Monday, November 9, 2009

Real Life Tao - Living Within Your Nature

For me, one of the great tragedies of human life is that so many of us live against our own unique individual natures. There are certain things about each of us -- traits, preferences, attributes -- that we turn our backs on time and time again. We order our lives and routines in such a way as to be constantly fighting against ourselves and then we wonder why we're so unhappy or feel out of sync?

I realized early in life that I am NOT a morning person. I don't like awakening at the brink of dawn and it takes me a good hour or two to get the juices flowing. Often, when I awaken early, my head feels as if it's in a fog and it can negatively impact the rest of the day.

So, with this understanding in mind, I scheduled early classes during my first four years in college!! What a dumb move! I would straggle into class. I took horrible notes -- I wasn't cognizant enough -- and rarely participated in class discussions. My grades in these classes reflected my overall state.

It wasn't until my second sojourn in college (I earned two undergraduate degrees nine years apart and, later, a Master's degree) that it dawned on me that it would be far more beneficial to my educational goals if I scheduled my classes later in the day. Once I did this, my interest level, ability to participate and grade point average went way up. Heck, I even made the Dean's List!

Here's another example. For years, anti-social me organized conventions, conferences and protest marches. I testified in front of governmental bodies and even ran for federal public office two times. This created enormous amounts of stress and anxiety since, as an aspie with social avoidance issues, I loathe being around groups of people. The constant stress and anxiety didn't give way UNTIL I backed away from my public persona.

One more example. When Della and I were first married, I had a great deal of trouble sleeping. No matter how I arranged my pillows or shifted my position, I never felt comfortable. I would lie awake for hours feeling completely discombobulated and get up in the morning even grumpier than usual.

I finally figured out what the problem was -- more than one person in my bed! Another of my aspie tendencies is to have a very large personal space and, when it is invaded, it makes me very uneasy. So, despite the unpopularity of my decision in my household, I moved to my own bed in my own room and the problem was solved instantly.

In each case, instead of fighting against my own nature, I learned to flow with it. Some of my solutions may seem unconventional to the overall populace, but they aren't unconventional for me.

My advice to those of you reading this post is to look at your life to see if some aspects of your daily routine fly in the face of the person you truly are. If so, these aspects could well explain much of the internal tension you suffer from.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. HI R T

    I couldn't agree more! I don't like crowds and stores and malls - so for the most part I shop on line. I don't like noisy places - so I avoid as much as possible. And honestly, I don't like little kids all that much. I mean I love my grand children but only in small doses. I could go on and on but I think you can see that I absolutely 100% agree with this post.

    Love you

  2. I am right there with you on the bed thing...but couldn't you just get a bigger bed to keep the peace? What is your spouses' nature?

  3. yep i totally agree with this post. as a former anorexic, i know what it feels like to constantly fight your body, to try and get it to do things it was just not meant to do.
    then after a while i just stopped caring about my appearance.
    now i'm exploring the difference between pushing yourself to new challenges and forcing yourself to fit into a mold you were not meant to fit into. to be honest i never really feel like i "fit" anywhere i am or whatever i do! i guess i'm still learning.

    btw, if my husband ever moved to his own bed i would be completely depressed and the relationship probably wouldn't last long. i'm a person who needs and thrives on physical closeness. :)

  4. Learning our own nature and accepting it and the changes in our lives comes with age and experience (if we are honest with ourselves). It's part of the cultivation we do as aspiring Taoists.

  5. Gail,
    I love children too, but in very small doses as well.

    Green Monk,
    At the time, we had a queen size bed! My wife was none too pleased with my decision, but she's grown use to it and actually likes having a whole bed to herself now. ; )

    If your husband wanted his own bed, I bet that would be out of character!! Della understood when we married that I was a rather odd duck, so I think that is why she was able to go with it...reluctantly.

    Yes, the aging and maturing process certainly helps!

  6. It just occurred to me that when my husband and I travel, I almost invariably get up in the middle of the night and move to the other bed in the hotel room: I'm a sprawler and he's a snorer. Two beds in the same room is a good idea.

  7. Baroness,
    Yes, for most people that would be a workable solution. In my case, however, not so much. I have a large personal space. ; )

  8. That's interesting. I'm trying to wake up earlier nowadays myself. I am normally a night person. I try this periodically every few years and it never works long-term.

    Trying to make himself into a morning person may have contributed to the death of Rene Descartes.


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