Discipline, Tootle, and the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

I swear these things go together. Just give me a minute or five.

SO. I stumbled upon a phrase or saying or philosophical whathaveyou the other day and it’s been blowing my mind a bit, mostly because it so aptly applies (which is potentially redundant but I’m going with it) to where I currently am in life.

Discipline is choosing what you want over what you want right now.

HOLY SHIT, RIGHT?

Same.

Because, you know, I struggle with discipline, which should be blindingly apparent at this point. Just the word makes me shudder a bit. I’m far too much of a contrarian to be attracted to the idea of discipline. I remember when I was younger telling my dad, who served in Vietnam, that I was considering joining the military and he basically thought it was the most ludicrous thing he had ever heard. Not because he thought I wasn’t physically or mentally capable, of course, just that there seemed to him little likelihood of me taking well to the intensely enforced discipline.

You tell me to jump, I say “fuck you” basically.

Remember Better than Ezra, my fellow Xennials? They had a song called “Teenager,” the basic message to said teenagers contained in the line, “And if it feels good, do it,” which is obviously horrific advice for teenagers but essentially sums up my life philosophy much of the time. I’m really super into instant gratification and really super dislike contemplating consequences. I don’t really like planning for things or saving for things or working up to things. A mentor in high school often remarked about my tendency to focus on the destination and not the journey, and how life really was all about the journey, and I was like, blahblahblah, of course, but hot damn, have I considered his words a million times since then.

Because dudes, it’s SO true. It’s a large part of the reason I attended various colleges and universities for approximately ten thousand years but never finished my degree. I was always super stoked to begin new classes and was eager to read the textbook and listen to lectures because I really fucking like learning things, you know? But then when it came to the later part of the semester when the focus was mostly just on proving to my professor that I knew what I knew, I generally lost interest. Because they, without a doubt, already knew I knew what I knew because I’m one of those sore-armed students in the front, and I certainly knew I knew what I knew, so, like, what the fuck are we doing here, people?

Nevermind, of course, that jumping through those hoops enough times would net me a fancy piece of paper apparently proving my knowledge to the world (or, you know, at least proving my proficiency at jumping through hoops) that may very likely have made my life somewhat easier up till now. I just can’t really be bothered to care about the long con, I guess. I just wanted the knowledge, you know? Not the outside verification of said knowledge when all was said and done that just might, in fact, come in super fucking handy down the road. Because I’m not thinking down the road, I’m thinking fuck it, let’s go bowling.

And so it is with quitting pot, which I haven’t technically completely quit because I really like getting high and addiction and all that. What I want is to not smoke regularly in order to reap the productivity and weight-loss benefits–but what I generally want right now is to fucking GET HIGH. I certainly don’t want to binge eat an entire fucking box of Cheez-Its and a whole pint of Haagen-Dazs for dinner later and wake up tomorrow morning feeling extra tired and a bit headachey, but whatevs. Consequences, schmonsequences, right? If it feels good, do it. Easy. Done.

But then I’m high, and while my brain is going a mile a minute and that’s generally inspiring and entertaining and I often get at least something written down (like the basis for this post, incidentally), I’m still fucking high, which now means the likelihood of me getting more high is, well, definitely higher, and I have to struggle to stay away from the kitchen and will most likely pass out without taking my pills because stoner and it’ll now be harder not to get high again the next day and on and on and on. The benefits definitely do not outweigh the downsides, but it always sounds like a really great idea in the moment when all I’m thinking about is right now. However, steeling myself to resist the urge, otherwise known as discipline, will ultimately help me achieve what I want out of life on a much grander scale, but it’s really challenging for me to choose that option instead of going bowling because hedonistic contrarian.

So ANYWAY.

The Goblin Queen put on a performance for us last night, donning a red, sparkly sequined party dress and matching ruby slipper-esque shoes, decorating the “stage” beforehand with various and sundry items special to her like gems and rocks and at least four containers of lip balm and pony and dinosaur figurines and plastic bugs and some of my jewelry. She got really adorable stage fright to begin but eventually began singing a super cool made-up-on-the-spot song about our dog (she has lots of nicknames but was Piggles for this) and the many activities she can be found doing throughout the various seasons of the year. It was totally inspired and awesome if somewhat heavy on the creative license, as Piggles frolicking through a meadow full of buttercups featured prominently in the Spring verse, and as quaint and lovely as the imagery was, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where TGQ had heard reference to buttercups.

Then it dawned on me–fucking Tootle.

I know, I know, but stay with me here.

Did you grow up with Little Golden Books? We did, but only had a few, unlike my SLNH and his sister, who had nearly the entire collection. When we finally got pregnant, my awesome MIL promptly procured a seriously hefty start to our own LGB collection and gifted them to us at our shower. One of the books was Tootle, the story of a little locomotive who attends a special school to learn how to be a proper and obedient little engine.

I fully admit it’s not my favourite bedtime story but the wee folk have been into it lately. It was written in 1945 and always seemed to me a story about crushing the spirit out of children, because instead of doing things like “staying on the rails no matter what,” Tootle would rather hop the tracks to race gallivanting horses and, you guessed it, frolic through a meadow full of buttercups. However, Tootle really wants to grow up to be a super speedy Flyer between New York and Chicago, and the only way to do that is to, among other things, stay on the fucking rails no matter what, so his instructors end up going to somewhat extreme and absurd lengths in order to get him to do just that.

And, of course, I’m always like, dudes, chill, let the little guy make daisy chains and frolic with meadow creatures for a minute, he’s just a kid, fucking hell.

But then it hit me–Tootle is struggling with DISCIPLINE, HOLY SHIT.

And not because he’s arbitrarily been told he needs to stay on the rails, but because Tootle wants to become a Flyer, and to become a Flyer, he needs to learn to be responsible and, among other things, stay on the fucking rails no matter what because off-railing trains are most likely super uncomfortable for passengers, disastrous for luggage, and probably more than a little dangerous in general. So in order to achieve what he wants, he must make it a priority over what he wants right now.

Damn, man. I now have a whole new appreciation for this seemingly subpar and fairly obnoxious to read out loud Little Golden Book.

And THEN I thought, how fucking weird that I’ve been mulling over this idea about the nature of discipline for a few days now and suddenly my daughter makes up a song featuring buttercups, which leads me to thinking of Tootle, which, turns out, is literally about learning discipline in order to achieve something you want?

But THEN I thought, no, it’s not weird at all, it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, whereupon you come across new-to-you knowledge and then suddenly see and hear it referenced seemingly everywhere. I’ve read the book a dozen times, but because my brain is now all excited about this whole discipline concept, I finally realized the underlying and not totally awful message of the story.

SEE? I TOLD YOU THEY ALL WENT TOGETHER.

So yeah, discipline. My first instinct is still to cringe at the word, but I’m finally coming to understand that just as Tootle cannot frolic in a meadow full of buttercups if he wants to become a successful Flyer, I cannot just get high whenever the mood strikes me if I want to become a successful writer.

Rails and writing, then, bitches!

 

 

 

 

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