Tightening the Gut

The first thing I do each morning is sit up in bed, then remove the mask on my CPAP machine. And then I tighten my gut and stand up.

Specifics can vary. Sometimes I may take off the CPAP mask first. Sometimes (especially when running behind), I may leap straight out of bed in a single motion, without sitting up first. But the gut-tightening is always part of the process, for unavoidable physiological reasons that also work nicely on a metaphorical level. Hence this post.

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Facing the day requires an act of will, mental as well as physical. This is something moderately new to me, at least on a physical level. I don’t remember any separate effort of tightening my gut in order to get up when I was younger. Maybe it’s the extra pounds, or the slight stiff soreness that makes me more aware of each bodily effort compared to when I was younger and lither. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I’m more deliberative about motion.

For whatever reason, there’s now an additional step to starting the day — or getting up from the floor, or even a seat — that I wasn’t aware of in earlier years. I tighten my focus — think on what I want to do next that requires me to get up, whether facing the day or going into another room to get a drink of whatever — tighten my gut, and then stand.

One of my ongoing intentions is to live what I think of as a more deliberative life: doing things as a result of choice, as opposed to impulse; pondering what my goals and priorities truly are; thinking about what will lead to long-term happiness as opposed to short-term satisfaction or lack of effort.

It’s a work in progress. I find it remarkable, when I stop to realize it, just how much of my life is spent doing less worthwhile things, either because they are easier or less scary, or because they are what’s in front of me, or because I haven’t taken the time or mental effort to recognize what would be more satisfying.

I suspect I’m not the only one. Observing my children, it seems to me — and I invite (but do not really expect) dissenting views from those involved — that many of their day-to-day decisions, like mine, revolve around avoidance of effort and unpleasantness, more than an expectation of long-term benefits. Which is remarkably short-term thinking, when you stop to think about it. (But then, that’s kind of the point.)

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I said I would get to the metaphorical kind of gut-tightening. Which is: writing. And pretty much everything else I want or need to do but that takes some initial effort to get past my inertia, reluctance, or fear of effort.

Work does not come cheap. Sometimes the cost comes in physical effort. Sometimes it comes in facing emotional challenges. Sometimes it comes in mental or spiritual focus. Typically, it comes as an alternative to some easier but ultimately less rewarding path.

And so I try to think on the rewards, and remember the necessity, and gather my mind together. Tighten my mental and emotional gut, and face the day.

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