I took a break this past weekend. Actually, I worked my ass off around the house, and I didn’t have my nap, either day, and I didn’t get a couple of of important things done that I *had* to do (oh, well…)
But I still took a break. I took a break from the crazy confusion, the frantic ad-libbing, the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants improvisation that wipes me out and depletes me and makes me feel worse than ever by the end of the day.
To be honest, I am pretty fried. I’ve been fried since Saturday morning, actually… I was in really rough shape — Woozy and out of it and really confused and off balance. Forgetting things left and right. Having to double back and do things over and over and over, till I actually do them correctly. Literally not knowing where I was or what I was supposed to be doing… till I stopped and took a breath and looked around, and then — oh, yeah — then I remembered. But in slow motion. Everything in v e r y s l o w m o t i o n… Crazy.
Feeling all weekend like I was being dragged behind a horse with my foot jammed in the stirrup, and there’s no end in sight to the gallop. I woke up feeling sick and tired, Saturday morning, and I’m still feeling sick and tired. The main difference is that this sick and tired is a whole lot less stressed than I was on Saturday morning, 48 hours ago.
Because I took care of business. I made my lists. I mean, I was brutal to myself this weekend. No Mercy. NO DISTRACTIONS. NONE. ZIP. NADA. ZILCH. Not Even Going There. I had a lot to do, and the whole lot was a confusing mass of must-do’s, to-do’s, better-do’s, and what-not, some of the things more mandatory than others, but all of them feeling mission-critical.
Yeah, mission-critical. Whatever. I got my notebook out with my to-do list in it, and I sat down each morning, yesterday and today, with my special pen that I always use when I am writing Something Important, and I waded through my lists, culling the things that could wait, and making damn’ sure that I did the things that Couldn’t Wait. I felt like a blithering idiot, needing to write down each step:
- Go to the post office
- Check whether mail has come
- Pay box fee
- Go to the bank
- Deposit one check in one account
- Deposit the other check in the other account
- Go food shopping and buy [insert items here, grouped by the section of the store where they are located]
- Eat lunch
- Take the trash to the dump
… and so on, but I did it. Because if I didn’t write it down exactly the way I needed to do it, it wasn’t going to get done. I was going to get pulled in a million little directions by a million little distractions. And I needed to get things done.
I took that to-do-list notebook with me everywhere, and I checked in with it every few hours, to make sure I was still on track and not wandering off into never-never land.
And you know what? It worked. As fried as I was, as sick, as confused, as turned around and impulsive as I was, I soldiered through. And by the close of Saturday night I had completed the last of the Ultra Critical items that Must Be Done, and I could finally wind down the evening with some hot tea and a glass of cold water. And some Advil, of course.
Not that the weekend wasn’t without mishaps. I jumped the gun and ordered a $30 replacement battery for my cordless drill before I thought to check the Home Depot website, where they actually had the exact same battery for $9.97. That’s an expensive mistake. I can’t afford to just spend $30 at the drop of a hat. But I can’t cancel the first order. Screw it. I’ll justify it because I’m supporting a local business instead of a massive big-box chain store, so I’m fine with spending that $30 (almost). I went ahead and ordered a second battery at the great price, and now I’ll have two batteries that hold a charge, instead of one little weak one that peters out after I drill a couple of holes in some plywood.
It took me forever to get going in the mornings. I couldn’t settle down and get myself in the right direction for hours. I was incredibly distractable, both mornings, going in circles at top speed. Crazy. But when I reined myself in and got myself back on track, it was okay going.
Get that list together. Check that list.
Right now, it probably doesn’t sound much like a weekend break. But it was — with my lists. Sitting down and figuring out what I was going to do – and when – and then just going through the steps of doing it all, one piece at a time, really took the pressure off. It let me stop thinking about what I was going to do, and let me focus on the things I was doing, when I was doing them.
Trying to figure out what to do next is a big problem for me, and it’s a huge time and energy suck. I can literally run in circles, trying to get things done — and getting nothing done at all. It’s also a big source of stress for me, because I can get caught up in the logistics and trying to figure things out and trying to think through what’s next – what’s next – what’s going to be next after that. Caught up and confused. Crazy. And then I end the day feeling like crap because I got nothing done that I intended to.
Fortunately – and thanks to my lists – I managed to get a bunch of stuff done around the house that I’ve been meaning to do for years. I did a bunch of work in the yard, clearing out a ton of weeds and invasive plants that have been wreaking havoc with my grass for years, but I never got around to addressing. I also cleaned out my garage and gave it a good sweeping-out, which it has also been needing for years, but hasn’t happened. Till yesterday. I worked in my basement, rearranged things that needed rearranging, managed to hook up my web cam on my computer, fiddled a little bit with video, moved some files around on computers, did some research, and got just about everything important checked off my list.
Amazing. Pretty fantastic.
So, what’s with the food and travel? Well, this weekend I was flying solo. My spouse was traveling for work, and I had the house to myself. I also had the kitchen to myself, and I was able to experiment a little with the meals I made. Friday night’s experiment was pretty much a disaster. It didn’t taste bad, but the house smelled terrible all night, and I was concerned it might still smell bad by Monday. I aired the place out on Saturday, so that helped. I also decided to try my hand at making barbecue pork in a slow cooker. On our recent trip to see family, my sister-in-law made pork and onions in her crock pot, and it was amazing. I couldn’t remember what all she’d put in it, other than pork and onions, so I looked up some slow cooker recipes, combined some of the simpler ones that sounded good, and by 8 o’clock Saturday night, I had a killer batch of pork BBQ that was out of this world. I mean, it was good. Very sweet and mellow with just a hint of tang. I bought the cheapest ingredients I could find — it was an experiment after all — and I kept it super simple. But the end result was nothing short of phenomenal, and I dined on that all weekend.
And the travel? Well, both Saturday and Sunday nights, Anthony Bourdain was on CNN (in between the tornado alerts from the network), exploring regions to the north and mid-east. So, two nights in a row, I got to see parts of the world I may never get to see in person. And I got to see the food. The chances of me ever going to any of those places is slim-to-none, so I’m happy to let him go there with a camera crew and bring back his impressions. He seems to be one of those guys who just goes to soak it all in, enjoy it, and let the experiences affect him – be that positive or negative. He just is, in the midst of all that crazy doing and happening and activity. Sure, he does along with folks, but what strikes me the most about him is that he just IS.
And when I watch him just BE in the places where he is, talking to folks, exploring, taking it all in — and eating — I get to do that, too. I get into the spirit of his adventures and get to watch how he does it. It’s a good model for me, because that’s the kind of spirit I want to bring to my own work and life, and watching someone just be open to what happens, and then talk about how it is for them, reminds me that it’s possible to be that way — even when I am dog-tired and in pain and am running out of ideas about how to be in the world.
Not that I want to make myself into Anthony Bourdain. I’ve got my own ways, my own personality, my own take on things. It’s the spirit of his work that speaks to me, and that’s what I look for.
… Not to mention, learning about amazing new foods… most of which I may ever make, but some of which are giving me ideas.
Anyway, after a very full and productive weekend, I am feeling a little better, but I’m still feeling sick and woozy. So what — I’ve got to get on with my day. The thing with me, these days, is to not let feeling bad hold me back. I might be dizzy, confused, disoriented, distractable, forgetful, and have almost no impulse control, but I have my ways of dealing with it:
- dizzy : take it slow, keep one hand on a stable surface at all times, don’t make any sudden moves, and think about what I’m going to do before I do it
- confused : make notes about what I need to do, keep refining my list, striking off the unnecessary things, and using post-it notes to remind me of what I’m doing
- disoriented : again, use the notes, and don’t get too bent out of shape about being so disoriented
- distractable : keep things simple, keep one task in mind at all times, repeat to myself — out loud and silently — what I’m doing and why I’m doing it
- forgetful : see disoriented and distractable above
- almost no impulse control : take it easy, and when I screw up (which I often do), just take a deep breath, think about what I should really be doing, and do that, if I can.
It’s not fun and pleasant, and if I think too much about it, it’s pretty depressing, but in the face of all of the above, I can still get on with my life and be productive and effective. It might take me twice as long as I’d like, and it might make me nuts at times, but it can be done. And in the end, I’ve got something amazing to show for it.
I now have a clean garage and a mowed yard, and a lot more hope and peace of mind. Not bad for a weekend’s work.