I had a good morning, reading and tweeting, and I made my list of Things That Must Be Done. It was a long list, taking up the full back of an old business-size envelope, but each of the items needed be done.
Cleaning. Organizing. Taking out the trash and recycling. Weatherizing the house. My spouse can’t do much of this, because of their mobility issues, so it mostly falls to me. If I don’t do it, it just doesn’t get done. Now, I haven’t had the energy or the inclination to do these things for quite some time. I’ve had a hard time A) organizing my thoughts, and B) getting started on extended projects. And while it hasn’t been horrible, and we don’t live in squalor, still… these things all needed to be done.
So, list in hand, I got myself in gear about noontime, and by 5:00, I had accomplished the most pressing items… and also started cooking a fantastic meal… and gotten a number of additional things done, as well.
Banner day. And at the end of it all, it felt so good to look around the house and see the fruits of my labors.
My spouse is delighted. Some of the rooms look completely different, and others just feel different. It’s a fantastic feeling.
Today is a continuation — but a lot more low-key. The jobs I have today are more “thematically grouped”, being about the same sort of stuff. I’m about to get started on the rest of the list, and it feels good.
Two nights in a row of 7+ hours of sleep — I’m feeling pretty positive today, especially since my spouse gets back from their business trip this afternoon. The last two days have been quiet, and I’ve gotten a lot done on different projects, but it’s just not the same, when I’m all alone in the house.
I’m looking at my list of things I was supposed to do, this weekend, and I have had to do a lot of shuffling, because I miscalculated the amount of time just about everything was going to take, and I also got distracted and caught up in things that weren’t even on my list — but should have been.
The yard really needed to be worked on, and the driveway really needed to be cleared out. No question about that. The only thing is, it took me a full day of strenuous activity to get that all in order yesterday, and then I was wiped out — barely had enough energy left to make a late supper and watch some t.v. before going to bed a little before midnight. I didn’t even have the energy to clean up after myself, as I usually do before bed. I just left the dishes in the sink and the living room in disarray, to take care of this morning.
I watched Game 3 of the World Series last night, but I had to turn it off, because I get really amped up by the game and the competition, and then I have a hard time sleeping.
Last night I did not have any trouble getting to sleep. Once I got down, I was down. And even when I woke up at 3 a.m., as I often do these days, I was able to get back to sleep, which was pretty awesome.
Today is another gorgeous day, and I have a few things to do before I head to the airport. One of the things is something I can only do when my spouse is not around, because it is loud and involves power tools, which drive them crazy. I have a few hours to do this work, which I am hoping will be enough time. I have really thought it through, from start to finish, and I am pretty sure about the exact steps I’m going to take, so it should go pretty smoothly.
This is my new technique for getting things done, and it seems to be going really well — based on my past experience (and I have to have past experience for it to work), I envision the process of doing something. I imagine myself doing it, I “feel” myself going through all the steps, and I envision the results of my work. I imagine when and where I might encounter issues, and I figure out how I will solve them. I probably spend about 10 times more time thinking things through than doing them. But when I do it, the results are usually 10 times faster than if I had just waded in and hacked around at what I was doing.
The key is to get started. To take action. To not get stuck in my head while I’m thinking everything through. That’s a real danger with me – I tend to get a bad case of “analysis paralysis”, which stops me from taking the next logical step. But I need to prove out the validity of my suppositions and give them a whirl, to see if I’m on the right track — and adjust anything if necessary.
And when it works, it’s like magic. Everything flows smoothly — like butter — and it almost seems as though there was “nothing to it”. I know differently, though — a whole lot of time and effort and thought and energy goes into making it all look easy. So long as I don’t get stuck in my head.
Unfortunately, Analysis Paralysis is where I’ve been stuck with one of my projects for about 6 weeks. I was making really great progress, then I stalled. Got stuck. Flamed out. I totally fried my system, because I was going-going-going about 200 mph for months on end, with this one project. Yeah, I made incredible progress. But I also fried my system, to the point where I was having almost constant tremors, I was exhausted all the time, and I was borderline delirious.
I kept it together on the outside, but people close to me were worried.
So was I.
Anyway, I’ve reset my internal system, rebooted, and I have a much better plan for how to move forward — just do a little something everyday. Not a ton of things. Not everything. Just a little something, here and there. That way, I can make the most of my time AND not overwhelm myself with All The Things That Need To Get Done.
Speaking of which, it’s time to get going, test out my current plan to see if it works and then finish this one job… to make room for the next bunch of things I need to do.
The fall cleaning has begun. I went through my study this morning and decimated the piles of papers on my side table. Just cleared them away. Much of what was cluttering the place was a bunch of unopened bank statements and duplicate bills from days gone by, along with a lot of “collectibles” from past experiences that I really don’t need to hang onto. Notes I took along the way for different projects I wanted to work on, but never did… etc.
I packed a paper grocery bag with scrap and unneeded papers, I put all the unopened bank statements and bills into a pile, and I had enough space to move some things off an extra table I had in the room to hold everything. Crazy, how much crap builds up, when you just don’t want to deal with it at the time.
But coming back from vacation, it’s time to get back in the swing of things, move all the old crap out of the way, to make room for the new. Make some hard choices about where I will put my attention and energy, and be willing to clear out the things that do not serve me in the least.
I had a job interview on Thursday morning, which was both useful and pointless. It’s for a position with some old friends of mine who know me and my past work. It’s not an exact fit for me, actually, and they are trying to “shoehorn” me into the position, with extra time for training and testing and getting me up to speed. If I go that route, it will probably take me about 6 months to get up to speed with what I need to know, and the more I think about it, the less I like that idea. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn some new things, but looking at the job market and pay rates, as well as everything else that I have on my plate, I’m not sure it’s even worth the effort. It would be starting from scratch again, and I don’t want to be in that position again.
Hell, I’ve been starting from scratch for the past 8-9 years, trying to get my life back on track – why would I do it all over again? Anxiety and stress and pressure… Nah, it doesn’t make sense for me to do it. So, I’m clearing the deck of that. I’ll give the folks a call on Monday and tell them I’ll pass. If it’s not an exact fit, then I’m not going to go for it.
This is my new approach, these days — to put up or shut up. To put my time and energy and attention into ONLY the things that put me in the direction I’m going. I have no interest in frittering away the hours on this, that, and the other thing. I don’t have the time or the money or the energy to do so. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with a world of scarcity, right now — money is extremely tight, as is time and energy — and I just don’t have the luxury of A) sitting around and shooting the shit about crap I’m unhappy with, or B) listening to other people do that.
One of the things that’s moved me in this direction is being away from about half my team at work for the past three weeks. We have been in different locations, here and there, since mid-September, so I haven’t had an earful of them bitching and complaining about everything for a number of weeks. It’s been a breath of fresh air, actually. None of the drama and upheaval and politicking. Plus, I was on vacation, the week that they were all embroiled in their political gamesmanship.
Divine intervention, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s been a real pleasure to just be able to focus on work without all their personal drama. They seem to have plenty of time and energy for bitching and complaining and finding fault about this, that, and the other thing. Meanwhile, I’m dealing with a constant sense of illness and vertigo, a spouse who is having increasing health issues, parents who are ageing and siblings who are making really bad decisions, and the challenges of vacating a job that is way past its “best if used-by” date. And I’m starting a business.
It’s a lot to handle, and it’s not going to get any easier, so obviously I don’t have a lot of time to sink into frittering away the hours bitching about how things don’t suit my liking.
Put up or shut up, is where I’m at, these days.
And it feels pretty good, my general sense of illness and fogginess and perpetual low-level frustration notwithstanding. Making hard choices, speaking plainly, and not getting dragged down into all manner of crap, is the way to go for me, these days. Seriously, I have way too much going on, to waste my precious hours on things that will not “bear fruit” as some say.
Welcome to the bare-bones life.
The great thing about having a bare-bones life, is that it has room for me to put anything on the bones that I want. I’m stripping away all manner of distraction and pointless “entertainment” — not watching television shows that don’t interest me… not indulging in conversations that don’t help me… not spending a lot of time surfing around the web, chatting about pointless things on Facebook… really investing time in things that matter most to me, and being present with people around me, not distracted by stupid shit that will pass in a matter of hours, anyway.
Looking at all my disparate interests, over the years, I can see clearly how distraction and disruption have really kept me from moving forward in my life. I haven’t made the progress I wanted to make — not because of lack of talent, but because of lack of focus, and too much clutter. All the distractions and interruptions — from within and without — have kept me in a self-perpetuating pattern of having lots of great ideas, but precious little to show for it. And I have dropped a lot of things that I meant to move forward with, but lost interest in — or got discouraged about.
Well, no more. I am cutting back on massive amounts of distraction, throwing away things that no longer get me where I need to go, and making choices about what I will do with my time and energy and attention.
And it’s pretty incredible, how much more free I feel.
Speaking of making choices, I need to head out to an appointment I’ve got in another hour and a half. I need to shower, change, and get on the road. And take care of a number of things as I go.
Bare bones. Bare bones. Keeping it simple and just moving forward.
Got some decent sleep – almost 8 hours… got up and moved with my weights… and I cleaned my bedroom a little bit.
While my spouse is away this weekend, I’m sleeping downstairs in the living room where it’s cool. It’s been crazy hot, for the past week, and the A/C in my bedroom is on the fritz. On the one hand, it might not make that much of a difference, because I tend to overheat at night, anyway, and the heat might not even get to me. But it’s like a psychological thing with me, so I pulled out the sleeper sofa and made myself cozy in the living room A/C.
I woke up dizzy again, but less than yesterday, and definitely less than 2 days ago. I stumbled/wobbled around for a little bit, till I got my bearings, then I did some exercises to get my system back online. Doing the movement with the weights really seems to help me get my balance – pushing myself a little bit to stay upright with the added weight of the dumbells seems to kick my system into gear. I’m still dizzy, and I’ve got a sick throbbing headache, but I’m better than I was an hour ago. At least I can stay upright and I can see better than I have been, over the past few days.
Yesterday when I was running errands in the morning, I was having a hard time seeing. Nothing would stay in focus, and I couldn’t read very well. Crazy. I had to do a lot of driving around in the morning, so I had to stay 1000% focused on the road, on driving, talking to people, getting things done… all of that. I got some weird looks from people who maybe thought I was a little drunk, but so what. I had things to do, and I was going to get them done. It probably wasn’t the safest thing for me to do – driving around in such a state – but I had no choice. The stuff had to get done. Before noon. There was no waiting and there was no other option. I did manage to get it all done, with some minor snapping at my spouse — they were really pushing me, and I wasn’t in the mood to be pushed. But then I lay down for an hour and listened to my stress-hardiness tape, and I got a little sleep. So I woke up better than I was when I lay down.
Now my spouse is gone for a few days, and I have peace. No panic. No anxiety. No constant hounding about this, that, or the other thing… How do people live like that, with the non-stop worrying? I’ve got my own panic-anxiety issues, but it’s not this constant thing. At least, not anymore. Once upon a time, it was, so I know what that’s like.
The thing I don’t get is how someone can let themself stayin that state, year after year. It’s like my spouse isn’t happy if they’re not stressed out about something. Then again, I know what that’s like, too, so I need to have some damn’ compassion, already.
Yeah, okay. Point taken. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming about my own stuff and my own life and what I’m doing to take care of myself and keep myself out of trouble…
After I exercised, I went upstairs to grab some clean clothes, and I noticed how messy my bedroom is. I sleep in a separate room, because my spouse stays up late and then reads for hours, and it’s impossible for me to sleep through the night with them crawling in and out of bed and keeping the light on. They also need to have one of those salt lamps on at all times — apparently it cleans the air? If nothing else, it makes them feel safe – they cannot stand a totally dark room. It just terrifies them, I guess because of bad things that once happened in dark rooms when they were a kid?
I don’t have those issues. I like a completely dark room. The light of the salt lamp made me nuts, and they were not going to change, so I relocated to the guest bedroom some time ago. I have to say, it’s been really good to have control over my own sleeping space. I went out and got some light-blocking curtains, hung some new curtain rods, and now I’ve got a veritable cave that is pitch dark when I arrange the curtains correctly — even in daytime. It is amazing – what a huge relief it was, when I first started sleeping there. No more salt lamp light. No more being woken at 2 a.m. by someone getting into bed, no more sound of pages turning in bed beside me. And I could stretch out and toss and turn to my heart’s content and sweat like I was in a sauna, without someone pitching a fit.
People tend to think that sleeping apart means spouses are incompatible, or their relationship is on the rocks. In some ways, that is true for us. We have seen better days. However, sleeping apart has actually helped our relationship over the years. The biggest hurdle we’ve had to overcome with regard to sleeping apart, is the internal bias against it — getting ourselves used to the idea that this is a good thing and not a sign that we can’t be married anymore. Once that was overcome, things got a lot better, and now I’m feeling 100% fine with the sleeping arrangement.
So, back to the cleaning bit — I picked up around my bedroom a bit, which was overdue. It was starting to look like a — well, never mind what it was starting to look like. For some reason, I couldn’t get started with picking up — I would just drop clothing into an appropriate pile and move on. It wasn’t terrible — not like you see on “Hoarders” — but it was getting to be a bit much.
So, I took 15 minutes and got rid of the piles. Folded up t-shirts and jeans and put them in my closet. Sorted the socks and underwear and put them in their respective drawers. I could have done more, but that was enough for the moment. It made a noticeable difference, and that’s fine. I’ll get to the rest of it later.
Cleaning is something I really need to do better at. I keep pretty busy, and then I get distracted and don’t spend enough time cleaning up after myself. I don’t live in filth, by any stretch — the house is clean and functional and fairly well-organized. On the other hand, there are a bunch of piles of stuff — papers and miscellaneous items — around the house. I’m looking at a pile of papers right now. They will be easy to deal with, if I just take a few minutes to do so. The trick is just spending a few minutes, which is hard for me to do.
I think part of the reason I don’t pick up more often is that I have a hard time stopping, once I start. I sort out one pile, then I’m in the swing of things, and I sort out another pile… and another… and another… until I’ve taken care of a bunch of things, and it’s all good, but I have lost track of time and I’m behind on other things. Later, when I think about cleaning, I have this association in my head that it will take me hours to do the work, and it will set me back on other things I’m supposed to be doing. It’s unconscious, and it’s pernicious, and I need to find a way around it.
So, here’s my new strategy for cleaning, which is very similar to other strategies I have set for myself lately — only give myself a short period to do it. Limit the period I’m going to do it, and then stop when the time is up. I’ve got a timer I bought a number of years ago for exactly this purpose, but after using it for about six months, I got bored with it. I also got sick of the ear-piercing beep, so I decided to not time myself anymore. But I can start using it again, and that will be fine. Heck, I can use the timer on the stove to time myself, since that’s a lot less obnoxious.
Sounds like a plan.
So, life is good. I got almost 8 hours of sleep last night, I woke up feeling pretty rested — albeit pretty dizzy and with a sick headache. I got my exercise in. And I cleaned a little bit, which is good.
I’ve got a lot of things I want to do today – I just need to get myself on a timed schedule for much of them, because I’m noticing that the same thing that keeps me from cleaning, keeps me from starting other things — I anticipate them being so big and taking so long, that they will consume me and I will get lost in them and not do the other things I need to do.
Breaking them all up in chunks will fix that. And sticking to that “deal” I’m making with myself, to ONLY do things for as long as I give myself, is essential.
Speaking of cleaning out, I just cleared out the old “drafts” section of my blog, removing a number of posts I had started before, but either never finished, or had the good sense to not publish. It feels pretty good to be done with it – those are a handful of things I don’t need to think about anymore.
There’s plenty else to think about, quite frankly. Plenty.
I made a bit more of a dent in my basement this morning… and I need to go pick up some disinfectant spray and also some rubber cleaning gloves. It’s getting pretty nasty in some of the corners. It’s amazing what can take up residence there. Fortunately, no cockroaches or termites. Just mice. Very resourceful mice that made nests in some very opportune spots where there was no movement… for years. Now I’m moving things around. And setting traps. I’ve got six traps set in the basement alone. We’ll see what comes of it. I need to set other traps elsewhere in the house, as well. We’re out in the woods… and those rodents know a good, safe place when they see it.
But this is my watch. And this is my home. They can live outside. I cannot. So, it’s time to get hyper-territorial and make it clear who owns this space.
That would be me.
As nasty as this clean-up business is, it’s going to lead to other things. Better things.
But for now, I’ve worked enough to make a dent, and I’m pretty worn out. Didn’t sleep well, last night. Slept, but not as long as I was hoping. So, back to bed. There will be more work to do later. To make room for what’s next.
Been cleaning my basement and garage since the holidays. Got a good start, a few days before New Years, and now the work continues. It’s hard to believe how much stuff has accumulated — some of it for no apparent reason. It’s also hard to believe how easy it is to make a little bit of stuff look like a lot – just because it’s not organized very well.
I’ve been working my way through the basement, most of all. The garage has a bunch of stuff that needs to go away, and I don’t have money for a junk person right now – that will have to wait for Spring. For the basement, there’s a lot I can do – I just need to be smarter about it, and see where everything fits. It’s dirty and dusty and needs to be cleaned out – dirty work, for sure. But the end result is space to work and move and repair and invent (I’m back at working on some shop projects again, which is really great – very therapeutic).
And who knows – by the time the month is up, I might even have those shelves up — I bought the brackets and wood about 10 years ago, and I was meaning to put up the shelves. But a couple of years went by… and then I fell… and everything fell apart. Now I’m back in the swing of things, collecting my tools and organizing everything and discovering stuff I bought back when, but completely forgot about. Now I can do something with them.
This feels really good. I’m getting parts of my life back, bit by bit. Getting organized. Getting collected. Making more room.
Room to breathe.
It’s funny, how clutter just sucks the life out of me. It’s not like I’m a neat freak or anything, but having to figure out where things are and where I put things and what goes where… it’s a real time sink. It’s a drain. It’s hard enough, sometimes, just dealing with things in an ideal situation, but when I add the work of looking through stuff, trying to find things I’ve misplaced, trying to remember where such-and-such is… it just takes a lot of energy and attention that I could be using for other things.
But this is how it’s become for me. Something happened to me after my fall in 2004, where all of a sudden, nothing really made much sense to me. And I couldn’t figure out how to organize stuff. I would just put things down and walk away… hope for the best…. or just forget about it. Literally. I have found Christmas presents from prior years that I completely forgot I’d received. And some of them would have come in handy, during that window in time when I’d forgotten about them. Other things, I have — somewhere — and I know they’re there… but I have no idea where they are… which is a bummer, because I could really use them.
Oh, well… I will get there. I don’t know what it is about this year — maybe the whole “world is gonna end” business gave me the sense that I/we got a second chance, and now I want to make the most of it — but I really want to put things in order this year. I’m starting off strong, too — getting things together that have been languishing in disarray for far too long. And making space for myself to move and work and think.
Eventually I will have to work on the rest of the house, as well. It’s not awful, but it’s not the way I want it to be. My study is in disarray. My downstairs living space is full of piles of paper and various items that have nowhere official to “live”. It’s not dirty, but it’s cluttered in places, and I want to do something about that. There is a lot to be done, and what I wouldn’t give for a month (or two) off to just clean and organize. But for now, I’ll make do with what I have.
Speaking of which, it’s time to finish my coffee and head downstairs – to get my life back.