What is your day like? Where does your time really go? What do you think about?
Whether we are conscious of them or not, our days are full of patterns, habits, cycles of predictable behaviors. We become so accustomed to them, oftentimes we don't even realize we have them.
For example, I thought I spent maybe two hours a day on the computer. I thought I only snacked occasionally, only drank a couple cups of coffee per day, got enough sleep. I believed I played with my kids a lot.
I was wrong. About almost everything.
I spent more like three or four hours a day on the computer. I drank four or five cups of coffee a day. I got about six or seven hours of sleep. I ate way more than I thought - when I read a book or watched television, for example, I got up often to grab something to munch on. I worked out less than I thought I did.
It is hard to really know ourselves, I think. If you're anything like me, you have this idea in your head of how you are, a kind of prototype. I'll call mine Ellie 1.0. Without realizing it, when I think about myself I look for ways that I fit my idea of Ellie 1.0 and I downplay or ignore the ones that don't.
Ellie 1.0 believes she eats moderately, works out frequently, watches her caffeine intake. She thinks she gets plenty of rest, and plays with her kids for at least an hour a day. She doesn't talk on the phone excessively, or spend large chunks of time messing about on the computer.
It's an innocuous form of denial. Most of our habits don't become serious problems. And it is exhausting and counterproductive to spend every minute of every day over thinking everything. But I had been feeling a vague sense of unease, discomfort, malaise, and I couldn't get a handle on it. So I started paying attention - to my actions, to my thoughts.
So I made some changes. I started limiting my computer time, going to bed by 10:30pm, stopping myself after two cups of coffee. I joined Jenny Craig. I started going to the gym three or four times per week. I played more with my kids.
Everyone else got happier. My husband was thrilled that I decided to lose weight and exercise more. The kids were less whiny, less needy, more fulfilled.
I, on the other hand, became edgy. I was restless, anxious and irritable. I began wondering why making positive changes in my life was creating such emotional havoc for me.
Because it is change. I'm not a big fan of change. I liked my ruts, my habits, my shortcuts. I wanted to be able to eat what I want and not gain weight. Exercise every now and then and be fit. Play with my kids occasionally, and then have them leave me alone. I wanted to go to bed when I want, and drink more coffee to stay alert during the day. I altered my reality, my thoughts, to try to make my actions fit my desires.... otherwise known as denial.
I don't kid myself into thinking I can do everything perfectly, or maintain this proactive lifestyle indefinitely. I like Jenny Craig, and I'm enjoying working out, so I plan to keep that up.
Everything else I'll do what I can. Just becoming more aware has helped. Every day is full of thousands of little choices. I want to be more conscious of my choices. I don't want to kid myself that I can stay up until midnight and not be tired the next day. Or that if I choose to spend too much on time on the computer that my kids won't get restless. I want to bridge that gap between thought and reality better. I don't always like what I see, but at least I see it.
And the best part? Being more conscious makes me remember to cheer myself on for the stuff I'm good at, the little successes I have each day. Just like I can think I'm better at something than I really am, I can just as easily think I'm worse.
If I can just keep making little adjustments and maintain some awareness along the way, I'll be okay.
Ellie 1.0? Meet Ellie 1.1. Soon to become Ellie 1.1.2, I'm sure.