Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Of Stress and Goals and Spreadsheets (Row80 Check-in )

free me by Alice Popkorn --flikr

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life

Having just returned from a two month unintended hiatus and finding ROW80 on its end stretch I leaned toward not joining the round at all.  It seemed pointless.

But then I realized there were several points:

  • defining my intent which is an exercise bringing clarity to it
  • announcing my intent which is submitting to accountability
  • confessing failure which is both an exercise in accountability and in redefining intent in light of what does and doesn't work

Round 3 Intentions:

Define my intent for round 4 and work to recover the story dream for Blow Me a Candy Kiss so I can return to the structural rewrite that was interrupted by my furbaby's final illness in late May.


My intent at the end of round 2 was to continue in the same vein as I had been for over a year: the time investment goals, the spreadsheet, the twice a week check-ins.  But then life happened.  For a brief explanation see She's Back.

Some of it was out of my control--a doubling and then tripling of the number of days per week I was on duty with Mom.  For that which was in my control I was choosing differently.

It looked a lot like laziness but I'm not so sure it was.  I think it was burnout.

It began when my furbaby Merlin got sick in late May and my whole world narrowed down to the single focus of nursing him through his ten day approach to the Rainbow Bridge.

Once he was gone (June 4th) I gave myself another week for mourning and doing things that felt good to elevate my mood.  But instead of picking up the old reins after that, I found I was dropping more of them.

Altho my mood would elevate for days at a time it was not stable and the falls were deep and harsh

This looked a lot like depression and probably was but I've come to realize recently that under that depression was profound anger.  As the weeks of June became the weeks of July and then the weeks of August I was acting out in ways comparable to that of a teenager rebelling against authority.

The week Merlin was sick my husband and I put the time-management coaching on hiatus and after Merlin was gone he said he wouldn't be willing to continue where we left off until I got myself back on track.  His point being that I knew what to do and didn't need my hand held again to traverse that same path.

The schedule made me see red.  It brought the raging toddler out kicking and shaking the crib bars.

The one thing I rebelled against the most was taking my Trazadone on time every night. The anti-depressant that is also a sleep aid.  Again, like a toddler and a teen I was rebelling against bedtime.

So I lost the hard won early bird schedule.  Tho there were 3 or 4 24-40 hour days in the last couple months it was more common to be shorting my sleep by one or two or three hours.  Averaging five or six over a week.

Sleep deprivation adds up fast that way.  And this led to a volatile mood and addlepated mistakes from silly to serious. One led to an accident that was potentially life-threatening and left a permanent mark on my chin as an object lesson. (Watch for See the August 12th post Chin Grin to go up retroactively soon, if I remember I'll return and link it here)

All of the books and online material I've been reading on schedules, habits, and time management insist that once the protocols are in place, far from confining they are freeing.

This is because all the minutia of daily life goes on autopilot.  You don't have to invest time or energy into figuring out what happens next.  You can actually use the time you are doing a mundane task to plan upcoming complex tasks, daydream, listen to audiobooks or any number of things of a mental nature.

I do believe that.  With my head.  I think my heart is lagging behind because of a profound sense of failure.  Which was self-created as I am now certain that I was expecting way too much out of myself.  I was establishing unreachable goals and then beating myself up over not reaching them.

One of the biggest factors instigating the unintended hiatus was my inability to get the twice a week check-in post prepped.  Just looking at the spreadsheet made me nauseated.  Thinking about the growing list of time investment goals made me weak-limbed.

I spent a lot of time prepping ROW80 posts and then having to change the timestamp and redo the spreadsheet screenshot and find a filler post to put in the Wednesday or Saturday slot left open.  A few times the ROW80 was ready but I had five or six posts that needed to go up first and couldn't manage to catch up before the ROW80 check-in window closed.

That OCD I had over keeping my string of daily posts unbroken was a slave driver flaying joy off of everything I once rejoiced in.

I'm hoping I will be able to relinquish the need to have an unbroken line of posts.  Both in letting go of most of the filler posts in July and August and in going forward.  But I was only able to convince myself to restart current posting without catching up by keeping the option open of putting up the past due drafts as I get them prepped.  And there is a draft for every single missed day in various stages of readiness--all but a few needing some combination of editing, images, links, labels and fact checks.

So what was I doing with all that freed up time?

  • a lot of on duty days which mean meal prep and clean up twice a day and being available to tend to Mom's needs
  • reading to Mom at both lunch and dinner now
  • a lot of vid chats with Ed that averaged twice a day for a total of two hours until recently when his hours picked up.  Now we have once a day averaging 45 minutes with longer ones on weekends.  Soon we'll be getting even less and it won't get better until after Christmas
  • reading a lot--finishing an average of 2 books a week.  Most were impulse reads not on my IMWAYR? list.
  • writing a lot--personal journaling, long rambling blog posts that never got posted, poetry
  • storyworld dreaming--never lost this habit
  • some fiddling around in the Candy Kiss rewrite file--am both anxious as in eager to get back to work on it and anxious as in wary for loosing the momentum I had just before Merlin got sick was so demoralizing.  It is so hard to get back into the story dream once you've been pulled out
  • email organizing--inbox built up to 12K before I got serious.  I worked it down to 4K with filters by mid August but its back up to 6K again.  Time to start unsubscribing I think
  • Reading AWAI materials (copywriting courses)
  • ebook hunting and calibre library organizing
  • watching 7 months of saved up news pods in two weeks--Rachel and Anderson
  • just recently began watching TV episodes on Netflix again--started with the last season of The 4400
  • a modicum of crochet while listening to news or transformational videos or audios found linked in emails
  • meditating and guided hypnosis
  • watching a lot of uplifting YouTube videos--especially Got Talent and X Factor, giggling babies, cavorting kittens, sassy toddlers and drumming.
  • drumming a lot myself--with my drumsticks on every surface in reach in this room or around the house when I'm home alone.  My favorite is the exercise ball
  • sorting, organizing and rearranging endlessly--significant progress has been made on both the room upstairs that is my closet and office and the boxes downstairs packed for the move last year that need to be unpacked, sorted and repacked--most of the contents reflecting my penchant for hoarding
  • exercising--on the mini-tramp, isometrics, several real runs with my cousin's wife, a walk on the lake with my sister
  • working a nutritionist's program with my sister--3 week purge diet, lab tests, food diary, and lots of reading material (got started in Neflix again because I was hunting for several assigned videos which I've not watched yet)
  • primping in front of the mirror--am wearing size 16 and L without the X now--down form size 24, and 2X since my arrival here in January 2013.  Waist down from 44 to 37 and weight from 220 to 160.
I just noticed that in spite of not requiring much of myself (other than that related to Mom's needs) over the last three months everything that was on my original time investment list for ROW80 is on the above list, woven into my days because I wanted it: exercise, reading craft, reading fiction, storyworld dreaming and writing.  The only one missing is writing fiction.

I find that very encouraging.  It means those activities have become a part of me.

Though I must note that I wasn't doing them all everyday.  That requirement was probably impossible, setting me up for repeated failure.  

I think if there's anything that needs to be done everyday it is the fiction writing since losing the story dream can mean months of frustration trying to reclaim it.

See what I mean about confession contributing to redefining intent?  I've just gained clarity about the shape of my Round 4 goals.

3 tell me a story:

John Holton 9/05/2014 2:19 PM  

Life happened in a big way, didn't it? That's the beauty of ROW80: it anticipates life.

Sorry about your cat...

Shan Jeniah Burton 9/05/2014 4:51 PM  

Hugs for you for Merlin. Grief can't be put on a schedule; you feel what you do.

I think you've made some valuable discoveries along the way. You've reshaped your body, and you've been investing much more energy in caring for your mother...

When life changes, it's okay to set goals aside or adapt them to match your life. It seems like you did that without intending to. I'm glad you've had the insight to see that, and take pride in it.

I'm very happy to see you back! =D

Beth Camp 9/06/2014 5:48 PM  

How hard it is to accept what we do not wish. Yet our struggles bring us full circle again, as here you integrate your commitments to others and yourself. I hope that ROW80 continues to be a positive part of your healing, writing, planning, and creating.

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