Habit XIV

by zenquaker

I have decided to shift things around in the master plan for habit formation. One of the key parts of the Simple Method is to adapt. If things aren’t working out, find another way to do things. Some recent events in my life have made me reconsider the priorities that informed the master plan.

When I first moved up to Maryland, I had trouble getting up for work. I’ve had a fair amount of chronic depression in my life. Some days I would be so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed to go to work. After I started practicing Zen, this became less of a problem. For one thing, I was a lot less depressed. For another thing, Zen made me realize that the best way to get rid of the depression was to get up and go to work. That kind of irony is why they invented the word.

Well, last week I started having that problem again. I had trouble getting up, came in a bit late a few days, and then came in an hour late another day. Each day I was very close to just calling in sick. I don’t know what exactly the problem was. It wasn’t exactly like the depression that used to keep me in bed. Maybe it was just Christmas nerves. Whatever it was, it finally made me sick of being a late sleeper. I’ve known for years that I felt better both emotionally and physically when I got up at a reasonable time. Time is also an issue in my life. With an hour commute each way I keep looking for ways to save time here and there. I’ve thought of contorting my schedule to ten hours a day with teleworking one day, just so I can get four extra hours a week. Well, if I want four more hours a week, how about just not spending 10 hours in bed Saturday and Sunday?

So, my new habit is to wake up at the same time every day, unless I need to get up earlier for travel or some such (my sister, who had to wake me up every day my freshman year in high school, has just gasped in shock). I have come up with a ritual. The first part of the ritual is to hit the snooze button and roll over on my back. This may seem odd, as the snooze button is generally verboten in all the get-up-early literature I’ve read. However, there are two reasons for this. The dark reason is that when I was a child I was once beaten so bad I couldn’t sit down for a week. Likewise I could not sleep on my side, as it was too easy to roll over onto my back after I went to sleep. To this day I have trouble sleeping on my back, and when I’m really depressed I roll over onto my stomach rather than curl up in a ball. Therefore, rolling over on my back will keep me from falling back to sleep immediately. The light reason for the first part of the ritual is that when I roll over onto my back in bed, my cat climbs up on my chest and rubs his face against my chin. It is one of the most affectionate things I have ever seen a cat do. So while I wait for the alarm to go off a second time, I will lie there and pet my cat, to give him some quality time before I go to work. Then when the alarm goes off for a second time I will get up. No BS, no excuses, one day at a time, I will haul my sorry butt out of bed.

The plan was to start doing this yesterday, although I did it some last week. Unfortunately, I forgot to set my alarm yesterday. But today I got right up out of bed and got a lot done. Tomorrow I will do the same. The day after tomorrow I will worry about when it gets here.