Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Recipe for Change

As you know, Alcoholics Anonymous has a wonderful program to assist anyone who wants to recover from alcohol addiction. The program has been modified appropriately to treat other addictions such as drugs, food and sex.

It dawned on me this morning as I shut the alarm clock off for the eleventy-first time that I need is a workaholics anonymous program, but the difficulty is that I can't just go waltzing in to the office and say "I'm going to have to restrict my working hours because I just can't keep this up."

A) First, they would laugh in my face, and then B) they would then point to the total number of hours they all work and remind me that I'm getting paid to work those same hours. Finally, C) they would tell me that I have a choice whether to work there or not, but if I choose to do so, I need to work the hours they tell me to work. [Except for the hours I work part, this is all true - I actually did relax a little over the last couple of weeks, but it was because I was ill].

The alternative to committing career suicide came to me this morning: I need to set some boundaries, and take care of my own needs so that I can give the 110% I need to give during work. As I thought about that prospect (lovely though it might be in principle), I realized that I had no earthly idea what that meant.

Doing everything you want is not paradise - really. It sounds good when you're 10 or so, and you want to do so many things that you are just not allowed to do (for a number of really good reasons you don't understand until you're older). The trouble is, I really have a life in which I can do pretty much anything I want, and I don't like it.

I remember reading somewhere that we are defined by the promises we make and keep - to ourselves and to others - and I think that it is better to be an active part of a larger whole than to be totally independent and autonomous. If the only promises we keep are those we make to ourselves (and let's be honest: most of those are abandoned by consent after we talk ourselves out of keeping them - who hasn't promised to eat better only to succumb to a REALLY lovely pastry "just this once"?), we lose the benefit of making and keeping promises to other people such that we become interdependent (not co-dependent) with the result that we lead richer and fuller lives.

The thing is, it's great to say "OK, I want to do this" and make the decision, but it requires the cooperation of others to accomplish it. What happens if you don't make friends easily? What happens if you just don't find people with whom you have enough in common to build those bridges? What happens if you've never had time to just listen to the little inner voice telling you what you really enjoy, as opposed to just joining things and staying so busy that leisure becomes as binding as work?

The recipe for change is going to have to start with basics: getting enough sleep, getting proper nutrition, and getting enough exercise. Those three things have to form the foundation for any real change - right? If you start with the premise that 8 hours is the guideline, everything else has to occur in the remaining 16 hours, including those pre-sleeping and post-waking moments that allow you to transition from sleep to wakefulness and back. Let's say, 9 hours total (including a half hour on either end for prep time). That leaves 15 hours.

Out of those remaining 15 hours per day, I have to take care of my dog (feeding, watering and taking outside to be good puppy), clean my teeth, maintain a reasonable grooming regimen (which currently consists of bare necessity to get out the door without being too scruffy - VERY bad!!), eat a nutritious meal, dress and go to work. That's the morning routine, and on a good day, it takes about an hour; on a bad day, it takes an hour and a half, so I should have to be up by 6:00 a.m. to be at work by 8:00 (because of transition time, traffic and getting a coffee & checking email when I arrive at work).

Backing up 8.5 hours from that means I have to be on my way to bed by no later than 9:30 p.m., which can allow the transition time for brushing teeth and letting the dog outside. The point is to get into a routine so that I can get to sleep - not that I sleep the minute my head hits the pillow.

That's insane, though. I didn't get home from work last night until after 8:00 p.m., and my normal arrival time is between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. When I get home, I have to take the dog outside, I have to fix something for dinner, and I haven't even discussed exercise. When do people do these things?

It's a recipe worth working out, though, and I'm committed (or I will be if this doesn't work out).

No comments: