This week, it’s time to talk about Things Not to Do, and How Not to Do Them. There’s a lot of that in the Little Women world. As with most moral tales, there’s not a lot of guidance on how to do good things, but quite a bit on what you shouldn’t do. There’s no drinking (except for illness!), no eating too much, no sleeping too much, no gossiping, no bad temper, no spending too much money, no selfishness, no complaining, no conceit, no makeup. Thankfully each of these is accompanied by a story illustrating why it’s a bad idea. I don’t like to drink and I’m not in danger of wearing too much makeup, but the rest are all things I have issues with. So:
1. Eating too much. I really feel for Stuffy, man. “I wish I loved my lessons as much as I do my dinner”? Soul mates. I love food. I spend most of my money on it, to be quite honest, so this could go hand in hand with that foible. But as Professor Bhaer says, “We will plant self-denial, and hoe and water it, and make it grow so well that next Christmas no one will get ill by eating too much dinner. If you exercise your mind, George, it will get hungry just as your body does…” This is kind of true, but I’m a grad student. My mind is never going to be as hungry as my body. Still, if we turn to the section of Little Men that talks about Bess, the perfect paragon of beauty and grace, we see that Stuffy wants to give Bess a bonbon to win her over because she doesn’t like him (apparently he eats untidily, which grosses me out too). Mrs. Jo tells him that Bess is not allowed to eat sweeties, and says that “she won’t touch [the bonbon], if I tell her it is to look at, not to eat. She will keep it for weeks, and never think of tasting it. Can you do as much?” There has probably never been a “sweetie” in my house long enough for me to even pretend I have self-denial. The only way I can practice this is by sticking to my meal plan and not buying any extra treats. This makes me very sad because my morning Starbucks and sour cream donut is kind of like manna, but I’ve gained like 20 pounds since I moved here and about 15 of it has “white chocolate mocha and sour cream donut three times a week” written on it.
2. Sleeping too much (or too little). I’ve already covered this at length. By the end of this year, I am determined to beat the crap out of insomnia. Unlike many people who have trouble sleeping, I actually like being up in the early morning. Even if I sit around in my pajamas the rest of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something just by waking up with the sun. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this, because I’m yet to find a satisfactory way to turn off my brain. But banning my iPhone from my bedroom is a good start, so.
3. Gossiping. I’m a terrible gossip. The intention is not to be mean, I’m just very nosy and hate to be left out of the loop. But it’s a bad habit and makes me feel awful afterward. It always starts out fine, but descends into negativity fast, and then you can’t get yourself out of that negative frame of mind and you start complaining about everyone, and everyone you know gets the “I like them, but…” treatment. There are very few people I really don’t like, and they’re not people I want to dwell on. For the rest, I’d rather focus on their good parts.
4. Bad temper. The main witness to my temper is my dog. She’s been driving me crazy all day because she won’t settle down and she doesn’t need food and she doesn’t need to go for a walk. She just wants my attention, and I have a lot of work to do. After the fiftieth interruption, I told her I might actually kill her, a little bit. Small homicide of annoying dog: totally justifiable. Sometimes I yell at her to GO LAY DOWN OR ELSE when she’s being really obnoxious, like today, and I feel terrible and immediately go cuddle her. She’s always patient with me and always loves me even when I’m not the best dog-mom. Humans are not so forgiving. I’m not an irritable person in general, but once in a while I’m really bitchy, especially if I have to repeat myself a lot or explain things that seem obvious to me, so I hope I can always think of little dogs who don’t mean to be annoying and just want love.
5. Spending too much money. I don’t even want to talk about this one. I doubt the March sisters would approve of a person who is so far in debt that she will die before her loans are paid off, but they didn’t have to live and attend college in 2013, so in this case they can suck it. As a concession to the fact that I am very, very poor, however, I will only allow myself to go out for happy hour/dinner once a month, and to see one movie per month. And, as mentioned in #1, no buying extra treats during the week. I will save so much money…which will all go to dental work. This grill is diamond-plated, yo.
6. Complaining. I think the only way I’m going to stop bitching about everything under the sun is if I stop talking altogether…which is not a terrible idea. Practice: stop talking.
I’ll address conceit and selfishness next week in Things to Do, because there are actually some pointers in the books about how to avoid them. In the meantime, I have done quite a bit this past week, but I have not finished my Spanish project. What would the March sisters do? They would scold me until I hit them with my umbrella because I hate being told what to do. Still, it’s a thing that has to be done, and this is the time to do it. On the docket this evening is grooming the dog, finishing the week’s lesson plans and homework, painting my toenails, doing laundry, and cleaning the apartment. That sounds like a lot, but my apartment is quite small and I’m usually done cleaning it before the laundry is out of the dryer. The real time-suck is the lesson planning. Each week I ask myself if I can just sit around and talk about movies, and each week I have to tell myself, no, M, you cannot spend an hour illustrating the cinematic history behind Pacific Rim.
Goodbye until Thursday. Prayer circle for my sleep patterns.