I’m not a morning person. Most days I wake up in a sort of a fog, stumble to the bathroom, brush my teeth, make my bed, take a shower, do all of those things on autopilot. Most days, my thoughts are like a jumbled ball of yarn.
Luckily, I have gotten into a habit of making a To Do list the night before, otherwise absolutely nothing would be remembered to be done.
However, today I woke up with a memory. A few years ago, in synagogue, after services, I came to talk to another member — we will call them A, because I am not sure A would want me talking about their health condition. A had been suffering with some serious heart problems, had even underwent heart surgery. Following the surgery, he lost quite a lot of weight. I said, “A, you look good, you lost a lot of weight, good on you!”
That’s when a woman I hadn’t notice behind me spoke up. She said, “Yes, A. What did you give up?”
Her question made my breath catch in my throat — not out of concern for A, but out of concern for myself. I almost missed A’s answer, when he sadly said, “Food.” It was later, much later, that I realized that it wasn’t quite what A meant. I believe that he meant he gave up fat, since “fat is where the flavor’s at,” as a good friend once put it. I was actually most focused on the woman’s straightforward question about having to give up something to get the desired results.
You see, I’m an only (and very much long-awaited) child. The idea of self-control, self-sacrifice is, while not alien, not exactly the first one I jump on for anything. I am not disciplined. I’m neither KGB nor US Marines nor Mossad trained. I did make it through college and university. But all my higher learning training taught me is to read a lot, read hard, read carefully.
And while I’ve learned to not only accept but welcome constructive criticism of my work as a writer, controlling my ego a little bit isn’t really the same thing as creating a purpose-driven, organized, disciplined life by giving up distractions such as my iPhone and the computer games, word puzzles, cat videos (and the provocative news articles about provocative people doing provocative things). I also did not develop the discipline of going to bed earlier and getting up at a reasonable hour. Now that requires self-sacrifice the magnitude of which I don’t know if I…