The Benefits of Structure
I have a confession to make. I am totally lacking in self-discipline. It's a shock, I know, but remember to take a deep breath as you clutch your pearls in horror and surprise. Working a Monday-Friday 8-5 job helps, because you're sort of forced into some semblance of structure each day. But if you're working three twelve hour shifts a week, the other four days tend to play out in this order: Day 1 - Recovery. Sleeping til ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, then transferring slowly from your horizontal position on the bed to a horizontal position on the sofa. If you're lucky enough to have a plus one (or a generous roommate) someone brings you coffee without saying a word and backs away slowly as if retreating from an audience with the Queen. If you're single like me, though, it is a requirement that you actually stand up and go outside to walk the dog while your coffee brews. You are given control of the remote for the remainder of the day, and your DoorDash driver, who probably knows you by name, makes at least one stop at your home. Day 2 - You may have errands to run, you might agree to lunch and a movie with a friend, as long as they do not judge your leggings and lack of makeup. Day 3 - More of the same, but might actually include a little mascara and lip gloss. Cooking something for dinner has its best chance of occurring on this day Day 4 - Dread. You must now wash the scrubs that have been sitting in the hamper and gear yourself up mentally for another three days of whatever fresh Hell awaits you.
When things aren't going well for me, either in work or in life, any daily structure I had goes right down the toilet. I sleep as late as the dog will let me, and he's a good sleeper so it could be 10:30-11 am and occasionally even one in the afternoon! I am not one who can just jump out of bed the second my eyes pop open, either, so I could wake up at nine but not manage to work up the motivation to face the day until 10:45. Let's face it, once your feet hit the floor you're committed, so I prefer to keep my feet under the covers. Here's how it goes after that - I wash my face, step on the scale and mutter obscenities under my breath, then start my coffee while I walk the dog. In my pajamas. I am only slightly ashamed that my neighbors have seen me in my jammies more than they've seen me dressed. In the hot summer, and because Brody pulls me to the point of shoulder dislocation, we don't stay out long. Back in the apartment we go for his breakfast and my coffee. I've taken to reading a daily devotional for people with depression and anxiety, so I do that before turning on the tv. For the rest of the day, though, that's where any semblance of structure disappears. I mess around on my phone, job hunting for something that will be easier on my body, but usually just scrolling my Facebook feed, while the tv hums in the background. In case you're interested, South Park marathons on Comedy Central are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Brody gets walked here and there throughout the day, and sometimes we will nap on my tiny, decaying couch in the late afternoon. This period of the day is when my depression and anxiety are at their worst, when the negative thoughts flood my brain, telling me I'm a fat, aging, unorganized loser who is probably going to die alone. There is another voice I hear, telling me that I am going to STAY a fat, aging, unorganized loser who is going to die alone unless I get up off my arse and actually do something to change it. So, this internal battle ensues, with no winner declared. They just keep at it until they cancel each other out and there is nothing but the sound of the dog snoring. (Oh, and did I mention how much I loathe the quiet? Must be something from my childhood, but I cannot tolerate silence.) Then evening comes and I somehow get a second wind. It's my favorite time of day, and if anything good is going to come out of the day, this is when it will happen. It's when I get my most creative ideas for dinner, and my energy spikes so that I am able to play with Brody, blog, and plan shit (not sure what those plans are, but I digress). As it gets later, I will make myself a cup of tea with some honey until whatever medication I've taken that night to help me turn my brain off and sleep has kicked in. Sleep and repeat.
I guess I could say there is structure in my day, but in truth, it has about as much structure as a Jackson Pollock painting. True, you can find meaning in it if you look close enough, but otherwise it's just static. I guess what I've realized is that it's not healthy structure. Healthy structure is getting up at 5am every single morning and exercising, it's having two poached eggs every morning for breakfast, followed by a mid-morning smoothie, a homemade tuna salad for lunch, walking in the door at 5:30 to enjoy a steak or salmon dinner, followed by maybe a nice cup of decaf or a walk around the neighborhood at dusk. Then a shower (or if you're feeling adventurous, a bath!), some nice "quiet time" as we used to call it in our house, and then bed, so we can start it all over again the next day.
Personally, I will gouge my eyes out with a broken pencil before I'll get up at 5:30 in the morning on purpose. It's just not in my nature, and I've come to accept that I am not an early morning person. But there is definitely something to be said for getting up early and enjoying that first cup of coffee or tea while the world around you is still quiet. If you can do at least that, then you must still have hope. Hope for a good and productive day. To make a difference in someone else's life. And here's another thing, always make your bed. It doesn't have to be fancy, but stretch those sheets back out, tuck them in, and walk in your bedroom periodically throughout the day and then tell me it doesn't make you feel good. You know that it's crisp and clean and waiting for you to sink back into it after you've accomplished your goals for the day, whatever they may be. Whether your Wednesday goal is world domination or making cookies from scratch for a bake sale, that bed will be there for you, unconditionally and non-judgmentally.
As for me, I'm going to set my alarm for 7am tomorrow, walk the dog, have some coffee, and see what the day brings me. I will not lay on the couch all day in my pajamas playing My Heart Cries For You on the world's smallest violin, although a power nap with Brody at four is not out of the realm of possibility. I will start getting my food orders organized so that I know who is getting what and when. I will take a walk at dusk and drink tea before bed, and know that I at least had some structure in my day....
....and of course, I will make my bed.