On the bipolar in me

Here’s my profound self-generated dilemma of the week:

I have a tendency to combine total control-freak planning with relax-and-breathe-deeply spontaneous qualities, and they don’t really mesh. First, I have to plan much of my week, because if I don’t things will fall apart or certain things won’t be ready when I want them, and I don’t handle that well. For instance, if there’s no healthy, satisfying food around when I’m really hungry and tired, I’ll get kind of crazy and will eat anything that sounds good at the moment, which is usually something fatty and starchy. These are the moments when I’ll pass a place like El Pollo Loco and the posters in the window just look like the best thing ever. Gross. So I have to plan to make sure I don’t lose my way in moments like these. For three weeks I did the most wonderful weekly meal planning: I planned meals on Sunday
mornings, then spent the midday doing grocery shopping at the farmers’ market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and the Thai and Japanese markets. In the afternoons after a pick-up lunch, I washed, chopped, prepped, and cooked as much as possible. During the rest of the week I cooked a little and combined new dishes with leftovers to eat incredibly well with very little work. This system functioned beautifully until two weekends ago, when I found myself drained, frustrated, and abnormally sensitive, and crying to Erik that “I just don’t want to have to PLAN anymore!”

Which brings us to: second, I can’t plan everything, because when I do, I go crazy and feel trapped and it’s just not sustainable. I need to have space to breathe and enjoy the moment, and my happiest times during the week are when I can do that. On Thursdays (my day off), I can just wake up and go to yoga and then float through the rest of the
day having tea and snackies with Margaret and watching movies with Jason. If Margaret and I feel like randomly going to Terroni (my new favorite restaurant) for dinner, we do that. Or on Saturdays, Erik picks me up from Pilates after he’s done with yoga, and if we feel like buying gourmet cat food for Tisha (“steak frites” flavor, which he loved) and then having lunch at Terroni (told you it was my new favorite restaurant), we do that too. I live for moments like these, and I feel like planning makes them possible. If I keep on top of cleaning the apartment, doing laundry, and doing dishes, I can give up a whole Thursday to enjoyment, and I’m carefree knowing I’m not screwed for tomorrow just because I had fun today. Or if I have yummy food ready in the fridge, I know I can eat anytime I want, and I don’t
have to spend an evening trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. So the planning makes the spontaneity possible, and the relaxing moments balance out the craziness of planning.

But it all relies on finding a balance these two tendencies, and so far, I’m not sure I’m doing that. Things will work for two or three weeks, but then I’ll find myself tensing up again and coming out with these bursts of frustration that I didn’t even know I felt. This is what happened that previous weekend, and this is also what happened today, when I had finished three loads of laundry and was folding the towels and I just started wringing my hands over how I hate Tuesdays so much. Whatever I’m doing, it’s not sustainable, and as far as I’m concerned, that defeats the whole purpose. I want to live my life in a way that’s well-planned and yet joyful, spontaneous and yet carefully provided for, and I need to be able to do that for months or years at a time, not just a few weeks.

Of course some people would consider that I’m completely OCD already, just from the grocery-planning routine I described above. Perhaps it’s true, but I’m a good organizer and planner, and to some degree, I actually enjoy that kind of insane scheduling. I do find a freedom in it, paradoxical as that may sound. But like I said, this is counterbalanced by my need to relax. I suppose there are also people who would think I have way too much free time as it is (to that I say: hah! Tell that to my freaked-out laundry-doing self this morning!), but whether through my own years-long-developed habits or my natural tendencies, I really do need that down time. I’ve fought against it and tried to convince myself I’m just being lazy/indulgent/whatever, but experience has shown me that I just lose it when I don’t relax
enough.

I’m not sure what to do to find a better balance. One idea I had today was to write down everything I do in a week, or everything that saps my time and energy (since I don’t have to actually be doing something to be spending a lot of frustrating mental energy on it!), and look at that list and see what kind of perspective that gives me. So I think
I’ll try that. In the meantime, though, I’d appreciate any suggestions.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]

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3 responses to “On the bipolar in me

  1. This sounds familiar. Last meeting, my therapist asked me if I really need to control everything. This stems from my desire to–you guessed it–plan, plan, plan. How important is it to you that you have control over these things? How much can you actually control these things. With planning, you also have expectations that may or not be reached. I mean, there are a lot of implications behind having a plan and wanting to know how things will end up, etc.

    • I think you are totally right. Thank you for the thoughts. I’ve decided to stop planning so much. I also made a list of my main priorities and found out there really weren’t so many, so I reorganized them into two lists: the way I usually prioritize my time, and the way I’d like to prioritize my time. That was very illuminating, and now I’m just trying to focus on big priorities instead of lots of small things. I’m still tired, but a little less stressed.

  2. Pingback: Updates | satsumabug.com·

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