It Looks Just Like a Window

I am continuing to dive into my penchant for creative destruction to find more ways to use it to my advantage. I originally got on the subject as I was deleting my rarely used Twitter account and tweaking my website design to get rid of a blogroll populated with rarely updated websites. I’m good at tearing stuff down, but I often don’t replace that stuff with something better.

A lot of my complaints about the tools I use and the websites I visit have nothing to do with those products themselves, but my own vague dissatisfaction with how I am interacting with them. I end up either moving on from potentially useful services too quickly or returning to things I ditched earlier when I realize they’re better than I initially thought or at least better than nothing. That’s because my frustration with technology is a manifestation of broader frustrations that I rarely address.

I think that means I’m having my mid-life crisis right now. Maybe I’ll buy a Porsche.

Or, to be realistic and responsible, maybe I’ll re-evaluate my broader goals and try small changes now that will help me make better decisions later. (That sounds vague, but I am also trying very hard to avoid turning this post into a therapy session.)

The most obvious immediate adjustment is changing my publication schedule from Friday afternoons to Monday afternoons. While I am able to write stuff during the week, I tend to do the bulk of it towards the weekend, so I want to lean into that tendency.

As for all that other stuff I’m working on, I’m sure I’ll post updates on how it’s going. Just not on Twitter.

I Can Make a Change and Go

At the start of the year, I put together a plan to help me improve my productivity and my mental wellbeing. Last year, I had read “Why You Should Start Your New Year’s Resolutions on March 4th” in Fast Company, and this year I finally took that essay to heart.

Using a bunch of articles I had stashed in Pocket, a selection of Google tools, a notepad and a pen, I compiled a list of goals I wanted to achieve and good habits I wanted to pick up. I grouped my goals based on the Six Dimensions of Wellness Model. To wit:

  • Occupational – Learn coding
  • Physical – Improve diet based on doctor’s recommendations
  • Intellectual – Improve blog writing by planning out series and recurring topics
  • Social – Make plans with people I haven’t seen in a while
  • Emotional – Find time to process dark emotions regularly instead of letting them build up
  • Spiritual – Focus on positive energy instead of defaulting to cynicism

Not all of these goals have obvious completion points (and one of them can’t be accomplished right now in the way I originally intended it), so within those goals are tasks that help me measure my progress. I can adjust those tasks as needed, drop what isn’t working, and reframe as I hit targets.

One of the ways I am tracking it all is through Google Keep. Each day I jot down different beats as I hit them each day. Did I exercise? Noted. Did I work on my next post for the blog? Noted. What is my mood like right now? Noted.

On Sundays, I review my notes from the week. I have a template in Google Docs that shows all of the goals I had written down, and I can note my progress on them all. I pull from the Google Keep notes, health tracking apps, what page I am on the book I have on my nightstand (still page 25!), or anything else that can inform my review. I also note the highlights and the lowlights of the week as well so that I acknowledge how the outside world affects my mood and my progress.

So far, it all has been going well. But I also recognize that whatever I work do during an abnormal situation still needs to work once things like a commute to the office are reincorporated into my routine. A return to normalcy is actually going to be a disruption, and I don’t want to unravel whatever good I am weaving together now. My hope is that if I can manage my mental health in a time like this, then I should be able to take care of myself in less stressful times. Fingers crossed!

I See Shadows Moving Around

One of the things that I have always taken pride in is my ability to pick things up quickly. I’ve had a lot of different tasks thrown at me over my career, and I’ve always been able to either run with them or at least fake it while I frantically research what I’m supposed to do until I make it.

So when I come up against something that I feel like I should be able to do and all of my usual tactics for learning on the fly don’t work, I feel gut-wrenchingly deflated.

I’m speaking from recent experience, of course. While I have been reasonably assured I’ve not let anyone down, it’s tough for me to think that this is true. I don’t think I realized how much pressure I put on myself to perform, so when I flopped, I got a bit weepy.

Once I dried my eyes and enjoyed a pint or two with an old friend, I expected to say that I could see clearly and got a new perspective . But I didn’t: I only gotten worse. I was irritable! Touchy! Frustrated! A bit of a jerk!

To whom the Thursday version of me can say, “Get over yourself.”

In hindsight, I can call upon all of those simple little lessons about learning from failure and knowing when to ask for help and not going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line and stuff like that. All of that is obvious now. But when I’m in the thick of it, even those most obvious life lessons are hard to access.

I like to think I generally keep cool and have a measured response to whatever comes my way, and maybe that’s even true. But every now and then I fall apart, like Bonnie Tyler in a boarding school, and how I bounce back from that is key.

I’m making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill here to stress the importance of checking your mental health. Be aware of how you are feeling, and if you are not feeling so great, talk to someone who knows you well. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down and admit you’re struggling. And don’t beat yourself up. We need you cool. Are you cool? Good.

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

We’re halfway through the year and I ended the first half of 2019 on vacation in Hawaii. That also means I spent a couple of weeks wondering why I don’t live there. I may spend the next couple of weeks trying to suss out the answer to that question before daily drudgery sweeps over me like a wave that I didn’t quite catch because I suck at surfing.

I take responsibility seriously, so seriously that I frequently forget about being stupidly irresponsible, which is more fun. I tend to put off the fun stuff until the serious stuff is finished, except that there is always more serious stuff. I have to make room for the fun stuff, not wait for the perfect time to do it. That’s a hard lesson for me to grasp.

So I was pleasantly surprised how I was able to let vacation envelop me. Maybe that’s because of where I was vacationing. But I think that a lot of it had to do with getting the hang of letting things go. I wasn’t perfect: I still got my usual pre-travel jitters and I had a couple of anxious moments during the trip. But on the whole, I relaxed in a way that I hadn’t for a long time. It was great.

Then I got home and immediately fell back into a lot of bad habits. Oh well. More work to be done!

Promise Me No Promises

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I shouldn’t write mission statements or apologies or anything when I inevitably try to revive my blog.

The thing is, this week is LIS Mental Health Week, and that is what inspired me to pick up the blog up again. I am working on managing my anxiety, so I would like to share a checklist that I devised to help me out.

  • Determine and prioritize goals
  • Block out time in a calendar to work on tasks
  • Make a daily mood check to assess how I am feeling
  • Write daily diary entries or other forms of writing (blog posts, poems, etc.)
  • Do something enjoyable
  • Beware of the drink when stressed or depressed
  • No devices at bedtime
  • Deep breathing when struggling to fall asleep
  • Doodle more
  • Separate what you can control from what you cannot control

It’s not perfect and I am not perfect at sticking to it. (Boy, do I ignore that “no devices at bedtime” suggestion.) But frequently re-reading the list has been helping me get through my daily grind.

I have also taken to heart something I read by Tammi Kollinger on the Bullet Journal blog: “Humans are messy and make mistakes.” In my mind, it is a corollary of the Cult of Done Manifesto. I should tape it to the wall and re-read it every time my creative destruction tendencies creep up again.