Self discipline

Nearly forty years ago, we were being interviewed by a social worker as part of the process of application to adopt a child. The process at that time involved a fair amount of paper work, a series of classes, which in our case took place in a city 150 miles from our home, and a home study where a case worker came to our house to see that we had space for a child. I don’t remember too much about the whole process, but I remember that I was asked something about self discipline or self control. In my answer I cited my educational background as a sign that I could be self-motivated. I think I also spoke about my eating and health and our spending and finances as examples that we were mature and responsible adults. Looking back now, I think that my answer might have sounded more like braggadocio than self confidence. I was young and quite full of myself. I had a lot of lessons to learn and some of them were taught to me by the child we were allowed to adopt. The story turned out well for us. We were placed on the adoption list. We did adopt. It was a wonderful experience and our daughter has become a responsible adult herself, a mother and a continual delight to us as parents.

Now, as I enter yet another new phase of my life, I have been thinking about self-discipline once again. We are needing to do a kind of reset on so many areas of our lives and I know it will take time to figure out all of the responses to the new challenges we face. One of the areas were I will be doing some resetting over the next weeks and months is this journal. I started the journal as a discipline to help me improve my writing. The theory was that writing an essay every day would help as I sought to hone my skills as a professional writer. I set up the website, in part, to be a showcase of my skills as a professional. The process was never purely professional. I’ve been quite personal in many of my essays and the journal has provided me with recreation and new ways to think about myself.

My general plan is to continue to write. My semi-retirement should give me more time to write and writing is a good way to help me sort out the stories of my life. Who knows? I may even try my hand at memoir writing. There are a couple of shifts that are coming, however. I am going to experiment with writing at different times of the day. With a few exceptions, my journal posts have been written first thing in the morning. It was a practical way for me to maintain the discipline while working at a full-time job. I could finish my writing and get to the office before the phone started ringing and others showed up. On the rare occasions when I had to scoot out of the house during the wee hours to accomplish a particular task, I would write the night before.

After waking to an alarm clock for most of my adult life, I’ve turned it off. I plan to pay more attention to my body and to sleep when I’m tired. That means that the time of writing might vary quite a bit. Today, I plan to write and then perhaps take a nap. Some days, I won’t start writing until mid-morning. One of the luxuries of retirement is freedom from the clock. I’m sure I’ll develop a routine, but I hope it will be a new routine at least.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be traveling and our travels will be done with due care and respect for physical distancing. We don’t want to be part of the spread of the coronavirus. As a result we’ll probably be doing some camping in off-grid locations and not have as regular access to the Internet as we do at home. I’m not going to worry if I don’t get my journal published each day. I’ll continue to write and I’ll publish when I have a signal to connect to the Internet. It is, however, much easier to upload my journal than it was in years past, so regular readers may not eve notice the difference.

Long term, over the next six or eight months, after we’ve dealt with the business of getting our house ready to sell and figured out the details a making a move in the season of coronavirus, I plan to invest more time in photography. I’d like to return to publishing photographs with my journal. I may even find time to spruce up my website a bit with some new images.

If I were with the social worker at this point in my life, I think I might answer differently than I did when I was in my twenties. I’ve been disciplined enough to have a successful career in a vocation that doesn’t have much direct supervision. I’ve managed to nurture nonprofits and motivate donors enough to allow us to focus on our mission. I’ve shown up for work and put in my hours without it being a big problem. I’ve followed a fair number of tangents and side interests. When something captures my imagination, I’m likely to explore it. When I find something that works, I’m likely to stick with it. I don’t think of myself as particularly self-disciplined, but I’ve been able to focus enough to accomplish the things that are most important to me. As to whether or not I have sufficient self-discipline to be a good father, you’d do better to ask my wife and children than me. They are the true experts. What I do know is that being a father is something that I’m so glad I got to experience. It continues to be one of the parts of my identity that guides me every day.

And those children-become-adults who are in my life have been the greatest gift of all. I’m sure glad I somehow convinced that social worker that we should be on the adoption list.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!