Thursday, October 06, 2011

I have none.

It's the story of my life. As a wee girl, I would come up with a million different ways to avoid the monotony of cello practice. Then when I eventually sat down, bow in hand, I would limp half-heartedly through a couple of toneless scales before quickly launching into whatever pretty tune had been assigned that week. Scales were boring. Scales were dull. If I could get away without doing them (and as it turned out, I could, just about), then why bother?

As the rigours of school and nightly homework gave way to lecture theatres and seminars and "independent study", I was always the one who left things to the last minute. I would spend leisurely days eating toast and rolling my eyes at my friends holed up in the library, those idiots, how boring, until I inevitably found myself typing frantically through the night, racing to get the damn essay finished. (Once, I even had to get a taxi to the university to hand an essay in before the 4pm deadline. A taxi. It was a fifteen-minute walk away.) But still, because I was reasonably clever, I could get away with it.

I will admit that in my final two years, when it actually counted, I realised that being reasonably clever wasn't going to cut it forever. I reached deep within myself and somehow found the discipline to put the hours in every day because God damn it I was going to get a first if it was the last thing I ever did. I even managed to get to the library by 11am! Every single day! Oh, but I was exhausted. Self-enforced studiousness does not come naturally to me, unless there is a big juicy carrot to keep me on the right path. I seem to have mislaid my internal stick.

And it isn't only academically that my lack of discipline has surfaced. 

There was a certain dark-haired gentleman who I rather fancied around this time, but who seemed curiously unresponsive to my advances. Perhaps because my advances consisted of ignoring him 80% of the time and then pouncing on him without warning after my third vodka and lemonade. Naturally, my friends and I agreed that I was simply "playing it cool", which was the right and proper thing to do, while the only possible reason that he wasn't falling at my feet and professing his undying love was because he was a dick. Obviously. 

One evening, I resolved to play it even cooler and it was decided that I would not, under any circumstances, allow myself to succumb to his wily charms that evening. My dear friend, who was studying psychology, left a note on my door with the definition of self-discipline written on it in black ink, as a stern reminder of my pledge. She obviously knew me pretty well, though, because the note was accompanied by the promise of a free smoked sausage, if I behaved. (Did I mention I was living pretty much exclusively on smoked sausage, super noodles and cheese at this point? I'm still amazed he could resist me.) 

It remains a source of pride to me that I earned that smoked sausage, fair and square. But he got me in the end

It's the same with food, with exercise, with money - always the same. I still eat like I'm seventeen. I don't have a monthly budget or any sort of long-term financial plan. I go to the gym semi-regularly for weeks and then don't go again for a month. I always get up ten minutes (okay, forty minutes) later than I should. And don't even get me started on the decluttering debacle. I diligently combed through my wardrobe (Do I love it? Does it suit me? Will I wear it?) and filled bag after bag with too-tight, too-old, too-bloody-ugly clothes, only to then put the bags back in the wardrobe. So all the crap is all still there, but instead of being hung in nice neat rows, it is piled up in giant plastic bags. And has been for a month. I'm not sure I can call that a success.

Then, of course, there's the writing. I was always a last-minute blogger, staying up late to get posts finished, planning only maybe a day or two in advance at most, but at least I was doing it. Now I can barely scratch out five posts in a month, never mind a week. And in case you might think I am devoting all my spare time to writing mysterious, exciting things, I'm not. I'm mainly looking up leather chaps on the internet, and things of that ilk. 

I keep thinking that one day I will wake up (early!) and get out of bed (eagerly!) and suddenly find that I am diligent and responsible and capable of denying myself that which I want, in the pursuit of that which I want even more; in other words, self-disciplined. I believe this mythical state is known as Adulthood. But so far it doesn't seem to be happening of its own accord. 

So, I have decided I'm just going to have to make it happen, by the application of external factors. In other words, we're getting a dog. A wee little creature who is going to rely on us to feed her, water her, even take her to the toilet. She's going to make us wake up early. We'll have to keep the house tidy and free of chewable things. Somewhat bizarrely, *I'll* be expected to teach *her* about discipline, which sounds like the blind leading the blind. I'm hoping we can learn together.

More details to come on the little lady when we get her - she won't arrive until the start of November. She's a rescue greyhound, she's just about to turn two, her name if Smidgen and if one more person says to me that greyhounds are ugly they can just fuck right off.

How do you keep yourself focused and motivated? Do you think self-discipline comes naturally, or can it be learned? Can you please remind me to feed the dog?

All images by Dane Shitagi of the Ballerina Project. These figures, to me, are the epitome of discipline and grace. Neither of which I possess.

30 boats moored

  1. Yay you're back! I am also rubbish at discipline. Fantastic at writing lists with all the good intentions of ticking everything off-most of them remain half finished and superceded by the next fabulous uber-productive list I've made.
    I want a rescue greyhound, my boyfriend's desperate for a dog and I said that's the only type we can get-but not when we live in a flat with no garden and both work full time. I like my stuff unchewed thank you.

  2. I love greyhounds and I think the fact you're getting a rescue one is brilliant - so many of them need good homes, and they're such gentle and intelligent dogs. And I LOVE the name Smidgen!

  3. Aw thanks! So many people have been either (a) shocked or (b) appalled (mostly both) when I've said I'm getting a greyhound that I've almost stopped telling people. It's like planning a wedding - everyone has an opinion. It's nice to know there are some people out there who appreciate their awesomeness. And L, they're actually very good dogs for a flat - even though they're quite big, they're extrememly lazy (they're basically me in dog form) - but you're right, I wouldn't want to get one if we both worked full time.

    The best thing about greyhounds is that you have to buy them a coat, because otherwise they get too cold in the winter. And you know how I feel about dogs in outfits.

  4. Oh, this "I will admit that in my final two years, when it actually counted, I realised that being reasonably clever wasn't going to cut it forever" is the story of my first year at university. It was such a big shock, becuase I was so used to getting away with it. With doing everything the day before the deadline, for one full lifetime. And still, in university, I found a way.
    I think discipline is something you force yourself to do, you have to make goals for yourself like you did in the last year to keep you going. And hooray for the dog ;) I think it will certainly help.

  5. - Disciplined people are boring
    - At least you played the pretty pieces, my Mum couldn't even get me in the same room as the piano.
    - The dog will remind you to feed it. You won't need us.

    I'm amazed people are being so rude about greyhounds! My sister-in-law has a greyhound cross and he's the most gorgeous dog I have ever seen. And yes, very lazy. Oddly enough he's called Finn.


  6. This is not me trying to make you feel bad or put pressure on you, but is it okay if I exclaim over how I miss you on the days you don't post! Because I do a bit. I can't really help you with the discipline thing because it sounds as though we are exactly the same. Did you also get higher marks on your rushed papers than the friends who were slaving away at them? (me too) I am actually fairly disciplined about the biznez, but really only certain elements of it. For instance I'm pretty good at getting people their photos on time but things like accounting... how do put off accounting, how I tremble in fear of accounting.

    You have convinced me: Greyhounds are cute.

  7. oh our cello stories are so similar. i managed to get distinctions in all my cello exams yet never ONCE passed scales or sight-reading, seriously. the cello used to sit in its case, never coming out for full weeks between lessons.

    that being said, i am not a last minute sort of girl. essays are handed in with three days to spare, i was in the library by 9.30 every morning and i can stare at a cake all day and not eat it. i am disciplined to the extreme, but it's purely driven by guilt. my internal guilt-o-meter goes into overdrive, and i just feel so wretched about myself i have to study/starve/get out of bed. it's miserable. better to be free and easy.

    also greyhounds are awesome. fact.

  8. Doggie!!!! Yay!!! I'm so excited to hear more about your new girl!! :) And I think greyhounds are fabulous animals. Our old neighbor has a rescue and she is the sweetest, sweetest dog ever. A gentle giant. :) So happy for you Kirsty! :)

  9. Yeah, discipline is hard, really hard. I'm really great at writing to do lists for myself and then feeling guilty because I haven't done half the things on it and instead adding things I have done so I can tick them off with a giant red pen!

    Love coats for dogs, can I suggest a barbour? http://www.barbourbymail.co.uk/Barbour-Waxed-Cotton-Dog-Coat.html the dog at my work has one and its very cute. You should check out this blog for an insight into a greyhound's life: http://www.belgianwaffling.com/2011/04/mirroring.html

  10. Funnily, I *was* very self-disciplined as a child, at least academically, then I left home, came to uni in England, and that all went totally tits up. I've never fully regained it. (Hence why I'm replying to this on my elevenses, instead of, y'know, working.) I've also been thinking about how to reclaim a bit of this, so I can Be More Efficient, or Get Shit Done. A dog sounds like a perfect cure (our cat is as ill disciplined as we are). Sadly, our work schedule means something I can only long for now, but awesome for you guys. And I love greyhounds.

  11. Oh Amanda my first year at uni was exactly the same! It was such a shock to suddenly be surrounded by people who were way cleverer than me after school being relatively easy in comparison! I just wish I had been as disciplined as Kirsty in my later uni years, unforunately I still didn't get my act in gear and consequently missed out on the first! Even my masters dissertation was a fairly lastminute jobbie!

    I go to bed everyday thinking that tomorrow will be different, I'll get up early, be more efficient at work, eat way less etc. It doesn't change. I promised things would be different for the wedding, I'd get things done way in advance so nothing was rushed. In the end the week before was crazy maddly rushed but the day turned out perfect so I still didn't learn my lesson!

    I fantasise about owning my own business but I don't think I'd have the discipline to get up each day and get work done rather than sit and watch daytime TV! The only thing I manage to find discipline for is exercise, because it is fun but mainly because if I don't cycle to work then I don't get in and then I get in trouble!

    Excellent post Kirsty, your ability to put in words what I'm thinking is spooky! Looking forward to hearing about the new regimented lifestyle once Smigden (awesome name) has arrived!


  12. Yay greyhound!! I'm stoked for you! Also, it's well known that the application of external pressure is a good thing. You can't stay in bed when the dog is whining madly wanting to be let out. You just can't. And then of course they do you in with their eyes, the deep puddles of love that are dog-eyes are the canine secret weapon.

    Oh, and another thing, that bag of clothes in your closet? That might actually be a good thing! Don't open it. Hang on to it for another month or so and then if you can't remember what's in it don't even open it up again, just let it go. If you haven't gone into the bag to get anything in months then you know you're safe to give it away. I say a good goal would be to get rid of the bag by December. I'll even send you a sausage if you do it.

  13. Jenny, I feel the same - I often think I'd like to be self-employed and work from home doing something fun, but I know that I'd probably end up doing bugger all. If I can't motivate myself when I literally have to account for every minute of my day at work, how would I possibly cope only being accountable to myself? Terifying thought. Oh, and the secret to my uni success was that I didn't have to do a dissertation, because I did French instead (AMAZING trade-off). Pretty sure that would have scuppered me.

    Thanks for all being so supportive and lovely about Smidgen, you guys are awesome.

  14. Ahh, you sound like my soulmate. I made a blog post about 3 months ago about de-cluttering, listing all of the stuff I was going to throw away, and yet it's still lingering in the house. If it's not in my room, it hasn't moved much further than to the spare room.
    I also had the same university experiences of wondering why my friends were all in the library when they could be having fun with me, and then wondering why they were all off having fun while I was pulling an all-nighter in the 24hr computer centre...
    I hope the dog is the answer to your woes, and if not, I hope she's so incredibly cute that you won't care about your lack of discipline :]

  15. Oh and Kiara, that blog is great! Have added it to my reader. And the doggy Barbour - oh my god. I want one.

  16. Ah the 24hr computer centre, by favourite place on campus!

  17. You are me! Or I am you. We are the same, I'm saying. I thought getting a dog would whip me into shape but it turns out she's super lazy too and forces me to do almost nothing. She doesn't even like to take walks! Hopefully your new pup is a little more ambitious than mine. Greyhound are wonderful! Who are these people who think they aren't?!

  18. "I keep thinking that one day I will wake up (early!) and get out of bed (eagerly!) and suddenly find that I am diligent and responsible and capable of denying myself that which I want, in the pursuit of that which I want even more"

    Exactly!! I asked B the other day, how is it that after ALL these years, I still expect to wake up one morning and magically be everything I'm not (but wish to be). I will bounce out of bed gleefully at 6am, workout for eons, refuse all white sugar and flour, and read Foucault in my free time instead of watching crap TV. Yeahhhh.

    It always makes me think of an Anais Nin quote... "The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle."

    Of course, then B sensibly asks me if I really want to do/be all those things. And I realize that on some level, I don't. Or can't, yet. And maybe that's why they never happen?

    A dog sounds like a fun adventure! We're still not ready for that level of responsibility and shedding, but *someday*... ;)

  19. Self-discipline will come, no worries! It'll be hard to *not* do what you need to do when you have a living creature depending on you. (I would cite the very similar situation with babies, but let's not go there)

    And yay for a greyhound! They're really making the rounds lately (see "50/50” - great movie!) A close friend of mine adopted one not too long ago, and she's a doll. Super shy at first, but they gave her space and let her adjust and all is well. You'll do well. <3

  20. Yes, dogs ARE like weddings in that everyone is full of judgements right up until they actually are there/meet her. Then everyone just has a good time.

    And who are these people saying bad things about greyhounds? They are very handsome.

  21. Congrats on the pup! I hope you'll post photos of her & share your adventures with her. I don't know if my beagle/basset hound rescue has taught me anything about discipline as we normally have to wake up his lazy butt. But he's taught me lots about unconditional love!!!

  22. Greyhounds are so beautiful and graceful - congratulations!!!

    Dogs in general will help with the discipline of getting up on time to take them out to potty (mine sure does anyway - he is an early bird), but I hear that greyhounds are generally big couch potatoes, so perhaps she won't be much inspiration in terms of exercise. But that's good - it means you won't have to feel too guilty on the days when an hour long walk is not in the cards.

    Oh do I ever hear you on the lack of discipline. I was getting a little alarmed as you described your study habits - you could have been in my head.

    What's helping me right now:
    -going to be early, which means that I'm less likely to find an excuse to hit the snooze again in the morning
    -big post-it notes of to-do lists. I never use to be one for to-do lists, but having one on a piece of paper that's just the right size for 1 or 2 days' tasks and a big fat Sharpie marker to cross them off as they get done has been weirdly gratifying. I post the list on the board directly behind my computer so it's in my sight line. It doesn't sit there and guilt me so much as motivate me to draw a big fat black line through one more thing. It's all about the big fat black line, and I've probably single-handedly contributed to some forest clear-cutting to support my post-it habit by now, but dammit, it's working.

  23. yaaay for the greyhound, you'll find a very nice companion and friend in it :D ...
    about discipline? well I'm kind of squareminded myself sometimes... I think i need discipline in terms of routins and schedules you know

  24. What a lovely, spot-on post. I enjoyed devouring it slowly. And the surprise at the end! A greyhound! Many congrats. We want a dog badly but aren't allowed pets at our current rental.

  25. Lyn - thanks! And shhhhhh. My landlord doesn't need to know about this. Dog? What dog?

  26. I could say the same as most people above, it is too spooky just how often you write something I relate to!

    What I will say is Smidgen = best pet name EVER! :)


  27. Yay! We got our dog three years ago, and it's honestly the best thing we've ever done. He's brought some structure and routine to our otherwise topsy-turvey lives and the unconditional love you get from a dog is super dooper!! :) xx

  28. A dog! That *is* exciting. And Greyhounds are beautiful so pah to those who are mean about them. Looking forward to the photos :)

    On discipline, I am a wonderful procrastinator about many many things. Which sometimes I quite enjoy, I find having a tight deadline helps whip me into shape to get things done!

  29. I'm new to your blog and I must say I love the way you write. So witty!

    I also had to comment because the person you described here is me! It makes my trying to do a PhD all the more crazy/stupid/nutty. But I say bravo to the dog idea! xx

  30. Aw thank you baileyblush! Now who's blushing :)

    I love the fact that there are so many of you out there who are clearly just as good at procrastinating as I am. Hooray!