How to get out of bed

Day 7

Morn­ings have been hard for me lately. I’m not exactly sure why. My life hasn’t really changed much. The same things are dif­fi­cult. The same things are good. If any­thing, some of the good things have got­ten a bit more good. So why have I been wak­ing up in a state of despon­dent gloom? And, more to the point, what can I do to make things a lit­tle bit lighter?

Mulling over these ques­tions the last few days, it hit me that I’d failed to note per­haps the most salient clue: The fact that, how­ever I feel, I am indeed get­ting up!

What is it, I won­dered, that gets me mov­ing on days I could eas­ily bur­row in? Could the answer be to fig­ure that out—and then do more of it?

In that spirit, I asked myself: “Self? What gets you out of bed on those morn­ings when noth­ing seems worth the effort?”

The answer came imme­di­ately. “I get up for the coffee.”

A year or so back, I received a fancy cof­fee maker as a gift, and it’s this primo coffee—not just any coffee—that’s been mak­ing all the dif­fer­ence. Some­times I con­tem­plate return­ing to my pre­vi­ous caf­feine habits. The cap­sules for the new machine are pricey, and I’m try­ing to con­serve. But for now, the expense is worth it. The cof­fee is some­thing I look for­ward to, and that means a lot.

And right then, it hit me. I was onto some­thing. This idea of “look­ing for­ward to”—what role did it have in my life? It occurred to me that per­haps I’ve grown looking-forward-to deprived.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Life in Plan B Nation tends to be focused on get­ting things done, on keep­ing the nose to the prover­bial grind­stone, on being respon­si­ble, plug­ging ahead, and keep­ing emo­tions in check. It’s easy to feel that we don’t deserve spe­cial rewards and treats—not when we’re so far behind where think we ought to be.

The prob­lem with this approach: We. Get. Tired. The fact that suc­cess is in short sup­ply doesn’t mean we haven’t been work­ing, often way harder than we did when our careers were thriving.

Which got me to think­ing about Bud­dhist teacher Cheri Huber’s spot-on descrip­tion of how exact­ing we tend to be with ourselves—and because it’s so great and because I have the book right here, I might as well share it with you:

You go along in life and you do what you’re sup­posed to do. And every time you do some­thing you’re sup­posed to do, you put a dol­lar in the bank. Okay. Every time you’re kind, patient, or you do the thing you’re sup­posed to do—whatever it is (you know what those things are for your)—every time you put a dol­lar in the bank, a dol­lar in the bank, a dol­lar in the bank .…

Finally, you feel like you’re just kind of worn out. You feel like you need a lit­tle plea­sure in your life, a lit­tle time on the beach or some­thing. And so you think “I’m going to go to the bank, and I’m going to take out some money, and I’m going to do some­thing nice for myself.”

So you go to the bank and you say, “Here I am. I want to take out some of the money I’ve saved so that I can do some­thing nice for myself.”

And the response is, “Oh no. You haven’t earned nearly enough to get any­thing for your­self. Oh, you have to work much harder—you have to put much, much more money in before you can get any­thing for yourself.”

And, of course, if this were First National you were deal­ing with, you would say, “No, this is not the way this is going to work. This is my money. You can’t tell me when and where and how I can spend it.” And yet, with this sys­tem of self-hate that’s exactly what’s going on!

She con­cludes: “THERE’S NO MYSTERY IN THIS FOLKS! … [T]he per­son at the bank DOES NOT LIKE YOU! *It’s impor­tant to get that*.… THIS PERSON IS NEVER GOING TO GIVE YOU A DIME! YOU WILL WORK YOURSELF TO DEATH, AND YOULL NEVER GET A THING FOR IT. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT!”

So.

Here is what I am going to do: First, I am going to incline my mind (as the Bud­dhists say) towards things on the hori­zon to which I’m look­ing for­ward. The work­shop for fos­ter kids that I’m co-facilitating. Watch­ing a TV show I refuse to name with my friend Wendy.  Hot­dogs and a movie at Pop­corn Noir in East­hamp­ton (not to be con­fused with East Hampton).

Next: I am going to give some thought to other things I might look for­ward to and how I can make them hap­pen. Tango lessons? A day trip? The specifics are up for grabs.  And while I don’t know what I’ll come up with, I look for­ward to find­ing out.

Note: The quoted pas­sage is taken from Cheri Huber’s There Is Noth­ing Wrong with You (Keep It Sim­ple Books, 1993). It also has pic­tures that will make you smile.