the reward, which is harder than replacing just the routine.
Here are the rewards I’m going to try out: Talking to people, Go for a walk, Jump, Laugh, Look at photos of family/friends, watch a cat video, pet a stuffed animal (I bet a real cat would kick my sugar habit, but I don’t think my cats want to go to work with me), drink V8, eat veggies, eat fruit, eat crackers, close my eyes and listen to a song, dance to music (preferably with my door & window shut), practice juggling, chew something chewy with coconut.
Talking to people has a high chance of being effective but a low chance of being feasible. It’s pretty lonely in my basement office and my options are limited. Sort of. It will work best if I talk to someone I like. There are a lot more options if I don’t have that constraint!
Nell has a little toy bunny rabbit that makes noises and wiggles when you pet it. I’m going to put batteries in it and take it to my office in lieu of the cat.
So that’s how to figure out the reward part. The cue part is easier, I think. Habit cues typically fall into 1 of 5 categories: time of day, location, mood, other people, preceding action. I’m pretty sure it’s time of day for me. The way to find out is to record those 5 things when I have a sugar craving.
Day 17: I had skipped “alms giving” last week so I picked that one back up. I made an effort to learn something nice about someone. It was a little awkward. For the next cycle, I’ll keep an eye out for that “something nice” and an opportunity to work that in to conversation. It may not happen conveniently on the designated day.
Day 18: Returning to our regularly scheduled programming, today is “celebrate that everything about me is as it should be”. I think I was moody the day I was having trouble with accepting that everything about me is as it should be. It doesn’t seem as impossible today. I certainly am enjoying celebrating– and not judging– my sugar habit.
Tomorrow is “alms giving” and the focus person is “me”. I’ll be thinking about what gift to give myself.
Today is Sunday and so, in order for the number of days to come out right, I skip today.
I realized I skipped a step. Day 14 was supposed to be alms-giving, not self denial. I intended to do something nice for the other people, and I forgot. So tomorrow I should come back to that one. Since they aren’t family or even friends, it’s kind of awkward to do something nice for them, but I had an idea that I would try to find out something about them– spirit of curiosity– and, if it’s truly a nice thing to do, I would share that with others.
Day 16 was “penance” and “myself” so my task was to accept that everything about me is as it should be. That really goes against my nature because I like to change things, to make things better, and I can’t change anyone but myself, so I get changed a lot. Or I try to. I’m not 100% convinced that I can change myself. I get to accept all kinds of crazy things, like my tendency to get super bossy and controlling when I’m tired, upset, or awake. Or asleep. I’m reading “The Power of Habit” which has the interesting statistic that perhaps 60% of our actions are dictated by habit. It also highlights how bloody stubborn these habits are and nearly impossible–but not actually impossible–to change. The anatomy of a habit is cue – response – reward. My bossiness is a response habit to tired/ upset/ unhappy and the reward is the feeling of control. But this is not the time to change that, it is the time to accept that this is the way I am. And tomorrow I even go a step further and celebrate my bossiness.
That’s only one of the many things to accept and (tomorrow) celebrate. Because of the book I just read, I’m looking at them all as habits. There’s my sugar habit/ addiction. (I’m acceptingly drinking a 16 oz coke right now with 65 g– nearly a half cup– of sugar.) There’s what I call downright craziness and neurotic tendencies. (I talk about these from time to time but you never get to actually see them, unless you are closely related to me or very unlucky. I keep them pretty well inside my own head where they can do the most harm. I mean least harm. Or something.) And there’s more, which I won’t discuss publicly but I’m certainly thinking about it.
Whereas the days I spent accepting my husband and accepting my daughter were revelatory, the day accepting my career and the day accepting myself are fruitless.
Day 14: “Self denial” and “other people” (which morphed in “my career”) –> contemplate my relationship with my career in lieu of reading crazyguyonabike journals. In particular the concept that everything about my career, including my dissatisfaction, is as it should be.
Day 15: Starting a new cycle. “Prayer” and “myself” –> be kind and loving to myself. I gave myself a couple good opportunities to do that today. I gave into a craving and had a delicious but large and highly sugary pastry. I went to work late and left early and goofed off much of the day. Rather than feel guilty about these things, I thought of how I would think of someone else who did these. Someone whom I was feeling kind and loving toward. I would be happy that that person got to experience the delight of an indulged craving. (It really is a lovely feeling, which is why we have cravings.) I would think that the person probably needed a day off. Especially since she had spent the official snow day on the 6th floor killing rats and not having fun (because I don’t actually enjoy killing rats however necessary it may be for the experiment and however humanely I try to do it) while watching kids sledding on the hill outside who were having a lot of fun. And she finished a grant yesterday, and honestly didn’t have a lot to do today, at least nothing urgent. Yeah, this was an excellent day to goof off!
Day 12 was “penance” and the focus-person “other people” so my task was to accept that everything about certain other people, including certain objectionable characteristics, is exactly as it should be.
I ended up expanding that to a more general statement: everything about my career is exactly as it should be. That sure is hard to swallow and I could definitely stand more time on that.
Day 13 is “repentance”, focus-person “other people”, task is to celebrate everything about certain other people. Since “other people” expanded to “my career” yesterday, this one also expands to “my career” and, well, good thing I’ll have a second chance at this one in a couple weeks.
Tomorrow is “self denial” and I get to contemplate my relationship with my career instead of reading crazyguyonabike journals. I’d much rather read crazyguy journals. So this really will be some self denial.
Day 10 was “Self denial” wherein I did not read crazyguyonabike journals (or reallife comics) for the evening, and spent some time thinking about my relationship with my daughter. I came up with some pretty good stuff which boiled down to “ah youth, the time when we make grand plans for our lives and then go bravely forth and screw it up royally.”
Day 11 is the start of a new cycle. Back to “prayer” and the focus-person is “other people” with some specific other people in mind. The task is to treat them or think of them in a kind and loving manner. This is definitely more of a challenge because my tendency has been to think of them with frustration, annoyance, irritation, and most of all with fear. I made an effort to think of them more charitably than I have been accustomed to. I don’t know if it made a difference in my interactions with them, but it made a difference in my experience of those interactions.
Tomorrow is “penance” and my task will be to accept that everything about these other people is exactly as it should be.
Today’s activity was “alms giving” and the focus person is my daughter. I had no idea what to do for her. Earlier this week I read a Just So Story out loud. (Ok, she’s 17, so what that I still read a book out loud to her once in a while?) She loves back rubs from me, and I had done that. She was talking about baking a cake but that’s something she likes to do, she doesn’t really want someone else to bake a cake for her. I could repeat the read aloud and/or the back rub, I guessed.
Then I hit on it. She had asked me to stop casually mentioning her Visual Basic online class. (It’s not nagging if it’s just casually worked into the conversation, see?) Then later, I was washing dishes and I heard her get frustrated trying to log in to one of the college accounts. As soon as you apply you end up with a student number and have to start checking your student email, it’s kind of tedious. Anyway, my first inclination was to dry my hands and go help her. Then I thought, “She’s an adult. She really doesn’t need me. And if she does she’ll ask.” So I shut up.
That’s the gift to give a 17 yr old. Shut up!
Tomorrow: Self-denial. I’ll spend some time not reading crazyguyonabike journals, or, what I’ve been doing lately, reallife web comics. I’ll spend that time thinking about my relationship with my very nearly grown up daughter.
Today’s activity is “repentance” and the focus person is my daughter so the task is to celebrate everything about her even the annoying bits. Just like the last cycle when my husband happened to not be annoying on the repentance day, she failed to be annoying today. She’s feeling lots more energetic and was downright cheerful. So it wasn’t much challenge to celebrate.
I did have something to celebrate, though not focused on her. Today is our 20th kissing anniversary.
Tomorrow is “alms giving” and she is the focus person, so I need to think of something to give her.
Day 6 was “prayer” and the focus person is my daughter, so the activity was to be kind and loving toward her. She has been struggling with fatigue (senioritis? anemia? stress?) and despite several nights of 9 hrs of sleep she was exhausted, overwhelmed, and unhappy last night. So there was plenty of opportunity to be kind and loving, and some challenge because she does get whiny when she is tired. I managed to find plenty of patience (it helped that I am genuinely worried about her). I gave her a backrub and read a chapter of “Pride and Prejudice” out loud. She went to bed and I grabbed my murder mystery to go read in bed with her, but she was too unhappy to read. So I fetched a couple of my favorite children’s books, “Go Dog Go” and “One Fish Two Fish”. We read them in English accents. Or she did; my English accent isn’t very good. Then I fetched her Helen’s Bear, a very special bear of her daddy’s that belonged to his Grandma Helen whom she is named for.
It was just a really sweet and special time and I’m glad I had the patience to bear with her complaining and make the rest of it happen. She was even laughing when we were reading “Go Dog Go” in our silly accents.
Day 7: Today’s activity is “penance” and she is of course the focus person, so my task is to accept that everything about her is the way it is supposed to be. When she heard that, she was miffed that I would accept that her fatigue or anemia or whatever is something I’d accept! I suggested that maybe I can take steps to change it but that I don’t have to worry about it or make it into something bigger than it is. And, whether it was because of early release at school and the pool closing so she didn’t have to work, or because she’s finally catching up on her sleep or getting over whatever has been making her so tired, she was a lot more energetic than she has been for a while.