Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Countdown: 6 Weeks

I’m exactly six weeks from starting the next huge adventure of my life. I’m spending the year abroad in Prague, where I plan on studying the language I’ve been hearing my whole life, meeting all my distant relatives, learning everything I possibly can about my history, making phenomenal friends to last a lifetime, and maybe even finding a Czech man (although Babi cautions me that they are “unreliable, so be careful”).

And I can’t help but remember advice I got years ago: It takes six weeks to form a habit. Until the day that sentiment was calmly spoken to a frustrated 11 year old girl, I’d always just assumed that you were the way you were. That was one (of many!) eye-opening moments I got while at Odyssey. I realized that people meant it when they told me, “You can be anything you want to be.”  They didn’t only mean that I could be a doctor or a teacher or a firefighter, if that’s what I wanted. They also meant that I could be more patient, less fearful, more open. Nobody is everything they are out of pure chance. The bad things come because we (or our parents, friends, etc.) indulge them. And the good things are there because we work at them.

So I’ve got six weeks, and a very nice, concrete time marker at the end. So I’m setting habits. These are not goals, they are habits. I’ve always felt like goals are nice: things to aim for, but rarely to achieve. Goals, to me, are out of reach (for now, at least). They require a lot of work, a long timetable, and help from outside sources to accomplish. Habits, on the other hand, are smaller. They depend on me, and only me. They are easily measured, easily accomplished, and don’t require anything except willpower and determination. So I’m setting four habits to accomplish in the next six weeks.

1. Love exercising.

I hate exercising. I cannot understand the idea of a “runner’s high.” I’ve run a lot; last time I set habits I ran every day for four weeks before I gave up. I am incapable of clearing my mind for yoga. I do not understand the appeal of hundreds, which my pilates-loving friends swear by. I live on a hill (a really steep hill!), so I let that be my excuse to not go biking. I hate the idea of driving somewhere (a gym, pool, bike path) to go exercise. So I don’t really do it. But I know I need to. And with my back pain interrupting my daily life and activities, I know I need to deal with it. Suck it up, pick an exercise, and do it.

I’m forming an exercise habit. I doubt I’m going to love exercising just for exercising, but I’m going to love it for the added strength I get. I’m going to love exercising so I can do what I want, including leaning over to pick something up off the floor.

Even though I don’t like pilates, and can’t stand a yoga class, I’m going to set a 30 minute combined minimum as my daily exercise limit. I know they will both help with the core strength I need to increase to decrease my back pain, so there we go. Additionally, I’m doing three cardio workouts a week. A brisk walk up the hill to get fruit from Piazza’s? Sure. A hike or bike with friends? Sounds good! So if you’re in town, text/call/email/fb/tweet/carrier pigeon/whatever me so we can walk and talk!

2. Read shamelessly.

If I said “read”, this would be  easy, really, because I love reading. The problem is that I’ve got a million and one things to do this summer, and whenever I take fifteen minutes to read, I feel like I should be doing something else. So I’m going to make it a habit: I’m taking fifteen minutes over lunch to read. Every day. I eat lunch every day, so this should be easy. Sometimes though, I’ve got lunch meetings, or people expect me to pay attention to them over lunch. On these days, my fifteen minutes will be postponed until bedtime. Which might mean leaving Annie and Auggie, or Jane and Maura until the next night. But they’re DVRed, so it’ll be fine.

3. Eat more.

I live in modern-day America, and as much as I do my absolute best to hide from everything popular (ask my friends – I’ve got current affairs down, but don’t ask me about Brangelina – are they even still a thing?), I am not immune to the diet fads. I feel like everyone has the diet they’re doing they wish they were doing. F that. I will eat what I want, when I want. That has always been my motto. I snack non-stop, which is why I pretty much spent every Saturday and Sunday working in the dining halls at school – never ending food!

But I also want to limit the belly bulge… so I’m making my own meal plan. Thanks Brooke Burke, and The Naked Mom, for that lingo. I am sticking to a healthy breakfast – cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, etc – and fruit for the morning. Until noon, no sweets, no meat, no bread, no exceptions. Salad for lunch. I love salad, so that’s totally fine. Veggies for snack. Dinner is an open book – anything is fair game. And no dessert.

The final point of this plan is simple: I get to cheat at most once per day. I know that I’m the kind of person who will cheat. Saturday mornings without the fresh-baked pastries? Hell, no! (I already know my Saturday cheat, apparently) If I haven’t cheated all day long, I get dessert. Because that’s my cheat.

4. Show love.

Its easy to love, but its hard to show it. In my experience, anyway. So my last habit is to show love. For myself (more sleep, anyone?!), my family, my friends, strangers. I aim to do something selfless everyday, to tell someone I love them everyday, to remind people of all the things they do that I love and appreciate. I feel like its something I will always be working on: no matter how much love you show and give, there is always more inside of you. Maybe the physicists dealing with the energy crisis should figure out how to turn love into energy…hmmmm.

I’ve done this a few times over the years, and I know that forming habits is hard. That it takes a lot of self-control, and a lot of reminders from myself and others. So I’m putting my habits-to-be here, out in the world, where anyone can see them. I’m hoping the fact that I’ve told you I’m doing this will help me keep myself on track. And the people I know in “real life” might even help me, remind me, cajole me. And maybe even form their own. We’re six weeks away from September: what habits will you be forming before the school year starts?

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