Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Lies Within

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am not a morning person.

I used to wake up at 5:00 AM for years while training for Basketball; 4:30 in the summer. And then again for tuitions through junior college and first year of college. I’d wake up early to meet friends for morning walks or runs. But every time other than that, every chance I’d get, I’d sleep in.

I’ve tried a lot of things to make a habit out of waking up early on days that I have no need to. Who doesn’t like a few extra hours in the day? Plus our culture puts a big premium on it, shaming people who like to sleep late or claim to be night creatures. So there’s that. There is a lot of leadership literature about how it is the one absolute thing that matters for those wanting to lead, succeed. No one likes to think they are squandering away their potential by catching a few winks or being on a daily routine that is time-shifted by four odd hours. But most of all, it was the feeling of failure and defeat at being unable to wake up early if I wanted to. It disgusted me to think that I wasn’t in control of when I wanted to sleep, that my need for sleep ran my life. It was a constant exercise in exercising my will and failing.

The story was similar with exercise. And trying to eat more fruits. And leafy vegetables.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to exercise. But I’m not fanatic about it. I don’t miss it if I skip it. I don’t get an adrenaline kick out of it. I like to cycle and hike. I exercise if I have the right people giving me company, outdoors. The gym is the last place I will walk into willingly. Fruits are the last things I will pick to eat willingly. And leafy greens take too much effort to cook on a daily or even alternate-day basis.

So it was clear then. I was on my way to being a failed, fat but undernutritioned person. Until last year.

The last one year has been a gradual exercise in consciously crafting my life and making conscious choices in living, rather than letting my habits and preferences drive my life. And there was only one way I could get around the person I was to reach a new place in being.

Trick myself.

The first trick was in the nutrition department. A cousin introduced me to the concept of Simple Green Smoothies. Just take any leafy green vegetable, and any fruits, and bananas and a liquid base. Blend it all together. And drink! Simple Green Smoothies introduced me to the taste of raw Kale, Red Lettuce, Arugula among others, apart from Spinach! And my fruit consumption skyrocketed in terms of quantity and variety. It’s one of the best ideas that I have come across and it ensures that I get my daily dose of fruits and greens!

Next I tricked myself in the exercise department. So I couldn’t go out in the bitter cold and I hated the gym. But I had enjoyed aerobics when I had tried it in the past. So I looked up some free dance workout videos on YouTube. And finally found the key to enjoying working out – having fun and variety! I had always wanted to try Zumba and I found some great videos online. Dance workouts were fun. There were quick strength workouts too, needing no equipment! I tried kickboxing too and found it to be an extremely intense and fun workout. I now workout every day, sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 45. I get my heart-rate up and finish with a good feeling about exercising (my will)!

The last challenge was the long standing war against the alarm clock. I had to find a way to trick myself there, too. I had tried other things like keeping the phone at the other end of the room, or even in another room. But nothing had worked.

What worked was an old-fashioned alarm clock purchased at Ikea, the kind I used to have when I used to train for Basketball. It didn’t have a snooze button and I associated its sound with my Basketball and school days…when I used to wake up early easily. And I kept it in the bathroom. Along with a good book, because I love reading. These days, once the alarm rings (usually before 5:30 AM), I have to enter the bathroom to switch it off, where I close the door, switch on the light and spot the book. Or some days I just sit myself down. I just lock myself in there. And that’s it. That’s what worked! It’s been nearly 5 weeks that I have kept this up successfully. I do go back to sleep some days if I don’t feel well rested, but only after having been awake for 30-45 min.

And just like that, by tricking myself in the right manner, I became an early-waking, exercising, fruits-and-greens eating person. There are obvious benefits to it. But the larger implication is this. We lie to ourselves about who we are. I had convinced myself that I am a night creature. I am yawning by 9 pm these days. That I don’t enjoy fruits and am okay without them (the greens I like, they’re just tedious). The fruits and greens aisles get more of my attention these days than anything else and it has percolated into the cooked greens department as well (hello, sarson da saag!). That I hate exercising. I hate skipping it these days. 

So who was that person with those false assumptions? And who am I now? Whoever I may be, growing is WHAT I am.

And that is what lies within me.
A new me.

This post about starting a new life was inspired by the new Housing.

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