I’m coming to realize that I am living my days in cycles. Not in cycles of the moon or cycles of the feminine variety, but cycles where take care of myself, do the things that matter, and feel good— until I decide I’m too busy or too strong or too…(whatever) to need do to keep myself happy and healthy. I stop doing these good-for-me, soul-fullfilling things, and I ride the wave of karma from my last round of good deeds until eventually that wave breaks, and there I am on the shore, feeling sick, sad, and generally sorry for myself. Then I write, I frown, and I try to dig myself out. At which point I begin doing these things I know I should again (until I don’t anymore), and the cycle begins again.
As always, I’m looking at it in the context of growing up. In adulthood, there isn’t anyone to tell you what you should be doing. No one tells you when to go to bed, what to eat for dinner, or when to clean your room. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a curfew. Or eat healthy food. Or clean your apartment. The hardest part is that you actually have to start making rules for yourself. You have to decide what keeps you happy, healthy, productive, or at the very least sane, and you have to tell yourself to do it. Force yourself to do it. Remind yourself why, and remind yourself that by ignoring these rules, you are effectively choosing not to be content and well. Which, your graduate-educated self should realize is fairly moronic.
These are the rules I’m discovering are the ones that matter for me. And writing them here is the first step to recognizing their importance in my life (and that I should be, you know, following them.)
1. Sleep. No matter how much coffee you drink, no matter how much fun you were having the night before, if you don’t sleep, you can’t function well. You can exist, but you’ll be cranky, and that’s no fun for anyone, especially you.
2. Do yoga, at least once a week. Every time you do it, you leave with a physical high, feeling centered and strong, like you can face absolutely everything that is thrown at you. So, when you go 3 weeks without doing yoga and you can’t believe how incompetent and incapable you feel, stop wondering why. Get on the mat.
3. Your friends are your lifeline–make time for them. Don’t go weeks without seeing your best friends, don’t worry about where you’re going or how hip it is. And as you walk out the door parting ways, appreciate the warm, happy feeling that fills every inch of you.
4. When you look in the mirror, tell yourself you are beautiful. Don’t look at the parts of your body that you aren’t satisfied with when you say this: find a part that you do think is beautiful, say these words to that part. Pretty soon your beautiful eyes, jawline, and smile will bleed into each other, and you’ll start to see a beautiful head. Keep working down from there.
5. Work really hard at work. Don’t sit there waiting for someone to tell you to do something or wishing you had more to do. Find something to do–even if it means getting ahead on a project no one else is thinking about–and chip away at it. At the end of the day, if nothing else, you’ll know you did everything you could and that you deserve to be proud of yourself. Even just knowing, yourself, that you’re awesome is a great feeling. All other agreeing opinions are icing.
6. Get creative–it exercises your intellect and your emotion at the same time. Read a book or listen to a song that fills you with indescribable feelings and passions. Bask in them. Write about them. Paint them. Tell someone about them, and don’t stand still while you’re doing it.
7. Stay in touch. Maybe it’s penning a letter or typing an email, or maybe it’s picking up the phone to call. Wishing you were the one answering the phone instead of dialing it is not an excuse.
8. Drink water, eat your vegetables. Defying this cliche doesn’t mean you’re independent or a free-thinker–it means you have a headache and feel sick to your stomach–and that’s just dumb.
9. Remember, stuff doesn’t really make you happy. Another cliche, but really. If you’re doing everything else on this list, you won’t feel the compulsive need to buy things, and the things you do buy will please you more.
10. Clean. Organize your room, give everything a home, and watch how much more in control of your life you feel. Sweep, take out the trash, and scrub the damn bathtub. (It’s not really so bad, I promise)
and 11. (because you will always be the kind of person who has 11 rules) Just try. Even if, after writing these rules, you don’t follow every single one and you feel the cycle coming back around again, you’re making progress. As long as you’re one step ahead of where you were yesterday, you’re as perfect as you need to be.
As we used to say in college, sitting on the floor together, and as seems to be the truth more and more every day: The only thing worse than growing up is never quite learning how. –Joel Plaskett