Thursday, November 6, 2014
Swim Ten Strokes
The dog did not get the "fall back" memo, so he poked his cold nose under my hand at 7 a.m. on a day when The Child has no school. Normally this dog will sleep until I am good and ready to rise, but not this day.
Two hours later, there is a cup of coffee in my belly and two pots simmering on the stove, one of homemade meat stock (steak bones and chicken) and another of curry. The Child is sleepy-surfing the interwebs with her own coffee as I sit down to write.
Mondays are list-making days, the time of the week when I sit the week down firmly and tell it how things are going to go. This does not often work, but I persist at any rate, attempting to ignore the siren call of anything other than what I am supposed to be doing. There are corners of the city that have gone as yet unexplored, and although it is blustery and not so nice outside I feel like putting on my boots and walking for miles.
I often write about motivation and persistence. For me, the key has always been to get into a routine: you get up and do certain things because that's just what you do. It's the routine. In Georgia, I did yoga every day because that was the routine: get up, write for an hour and a half, go to yoga, come home, eat lunch and write some more, all done.
Here, we are so uprooted and cattywampus that there is no routine beyond delivering The Child to school every morning at 7:45. At that hour my brain is fusty with poor sleep and I am not ready to write, and there is no yoga to go to, and sometimes I am meeting a contractor or going to a museum training or Something Else Very Important, and then it is 2:45 and time to pick up The Child.
I have not ever been very good at self-discipline.
My father told me the story once of an English Channel swimmer, this old dude whom they interviewed as soon as he hauled his scrawny, exhausted, hypothermic self from the water. They asked him, of course, how he did it. What he said is the thing that got my father through chemo therapy (among other things).
"I told myself," (says he, the swimmer), "that I would just swim ten more strokes. Then after that if I had to, I would quit. So every ten strokes, I would keep saying, well, I guess I can swim ten more. And I strung together ten strokes at a time and got all the way across."
So it's entirely possible that my dad made this up, but its lesson is important. Today, I will swim ten strokes.
What are your ten strokes today?