As you know if you read Monday’s entry on family, this has been a trying week for me. That entry (and the private journal entry which prompted me to blog it) was the fallout from something that happened on Sunday, and then on Tuesday I read the comments from that post and a couple of emails which came in about it — including one from my mom, since she’d read the post too. All of this was as unexpected for me as it was for anyone, so I’ve spent my week in a bit of a daze, trying to get through a semblance of normal activity while my brain just reels. I’ve finally finished responding to the comments from Monday’s post so if you’re curious where my feelings are now, check there.
Even without the family and emotional drama, I was probably due for an off-week anyway. It has definitely been a bad week for work. I had plenty of time, but I couldn’t bring myself to do much of anything, even simple cooking. All pursuits felt futile and overwhelming. Why cook? We would just eat it and I’d have to cook again the next day. Why work? It wouldn’t come out right. Who cares, anyway? I felt like I’d dropped my importance compass and it wasn’t functioning anymore. What were my priorities? What did I want and need? Why couldn’t I answer these questions?
I’m sure my emotional state (and the weather) contributed a lot to this depressive funk. But it’s not a foreign place for me; I’ve gone through this before. I’ll be chugging along brightly and happily and then boom, everything will feel pointless. I’m left paralyzed, because every single project seems of equal importance (or unimportance), and so it’s impossible to choose which one to tackle at any given moment. Replanting my garden seems every bit as vital as writing, or replenishing my wardrobe, or going for a walk. How can I possibly decide which activity is most urgent?
I finished Health at Every Size on Monday, and it got me thinking about internal versus external motivation. Eating healthy, according to HAES, means learning to re-attune to our internal feelings of hunger and satiation, rather than relying on the external cues we’ve been trained to obey: plate size, family habits, sociocultural rules, medical/scientific advice. It occurred to me yesterday that we’ve also been conditioned since childhood to look to external guidelines for achievement and work: grades and degree requirements, teachers’ and parents’ feedback, work prerequisites, bosses’ and supervisors’ instructions, deadlines. Since 2009, I’ve been without almost all of those, almost all the time, and that’s unusual in our society. It’s no wonder I often feel unmoored! I have lots of freedom, but I often feel it as a responsibility. If I accomplish something wonderful, I can take all the credit, but if I spend days doing nothing more than playing computer games, the blame falls on me — and so does the pressure to do better next time.
Since my work is all internally motivated these days (aside from the occasional workshop or publication), I decided it is vitally important to articulate my goals, expectations, and priorities, and to re-articulate them whenever I find myself treading water. (Companies have handbooks for their employees. Should I write one for myself, so I’ll have something to refer to when I get lost?) This morning I made a list of things I need to be happy; I guess these are my good working conditions. They include not multitasking, not over-committing, equal and ample time for work and play, and a little time every day to be still and quiet. Then I made another list (much longer) enumerating every single thing that’s on my mind, from the mundane (“take a shower”) to the global (“how can I call myself a writer if I don’t write every day, or write certain types of work, or send out stuff for publication?”). This showed me where my mental energy was going. I divided up the list into things I can take care of immediately, and things I’ll need to think about. I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon attending to this list and giving it the thought it deserves. The list also contains a section of things I think about and don’t need to; I intend to give those energy drains a formal farewell and a proper burial!
It’s a good time for me to be thinking about all this stuff, because in April I’ll be starting two biggish new projects: eight weeks of experimental/multidisciplinary writing workshops in San Francisco, and six months of training in “Playing Big” through Tara Sophia Mohr’s e-course. I’m also swearing off computer games for the duration of the Playing Big course, which will free up lots of time (probably more time than I’m willing to admit). But even without the games, I’m making a big time commitment, so it’s more important than ever that I figure out how to streamline my life and all my activities.
By the way, don’t worry about my state of mind. When I can write about a funk, I’m always on my way out of it — I know this from experience. It may be a long climb up, but writing is often the first productive thing I do after days of bleh, and it inevitably leads to insights and motivation to get moving. So it’s all good.
good move on writing that list of everything on your mind! that always helps me face up to what’s going on in my head and try to do something about it rather than just sulking and letting it fester unarticulated. it’s always the best feeling when you can take care of some things immediately and realize that others need a formal farewell and proper burial! very gratifying to take those steps forward, even if they are small ones.
Thank you, Tamara! 🙂 It’s really liberating to sit down and honestly list everything that’s burdening my brain, even the little stupid things (maybe especially those). There are so many things that weigh on us without our consciously recognizing their presence, and sometimes just bringing them out into the light is all it takes to make them manageable.
This was so good to hear, especially the last paragraph! We’re still getting to know each other so I wasn’t sure how you were feeling earlier this week, and I was worried about you. I’m glad you’re making plans and lists, and taking care of yourself! I’m very interested in the whole list process, so I’ll have to adapt that for myself this weekend and see what I can find out about my own mental clutter! I need to give my energy drains a proper burial, too, but I also thrive a bit more with a slightly looser schedule. Bottom line: It sounds like you’re really thinking about what you need, and that’s golden! You go girrrrl!
PS: That was some real funky weather you guys had out there! We had some thunderstorms early this week (that really scared the cat) but thank goodness no hail!
Thank you so much for your care and worry and support, Ré. 🙂 I appreciate that. Yes, I’m feeling lots better now than I was — and as I get older I’ve gotten much better acquainted with my sadder and darker moods, and have a better idea of how to be with them. I’m glad I can say about them now, “Yep, they’re a natural part of the process,” and also, “these are the tools that work to bring me out of them.” Not that I think they’re necessarily negative places to be; I learn a lot when I’m not happy!
(And yes, it was funky weather! We basically never get hail, and if we do, it’s just a light sprinkling that dissipates as soon as it hits the ground. For it to blanket the ground like that was just plain weird. Thank goodness I wasn’t outside at the time — I could easily have been walking around Berkeley or SF in just a thin raincoat!)
I’ll post something on Monday that might be interesting, re: the list-making. 🙂
I intend to give those energy drains a formal farewell and a proper burial!
May I borrow this line?
Yes please! 🙂 And it was a good, affirming process too. 🙂
Congratulations on getting into the IWL workshop!!! I would love to hear how it goes! Does this mean you’ll be in SF during this time?
Thank you so much, Clare!! Yes, I’ll be in SF on Saturday mornings — the meetings go from 10-1 so if you ever want to get a late lunch one of those days, I’d love to see you. It’s very exciting and I’m sure I will be posting plenty about it as it progresses. April 2 is the first workshop so I’m looking forward to that date with eagerness and more than a little anxiety. 🙂
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wow the workshop and class look great and very inspiring! I hope that you find them to be so!
Thank you lots, Willona! I hope so too! They’ve been inspiring me a good bit even before they start, which seems like a good sign. 🙂
The workshop and class will be fun, productive, and a good outlet for you, Lisa. I looked at your *News* flag on the mandala and saw this announcement. Also, your sisters wedding — this weekend, I think? Enjoy! (That hail is amazing! It looks like snow, for sure. Did it damage the roof?)
Thank you, Sherry! I’m looking forward to these infusions of creative energy and community. 🙂 My sister’s wedding isn’t until May, though I did mention it on my News page as an upcoming event. As with any family wedding, there’s plenty of talk and other events leading up to the actual ceremony, so it does seem like it’s “going on” as early as now. 🙂
I don’t think the hail damaged anything (my young plants bounced back, fortunately), but just the other day we had a phone line knocked down from the wind! We get some intense weather (by Bay Area standards) where we live!
[…] direct inspiration for this handbook was an off-week and the lists I made that Thursday, which helped me articulate the ideas that went into the handbook. But those ideas, in turn, are […]
[…] been reminding myself of this, and that helps. I realized yesterday that if my goal is to be internally motivated (which means ignoring what anyone else thinks), then I should be prepared to expose the traits […]