My Husband Says I Can’t Spell Discipline or How I Have Been Failure’s Bitch

This is a running joke at our house, and the joke’s on me because I did just reference a tab along the top of my screen to check my spelling as I typed this post’s title. Every time the word discipline comes out of my mouth in his presence, he puts on his best Marine Corps voice and says, “Discipline? You can’t even spell discipline.”

Maybe the problem here is that I’ve learned to laugh at myself in this respect and it’s really not funny. Maybe it’s really fucking up my shit.

So it’s GIT Tuesday and my Goddess in Training stuff has been about changing my thoughts and creating better habits. That’s why Kristen Lamb’s post: Self-Discipline- The Key to Success really got me thinking. If you haven’t read it, you should, and if you do it now then this post will make more sense.

Kristen proves her point about self-discipline being necessary by showing us a list of highly successful authors who went to top schools, were highly successful in other fields– were in freaking Congress. Immediately I feel hopeless. Well crap. Let’s hope you can be moderately successful if you’re just moderately intelligent and far less awesome. That would be one of those thinking habits I need to work on. Kristen says,

“Successful people are willing to get up earlier, stay up later, work harder and never stop. They will outpace their competition every time. Why? Because self-discipline isn’t a once in a while thing, “Oh, I was so good today.” Self-discipline is the foundation of the successful life….not an accessory worn when we feel particularly inspired.”

Know who embodies that? Kait Nolan. And now I get why Kait and Kristen click so well together. So I read on.

The post goes on to give some do’s and don’ts for this, and they’re a lot like the weight loss stuff. Don’t jump into some crazy exercise thing and hurt yourself, start small and build. Don’t set goals that set you up for failure.

And then she talks about failure, about changing your relationship with failure. Man, I am failure’s bitch. I wrote a book last year I actually let other people read. HUGE step. You get that. I’m almost forty years old and I’m just getting to this point in my life where I’m actually finishing things. Because for most of my life I’ve been caught up in this perfectionism where I don’t finish anything. Because once something’s finished, it’s time to put it out there for other people to judge. But if you never finish anything, you never have to face having it rejected.

Tangent: Remember Pitfall for Atari 2600? With twenty minutes on the clock, you’re moving this guy across the screen, trying to pick up treasure. And when you fail to clear an obstacle, it loses you a little bit of time (and points). There were only a few different kinds of screens and obstacles that would keep repeating and every once in a while there’d be a treasure. I thought (and I’ve no idea if it’s true, probly not), that you could have a perfect game where you’d go to the right at full speed, never hit an obstacle, and eventually circle back to the start of the game–come out on the left side of the first screen.

I started playing the game to have a perfect game. And any time I hit an obstacle, I’d reset and start over. I never got very far and I don’t think I got any better at the game. And I started playing other games that way, too. Lose a man too early? Well, I’ll never make high score now. Reset.

Reset. Reset. Reset. How many unfinished games? How many unfinished stories?

Yeah, I was failure’s bitch. I’ve got a degree in Psychology, never looked at grad schools or applied for a job in that field. I’ve got a degree in Fashion Design. Completed my course work for that and went RIGHT BACK to full time at the sweat shop I’d been sewing in. But you know, I think that might be changing. The last few years I’ve forced myself into a willingness to try, to expose myself to the possibility of failure. And a lot of good things have happened.

Some of the habits that worked in conjunction with the perfectionism thing and never finishing anything are things Kristen brings up in her post under the heading: Don’t Let The Feelings Vote. I’m reading:




Okay, so I can see the problem. Now what? Once I started gaining weight, 20 years of resets of the next week I’m going to start this awesome diet and exercise program variety didn’t work for me. I weighed in the other day saw and have been at the same healthy weight for the last few months.

Kristen says not to wait until your feelings change to change your actions. I’m not disagreeing with her at all. I’m just looking at me and I’m thinking maybe the reason this stuff never seems to work for me is just because I need to change my thinking before I can change my actions consistently. When I changed my thoughts about a lot of the eating stuff, I started refusing some of the overeating and bad foods more consistently, and started shedding weight.

So maybe this is why that thing of just saying I’m going to write X words every day (even just 250), or sit down for X amount of time doesn’t seem to work for me. Because discipline? I no haz it.

Only I do. Yesterday I knew I was going out to dinner and I told Kait I was going to go eat a whole burger. Calorie-wise I was probably within my rights. So I went out and ordered a burger with a side of apples. Burger came and I cut it in half–a great habit which also makes it easier for my little mouth and little hands. Picked up the second half of the burger, actually said, “I’m going to eat the second half of this burger,” and then stopped. Thought, I’m not hungry right now. Why am I doing this? and asked the waiter for a box.

So I do have self-discipline, like Kristen said I do. I am capable of that. I can now do many reps of curls with 1/3lb cheeseburgers without pain. I just have to figure out what works for me for the rest of it. All this stuff that I read, all these “secrets of motivation,” it all seems to skip a step. They all say, “if you want it badly enough.” Well, I don’t know about that. I at least want to want to be better.

I can’t seem to just say to myself, “I’m going to do the dishes every day.” Because myself says, “Fuck you. I’m tired. I’m going to watch TV and see if Andrew’s on IM.” (Even though, please note, I know Andrew does his dishes because he says this on IM and yet I’m not inspired by his example.) I can’t seem to say to myself, “I’m going to work on my outline every day this week,” because myself says, “Eh, I can’t really think of anything that would be good today. I’ll make it up on a day I’m really on. I have a lot of other things I need to do anyway.” And then I’m all, “But we said were gonna–” “Um, fuck you I said not right now, okay?”

Okay, geez. Bite my head off, myself. Damn, she’s bitchy.

So anyway, this can’t be just me. Anyone else have this missing link thing going on? I’m going to cogitate on where my thought process is going wrong while I go wash some dishes.


Filed under GIT

25 responses to “My Husband Says I Can’t Spell Discipline or How I Have Been Failure’s Bitch

  1. I like to think that I am dedicated, I get up early and go to bed late every day, and while I write, I am often distracted by something along the way. An episode of Criminal Minds, a tweet here, and wall post there. I am sure you know how it goes. I guess I can con myself into thinking that the writing I do while I should be working the office job doesnt really count…. does it? 🙂

    I wrote a post today that starts similar to yours, about accomplishments and getting things done. I hypothesize (in my own degreeless way) that there is no such think as failure, merely a plateau amidst a series of success that requires either a change of direction or a harder shove to get rolling again.

    Not sure I could leave half a cheestburger for later, but I would like to think I could if I really knew I should, or needed to.

  2. I have the perfectionism bug too. The key to breaking the bug can be in just giving ourselves a break.

    Because of my perfectionism, in the past whenever I accomplished something, my mind would only say to me, “Well, but you could have done this part better.”

    Well, I’ve just gotten into the habit of being more like, “HECK YEAH I ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING!” That makes me feel a lot better, and it’s much more likely to inspire me to do more, rather than curl up into a fetal position and become failure’s bitch.

  3. You and I are so much alike in so many ways. Especially when it comes to “Shut up and leave me alone. I’m watching TV right now. I’ll do the NOT FUN stuff later.” It’s so funny that you mention the dishes in particular because I feel so guilty when my husband does the dishes (almost always) and I’m sitting on my butt reading blogs or something.

    I have, however, gotten away from the perfection thing. I used to absolutely freak out if I didn’t make an A in everything when I was in school. I’ve relaxed about some of that stuff. If I make a mistake at work, I don’t beat myself up anymore. I’ve stopped fussing at people at work for doing things the “wrong” way. I’m so much more laid back. But I’m still lazy (not at work, but at home). That’s what I have to work on.

  4. “And then she talks about failure, about changing your relationship with failure. Man, I am failure’s bitch. I wrote a book last year I actually let other people read. HUGE step. You get that. I’m almost forty years old and I’m just getting to this point in my life where I’m actually finishing things. Because for most of my life I’ve been caught up in this perfectionism where I don’t finish anything. Because once something’s finished, it’s time to put it out there for other people to judge. But if you never finish anything, you never have to face having it rejected.”

    Darlin’, you could be writing about my life. I never finished anything until 2007. I was 42, almost 43. In the last 4 years, I’ve completed four novels and a novella. Sometimes I regret those lost years, but I know that my writing is stronger for it, because my confidence is stronger. In my case, I had to overcome the Generational Demons of Oppression – my family are a big bunch of “you don’t wanna do that, you’ll just fail” kind of people, and it’s taken years for me to grow past their bindings. I think, to give them thebenefit of the doubt, that the worried so much about their children being able to take care of themselves that they tried to raise their kids to not take risks. Unfortunately, not many of them do (I’ve always been the rebel of the family).

    You’re not alone. At. All. 😉

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  6. Susan! I thought I recognized you from the Failure Bitch Kennel! Remember me? Piper? From the cage next to you? You know, the cage made of self-doubt and denial?

    Or to put it in a more traditional fashion, I soooo get what you’re saying. Deep dark secrets here that I’m sharing with you and the entire internet. When I was 20, I was so shy I was incapable of calling a pizza place to order a pizza. I was that afraid of talking to those strangers on the phone. Also, I graduated with a degree in technical writing and got my first job as a part time church secretary producing monthly newsletters. And no, I didn’t even attend the church or know anyone in it. How incredibly safe from failure was that? It took turning 40 for me to realize that it was time. I needed to get up the gumption to write or commit to some other career. Well, the only true failure is in dying without having tried, so I threw in my lot.

    As for weight, I’ll just say I totally relate, and I’ve learned about the power of self-talk when it comes to self-destructive behavior. My daughter ate a plate of chili rellenos last night, and then moaned about how fat she felt. (She’s not fat, btw.) I told her that food does not make you fat. Self-abuse does, and that I could see her packing on pounds with every negative thing she said.

    Self-abuse gives us an excuse to fail. If we remove the self-abuse, that donut, burger, chili relleno, etc. is nothing but a dispassionate choice. I made the dispassionate choice to eat chili rellenos at 9 p.m. last night, and damn, they were good. Today, I made the dispassionate choice to get my ass out of bed and go exercise before starting the day. And damn, that was good. It was totally unconnected to last nights chili rellenos. I find writing is the same way. As long as I remember I have the choice to NOT write, I choose to write 90% of the time.

    Thank you for your honesty. I totally see you as a winner, and you will not convince me otherwise.

  7. @Alex- You sound plenty dedicated to me, and yes, I know exactly how that goes! Thanks.

    @Annalise- It’s like, if failure can possibly be a positive thing, why are we calling it failure? So this assertion that there can can be good sides to is just reeks of bullshit. But I am TRYING to change that thinking and I think I’m about to put that thinking into practice with a splash in the near future, so we’ll see how it goes.

    @LL- I find it much harder to be lazy when I’m doing things for someone else. Between the sense of obligation and the possibility of failing in public, it’s easier to feel motivated. Doing things that I see as “for me”? Not so much. Why would I want to help that bitch, do you hear how she talks to me? Me and myself need couples counseling.

    @Sharon- There’s this thing my parents have where it’s just so important for them that we not fail in any way lest we be hurt and disappointed by it. I was very much raised with the idea that you should never gamble on anything because it will probably not go the way you want, and anyway it seems like a lot of work and it’s so competitive and there are special tax forms and–whatever. Just don’t take risks because you might fail and be hurt. I can see how this comes from a good place, and also how it’s very much a part of how I think and something I need to correct now. Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment.

    @Piper- I’m still very much afraid of the phone, ordering anything, making appointments, having to call customer service, and now making playdates, RSVPs for birthday parties, stuff like that freaks me all out. Much better than it was, but still–I ♥ the internet and yay texting! Thank you so much for everything you said. I’m going to take this idea about dispassionate choice and really think on it.

    • I have phone-a-phobia too. I only get pizza delivered because I can order from Domino’s online now. I hate making phone calls, etc. I can’t get a credit card removed from my PalPay account because they say it has a pending charge (it doesn’t), so I have to call Customer Service to get it taken are of. Umm, that thing will be on there until I die. 😉 I SO understand about this. I’ve found another of my long-lost sisters. LOL

      • Hey, I hate the phone thing, too! LOL. If I can’t do it online, many times it doesn’t get done.

      • Yay, sisterhood, Sharon! Maybe we could give it a funky name and write a book out of it to be adapted to a chick movie which would make us tons of cash such that we could then hire someone to call PayPal for you.

        I had to call my agent the other day, and that means not only talking to her but also whoever answers the phone, so double whammy. Spend time working up the nerve, make the call, and making the call always involves pacing. Which is probably why I scrolled to the wrong number and dialed her home number. Got the machine, thank goodness, but didn’t want to just hang up so waited for the beep to apologize, during which I tripped over the cat, flubbed my line, and then STILL had to make the real phone call.

        Life is hard.

        • OMG, you ARE my sister! LMAO I can so relate. People don’t understand the phone thing. There’s really no reason for it; it’s just there. 🙂 At least it all worked out in the end, right? (Right?! lol)

  8. This –> “Because once something’s finished, it’s time to put it out there for other people to judge. But if you never finish anything, you never have to face having it rejected.”

    This is me. I just found out I’m majorly gluten-intolerant, like so much that I’m just shy of coeliac and I’ve had no problem rearranging my eating. I’m going to the gym, doing my intervals, blah, blah, blah. Arranging my writing? Not so much.

    I hate the idea that people are going to get to judge my book. Unfortunately, I intend to publish it on 27th October whether I think it’s perfect or not, so I’ve got to make sure it’s perfect. It’s only today I finally got some feedback telling me where to concentrate with the edits to make it perfect.

    The other problem I have is connecting to my characters. This is relevant to the self-discipline thing, I promise. If I connect to them, I’ll care about them. If I care about them, I’ll want to show them to the world. If I show them to the world, THE WHOLE WORLD GETS THE CHANCE TO TRASH MY CHARACTERS, MY BOOK, MY LIFE, MY SOUL AND I WILL DIE OF A BROKEN HEART WITH THE ASH OF FAILURE IN MY MOUTH.

    Or something like that. Doesn’t stop me from writing, though. *sigh*

  9. First, why do you allow yourself to talk so mean to yourself? Would you say that to your best friend? If you constantly talk down to yourself, then that’s what you believe. Your mind doesn’t know what is true and what is imaginary so if you call yourself a failure, then your mind will do what it takes to make it true.
    Second, Quit comparing yourself to other people.
    Third, You are all marvelous, talented, beautiful people with the ability to accomplish many goals.
    Fourth, Write down everything you fear about success. For each item, play the what-is-the-worst-thing that could happen game. Laugh. Destroy that sheet of paper.
    Fifth, Revisit as often as you need to.

    • I did slap my bestie around today, but she had it comin’. But mostly no. You’re right. I know it. The fourth item is an especially good notion which I should try. Thanks for the talking-to. 🙂

  10. Ah, got the whole perfection, no self-discipline, can’t finish a darn thing going myself. I went to graduate school to get a Ph. D. in medieval studies (okay, you can stop laughing now), when there were no jobs this century. Failure, much?

    There was an article or book I read in the distant past that women have a massive fear of success, one that outweighs their fear of failure. I have both!

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  12. I could finish something though I can’t seem to make up my mind. My solution is to work on multiple projects and worry about the results later. I also told myself I’ll just work on small things everyday until I finally finish working on them. Apparently, 15 minutes a day seems to do the trick (whether it’s writing, crocheting, painting, playing the piano, etc.).

    My motto is to start with the path of least resistance then work from there. The key is consistency–doing things everyday even for just a few minutes.

  13. Hmm, can a person be in between? Some days I procrastinate on everything (and yea, housework has really started to lose it the more I’ve gotten into seriously editing my novel) and other days I actually get some work (ie writing and editing and blogging. The day job always gets done anyway whether I want to or not) done and feel sort of good.
    There’s always someone bigger and quicker and more organized and able to live in less sleep – if I keep comparing myself to others I’ll go nuts.
    And I can’t spell excer- exers – exercise.

  14. Susan, I owe you an apology. I left a very ironic message to your post, but then later realized that you were serious about feeling like failure’s bitch. I was completely unable to read your post as serious, because you are so far from that, my head would not wrap around it. Your writing is amazing (I’m trying not to sound all stalker-y and crazy-fan-y); there is no way you’ve gotten to that point without self-discipline!

    So I am very sorry that I was so “ta, what a funny thing to say,” in my earlier response.

    • @Elizabeth, I didn’t read anything in your previous comment that upset me at all. Definitely no apology warranted. On the contrary, I thought your comment that maybe women fear success even more than failure really interesting.

      Plus, if that’s being stalker-y or crazy-fan-y, please, feel free to be both whenever you’re moved. 🙂

      @Deniz, Thanks for reminding me about the dangers of comparative living!!

      @Marilag, 15 minutes at a time is always a good idea. Consistency consistently kicks my ass. I don’t work on multiple things at once (especially as I get older), it’s more like I work on them serially, and when I put one down and pick up the next, I kind of really put the first one down. Out of sight, out of mind, maybe. I’ve gotten so focused on this idea that I need to start finishing things in my life that I continue to “be on that project” even though I’m not working on it because I’m just burned out and sick of it. That happened to some extent with this last book. I can see it happening right now on my current knitting project which I just don’t even want to look at, let alone pick up when it’s knitting time. Is it so wrong to switch to a short story or pair of socks to recharge? Probably not. So thanks for your thoughts that help me think.

      • Oh good, I’m glad, Susan. As for the book, I’d conflated a book written in the early 80’s called the Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling with another mid-80’s book called the Imposter Phenomenon by Pauline Clance. I read and discussed both in my graduate school days. Dowling’s book is about women’s fear of independence; Clance’s book is about how women don’t feel they deserve to be noticed, or to achieve what they want. Both phenomena happen a lot with women who get Ph.D’s, which is why they were so hotly discussed. Failure in grad school was easier to deal with than success for a lot of women with whom i went to school (including me!)

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