Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad Behaviour & Butter Chicken

So my colleague Matt thinks I'm odd, and I'm sure he means odd in that lovable, sitcommy way, but still. Odd.

And it's at least in part because of my allegedly "bizarre" approach to self-discipline.

He still laughs about the day I spent 3 hours wandering around the city, trying to find my way home, blisters oozing and shoulders burning in the hot, hot sun. I was dying of thirst but determined to right myself. I knew the city marginally well and I was certain it was nearly impossible to get as lost as I feared I was. I kept on, rather bravely, possibly stupidly, and finally I saw the street sign that would solve all my problems: Bank. Bank! You're never lost if you're on Bank. Just walk north, I told myself, and then promptly started walking south, believing in my heart that I was awesome, that I had worked it out, that I was headed home, that I was no longer lost. And I wasn't lost, not exactly. I just happened to be headed in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted to be. Eventually I recognized my mistake and fought back tears as I turned around and recovered the ground I believed I'd been gaining. It was cruel. I had cash and a bus pass in my pockets but I let the cabs and buses pass me by - if I had cheated and taken one home, it would be like rewarding my bad behaviour and I'd be likely to repeat the same mistakes. So I denied myself the easy way out, bandaged my swollen and bloodied feet, and have never gotten lost in this city again.

But I continue to negotiate with myself for all kinds of things. One of my favourite vices, as anyone who knows me remotely has heard me rave, is the butter chicken from the indian place just down the street from me. Often, when the day ahead seems particularly daunting, I'll do myself a little deal.

Inner monologue:

Hey Jay.
I bet you're thinking about that butter chicken.
Well, I wasn't, really, until you mentioned it just now.
But it sounds good, right?
Oh yeah.
Well, tell you what. If you do your laundry, and go to the post office, and write 3 pages without complaining, you can get some for supper.
Yes, really. But only if you're a good girl all day long.
Oh, I will be!

And then I am. All day long.
Now, my problem is not that I admitted to Matt that I talk to myself.
And it's not that I motivate myself with tasty indian cuisine.
It's that moment of disbelief - the Really? - that split second where I doubt that I'm actually going to follow through on a promise to myself. But it's that seedling of doubt that keeps me honest, that forces me to stay on the right path and actually get the work done that needs to be done.
Have I ever not earned the butter chicken?
You betcha.
And I sit at home pouting about it too.

Is that really so odd?
I mean, if I gave myself everything I wanted, I'd be a spoiled brat.
And fat.
Well, okay, fatter.

But it's not all about the discipline.
If I do something good, I let myself know how proud I am, usually with a note on the fridge, but sometimes also with a bunch of flowers or an extra shower (yes, okay, even I think that sounds strange, but showering is one of my favourite parts of the day, especially when I turn on the music and dance and splash about).
I tell myself I'm awesome all the time. I even have a song about it.
No, I won't sing it for you. It's private. Except for that one time I won an arm wrestling competition after 4 Mike's Hard Lemonades.

In general, though, I'm very well behaved. I hardly ever embarrass myself or have to send myself to sit in the car. So now matter how you slice it, I must be doing something right.


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