I have never had enough self-discipline. When I was a young piano student, my teacher (Mrs. Harriet Mitman) told me that I would never amount to much because I didn't use the correct fingering. She said, "Ginny, you must discipline yourself to use the right fingers."

I hated sitting at the piano and figuring out which fingers were required. I would much rather play the piece with my own creative fingering. It took less time and seemed to sound the same to me.

When I went to high school, our chemistry teacher told us that we had to memorize the symbols. I tried, but it wasn't interesting or fun. I never did learn all of them - consequently, I was just an average chem student.

College classes required me to learn facts that were not important to me. I chafed at having to memorize a long list of battles for World History. I disliked parroting back the steps needed to thread a movie projector. My self-discipline let me down in science and math classes. But, I was such a dedicated English student that my grades allowed me to be chosen for the Honor Society.

I learned early in life that I was prone to losing my self-discipline when I wasn't interested or didn't feel an urgency to learn things. Also, I found myself gaining weight because I didn't watch what I ate and didn't exercise enough.

Fast forward to the present. I have just about given up on my personal self-discipline. I know what it would take to lose 50 pounds - less eating and more moving. I know what it would take to keep the house spic and span - regular cleaning. I know how a book gets written - the author sits down and writes.

For some reason, none of these are within my range of capability. Even though our development has a great gym (air-conditioned, no less) and Olympic-sized pools, and even though I have a small home that can be freshened up in a short time, and even though I have a state-of-the-art computer that helps me spell, I have not managed to lose weight, keep the house immaculate, or write a novel.

A wise person once said,"I am my own worst enemy." That, dear reader, is exactly how I feel about myself. I have too many excuses. Sometimes I rationalize to myself - "It's too hot to walk outside," or "The gym is too crowded," or "I'll dust when we're getting company," or "Who said the baseboards have to be perfectly clean?" or "A day without cheese is like a day without sunshine," or "Every time I try to write the novel about my Dad's life, I cry."

At my age, I don't feel that I should have to do anything I don't want to do. However, I would truly like to fit back into a size 8 dress. I would be proud if my baseboards had a shine to them. I would love to see my first published novel on the NY Times best-sellers list. None of these things can happen without my long-lost self-discipline.

How does someone recover her self-discipline? Perhaps I can keep my eye on the prizes and force myself out of my geriatric comfort zone. Maybe I'll start with something small. I think I'll get a wet mop and clean the baseboards today. After I read a few chapters in my new Rick Mofina book, of course.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her e mail address: jsmith1313@cfl.roo.com. or in care of this newspaper.