Sorting out my weekend

house-scaffoldI’ve got a bunch of stuff I need to do around the house, this weekend. A number of things are leftovers from past weeks, when I didn’t follow through and do what I was supposed to. A number of things are leftovers from past years, when I was too “taxed” to get it all done.

And it needs to get done.

I’ve got to clean. I’ve got to organize. There are things I started over the winter, that I planned to finish up… and then never did. My basement is almost un-navigable, because of all the stuff I left out. I re-organized and re-boxed a bunch of items, and I left just a handful of things out on a table, to wrap up later. But for some reason, that never happened.

So, it’s got to happen this weekend. I have to be able to walk through my basement. Especially because I went to so much trouble to clean it up, in the first place. Now, it’s even harder to get through than before I “fixed” it. And this will never do.

Just gotta suck it up and dive in. Just do it. Start somewhere – anywhere – and make at least some progress.

There are a lot of things I have let slide, or just didn’t do thoroughly, because I wasn’t systematic about it — or disciplined. I get tired, then I get distracted.

And things fall apart.

And then I feel like an idiot (yet again).

And it seems the world is re-confirming that I’m really not all that competent, and any sane and normal person would be able to do what I can’t, so what the hell is wrong with me?

What the hell is wrong with me?!

Of course, this sort of self-talk is all very counter-productive and pointless. It’s not a good use of time, and I know it.

So, rather than getting caught up in that, I’ll do something about the situation. I’ve got my list of things I need to do on the house, and I’m going to take them one at a time.

That’s the way to do it – one thing at a time, with complex things broken down into smaller sections. I am a very visual person, so I can “see” how it should all happen. It’s just translating that vision into action that gets me.

It’s made me feel stupid for far too long. Time to do something about it — just get going, and be proud of myself for simply starting.


Fantastic day, yesterday

You just gotta keep going till you've covered all the bases
You just gotta keep going till you’ve covered all the bases

Yesterday was a banner day.

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.


Cleaning up my act, uncovering potential

Sort of how my space looks - better in some ways, worse in others
Sort of how my space looks – better in some ways, worse in others

I’m entering week 4 on the new job, and it’s been going well. I’m settled in there, and I’m adjusting to the new schedule pretty well. It’s taking a lot more out of me than I would like, but that’s a combination of the commute and the nature of the work. It’s a very social workplace, which is a huge challenge for me. I prefer to tuck myself away in a corner and noodle on problems, but the whole new job thing is really structured around interacting with a lot of people to solve problems together.

So, it’s good practice for me. Keeping to myself tends to get me down, in any case.

I find myself and my priorities really changing dramatically. I have let go of a lot of the old projects I had waiting in the wings for so long. All in all, I had over 5 different mega-projects that I was actively working on. I was making good progress, too. But now they just don’t matter to me as much, anymore. I think it’s a result of now doing work that actually interests me and is a good match for my personality and skills. All the crap-jobs I’ve had over the years that never challenged me or made the most of my abilities necessitated me looking elsewhere for satisfaction and fulfillment.

I simply could not keep my spirit alive, doing those past jobs without plenty of side projects.

Now, however, I am suddenly feeling no interest at all in those mega-projects. I have pretty much lost interest in them, and all I really want to do now is focus on my day-job, take care of things at home, and live a simple, uncomplicated life.

What a change this is.

And I look around my house and see that I really need to get my act together. Some rooms look like a herd of water buffalo have stampeded through and churned everything up. I’ve got “stuff” from multiple projects lying around in piles, and leftovers from various endeavors scattered about in general disarray.

Precious little of it interests me, anymore, and I really need to clear it up.

I’ve been needing to do this for quite some time, actually. I just couldn’t figure out where and how to start.  Getting started (initiation) tends to be a big problem for me. I get stuck on the simplest things… and then I get down on myself for not being able to start.

But start, I must.  Just dig in, somewhere, and make a start. I have a whole 4-drawer filing cabinet in the corner of my office, just waiting for me to fill it with crap. Some of the drawers are mostly empty, too. But I’ve been stuck. Just looking at the filing cabinet makes me anxious. What if I can’t finish? What if I get turned around and confused, and the end result is worse than when I started? How do I handle this? What can I do?  It’s frustrating and confusing… so I end up doing nothing.

Plus, in the rest of my life, there are a ton of leftovers that are making my life more complex than need be. My winter cleanup clothes from six months ago are still hanging on the backs of dining room chairs. And there are all kinds of boxes from things that came in the mail, just lying around. Birthday and Christmas presents are still sitting in the living room in their gift bags.

Clearly, I need to take some initiative. It doesn’t help that my spouse is declining cognitively, and they add to the problems by just tossing stuff around (their post-stroke, diabetes-influenced issues with initiation and executive function make my challenges look like child’s play – but that’s another post for another time).

And now that fall is fast approaching, I don’t really have much excuse for not sorting things out. It’s fall cleaning time. And magically I am finding more interest and more opportunity for tending to business at hand. The enduring, years-long obsessions with those mega-projects has flown out the window. I frankly don’t give a damn, anymore. They were just windmills I was tilting at for no good reason other than to soothe my anxiety, and now that I’ve got a real job that really uses my skills and abilities, I don’t need them, anymore. They served their purpose.

And it’s time to clear them away.

For good.

There is literally so much stuff in my house that needs to be organized, that some rooms are bordering on hoarder status. Then again, they’re not. We don’t have  piles and piles of crap we never needed and will never use again, that we collected due to severe mental illness or profound impairment. We have piles of crap that is/was useful, and is just poorly organized.

And that’s fixable.

So, right now, as I stand up and get ready for my Sunday morning walk in the woods, I’ll grab just a few things to move to where they really belong. A little work can go a long way, and each day, I can do something that will help. It doesn’t have to be “big bang” to work. Little “bangs” will work just fine.

The space that gets cleared, will make room for more space — different activities — a simpler life. That, in itself, is well worth the momentary confusion and disorientation. The anxiety will work itself out.

And so it goes.


Just get started

I’ve got a big week ahead of me. I’ve got a ton of work on my plate, most of it broken down into little bits and pieces that I can take, one at a time, and really make some good progress with.

I just need to make sure I do what I plan to do.

One of the recurring issues I have has to do with lack of initiative. I have a full life with lots of responsibilities, and I perform at a pretty decent level, as far as anyone else is concerned. Compared to most people, I’m doing okay. But what nobody knows is that I struggle intensely with getting anything at all done. My attention tends to wander and I get caught up in lots of side projects that go nowhere (and are actually more for the sake of soothing my agitation than actually accomplishing anything). I also have a heck of a time just initiating the things I have on my docket for the day.

For some reason, I just can’t get started.

After grappling with this mightily for the past 5-1/2 years (in particular since my fall in 2004), I’ve found a few tricks to get myself going.

  • While I’m thinking about what I need to do, I focus on my breath and take several deep breaths to get myself to relax. This is to keep me from spinning off into all sorts of other sidelines. A lot of times, when I start to get pumped up about something I need to do, I get so pumped up, I end up veering off into other directions and I don’t get started on what I’m supposed to be doing. Relaxing with some deep breathing helps take the edge off my agitation which tends to drive me way “off the reservation” and keeps me from focusing on what I’m supposed to be doing.
  • I also make sure the things I’m supposed to be doing are out on the desk beside me. I try to clear away all other distractions and input, and only have the stuff I’m supposed to be doing, right on hand. This is a very difficult thing for me to do, because my work space tends to be very… abundant. At the very least, I make a point of having my daily activities list in plain view, where I can check it regularly.
  • I turn off my email for the duration of my task. There’s nothing like a blip of an incoming message to distract me… for hours, sometimes. People sometimes get angry that I don’t answer them right away, but they’ll have to wait. If they aren’t properly managing their time, and they’re in a rush over some crisis that could have been avoided with proper planning, it’s not my battle to fight. I have to take care of my own work… first.
  • I limit the amount of time I plan to work on my tasks. This makes them less daunting and it also helps me schedule breaks at needed intervals. If I pick out something to do and “give” myself two hours to do it, the chances me starting it are much less than if I allot myself 30 minutes to it… and then spend the full two hours getting something done. Limiting the amount of time automatically gets me into “do it now” mode, which is helpful.
  • I make a point of taking breaks. I do love my work (most of the time), but I can so caught up  in what I’m doing that I wear myself out, so I need to limit the time  I spend focusing on my work. Fatigue, even if it’s because of an activity  I really enjoy, is still fatigue. And the more tuckered out I am, the less well my brain works. So, I stop myself — sometimes in mid-task — and just walk away. This is something relatively new for me and it doesn’t come naturally after a lifetime of being 200% immersed in my work for hours up on hours at a time, but I’m learning.
  • I do  try to “let myself off the leash” at regular intervals during the day. I’ll go for a walk outside. Or I’ll do a little reading about something that interests me. The challenge with doing this, is keeping myself in check and being able to come back to my work later. The point is to refresh myself and take a break… not fatigue myself even more by over-doing the walk outside or the time spent reading up on the central nervous system.
  • Last but not least, I make a point of reminding myself about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. If I don’t have a clear sense that what I’m doing is going to help me get where I’m going in life, all my motivation dissipates and evaporates. And that’s no good. But if I can keep my life goals in mind, and stay clear on my priorities and the things I want to accomplish in life, that goes a long way towards keeping me on track.

As I said, a lot of this does not come naturally to me, or it’s a real departure from how I’ve always done things. But I’m learning how to do it, and when it works well, it really works well. I’m actually able to get started… and get things done.

Speaking of keeping on track, it’s time to move on to my next activity.


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