Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My October Goals: More Decluttering, More Reading, and a Charity Walk

Tyrone sitting in the tote I'm using for Limbo books.
In September, I had too many goals. I realized it within a week and let myself off the hook for some of them.

The goals that stuck were:
1. So Damn Domestic Clutter Free Countdown.
2. Blog my way through the countdown.
3. 750 Words daily writing challenge.

None of them were perfect, but all of them were finished. Sadly, 750 Words has a different definition of "finished" than I do. I'm okay with writing twice as much the next day if I skip a day. They consider that failing. One month I will complete the challenge by their standards and you will be mine, Sassy Horse Badge!
I want it. 750words.com
It's too late for me to sign up for the October challenge with 750words.com, but I will continue to use it as a brain dump and to write drafts.

My goals for October are as follows:

1. Remove all decluttered items from my home. I was originally only going to give myself a week to do that, but it's a bigger job now that I know I have to check everything for roaches and sanitize it before it goes anywhere. (It should be okay. I packed everything up in air tight-ish containers. Eeeee.)
2. Read more! I've decided to give myself a daily page number goal of 75 pages.
(More about this below.)
3. Promote and prepare for the NF Walk in L.A. on October 25. A sub-goal of this is to keep up my routines and start moving them earlier in the day. I have a few events scheduled, including the walk, that start early in the morning, and I'd like to be rested and strong for them.

I thought about structuring this month differently. Instead of having task-based goals, I thought about using the Todoist app to set productivity goals instead. "Complete X number of tasks per day." I might do something like that for November, when I have big things planned, (wink wink), but it doesn't feel right for this month.

These used to be organized by color.
It was beautiful.
I like the idea of a reading goal because at the end I can say, "Look how many books I finished!" The idea came when decluttering my books last month. I realized I have four long shelves of books I haven't read, or haven't read in a long time.

Four shelves is the amount after decluttering 60 books! 

Many of my books are "In Limbo," because they very well may be decluttered if they aren't life-changing and referenceable. I'm also reading a few library books for book clubs, and because I couldn't resist.

75 pages is not an ambitious goal at all. I purposefully set a low number so it would be achievable without getting in the way of all the other tasks. It's still more than I had been reading, and that's how goal setting works sometimes. It doesn't always have to be a big jump. So far I've read closer to 300 pages a day, because I got in the zone.

I finished reading my first book of the month yesterday and it felt great, as that particular accomplishment always does. I'm reading four at a time in different genres, which I wasn't sure was the best idea, but I'm enjoying it.

I think I'll go read right now!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Anxiety and the Most Urgent, Important, Necessary Thoughts in the Universe

"Tomorrow, I'm going to let go of the expectation that my thoughts matter right now."

There have been times over the last few weeks when I felt like none of my "mental health tools" were working. Most of the time, I feel more in control these days. I know a bunch of types of meditation and how to recognize harmful thought patterns. I know how to turn vulnerable feelings into bonding moments with people I care about, or art-- I have tools like writing and music to fuel my "spirit." Not to mention my self-care rituals.

But there's one thing that stands in the way. When I'm really depressed or anxious, I feel like I'm on the verge of a really important thought at all times. Like, I can't fully commit to things that make me feel better, because then I'll miss the Really Important Thing. It reminds me of a story I tried to write (well, I did write it, but it didn't quite work) comparing depression and the myth of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill only for it to roll down again. In that story, my depressed brain played the part of a trickster God.

My hardcore Christian friends tell me that urge to resist care is the devil.

I think it's a form of validation. There's no way I'm really this anxious about something as earthly and temporary as an overdrawn checking account. I don't have time to deal with those feelings because the real source of my mood will reveal itself any minute. And it won't just be about today! It'll reveal the source of all my bad feelings ever!

The thoughts aren't usually so direct. This is my attempt to put words to a really hard to describe phenomenon.

Another way to describe it is like this: I recognize that money is a stressor. I start to break down my fears about money and then my dad pops into my head. I think about all the stress he's under taking care of my mom with neurofibromatosis. I start to think maybe money isn't my stressor, maybe the cause of my stress has something to do with my family. I try to explore those thoughts but how much work my choir has to do to get ready for the next audition pops into my head. Now I'm bouncing around between all three topics. Others are popping up, too. I can't address all of them at once, but I can't quiet a single one until it's addressed.

It feels like If I could just grab a hold of one of these, everything would start to make sense.

And that is what eventually happens. As they say on that show Obsessed, (and in the cognitive therapies that inspired it), "You can't stay at a 10/10 forever." The human body cannot sustain high levels of stress for very long.

A quieter moment reveals itself and that's when I open up my journal or a meditation app. I pluck out one of the stressful thoughts as if from a ball of tangled embroidery floss, picking at the knots slowly and deliberately.

This process of patience, working through one stressor at a time, has helped me have at least as many good days as bad. I'm grateful to be able to examine my mood day by day instead of knowing they'll all be bad, the way it used to be.

The more tools I collect, the closer I get to truly living in the moment. Not even day by day, but situation by situation, without expectation for the next.

So here's another tool I can add for times of high stress: None of the stressors on your mind are the most important, urgent, essential thing in the whole world or universe. Do not hold out for an epiphany. You are not a mailbox waiting for an important letter. You are a person. Give yourself permission to sit with a quiet mind. You think you have to allow the thoughts to occupy you, but you don't. They will come back later if they truly need to be heard, if they truly exist for your best interest.

Update: I got to use this new tool recently. I couldn’t sleep because my thoughts were all over the place and they felt so urgent. I remembered what I wrote here and reminded myself that I had everything I needed and was safe. Anything else can wait until morning. I was able to meditate for a few minutes and fell asleep easily after that.