Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Procrastination vs. Priorities

I know this statement is going to incite hate mail, but here goes anyway: I can’t procrastinate.

In college, I turned in my honors thesis a month early, while many of my friends stayed up the entire night before the deadline to get theirs done. I also got all my homework done before it was due, and never crammed for tests – I studied during the semester instead and got the normal eight hours of sleep the nights before finals. When I did an internship at a newspaper in Guadalajara, I didn’t know the meaning of “on deadline;” all my stuff was turned in hours if not days in advance.

Despite what you think, I am not saying this to brag. I am in fact somewhat envious of people who can procrastinate, or at least people whose heads are not torn apart thinking about what they have to do before it actually needs to be done.

You see, the down side of the anti-procrastination gene is that you are constantly trying to get EVERYTHING done: you make a list and think, “There’s no reason why I can’t get all 35 of these things done today.”

It’s easy to forget what little things might get in the way of finishing off your checklist in one fell swoop: eating, sleeping, exercise, personal time, and oh yeah, the time it actually takes to complete a task. When I think about completing a task that will take a fair amount of time, I resent it, and I start it, even if it doesn’t need to be started yet. Suddenly I am up to my eyeballs in things I’ve started that I can’t finish, because I couldn’t prioritize them – I was too busy worrying about procrastinating on them. (If you start it, you haven’t procrastinated on it…right?)

I may be unable to procrastinate, but I am also unable to prioritize. Often, I get sidetracked working on a project that is not as pressing as others on my list, or does not need to be done at all. I get worked into a flurry thinking about all the things on my list, without actually going through the list and moving the things that can wait to the bottom. I set incredibly ambitious goals for myself, and I am inevitably let down when I can’t meet them.

Thankfully, there is something I can do about this: I can learn the difference between procrastination and prioritization. This means writing it on my list, but picking 2-3 things off the list to do a day, and letting the rest shuffle up the list until I can get to them. I can remember that it’s ok to only do so many things a day, a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime, and that if I do it this way, I will be healthier, happier, and most likely, a lot more productive.

I am learning that nothing is a failure if you learn something from it. Therefore my ├╝ber-busy, burned out past does not mean that I couldn’t hack it; it simply means that I couldn’t prioritize it. When I think about it, I can’t say that I know what the hurry is with many of my tasks – what would happen if I didn’t get my list done in a day, a week, a month? Oh yes: it would mean I was human, and doing the best I could while continuing to enjoy the process of living.

Love and procrastinated kisses

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moving advice? Stop storing your memories in boxes.

I am an expert mover. I have not lived longer than a year in any single house since I went to college, including IN college. If there were anyone who could give you tips on moving, it would be me. After moving yesterday for the umpteenth time in my life, the only advice I want to give you is that memories store a lot more easily – and cheaply – in your head.
I didn’t always feel this way. I love to travel, and I used to gather things when I traveled that would remind me of where I’d been. I used to get a kick out of imagining all my worldly possessions in a new place: they were from all over the world, and now here they were, with me, in a new city, state or apartment.
This move was a little different for me. It’s the first lease I’ve signed since I left Bellevue and my job there two and a half years ago, and it’s also the first time I will be utilizing most of my furniture and other possessions that have very neatly organized (and repeatedly reorganized) in my storage unit until yesterday. (Another moving tip? Get boxes with lids or that at least close, and LABEL THEM.) Since Bellevue, I’ve been living in other peoples’ houses and using their furniture and utensils while using the bare minimum of my own stuff: not everyone has a box labeled “Kitchen Bare Essentials,” but I do.
It doesn’t help that I haven’t been feeling well, but the truth of the matter is that when I started opening up all my boxes and going through them, I was amazed at the stuff I’ve been spending good money storing.
I love to cook, but even I do not need 10 mixing bowls. My parents claimed nostalgia over my first pair of skis (Dad) and the first baby dishes (Mom) but didn’t want to haul them around themselves, so they gave them to me. Same goes for some very beautiful but unwieldy painted platters from Mexico that they didn’t want. Come to think of it, that’s why I have a fern the size of a trash can, too.
I can’t blame all of it (or even most of it) on my parents, though. Despite the fact that I purge with every move, I am apparently part pack rat. In the back and bottom of my storage unit is a monstrous trunk, about 100 pounds with no handles, chock FULL of high school memorabilia. I NEVER look in it. The last time I cracked the lid, I threw out a bunch of stuff, wondering why exactly I had kept it. I think I have the idea -- like most people -- that eventually someone else will be interested in the things I have hoarded my whole life, but the truth of the matter is that no one else knows their significance but me. For example, I have been holding onto a really nice expensive coffee maker given to me by an ex-boyfriend, who sadly never understood why I was attached to making coffee with my Melita. Surely I’m not nostalgically holding onto a coffeemaker…am I? Who else but me would even know where it came from, and why I'm packing it around if I never use it?
Don’t get me wrong: I am just as nostalgic as the next person. What I’m realizing, however, after two plus years of living without my prized possessions, is that perhaps they aren’t so prized and necessary after all. Seeing them does not evoke anymore nostalgia than thinking about them did, and I don’t have to pay to store the memories. The only thing that I’m really glad I kept are my old journals, and those are much smaller and easier to carry. They also pack a lot more memories per square inch than the monstrous Mexican rug I have no room for.
Obviously at some point in my life I thought it was worth packing these things into boxes to keep them from breaking and holding onto them until I had a place to put them again. Now that I have a place, however, I’m wondering what exactly that supposed worth was.

Love and moving kisses,

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Shame of Pain

I’ve written about something similar before, but it’s coming up again because, well, I’m in pain again. My friend Molly Steere wrote a blog about this not too long ago, asking people to give people with chronic pain a break, and when I read it, I thought “Yeah, give us a break!”
Molly and I are very similar people, and in this case I totally empathize and agree with one huge hurdle in both our lives: we are held back from what we want to do and accomplish by chronic and often agonizing pain.
Molly has it much worse than I do when it comes to the extent and depth of pain she endures, but I have the luck of having much more varied pain sources: if it’s not one thing, it’s another. My problem is that I am somehow ashamed of my pain and will rarely admit to it because it shows that I am not the super human I want people to think I am.
Take this very moment. Before I left Mexico I got some sort of stomach ailment, which is not the normal Mexican stomach ailment: it is an overall inflammation and tenderness in my abdomen, made worse by eating pretty much anything, but it is always there to some degree. Considering that preparing and eating food is one of the reasons I get up in the morning, both to make money and to enjoy my day, this is psychologically one of the worst things I could be asked to endure.
When I tell people about it, as with every other illness I’ve ever had, I try to end the sentence on a positive note: “Yes, I feel like crap, and I can’t eat and nothing sounds good, but they should be able to get my lab results back soon and I’ll feel better then.” In fact, the other night I was telling someone that I was actually feeling worse, and ended the sentence with, “but that’s okay.”
“No, it’s NOT okay,” said my dad, who was in the room, and obviously as frustrated as I was that I wasn’t getting better.
And he’s right. It’s not okay, but that’s what I always say. When I think about why I actually say this when I don’t mean it, I have to think about why exactly I do so. One of the reasons is that I am ashamed to admit that I am any less than okay: 100% normal like everyone else. I am ashamed to admit that, despite the fact that I take very good care of myself, I am constantly sick. I am ashamed to admit that something in my life is out of my control, and I try to take control of it again by sounding upbeat so that others won’t feel sorry for me.
This is stupid.
This is stupid because you cannot actually expect people to give you a break if you don’t ask for one. You cannot get angry at someone for expecting a normal response from you if you don’t feel normal but you don’t tell them. You can’t expect someone to understand why you aren’t as happy or upbeat as usual if you don’t tell them why, and no one will offer to help you if they don’t know you need help.
I tend to work myself too hard anyway. I am constantly expecting more from myself than other expect of me, and apparently part of that is expecting perfect health despite this internal pressure. Sometimes, before I can catch myself, I find myself thinking, “No one else seems to suffer from all this stuff, so I shouldn’t either.” Well, not everyone else is me. Regardless of how I want to feel, I need to act like how I actually feel, if for no better reason than to allow myself to rest when I need to. The world will not fall down if I’m not there to shore it up, so why do I keep trying to take all the weight on my shoulders?

Love and painful kisses

Monday, July 4, 2011

Goodbye, Rueben. I'll Miss You

Dear Rueben,

You’re more than just a dog to me.

Even though I know this blog post doesn’t really matter to you – seeing as you can’t read and all – I have to tell you that you have changed my life.

If it weren’t for you, it is very likely your parents wouldn’t have asked me to come to Mexico last summer, or return this summer. Without you, I wouldn’t have gotten to know them as well as I have, and reaped such amazing benefits from that friendship.

Without you, Rueben, I wouldn’t have had such a great reason to walk on the beach in Mexico twice a day, and I probably wouldn’t have walked as far if I hadn’t known we were looking for birds for you to chase. Without you, I never would have been reminded on a daily basis how important it is for me to enjoy being outside, in nature, and notice the beauty all around me.

Without you, I wouldn’t have found solace here – I maybe wouldn’t have found “here” at all. I certainly wouldn’t have met the nice veterinarian, or all the nice people on the beach who already knew you, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed all the lizards skittering through the yard if you weren’t chasing them. I wouldn’t have seen as many monstrous frogs, because they wouldn’t have been hanging out in your food and water dish.

I also wouldn’t have known how many crabs on the beach are probably permanently handicapped because you accidentally maimed them with your huge feet while you were trying to play. I wouldn’t have laughed as often or as much, especially of you sticking your head in the holes you dug in the sand trying to get your terrified crab friends to come out.

I wouldn’t have doubled over laughing watching you run into the flooded lagoon and being utterly surprised – but undeterred – when the bottom dropped out from under you and all of a sudden you had to swim to get to the birds you were chasing, now perched and watching you on the other side.

I wouldn’t have marveled at how fast you run chasing birds down the beach. I wouldn’t have been awoken in the middle of the night by trespassing dogs, people and horses half a mile off. I wouldn’t have had anyone to press their face into my legs so I could scratch behind their ears. I wouldn’t have been able to teach you how to high five.

In many ways you saved my life, Rueben, simply by being here. Getting to share your home with you gave me the time and resources to discover my passion again, what my life should truly be about, and what I need to do to get it.

So thank you, Rueben. I wish there was some way I could show you how much it all meant to me, but I know that the best I can do is take you on a few more walks and let you into the house sometimes, even though you stink from swimming in the lagoon. I wish you the best of bird chasing and crab discovery, and years of walks along the beach with new and old friends that love you.

Love and grateful kisses