I set up the theme (discipline). I had no idea how to measure my growth (still don’t). And then, apparently, I invited into my life all the lessons I needed to grow immeasurably.
First, I bought the books. It’s what I do. I learn by reading.
- Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: The index in the back led me to study the discipline of mindfulness, which led me to ask God to increase my capacity to wonder.
- Celebration of Discipline: The disciplines gave me practice in creating space for God to work in my life.
- The Complete Artist’s Way: Morning pages got me out of my own head. Everything else guided me through my past.
- Ten Poems to Change Your Life: Read this. Seriously.
- Full Catastrophe Living: It’s thick. My therapist recommended it. Don’t be afraid by its size. The content is accessible, thick in science at the beginning before getting practical.
- Wherever You Go, That’s Where You Are: Purchased days before moving from Oklahoma to Florida. Read while evacuating from Florida in advance of hurricane Irma.
Second, I fell apart completely. Neither disciplined nor part of my imagined theme.
Third, I kept going. A move in June from Oklahoma to Florida. An evacuation for Irma. A move in October from Florida back to Oklahoma. And all the changes that accompany moving a family of five. I was entirely unsure I’d be a functioning human through all this. Yet, here I am.
I’m still trying to capture the lessons of this year into words, and I won’t be able to communicate them all. For obvious reasons. Some stuff is just too…much. Over the remaining weeks of 2017, I will write about some lessons. If you get any good thing from the mess and the blessing that is my life, awesome. If I make for merely passable voyeuristic entertainment, that’s cool too.
Lesson the First
Discipline, sometimes, is considered all about closed will, rigidity, and metrics. I no longer subscribe to that notion.
To discipline yourself is
- to open yourself to the unknown [without unraveling];
- to create space for God/universe/effort to work [while guarding your space];
- to become more flexible [but not stretched beyond recognition];
- to reflect on your own needs for improvement [while maintaining your part in community];
- to instigate self-change or course-correction [without shame, blame, or loss of frame];
- to continue in uncertainty [using the tools at hand];
- to stop when it makes sense [because it makes sense];
- to study something (yourself, a spiritual practice, a craft…) earnestly [without being an expert from the offing];
- to practice [instead of procrastinate or obsess].
Will and rigidity seemed easier for a long time. Force. Measure. Schedule. But you know what? I never really disciplined my kids that way. I was attachment parenting. I was co-sleeping. I was adaptive schedules and chores and rewards and punishments. All imperfect, mind you. Always imperfect humans and imperfect results. But I recognized that my will and rigidity was insufficient for disciplining my kids. Why on earth would it work any better for disciplining myself?
As I learned true discipline, it helped me truly discipline my children in new and better ways. It helped me let them fail. It helped me demonstrate change from the inside out, change because I wanted it for myself (because they wanted it for themselves).
Please don’t turn from this page and think we are finished. Or that we think we’ve finished. Oh, no. We are works in progress. That may be the most discipliny thing we’ve embraced this year.