I’ve been trying like crazy to whittle down my list of Things That Must Be Done, and over the weekend, I made some good progress.
I actually got the basement sorted, just a little bit more. Many months ago (was it actually a year ago? that’s possible), I un-boxed a ton of stuff we’ve had in our basement for years and years. This is stuff we inherited when my spouse’s parents passed away… stuff we packed up over numerous moves, and then never unpacked… stuff we just couldn’t deal with at the time, and put down on a shelf, to decide about later.
Later never came.
Oh, actually, it did come. The decision part just never followed.
So, being concerned about the “stash” becoming a condominium for mice, I went on a multi-day campaign last year to unbox everything that was packed in cardboard and wrapped in newspaper, and I re-boxed everything in soft paper towels and clear plastic containers that have sealable lids.
And it was good.
Except, for that last piece of the process — the collection of trinkets and tschaschkes that I didn’t have a container for. I put them all out on a big folding table, planning to box them up when I picked up some additional containers. I got the containers. But I never boxed them up. And as a result, I’ve been “threading the needle” in my basement, just to get to the water softener when I need to refill the potassium chloride. It’s been a pain in my a**, and I’ve wanted to do something about it for months — actually, more like a year.
But I couldn’t.
Well, this weekend, I decided I’d had enough, and I decided to make a go of it. I told myself I’d only spend 30 minutes working on the task, and that made it easier. I got myself a nice sweet juice drink, and I took some music with me to listen to while I worked. And as I got into wrapping everything up and placing it carefully in the container, I found I was making good progress, so I didn’t need to stop at 30 minutes.
And in fact, it took me less than an hour to get it all done.
So, I’ve been inconvenienced (along with the workmen who’ve needed to get through my basement to fix the furnace and water heater), for a year, over something that took less than an hour to sort out.
Yeah, that would be me, sometimes.
Because it wasn’t just about the job. It was about this nagging sense of failure I have at everything else in my basement — the vestiges of projects I started and then could never finish… the building supplies and handyman remnants of my past life, when I was so strong and with-it, and I had all these plans that I could follow up on… before I fell and got hurt in 2004.
All the memories of years gone by just flood in, all my failures with family coming to mind, as I look at the items on the shelves, and remember how much I loved the people I’ve lost, and I think about how much of a challenge I always was for them. And it’s remembering all the ways that they (especially my in-laws) were challenges for me — the betrayals, the fights, the disloyalty, the gossip, cutting me out of wills and family news because I wasn’t “one of them”. I wasn’t from the world that my in-laws inhabit, and they’ve always kept me at arm’s distance, even though I’ve never done anything other than love and care for and support my spouse — one of their own.
Going down in the basement and spending time there isn’t just about stuff. It’s not just about organizing. It’s also facing my past — the disappointments, the frustrations — and all the stuff from Before.
But now, at least, I got that piece done. So I don’t have to look at it. I don’t need to constantly crawl over it… be reminded of it… factor it in. I am slowly getting my basement back. One of these years, I’m sure it will be in the kind of shape I want it to be.
After going through all the pain of sorting through my taxes from several years, I am strongly motivated to do things very differently this year, than in past years.
What became very clear to me, in the course of sorting through all my past records, is that lack of organization has really messed me up in so many ways, financially speaking. And this is the year to do something about it.
I had not realized — partly because I glossed over certain parts of my tax prep that I thought were “non-essential” — was that there were deductions I could have been taking all along, that I didn’t. Perhaps the tax law has changed, so it’s more prevalent, now, but I uncovered close to $1000 extra dollars that I could deduct, simply by claiming my spouse’s van for business expenses in a different way. They use that van almost primarily for business, and if they didn’t have their work, they wouldn’t be driving it. They put hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles each year on that vehicle specifically for business.
So clearly it counts as a business expense.
Live and learn.
After finalizing the last of my old tax returns, I took some extra hours yesterday to download all my bank statements and put them into a spreadsheet. And I started organizing them and figuring out what can be counted towards what deduction and what kind of income.
And so it starts. In tried doing this a few years back, but I was very unorganized. And I got confused. So just like I did with the refiling of past taxes, I gave up after a very short time. And I never looked back.
I can really tell that my thinking is much more organized than it used to be. This is leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be. I think a number of things have helped me:
First, keeping this blog going.
It disciplines me to organize my thoughts each day — usually first thing in the morning. Because I’ve got over 500 followers, and more keep joining, I really feel a responsibility to write something useful and meaningful, not just toss a bunch of blather out on the screen.
Second, the logic work I’ve been doing.
I’ve been specifically working with logic problems for about a year and a half. I come up with a statement, and then I prove it to myself on paper with a detailed step-by-step explanation. I don’t do it for others, rather for myself. I’m my biggest critic, after all, and if I can’t convince myself, I’m not going to convince anyone else. I really believe it’s helped me collect and organize my thoughts in ways that few other exercises have.
Third, working with a lot of different kinds of people and organizing them to get things done.
In my job, I am in charge of making sure people get things done, so that’s really forced me to think in organized terms that direct people in a certain way. I’ve had to really dig deep to learn how to do this … and I’m still learning. And it’s doing wonders for my ability to gather, process, and organize information. That whole process actually started in my last job, so now I’ve been at it for about five years, and work has been hugely helpful in getting me more cognitively functional all across the board,
So, yes, I’m better organized in my thinking. And now I need to get better organized with my doing. I need to get my papers in order — all the bank statements in a folder together, all the bills in a folder together. It’s really a question of just having a place to put them all. I need 3-ring binders, for sure. That is a simple fix for what amounts to an incredible amount of needless complexity in my life.
I bitch and moan about how complicated the modern world is, but I also don’t do myself any favors, at times. If things are too confusing at a 50,000 level, then I need to get in closer — more frequently — and take a closer look on a regular basis. I can break this down into more manageable pieces — and I can also use it to my professional benefit, because my household expenditures numbers are data I can use to create meaningful visualizations that will not only be good experience for me with the new programs I’m trying to learn, but also help me understand my world better.
The beauty part of all this is, because we’re now halfway through April, I have three months’ worth of numbers to plug into my 2015 taxes spreadsheets, and I can get a jump on things.
Plus, if I keep on top of it, next year I won’t get sidetracked by all my disorganization and freeze response, and end up pushing against the deadline to get my taxes filed. AND I can have a good sense along the way, of where things are problematic, financially, and need to be fixed.
I’m also going to continue with my logic problems. They really seem to be helping me. That, and being really engaged with my work… letting myself mess up without getting too bent out of shape about it… learning as I go… it’s all good.
So, it’s Friday. Finally. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is a huge relief to be done with the week. On the other hand, I have so much to do and so many deadlines, that taking a few days off just makes me dread next week.
I’ve been doing a lot of dreading, lately. I am behind on a number of of my projects – there are just too many of them, and they are all TOP PRIORITYin the eyes of others. I’m keeping things running that need to keep going, and I’m also working on building new pieces of the puzzle that is my occupation. And the new pieces are getting intense push-back from people who want things to stay as they were.
Which all seems pretty unfair to me – it wasn’t my idea to make all these changes. My job is just to make them happen. But I get the brunt of people’s objections and opposition, while management sits back and lets the underlings duke it out. Which is incredibly uncomfortable and bothersome for me.
Really, what I want for my life is some peace. I have had a hell of a decade, and I value peace and common sense a whole lot more than I did when I was in my 30’s. I’m nearing the end of my 40’s, now, and I feel it very strongly. I have changed. My injuries have changed me. The upheavals of my life have changed me. All the drama I have gone through in the past ten years since my TBI in 2004 has changed me. It’s almost like life was on the lookout for my 40th birthday, and as soon as it was in sight, all hell broke loose. It didn’t even wait for my 40th birthday, because everything started to come unraveled a few years before… which contributed to my fall down those stairs in ’04.
Interesting… I’m seeing a lot of 0’s and 4’s in the last paragraph. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…
Anyway, enough bitching about how hard life has been. Everybody has it hard, in one way or another, and it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. Rather than fighting things and resisting them and wishing they were different, I could be facing up to what’s ahead of me and just going for it, treating it like a learning experience, rather than proof that I’m a screw-up and will never get anything right.
When I approach everything like a big ole learning experience, so much the better. Teach this old dog some new tricks, and see how far it can go.
It really does take the pressure off.
And that makes all the difference in the world. It changes the tone of my whole experience, which is exactly what I need. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize just how elusive true happiness can be, and I value inner peace and equanimity all the more. I understand more than ever just how destructive unchecked anger can be, I know from experience just how much time is wasted by indulging fleeting emotions and giving them the ability to mushroom into Major Events. I have watched the last 10 years of my life be undermined and shredded and dragged down by rage and anxiety and poor self-management, and I have seen years of quality experience prior to that go wasted, because I was too busy being angry or hurt or confused or frustrated or worked up about something, to make the most of my past.
And today, as I look ahead to a day I’m not looking forward to, when I’m going to be working with people who are NOT on the same wavelength and revel in all sorts of discord and disruption and downright treachery, the painful truth about what my TBI cost me, is very clear to me – front and center.
Days like today are one of the big reasons I am so intent on my TBI recovery — regaining my equilibrium… mastering my emotions… taking care of my physical health… fine-tuning my behavior and how I think about myself and others. I don’t much care for the situation I’m in, and I need to build up the resources and the ability to extract myself from this situation.
The first step is extracting my mind from a situation of dread and avoidance. I hate dealing with some of the folks I have to deal with… come to think of it, I hate dealing with just about everybodyI have to deal with. But the thing that makes it harder, is avoiding and refusing to engage with them. When I just step up and do what needs to be done, the wheels start turning, and the anxiety and frustration really decrease. Even though I’m not happy, and I really dislike dealing with these folks, still, I’m doing what needs to be done … to get the hell out. I have to deliver a project before I leave, and there is a big-ass deadline on it. And I need to have so much done before that date. Crazy. But as long as I hold back and don’t do what I need to do, it’s even crazier.
So, enough procrastinating, enough avoiding. It’s time to get on with the day, go deal with these … people, and take yet more steps towards getting the hell OUT. Time to make this day what Iwant it to be.
Good grief. I’ve been trying to get this one thing done for days, and it’s just not happening. I’ve been trying to get it done for weeks, actually, and someone is waiting for me to finish it. It’s an agreement I’m crafting with another collaborator, who can help me get one of my new ventures off the ground, and who is rarin’ to go.
It’s important that I sort this out and put things in place. No, not important. It’s critical. And yet I can’t seem to get started on it.
It’s just anxiety, really. It feels like there’s a lot hanging on it, and if something goes wrong with it, it can lead to a whole world of hurt. I’m sure that’s part of what it is. There’s something that just keeps me from DOing. I get stuck in my head, and it can get pretty dark and musty in there.
The one thing that saves me is when I break things down into manageable pieces and take them one by one. Not take on completing the entire task, but take on just sitting down with one thing and doing that. And half the time I find that when I do that, I can move on to get other things done, as well.
The trick is “chunking out” the big parts into smaller pieces that I can get my head around.
When I take it all at once, it’s just way too much.
So, this is interesting. I had two full days to get a lot done, but that backfired on me. I got almost nothing done that I intended to, including a couple of Very Important Tasks that I need to have completed by next weekend, which will set the stage for how things turn out in the coming months. I had planned to spend a lot of time on them over the weekend, and really dig in. I was really looking forward to it, too. But as it turned out, I ended up spending most of Saturday doing errands for the house and sleeping… and I spent most of the day yesterday helping my spouse get ready for their upcoming business trip, as well as going to see a double-feature movie with some friends last night.
It’s good that I took time for myself, got some rest, and saw friends. I don’t do enough of that, as it is. But the things I needed to do, were things I really needed to do, and they didn’t happen. That’s not good.
A combination of things got me in trouble.
First, looking back, I was way too optimistic about how much time I would have over the weekend. Seriously, I needed to rest. A lot. I push myself so hard during my weeks, it’s quite unrealistic of me to think I’ll keep up that pace during the weekend.
Second, I gave myself way too much time to do the different things I was planning. I tend to think that having a long stretch of uninterrupted time is going to help me focus in and get the job done. But in fact, having a big block of time overwhelms me, and then I end up doing a million other things — big and small — because I think, “I have enough time to do the important things later. I just need to warm myself up.” The thing about “warming myself up” is that I tend to wear myself out, in the process.
Third, I had too long a list of things to do. And the things on the list were too big, to begin with. I didn’t just pick a few pieces of those critical things I needed to get done and focus on them. I put the whole honkin’ beasts on the list. It was like being a near-sighted rock climber who’s looking at a massive wall of rock with no visible foot- or hand-holds. There was no way I was going anywhere.
Fourth, I am incredibly nervous about this next stage of my projects, and I just got freaked out… and ran away.
Fifth, I isolated. I didn’t communicate with anyone on my project(s). I just kind of disappeared. I just couldn’t deal, so I didn’t.
Looking back, I’m very disappointed with myself. I did some healthy things right this weekend — and to be honest I really felt great. But I also floundered around a bit, and I’m coming out of the whole experience feeling like I’ve failed. Fact of the matter is, I did get good rest over the weekend, and I did take good care of myself in a non-work way. But I didn’t live up to my promise(s) to myself, and that really bothers me.
The problem wasn’t what happened – it was what I expected to happen. It’s what I promised myself — that I could not deliver. I bit off too much, and then just spit it all out and (metaphorically) went fishing. What else could I do? I had set myself up to fail, even before I began.
I think that rather than setting myself up for failure, one weekend after another, I need to have a better plan. I need my Saturdays and Sundays to catch up with myself and my home and my marriage — I need my weekends OFF. That way, I can rest and rejuvenate and get myself back to where I want to be on Monday. There are ample hours in the week to take care of the things I need to do — and the one project-related thing I did right over the weekend, was to reschedule some of my work for the next three days, when I’m flying solo and I have the house to myself and am not distracted by domestic demands.
I also need to be more realistic about what I’ll wantto do on my weekends. Yes, I can tell myself I’m going to do this or that, but when push comes to shove, my heart often isn’t in it. By Fridays, I am pretty wiped out, to tell the truth, and my reasoning abilities are starting to lag behind how I am on Mondays. I have a bad habit of loading up on all kinds of planning on Thursdays and Fridays, which blocks out my weekend and fills it up with “must-do’s” as though I have no life at all. It’s a pattern that I need to get out of. And now that I’m aware of it, I can do just that.
So, what’s next?
List out the critical things I need to do this coming week, break them down into little pieces, and then take them just One At A Time.
If I find myself going beyond my allotted time, I need to stop myself and take a break. I instinctively push myself time and again, because I am getting tired and I don’t realize it. The break that I take can be rest, or it can be doing something else. But I need to break the momentum.
I also need to be easy on myself and realize the good that I did for myself this weekend. Life happens. I needed to sleep, and also to be social. I need a well-rounded life, not a constant grind. And that’s what I had this weekend. Not bad, really. Not bad at all.
Last — and not least — I need to get out of my head and just get on with things. Too much time on my hands opens my mind to all sorts of distractions, and when I get thinking about things too much, then I end up stuck in my head, which is never good.
And now the week is waiting, along with everything I’m setting out to do.
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.
It’s official – I am making myself crazy with procrastination, and having so many things hanging over my head.
Good news, though — on Sunday, I finally tackled four very important pieces of federal and state gov’t paperwork that I need to get on with my life. I had been putting them off for weeks, and I finally got myself to just sit down with it on Sunday morning, spend the day working through it — reading and reading and re-reading everything till my eyes were crossed — and then filling out the forms, making the copies, and mailing them out on Monday morning with the proper certifications.
I was absolutely euphoric on Sunday. It felt so good to get it all done. I was a little down on myself for not doing it all right away several weeks ago, but when I thought about it, I realized the timing was perfect, and there was no fault, no blame. AND I finished it prior to my 2-month deadline (in July), so that is big progress for me.
In the past, I would have waited till July, then rushed at the end, and possibly made a mistake that could have cost me big.
I am having some important phone calls with people this week about next steps, and where I used to dread and fear those calls, I am looking forward to them now. Because I know how to use my tools, and I have some good successes behind me in communicating and getting my point across.
It’s very exciting. And even though I am wiped out (I got about 5-1/2 hours of sleep last night), I am feeling really relaxed. I know I’m not as sharp as I could be, but I am making progress, and that’s what counts.
It’s turning out to be a beautiful day. I got to bed early last night — around 10 — and I was up at 5:30, after lying in bed resting (and observing my head getting going) for about half an hour. I’m working on getting myself out of bed whenever I am awake (or my head is awake) and not just lying there. I did try to focus on my breathing and just relax, which was fine, but my head was upand ready to go… so up I got, too.
Then I had some breakfast — not the kind of big breakfast I had been building up to over the past months… somehow my portions were getting a little bigger each week, and I was starting to drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning, instead of one. Yesterday, when I cut back and just had a small cuppa joe and an apple, I actually felt really great all morning — started to get a little antsy around lunchtime, and then was increasingly on edge by the end of the day (pro’lly as much due to running out of steam as being hungry). So, I went with the minimalist approach and kept to a strict 3/4 cup of granola, some rice milk, and a cup of coffee that was not splashing over the brim.
I’ve got two whole days ahead of me — praise be. And I got a whole lot done yesterday. I know, because I sat down with my list after I had my breakfast and looked over the whole slew of things I wrote down that I had to do. Sure enough, I accomplished everything that hadto be done — and then some. I exercised… I picked up my package from the post office (alas, it was not the exact item I thought I had purchased, which is actually fine, because now I know what to look out for)… I went to the bank to deposit a check… I went online and moved some money around to cover bills I have had to pay which have not been drawn against my account just yet… I checked on the due date for a very important expense I have coming up in another month or so… I bought a new window fan to replace the one that died in the bathroom… I tended to my lawn and took in the barrel of weeds that I filled up last weekend, and then forgot about so it was standing beside the front porch for the past three days, getting all funky in the hot, wet weather… and then I took my nap. And in between all these things, I also did some research for one of my projects, pricing items at hardware stores and learning my way around towns that are near where I live, but I normally don’t spend much time in.
Not bad for a day’s work. By the end of the day, I was done. Baked at 9:30 p.m., which felt pretty great — except that my spouse was keen on me staying up with them till 2 a.m. watching movies, which is about the last thing I needed. After a testy conversation about how much I need sleep and how I’m not really interested in staying up till 2 a.m. because I really need to keep on a regular sleep schedule, I managed to extricate myself from the living room and crawl into bed for a good night’s rest. I was concerned that I might be too sore to fall asleep, but I had no trouble with that. I did wake up before 5 in a sweat with shooting pains in my lower back and legs (all that bending and standing work on the lawn does a number on me), but when I focused on breathing and relaxing, it subsided, so that was good.
Nothing like starting the day with shooting pains… as much as I wanted to just get up when I woke up, at least this way, I started the day without too much anguish.
And then I had my breakfast… a small-scale, nutritious start that tasted all the better because I went without, yesterday. My 22-hour fasting experience (I had my last food at 10 p.m. the night before, and I ate at 8 p.m. last night) was pretty enlightening, making me quite aware of how much agitation is lurking at the edges of my attention. People I was mad at, situations, circumstances, details that got under my skin… Any number of things were hanging out, waiting to jump into view to get me going. Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of really great things that came to mind to get me going.
I’m sure it’s just bad habits of thought, because I’ve trained myself over years to generate energy by getting pissed off over bad things. I haven’t trained myself (yet) to generate energy by getting excited over good things. So my go-to default for getting my energy going is to find something to get pissed off at, and then think about that till I’m revved up and rarin’ to go.
Not so hot. Is that really how I want to spend my life and time and energy — being pissed off and upset about things?That’s the thought that came to mind yesterday as I was driving around, feeling miffed about this or that or the other thing. I have a three day weekend, and I’m going to spend it dwelling on sh*t? Silly.
So, I spent a fair amount of time yesterday adjusting my attitude and repeating “Hormesis” to myself — which is the principle of using large doses of stressors for short periods of time to build up immunity to them. Things like cold, hunger, fatigue — all these (among others) are things that you can use hormesis to overcome, and when I thought “Hormesis” at times when my patience was starting to wear thin, it calmed me down, because it reminded me why I was doing this — to train myself to just deal. It also reminded me that the stressors I was experiencing at that moment were fleeting and temporary. I would be eating within hours. I was in training. I could take a chill pill, already.
And that worked.
The other thing that worked, was sticking to my list. I’ve been reading about the usefulness of everyday rituals in making certain activities automatic, so you can focus your attention on other more important things. Rituals and automatic activities free up your mind to focus on the finer points of things, rather than the gross logistics of everyday life. I have found this to be very true for myself. Having a morning ritual of rising at a certain time, stretching, brushing my teeth, washing my face and hands in cold water, and making breakfast in a specific order, frees up my mind by not having to think through every single next step I need to take. I don’t have to figure out what’s next. I don’t have to figure anything out. I can let my mind wake up at its own pace, while my body goes about the work of getting started.
Lists do the same thing for me. When I was really struggling with my everyday life, several years ago, and I wasn’t able to start my days without some sort of meltdown or freak-out, I took to making step-by-step lists for myself each and every morning. I had everything planned right down to the amount of time I spent on each thing. Some people acted like I was crazy to be doing that, and they insisted that I didn’t need that “crutch”, but it helped me immensely. It helped me to regulate the details of my morning, and it freed up my brain to relax because I knew exactly what was going to come next.
All I had to do was follow instructions. Easy-peasy. And it helped.
Now I have rituals in the morning rather than lists, but those rituals came out of the list.
Either way, they allow me to focus my time and attention on things that are more complex — and more fulfilling — than the drudgery of “what’s next”.
And that’s a good thing.
Today, I have more items on my to-do list. I have emails I need to read and respond to. I have things I’ve been needing to do, and haven’t gotten to because I’ve been so busy this past week. Some of them are more fun than others, and I need to arrange them so that I have some good rewards after I take care of the less fun things. Some of them are downright nerve-wracking, because they involve some complex thinking and I’m concerned I will screw them up.
Then again, I do have 2 days left in the weekend, so I can take care of some of this tomorrow.
That takes the pressure off. It makes things easier to start, when I take the pressure off.
Speaking of getting started, I guess I’ll get on with my day. I’m up early, so I actually have time for a walk before I start all this. Excellent idea — off I go…
But I got a lot done yesterday that was hanging over my head, and again this morning I got things done that were — again — hanging over my head.
I have effectively cleared out a handful of things that were taking up space and time in my head, and now I am free to do my main work today. I cleared out a noontime “optional” meeting, so I have a little time to step away and take a breather around mid-day, too.
This is working out well. I’m tired, but that’s nothing new. And I have freed up a ton of new energy to be able to focus on a big project I have in front of me.
See, that’s the thing — when I put things off, they back up and take up a lot of extra attention, with me trying to shuffle and juggle them with the other things I have going on. It’s just so counter-productive. At the time, it feels like I’m energizing myself, but over the long haul, it takes an increasingly demanding toll on my total resources — when I don’t have extra to spare.
The great thing about clearing things off my plate is that I have all this energy free up, and as it sinks in that I don’t have to do such-and-such, I feel increasingly relaxed and more in command of my life. Like I’ve got more mastery. And I’m the one running my life… rather than running from my life… which is what happens when I have all sorts of to-do things on my ever-expanding list.
Right here, right now, I’ve overcome two HUGE roadblocks that had me stymied for months — literally months. I’m freed up from them, and I have my day ahead of me to do some great work. I feel so much more relaxed, now that I won’t have to deal with this boss from hell and their mind games. That energy drain has also been lifted off me, and I can get on with my day — and my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I go about doing things in my daily life. From my work habits to my rest habits, I’ve been examining the patterns and looking for explanations… or ways I can improve.
One of the habits I have, that I’ve had my reservations about, is procrastination. I tend to wait on doing things like tasks and obligations and things I HAVE to do, often until the very last minute. Sometimes it introduces stress to my life, and it sometimes makes me a little ill. I also sometimes get in trouble, almost missing flights and being late on deliveries. And at tax time, it’s always interesting as I realize preparing my taxes is a lot more involved than I anticipated.
I’ve tried to change this for years. It’s caused me trouble that I think I can avoid. And I have felt like there was something wrong with me, for procrastinating.
But you know what? I don’t really feel that way, anymore. I’ve realized that procrastination actually serves a purpose with me — it gives me a certain control over my time, a certain latitude, that I don’t have, when I’m working on other people’s timeframes. Sure, I could start early on things and get them done. But then someone would give me something else to do, and I’d never get any rest. Especially at work. I’m not in a position where I can just tell people “No, I’m not going to do that,” without consequence. If I finish one thing, people are going to give me more crap to do, and then when will I rest and recuperate?
The way I do things — tending to the things I want to do first, and then taking care of other people’s stuff — actually works for me. And if I don’t get too wigged out over the pressure, I can actually do well. The pressure focuses me and it gets me involved, so long as I don’t let it get to me. If I tell myself I’ve messed up by waiting till the last minute, I make things harder for myself, because then I spend all this time feeling badly about myself and using up valuable time and energy being hard on myself.
And that’s no good.
If I just let myself be, however, and I just go with what I’ve got, things work out much better for me — and everyone. Obviously, other people aren’t all that pleased that I’m moving at my own pace, but I can’t be driven like a mule, just to make them happy.
This is a bit of a breakthrough for me. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to “turn this around” and keep myself from procrastinating. I’ve gotten so down on myself over this habit, telling myself that it threatens my success and well-being. I’ve convinced myself it’s unprofessional and slacker-like. But that’s not true. I just do things on my own schedule and in my own time. I do get things done — just not in this neat, tidy little package that makes everyone else comfortable and happy.
See, here’s the thing — I’ve also been thinking about this — people get anxious. They get scared. They get nervous, and they want assurances. It’s nice to be able to allay people’s fears, but it’s not my job to make sure everyone around me is feeling good and fine all the time. If people are nervous, they’re nervous. If they’re afraid, that’s really on them. It doesn’t reflect on me or my value or abilities as a person. If my boss(es) are anxious and frustrated, it may not have anything to do with me, so there’s only so much I can do to allay those fears and reservations. The main thing is to keep lines of communication open with people, so they can know what’s going on. But bending over backwards to make sure everyone else has peace of mind… while my own peace of mind suffers… not good.
So, I’m changing my mind about procrastination. It serves a purpose, letting me spend time on what I want to do, before I start serving the needs of others. It also provides valuable focus and impetus, when I’m “late” with my projects. So long as I don’t let the pressure get to me, I can make really good progress and do it in short order… and be reasonably rested and mentally prepared when I start a project.
My time needs to be my own. My time IS my own. When I lay claim to it, defend it, and manage it the way I want to manage it.