Saturday, July 12, 2008


This morning I began an experiment with a new system of my own devising.

I think the matter of "managing" one's self well is pretty much central to everything, not just for freelance writers facing totally unstructured time. Seems to me that a personal management policy applies to every decision anyone makes: whether during "work time" to dig into the novel-in-progress or file tax receipts; whether, at lunch, to get the side of slaw or fries; even whether to give money to a particular panhandling homeless guy. None of these are no-brainers.

Here's my new system: I face each decision with two guidelines. 1) What do I feel like doing? 2) What choice would be "doing right by myself?" I don't get into an inner debate, I just bring these two questions into consciousness and then act.

I started this morning. The noticeable changes so far are that I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch. No fast food at all. And no quart of my beloved Mickey D's Sweet Tea, as is my usual custom. I don't feel deprived at all. I have no regimen I have to stick to; if lard feels like the right thing for supper, then that's what I'll have.

This new system is a blend of two I've tried that don't work: do what I want to and do what I ought to. Neither one of these alone takes me to a very good place. "Ought" leads me to fury and rebellious excess. "Want" leads me to leave off exercise, vegetables, meditation almost entirely.

Some months ago, at the start of the New Year, I announced here that I was moving to a new system which I think of as Act Like You've Got Some Sense or Follow the Will of God. This has worked better than others. And this new approach is simply a way of divining "the will of God." And it doesn't require sense of me all the time. It doesn't require anything.

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mamie said...

Peggy, you are speaking my language! I might just work with this plan myself. Thanks for putting it out there.

Peggy Payne said...

If you do, please let us know here how it goes, Mamie. And any changes/refinements that work for you.

When I write something like this, I always expect the reaction to be: jeez, girl, loosen your grip. But that comes more easily to some central nervous systems than others.

mamie said...

It's so easy to come home from a full day's work and be lazy--read blogs, work the puzzles and read the comics, fix dinner, go to bed. What is left out? Writing and exercising, two things I really want more time for. I'm not sure your two questions will work perfectly for me since the first one, "What do I feel like doing?" would prevent me from going to work most days. But the second question would definitely put me on the path to doing more writing and continuing to take care of my health.

I have been keeping a list of things to do, everything from "revise short story" to grocery lists. This keeps the important and not-so-important but nagging tasks in front of me at all times. And gives me a sense of satisfaction when I check something off.

I've thought about actually making a weekly schedule, fitting in exercise and writing, and keeping it as diligently as going to work, but when you wrote about the rebellious nature of "ought" I wondered if the scheduling would feel like a has-to-be-done task rather than a pleasurable event.

I'll keep you posted.

billie said...

Must be a wavelength thing - on Saturday I woke up with the strong intent to get a few things in my life more organized.

So two of my horses are now back in "scheduled" work and my daughter is videotaping my rides so I can critique myself.

And I joined a blog for women riders who share riding goals and details of rides, photos, video, and support.

Immediate result of the first video - I realized I need to get back on my exercise regime. I was tempted to plug everything back in but then decided that might be a recipe for overwhelm. So I am alternating yoga, Pilates, and the gym.

I did make a chart for myself - but more to prove that I wasn't going overboard than anything else. There is still lots of free-flowing space on the chart, which is something I treasure and don't want to lose.

Peggy Payne said...

But, Mamie, if you consider first and second question together: what do I feel like AND what would be doing right by myself, in the largest sense--would that equation come out to be not going to work?

Once in my life, I discovered I needed to make a change when I saw I was going to need a reward to get a particular job done. It was a $150 job and wasn't going to take very long; I needed a reward of a trip to LA to be a big enough reward.

I did do the work that afternoon, and eventually went to L.A., and stopped working for that publication. I couldn't afford the rewards.

Peggy Payne said...

Billie, I love the idea of a chart to keep you from going overboard in scheduling. I think that's probably half the value of writing down the appointments, etc. Recently, I've been making sure not to schedule more than one social event per weekend. More than that starts to seem not-fun.

You seem to me to have a pretty good natural balance about scheduling. I'm a bit surprised at this burst of record-keeping. Do you have a theory about what triggered it?

billie said...

My dad is at home with my mom with Hospice coming every day, and although he is pain-free and remarkably at peace, it's been tough. I go over as much as I can manage and sit with him and we eat good food and I tell stories of things he and I did together, or stories about things I remember in our small town, and he smiles like a Buddha.

The thing is, I feel very much out of control with that whole thing, and also with all our animals, who have been having various minor issues like bug bites and joints out of alignment, etc.

The burst comes directly, I suspect, from my need to be in charge of SOMEthing. By gosh, I can do yoga and Pilates and go to the gym on a schedule! I can keep some open time for meandering and puttering.

It's actually been a very potent and full time lately, sad and hard in some ways but there has been a lot of good stuff happening for my dad and my mom, and some healing I did not expect to happen.

Long answer to your question, but it feels like a good place to let all this out... thanks, Peggy.

Peggy Payne said...

Billie, I'm so sorry about your dad, and glad that it's going as well as it can with all of you. Awfully sad time!

I'm impressed that you make such a healthy choice as yoga etc. for the thing to control.

Makes sense that some healing would be happening. A bit of wisdom I heard this week: sadness is the root of tenderness.

I'm thinking about you