Reflections & Ramblings: Volume Thirty-Six
Every morning at precisely 5:30am, a man named Fred Rogers woke up to start his day. He started it the same way each and every day. He would read his Bible and then pray for people by name, people from all across the country that had asked him if he would do that for them.
He then would go to a local pool to swim laps. Before getting into the water, standing in his swim suit and goggles, he’d step onto a scale. Each and every day for over thirty years the scale read 143 pounds.
That number, 143, was significant to him. He saw it as a symbol and described it as a gift. He thought of that number to mean “I love you.” The numbers 1-4-3 replacing the letters of each word of the phrase I-love-you.
After he completed this morning routine, this ritual, he would go about the tasks of his day, which usually focused on connecting with other human beings. He would write letters to those who had written to him. He would visit with children and their parents who had come from all corners of this country to thank him for his impact in their lives.
This would all happen even before the taping of his show.
Mr. Rogers was faithful about taking an afternoon nap, recovering from the pouring out of love and compassion and attention upon other people. He also was insistent about getting a good night’s rest, going to bed exactly at 9:30 each night. He didn’t sleep in and he didn’t stay up late. He didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t smoke, and he didn’t eat meat of any kind. Supposedly because he didn’t want to eat anything that had a mother.
I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Rogers was a man of discipline.
Many people have nothing but respect for Mr. Rogers. In the last few years there have been at least a couple movies about him, one was a documentary and one was a “Based on a True Story” adaptation of Tom Junod’s Esquire article about him from 1998.
I think many people wonder if Fred Rogers was really Mr. Rogers when he left the “Neighborhood.” And from all the interviews and documentaries and movies and books I’ve read about him over the last few years I’ve concluded that, yes, Fred Rogers was Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers was Fred Rogers.
There’s a scene in the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood where the journalist meets Joanne Rogers, a.k.a. Mrs. Rogers, for the first time. He asks her what it’s like to be married to a living saint, and she replies that she is not fond of that term. “If you think of him as a Saint, then his way of being is unattainable,” she said, “You know he works at it all the time. It’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person.”
I really liked that short little scene.
He works at it all the time. It’s a practice.
That sounds like discipline to me.
If you are wired anything like me, Mr. Rogers’ discipline inspires something deep down inside of you. The power of that influence reframes your own value system, changes how you look at your own willpower and your own aspirations. He makes you want to do better, be better.
Mr. Rogers wasn’t a saint. He was human, just the same as you or me. But he was a disciplined human. So I ask myself, what does it look like to be a disciplined man like Fred Rogers.
I already live a fairly structured and disciplined life in many ways, but I’m inconsistent and not as ritualistic as I’d like to be. Like many people I thrive in structured consistency. This last year has worn on me, as it has on many people. I feel tired, anxious and often overwhelmed by any number of things going on in my life, whether it’s with my children or my work responsibilities.
So how do I get to where I want to be? How do I manage the stress and the responsibilities of my life well? How do I keep good boundaries and practice good self-care, while being a good husband, father, and friend?
That’s what I’m attempting to tackle this summer for myself. I’m looking to Fred Rogers as my guide.
Sleep was important to Mr. Rogers. It was clearly a priority. He went to bed at the same time each night, always making sure to get a solid eight hours and he took a nap in the afternoon.
Sleep is one of the first things that I sacrifice in my life when things are busy and stressful. And because of that, that is where I want to start. I am ritualizing my end of the night routine, creating guidelines or rules to help myself be consistent and disciplined. They are specific to me, addressing bad habits I’ve had for decades now, but I’ll share them here in case they might help you, too.
Andrew’s end of the night routine:
1. Take a shower. Relax and think and pray.
2. Put away dirty clothes in hamper. Don’t forget your socks.
3. No phone at the bed. For any reason, ever.
4. Journal each night. Write something down.
5. Read from a book. Even just a few pages.
6. Have a glass of tea or whiskey. Depending on the day.
7. Refill water kettle. For the morning’s coffee.
8. No social media after 10:00pm. Just don’t do it.
9. Be in bed by 10:30. As often as is possible.
10. Be asleep by 11:00. You need your rest.
I figure if I have a consistently disciplined night routine it will help me develop a solid morning routine as well. And so as I attempt this end of the night routine, I plan on developing what I want my mornings to look like as I get used to what my summer schedule will be this year.
If you happen to have routines or rituals that help you be disciplined in your life, would you mind sharing those with me? I’d love to hear them, learn from them.