Sometimes I really get frustrated with myself. Even though I know which "habits" or practices feed me and make me grow, I can go for days, weeks, even longer, totally avoiding those things. Why is this? For example, just this week, I finally started getting up at 6 am again.
Getting up early is a good thing for me. It starts my day right, quietly, without any rushing around. My brain is somehow more alert at 6 am than at 8 am. The farm is quiet, the school next door still empty, and we are still in "the Great Silence," a monastic tradition of observing extended silent hours overnight--in our case, from 9 pm until after the singing of Lauds the next morning.
The thing is, I'm not naturally an early riser. I need to make myself go to bed early, which means eating a light dinner before 7pm, and starting to wind down at 8 pm. That's a far cry from how I've lived these last 15 years in NYC, when it was common for me to get home from work/errands/gym/drinks at 8 or 9pm, and then start to make dinner. Early rising takes discipline and determination. It means saying "no" to some things.
I was able to adapt to an early morning schedule last summer, when I first moved to the farm, and I loved it. While our winter hours were a bit more relaxed, I began getting up before 6 am again during Lent, when I set out to write at least 1000 words every morning before the day's farmwork began. It was a great experience, and I proved to myself (yet again) how disciplined I can be. And then, just as soon as Easter passed, I started letting myself sleep in, as a "reward."
But, you know, I felt productive, energized, committed, and creative during those weeks that I was rising early and writing, and I started feeling dulled and blah as soon as I stopped. What kind of reward is that?
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe your "rewards system" is a bit out-of-whack in its own way. The mystery for me is why it takes me so long to remember that I actually do like it when I get up early, exercise, eat healthy. That fresh veggies make me feel so much better than packaged sweets. That sore muscles make me smile. That laughing with friends is more rejuvenating than surfing the internet. That making something myself is infinitely more satisfying than buying a mass-produced substitute.
It's like I don't have sufficient "sense memory" to keep me tethered to my good habits. I suppose there used to be some rebellious satisfaction in "being bad," staying out all night, eating whatever I wanted, lazing around. But that kind of satisfaction, as fleeting as it was then, is now long gone. What I'm left with is an outdated, mind-less Pavlovian response to the notion of "reward."
I'm going to be 40 soon, and I'm still unlearning. From the spirituality of the farm, I'm unlearning consumerism, careerism, cynicism. And now I suppose I'm unlearning unhealthy rewards. I guess I'm just glad that I'm starting again. It's time to reset my internal alarms, and remember again what's truly rewarding.