Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whine But No Cheese

Okay, I just have to come clean.

Several people have written to ask if I'm okay because my last few (hundred) posts have not been up to my normal perky standard. I know, I know. I haven't been feeling so perky. I mean, it's HARD to be all perky when you're in the midst of a run of Stupid Luck.

Stupid Luck (TM) is very different from BAD luck. Bad luck is cancer, death, loss, grief, FULF. Stupid Luck is, hypothetically speaking, reaching for a box of spaghetti, opening it and upending it only to find that the box was already open on one end --the OTHER end--and you've just dropped spaghetti all over your kitchen floor. It's going upstairs to put your kids to bed and leaving your puppy unsupervised for the only ten minutes of the entire day and finding a large accident in your dining room when you stagger back down. It's having a flare-up of TMJ so painful that you can't eat a tomato sandwich for lunch. It's your beloved cat, who inexplicably stops using the litter box and STARTS using, well, the whole house. It's having insomnia. It's fouling up the kids' piano lesson schedule. It's having a detailed conversation with your older daughter about feminine hygiene when your husband is unavailable to distract your younger child and/or hand you shots of hard liquor. It's just...

It's just coming up against your own limitations/incompetence/neuroses all the freaking time.

I used to call them Sieve Days--those days when you feel your holes. When you feel how disorganized you are... and like you are treading water trying to get anything done. It's kind of hard to tread water when you feel like a sieve.

I started thinking about all this and realized that maybe it's not really Stupid Luck at all, but more the natural rhythm of life itself. Life continually has all of these tiny challenges (although maybe not always such a large amount of bodily fluids and steam cleaner chemicals) and maybe what we're supposed to do is to find the humor and grace in the uneven dance of it all.

Yesterday, I was feeling so overwhelmed at how much I had to do and how badly I seemed to be doing everything that I just started doing one tiny task at a time. I walked into a room and made a bed. I didn't immediately start decluttering the desks and closets and planning a new paint scheme...I just made a bed and walked to the next room. I did one load of laundry. I loaded the dishwasher. I focused on doing exactly one task at a time, with as much concentration as I could bring to bear. (This is more difficult than usual, as I have taken up my unfinished novel again and the characters have a tendency to come out and have these very deep conversations right when I'm in the middle of, say, making soup or something and it's all I can do not to burn the house down.)

Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe the REAL Stupid Luck is rushing around, multi-tasking and trying for greater efficiency every minute of the day. I feel so frazzled when I do that. I make dumb mistakes.

I feel my holes.

Maybe we really do make our own luck, Stupid or otherwise.

Today, I am going to do exactly one thing at a time. Make one bed. Mail one package. Pay one bill. Pet one cat. And instead of crossing things OFF of my To Do List, I'm going to create a DONE list and fill it in as I go. (See, see??? This is where I get all crazy and start cross-referencing my To-Do list with my Done list and the next thing you know, I've got a six page spread sheet and have done exactly NOTHING. Oh, I make myself so crazy!)

Today, I'm going to try to be very present for each small task I do. I'm going to slow down and think before I leave the puppy unsupervised or schedule anything without having my calendar right in front of me. I'm not going to let the length of my To Do list get me all stressed out. I'm going to be PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE.

Who's with me?

22 comments:

Marion Gropen said...

What a good idea. I should do that, too!

kim said...

Yes! I am. It just gets overwhelming sometimes. It's good to just focus on one or two things and get a sense of accomplishment.

hokgardner said...

I say I have adult ADD when I rush from one thing to the next without actually finishing anything.

I like the idea of creating a done list, just to remind myself of how much I really do accomplish, even on those days when I'm overwhelmed with kids and work and house and life.

Suburban Correspondent said...

It's what Flylady is all about - that focus, and that appreciation of what you are getting done, rather than looking at what isn't done yet.

Becca said...

I know exactly how you feel and I am right there with you. I enjoy a slow life.

Mary Ellen said...

I feel like this all the time, but you put it so beautifully. I sometimes feel as though I'm swimming against the tide as hard as I can, but I'm still getting swept out to sea. I think your plan sounds like a good one - if only I could follow your advice! I hope today is a good day.

Ann in NJ said...

I love the "done" list. We refer to days like that as "yea, well I've got THREE tests and a lab report due!", referring to the constant one-upmanship we practiced in college. (Yes, it's been more than 20 years.)

And you beautifully described how I get/got through those days - one thing at a time.

smalltownmom said...

I'm with you! I often bounce from task to task without finishing everything. Today, I vow to be different!

MadMad said...

Ooooh, I like that "done" list idea!

Susan said...

I made a similar pledge last week when I got dinged for overdraft charges. I thought I had made a deposit - but there it was, still in my wallet.

So I am with you!

Mrs.Q said...

I'm in.

I think, to start, I may just sit down and be very present while I slowly sip a martini...is that what you meant?

(No, seriously...I'm in! I added one thing to my "Done" list yesterday that literally took me maybe 30 minutes, but I'd been putting off for 2 months. Because it meant coming face to face with my sieve-ness. It was nothing big, or life-shaking. And I slept better last night than I have in weeks!)

annabanana said...

I am soo sooo having a sieve day, compounded by trying to wrangle other people's puberty-ridden boys all day at work. I am with you for sure!

Ream O Rama said...

Just a thought for you about a study I read last week:
Researchers at Stanford recently disclosed that "multi taskers" only get half as much accomplished as the rest of us and it's badly done at that.

Hmmm, I say. I think I'll check sock matching off my list.

Karen from Germany said...

I love you for this, Barb.
We all know "sieve" days...
and slowing down, concentrating on the *now* of things ans not thinking about the future or the past really makes a difference.

Thanks for your thoughts
and a big hug

Your cousin Karen

Fannie said...

I'd be with you but instead of “doing one thing” I'm procrastinating and reading blogs instead of working. Sheesh.

Miriam said...

I guess I'll have to be with you in spirit. I'm too attached to my sieve. Or codependent with it. Who knows. I'm full of holes and running on empty. Wait. Could those two facts be related?

Georgi said...

I like the done list much better than the to do list.

Bullwinkle said...

I'm in! All week I come home from work and wonder: what did the contractor do today? (One day it was the outside wall with a new door and a new window. One day it was an interior wall. One day I walked in while he/they were breaking (accidently) the old light (fortunately, I found that comical and we are replacing it anyway. They were so embarassed.) So everyday I come home, after work, and look around and wonder "what should I clean tonight?"

And there is no way on earth it is humanly possible to get this place in "order" while it is under construction. I just take the dog into the woods and walk. (And then I feel guilty about leaving the kittens with the constuction ...)

One thing at a time.

joannamauselina said...

Sometimes I find focusing on one thing very difficult too, and hence I frequently don't get much done despite lots on energy input. I use the list of to do's and am so gratified when I can check anything off. If I start the list after the day has been on for a while, I put on the things I have already done, and thus get instant gratification from checking them off. Another trick for a really awful task, (cleaning a teen's room, for example, or my basement) is telling myself that I will work on it without stopping for one hour. I can stand the thought of one hour when I could not even begin if I thought I had to do the whole thing. One can make big dents in any project with one concentrated hour. J

Lynn said...

I used to call those Red Queen days, from "Alice in Wonderland", where she tells Alice that it takes all the running you can do, just to stay in one place, and if you want to get anywhere you have to run twice as fast. I had a wise older friend who told me very lovingly and quite seriously that life was not supposed to be like that.

I took last Thursday and Friday off to play with the new grandson and incidentally help my daughter and the other grandkids. I worked like crazy [church work] on Saturday and came home from church yesterday and didn't turn on my cell phone. Today it was the dentist's office and a nap.

My BP at the dentist's office, pre-anesthetic, was 112 over 61. I think I am onto something! [Hang in there; it does get better and easier over time.]

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I love the idea of a DONE list! Now that I have Thursdays off, instead of accomplishing all these things that I THOUGHT I would be able to do, I find myself lamenting that holy hell, there is SO NOT ENOUGH TIME, and then I end up stressing and doing, umm..NOTHING.
So my goal for this Thursday is to walk into a room, any room, and not leave it until I'm DONE.

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