Category Archives: seasons

Fall Back into Momentum: Part 4 (Mood Boosts)

It was raw and gloomy last week, so I haven’t experienced the ballyhooed morning sunshine boost, but I did practice acceptance of minimum expectations while making progress on the Must Dos.* Exterminator came yesterday. Mammogram appt is on Tuesday. The feral cat feeding area has been winterized. Because somehow we are already tangoing with temps in the 20’s. Today I hope to dig in the hundreds of bulbs I impulsively bought (on sale!) because the promise of spring flowers helps drag me through winter.

firststickysnowwinter2018
Click the pic for the Chicago Weather Center’s alarming graphic.  “A wintry weekend’s on tap, more like Jan & Dec—then a windy cold blast hits later Mon/Tues.” Grrr.

This garden task is an example of another important category for the To Do list:

Mental Health: Which projects, while perhaps not-essential, will buoy your spirits? The sky won’t fall if I don’t get these all into the ground, but it will feel less gray if I do. Another example: For better and worse, my level of cheer is tightly linked to the condition our home. If keeping the TP stocked is part of scraping by, keeping the bathroom clean helps preserve my sanity.  When feeling overwhelmed, picking a few spots to hold to high standards allows me to ignore–for now–other messes, literal and figurative. Manicured nails, bright lipstick, seasonal decorations, and blogging also add a bounce to my step. Although frivolous, they help fend off the blues.

Clear surfaces
If we keep these main surfaces clear, I can screen out other clutter, even when it means shoving the clutter from these surfaces somewhere else, such as the small counter under the kitchen window sill or the not-shown hutch behind the table. I am also ignoring our filthy ceiling fan.

Another big bang for the buck mood booster can be to tackle a small, odious project that will make you feel like a bad ass while improving your quality of life. Or as Marie W. wrote: “Will I feel more miserable in the long run if I don’t do the thing??” Congrats to her for last weekend’s deep clean of the cat box area: “including the gross mat that picks up litter.”

Ideally, mood boosting tasks are relatively manageable, like planting 20 instead of 200 bulbs! But in the spirit of forgiveness, if I don’t get them all in, I am just not going to worry. I can always donate what I don’t get to. The ground isn’t going to freeze super soon, is it? Oh, please no! I am not ready.

too many bulbs
What was I thinking? At least I did pack up all of the Halloween decorations. . .

*And bravo to Dena K for taking care of the rain barrels before the freeze. A big job, indeed!

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Fall back into Momentum: Part 3

guidetosettingclocksback
For sundial, shouldn’t it be move 100 miles or so?

Huzza! The latest sunrise of the year, 7:25am, is behind us. Mornings will be a lot easier this week with day breaking before my son’s alarm instead of while he’s biking to school.

After a long night out dancing, where we turned the clock back to the 80’s, I used my extra hour to sleep in. It’s a cold, wet, standard issue November day, so maybe I’m overselling the idea that shifting daylight back to the morning can give a productivity boost. I keep walking past the bag of laundry guarding the front door. If I don’t leave the house, I can avoid taking it to the basement.

OK, I did leave the house to drop Miguel off at a bday party and was even able to find the rain pants with minimal scrambling. Success! I did walk past the laundry, though. Oh well. It is not a crisis.

Which brings me to the main principle of the “F It!” approach to goals for the next less than (eek!) two months. But I am switching the alliteration:

Minimums: This is what I talked about yesterday. What are the most essential tasks and routines required to grind through the next few weeks? What are the lowest standards you can hold yourself to? Maybe it’s OK to eat mac and cheese more frequently than you shower.  Some green beans on the side and spot cleaning  and congrats, you’re doing just fine. Give yourself credit for taking care of the smallest, must mundane chores. As Clare reminds, you can always write them down after the fact and cross them off  with a flourish. Resupplied *and* changed the toilet paper!

changing the TP1
Pardon the gendered language, but this was the image that best captured the TP changing continuum.

Musts: Ugh. These are the critical non-routine tasks and projects that tend to easily slip off the daily radar either because they are dreaded or require a bit of effort (real or perceived). Inaction might not be creating problems now, but has longer term risks. Or maybe they are just really critical for other reasons.

My list is heavy with this category, but I am forcing myself to focus on the ones that are the most important right now, such as: getting a mammogram, keeping a mood journal*, paying the annual life insurance premiums, calling the exterminator, and checking all the smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the building.  Gah I am soooooo tempted to add more, but these are the big ones. And they are doable.

Cracked Caulk
The current window situation in my office.

Uh-oh, I need to add one more: caulking the baseboards and windows. While the sky won’t fall if I skip this job yet another year, it would help our heating bill fall. And I so very much hate being cold. And I promised Michael I would do it.** And I even bought a power caulk gun. So. . . this is a must. Ugh.

Oh, and I am also likely starting a new job in January–teaching a foundations reading/writing class at Malcolm X College. Yay! But also yikes, I need to prepare for that too. There’s a training in mid-December and so I’m going to try not to overthink it this month.

This can be an overwhelming category.

In a few days, I’ll write about other kinds of goals ranging from modest to monumental, but for now maybe I’ll hide under the covers with some tea and cower at all the musts do the laundry and maybe even put it away and then triumphantly cross those tasks off the list. Alas, we are out of mac and cheese. Cereal for dinner?

* More on this another day.
**A note about my wonderful husband. He takes on more than his share of domestic duties, especially considering that he works full time and I do not. I don’t want to leave any impressions that I do all the housework. And he cooks more than I do. Thank you, Michael!

Fall Back into Momentum: Part 2

muddyshoesPart of my mental health profile is an enduring belief that I am an epic failure, terrible person, and overall waste of carbon. I realize this is not a fair or useful way to look at things. It’s a hard mantra to shake, but I am trying.

I have long brandished my irreducible to do lists as evidence of my dismal performance as a life form. So many unmet goals. So many small tasks that take forever. Why has “remove muddy running shoes from the back steps” been on the agenda for almost a month? Why did this even make it onto a list?? Cleaning them will take less than two minutes. I could probably just run in them a few times and let fresh air and friction shake off the dust.

I know I am not alone. Recently I read a piece about “impossible tasks,” those seemingly small things that are challenging to manage, especially when you struggle with depression. It was helpful to see examples of people’s small things: paying the bills, feeding the cats (yikes, I haven’t fed the cats yet today–BRB), taking a shower. Sometimes just scraping by feels like climbing a mountain.

Before we embark on any goal setting for the next seven weeks, I think it’s important to honor the effort it requires just to get out of bed each day. More on this at the end.

clean clothes
Putting the laundry away is one of my many inexplicable impossible tasks.

In Celebration of Long Lists

I’ve decided that all my goals and to dos are not evidence of failure but rather creativity, ambition, and the good fortune of a rich and interesting life. Take that, Eeyore mindset.

The other night I could not sleep. Sometimes my body just craves an all nighter. Maybe it’s a bi-polar feature (feature is more pleasant than disorder), but I enjoy the  clarity that settles in around 3am and tend to have plenty of energy the next day.

I used the time to scoop up all the reminders scattered around the house, flip through my quasi-bullet journal (more on that another day), and joyously brainstorm all kinds of things I need and want to do in the short, medium, and long term. I used a table with columns for task, time, scope, category, importance, and “do stat??” But I mostly focused on dumping out the tasks, categorizing them (such as home, garden, career, civic engagement), and then using the categories to squeeze out more ideas. Entries range from the frivolous (decorate for the holidays) to the formidable (organize the basement, which includes finding homes for all the holiday decorations). From modest (stop gaining weight) to momentous (run a sub-two hour half marathon).

Early Halloween
Seasonal decorating gives me, and apparently Rusty, great joy. . .packing it up, not so much.

I’m at about over 150 items and could add 20 more right now, but I need to hack at some garden tasks (on the list!) because it looks like the weather is only getting worse. Alas, autumn, we hardly new ye.

A few months ago, I was very depressed. It was bad. I was utterly hopeless. I’m still struggling and muddling and might always.  But I am doing a little better and am sort of excited about having hundreds of things to do and accepting that I don’t have to do them all right now and, in fact, could probably get by with doing very few of them.

Which cycles back to not setting ourselves up for emotional evisceration about all that we do not do. Before you make any huge lists, give yourself some credit for persisting, acknowledge that it takes effort to get to work, keep kids and critters safe and healthy, and do the laundry. Extra credit for putting it away before doing the next load.

So I invite you to bloat up your list if you promise to let it lead more to optimism than feeling overwhelmed. Tomorrow I’ll share how I am picking a few, only a few, modest, medium, ambitious, and must-do items before the solstice.

Fall Back into Momentum: Part 1

steep solstice
Over-dramatization of the harrowing descent into darkness between Chicago’s summer and winter solstices.

When it comes to roller coasters, I am the first to volunteer to stay below and guard the backpacks. I especially fear the lurching, juddering, teetering, oxygen grasping moment before gravity and leaps of faith take over.

But when it comes to Chicago’s seasonal rides, there is one steep crest I look forward to: the end of Daylight Saving Time. This Sunday, we scoop up some morning sunshine to ease the final plunge to the winter solstice. Many folks dread the early nights, but if we are going to ration daylight, I’d rather have it for breakfast. My mood depends on it.

Slide into Solstice Challenge
The scheduling sleight of (clock) hand serves as a wake up call, prompting fervent action on my ever backlogged and bloated to do list before midwinter dormancy takes hold.  As a yoga teacher once explained, our hemisphere’s new year is a terrible time to start ambitious plans. (Getting back into yoga is always on my resolution list. Hasn’t happened this year–yet!) However, there’s something to be said for hitting the holidays with momentum or at least minimal self-flagellation.

Will you join me in using the temporary reprieve from sleepy mornings to tackle some “F it!” goals over the next 2 months? These are not your B-suite SMART ambitions. I’m talking about a tiered approach that gives credit for basic functioning and allows for failure and forgiveness. That balances fun and frivolity with the frustrating and formidable. That perhaps leans on friends and family more than fierce, focused individuality. And that is understanding of those of us who can be frantic procrastinators. There’s nothing like some sunshine and a deadline to force me into high gear. I’ll lay out the plan in my next blog post, which, er, I hope to get to before Sunday.

Chicagodaylight
A less sensationalized representation of Chicago’s annual shifts in daylight taken from gaisma.com which shows how the sun shines around the word.