Which is better: Following disciplined habits or natural cycles?
Having to get up and get to work on time used to provide discipline in my life. When I was off for weekends or vacation days, the time I was ready to start my day got later and later. Every morning I need to shower, exercise, dress, eat breakfast, floss and brush teeth before I’m ready to start my day. If I get up at 6 AM I can be ready to go by 7:30. But if I snooze until 7 or 8 AM, my day might not start until 9:30. This morning, I got up later, and didn’t hit the computer until 9:36.
Now that I’m retired I have a choice to make. Do I live by the clock or my biology?
Sleeping in seems so wasteful. But is that a false assumption? Now that I’m retired, does it matter what time I start writing each day? Would I be more productive if I lived by the clock or learned to adapt to my natural rhythms?
I’ve always assumed discipline is a major virtue. That we each seek to conquer nature by using willpower to bend our bodies and environment into our control. Isn’t it everyone’s assumption that we must overcome our animal urges? However, studies on health and stress show that might not be the best way to live, and that going with the natural flow of things might be healthier.
If you look across the Earth, have we conquered nature, or merely destroyed it? That’s getting awful philosophical as to whether I should sleep in or get up early. Can’t I just accept that the early bird gets the worm? Now that I’m thinking about this question I realize I’m living by a lot of assumptions. My 9 to 5 work years forced me to get up early, but now I’m free to follow a different path.
Since my health is in decline, it’s more important that I listen to my body than the Clock app on my iPod touch. Just writing these words shows me I need to do a lot of rethinking of my commonly held assumptions. And what other assumptions do I need to question about my other daily habits?
How many meals should I eat and when? Do I need to shower every day? Does it have to be in the morning? What time is best to do my exercises? When is the best time to write, clean house, socialize, watch TV, etc? What if I follow my circadian rhythms and I no longer track a 24 hour clock? How do I adapt my freeform schedule to my friends who follow a work schedule?
There is something to be said for natural sleep . I notice this morning when I woke up at 7:30 that it was just getting light. I’m wondering if my natural alarm clock is set by the amount of light outside. The room in which I sleep faces east, and has one long window without curtains across the east wall. Maybe I should do a scientific experiment and note when I wake up and when sunrise is for that day, and see if in the course of the year if I follow a natural cycle.
As I’ve been sleeping later, I’ve been wanting to stay up later. I’ve been retired just six days but I’m already having a hard time remembering what day it is, and I’ve stopped following the clock. Also, I’m now eating at different times. I even nap later.
My retirement goal is to write a novel. I assumed before I retired I needed to stick to a disciplined schedule and work at novel writing just like I worked as a computer programmer. Now I’m thinking that was a false assumption. Or is that just a rationalization to sleep later?
The western world changed after the invention of the clock. Now that I’m retired I realize I’ve left clock time. Because I don’t have cable TV, I don’t even watch TV to a schedule anymore. I’m on Netflix time. Does this mean I’ve been a Morlock all my life and now I’ve become an Eloi? That might not be good. Modern sequels recognized the virtues of the hideous Morlocks – they got things done, while noting the Eloi were lazy and wimpy.
Living by the clock is mechanical. Living by nature is undisciplined. There’s got to be a happy medium – or is that another false assumption?
JWH – 10/28/13