It has been a few weeks since I posted the last set of rules. Rule sets I and II have been successful: nearly every morning since the first postings, I have been awake sometime between 5:00am and 5:30am, occasionally sleeping in until 6:00am. The coffee is always ready by the time I wake up. So all I need to do is trudge myself to the kitchen to grab coffee and breakfast, turn around, and crawl back into bed. Breakfast and coffee in bed every morning has been a wonderful new tradition in my life. I have then proceeded to study Latin for about one hour every weekday morning, with a couple days of exception. This morning, I have found my mind is wandering too much for effective study (which does not bode well for the rest of today), so I am making the best of it and returning to writing a new entry here.
I have been excellent at following a few of the preparatory rules, such as emptying and cleaning the coffee filter in the morning, so that I can prepare coffee hassle-free in the evening. Small habit changes like this have proven to be effective in instilling other, more significant good habits into my life. This was the intent: I was working under the Spinozistic concept that I lack free-will, that I am totally governed by passions (to which ‘I’ am the passive effect), that passions and actions operate in a strictly non-free cause and effect relationship, and that knowledge is the most powerful cause that brings me to the good. My knowledge of my own habits, that I am slow until I have coffee, that the thought waking up and then making coffee and waiting for coffee, that the waiting is such a frustrating idea that I simply lie in bed mindlessly surfing the internet on my phone–my knowledge of these things brought me to the knowledge that if the coffee was ready when I woke up, removing the cause of my morning frustration, enabling me to get the coffee and begin that morning–my knowledge of these things effected a more productive morning, with stimulating Latin lessons followed by a strenuous exercise: this is a clear case of my rules project working as intended.
I have not obeyed my Sunday rules very well. There have been three Sundays since my post about the weekend, including the Sunday on which I wrote the post. On the day I wrote the post, I did everything precisely as planned. My week benefited from it. But the second and third Sunday were interrupted with social plans and a trip to Seattle. This disrupted my weekly maintenance. As a result, my apartment is currently a mess, my laundry is off-cycle (forcing me to do laundry during the week, which is exceptionally inconvenient), and my grocery shopping has been limited. With limited grocery shopping, I am spending more money than I should on eating out for lunches and dinners. Nor is it as healthy or as fulfilling as purchasing groceries and preparing my own food.
Of course, being distracted, engaged, and spontaneous with the world is both the necessary condition and worthwhile boon of living in the world with people. I do not live in a monastery. And despite being a relatively solitary person, I treasure my friends and my job, and wish to be a good brother, son, and uncle to my pacific northwest family. So I can be okay with adjusting and adapting to disruptions in my routine: I must embrace that. One challenge is to clearly understand how to adapt to those disruptions to my rules, enjoy them, and get back on track when the disruption has passed: or permanently change my rules if certain long-term life-conditions change.
Bad Habits that have Abated
Since beginning my rules program, I am much better at using my morning productively. My breakfast+Latin studies are a budding routine/ritual that I hope lasts a long time to come. I have been excellent at getting a morning workout: better than I have been since my Marine Corps days. I feel healthier, stronger, and even younger than I did just two months ago. At first, the new morning exercise exhausted me so much that I frequently felt exhausted, hungry, and distracted throughout the day. But I think that was a sign of my body readjusting, for now I have more energy than I have ever had in my thirties.
I have not wasted nearly as much time on the internet as I was doing before I wrote these first rules. There are exceptions: yesterday, I was in a daze, and realized I was doing nothing in front of my computer for literally hours into the evening. Fortunately, I stopped myself in time to get a good sleep. This is a case where I could write it off as simply needing a break: some time to relax and unwind. But frankly, there are more productive forms of leisure, since there are video games, television shows, movies, and fantasy books that I want to play, watch, or read. When I finish those things, I feel some sense of accomplishment, and they are worthwhile as far as leisurely activities go. The only problem with those things is when I become addicted and it starts cutting into my work or routine. But if I keep those activities moderate, and if I needed rest anyway (a frequent occurence), I might as well use it on something relatively more productive than mindlessly wandering the internet for cat pictures and stupid gossip.
Fortunately, the amount of time I have spent on video games and television shows has been drastically reduced in the past few weeks. I have not exhibited any addictive behavior toward those things, and have played and watch them in moderation.
Persistent Bad Habits:
My mornings are excellent. But as the day wears on, I become less and less focused. Yesterday, for example, I got home with the intent to do laundry, clean my apartment, and grade papers. I accomplished precisely nothing. For some reason, perhaps because of the recent trip and lack of a truly restful weekend, or perhaps because of the 11.5 mile run from that morning (a new record, and frankly, only accomplished because I underestimated how far my route would be).
I still drink a little too much. In the evening, I routinely have two or three glasses of wine. Not awful if done occasionally. But nightly? This is too costly, dulls my mind and judgment, destructive to the long-term health of my mind, and frequently inhibits deep sleep. It is therefore an activity that not only sacrifices the excellence of an evening, but resonates into the quality of the next day. And if the quality of one day is inhibited, the chances that I will resume bad habits and further inhibit future days are further inhibited. I have absolutely no wish to remove alcohol from my life. But except for social outings, this needs to be limited to one glass of wine during the weekend. And beer, despite how much I love thee, needs to be removed entirely except for social outings and the rare exception.
The degree to which I am behind in grading papers, and my incredibly slow progress in completing them, is a disaster. This terrible habit is the thing I need to fix the most. I would be most productive if I sacrificed my morning Latin ritual and exercise routine for the sake of grading papers. But then I will become resentful toward school, and the lack of exercise will make me anxious and unhappy. And I have decided that is not what my solution can be. I need to pursue my own goals and be a good teacher. I cannot sacrifice one for the other.
I want to make leisurely reading a bigger part of my life. My recreational time has been devoted more to electronic entertainment than literary ones. I have decided that perhaps all I need to do is go back to the addictive reading habits of my youth, in which I read fantasy novel after fantasy novel. It has been years since I’ve read any fantasy novel other than the “Game of Thrones” series. Fantasy novels are not, usually, high literature. And certainly, there would be more educational or stimulating things to read. But if I simply admit that, at the end of the day, my mind is too exhausted to concentrate and think, and that if I recognize reading an addictive fantasy novel is at least better for my reading habits and imagination than watching television or playing video games, then it makes sense to replace my more costly electronic habits with cheap literary ones.