This last half of the year has been a difficult one for performance.
That’s what blogging is to me, if we’re being completely honest. I do it for my own benefit, but I’m also aware of my audience, small though it may be. And I haven’t felt like broadcasting much. Some of the reasons are no doubt obvious — although That Thing That Happened In November hasn’t shaken me so badly as it could have, it has me asking a lot of questions of myself, and having heated conversations with many people I respect. Others likely aren’t surprising, given the sorts of things I was posting about frequently before I stopped posting at all.
The long and short of it is that I buckled down to clear out some of the thorns from around my personal metaphorical tower, and I found a way in.
This entry will get too wild and disjointed if I start listing everything. So many of the thoughts that ran through my head these past months could take up entire posts of their own, and they may yet do so. But there’s just one thing I want to mark down before the year ends, and that’s my promise to myself for the next one.
I got a lot done this year. Part of my personal work has been going through my many overwhelming piles of stored ideas, unfinished works in progress, and clutter, and destroying them, in one way or another. I finished a lot of things that have been sitting around for ages, capped my list of projects and rearranged things in such a way that I could change some of them to tiny, easy projects and got them all crossed off, and took a good long look at just what it is I want to put my creative energy into and why so I won’t get into this sort of situation again. I didn’t quite meet the goal I wanted to within the timeframe I wanted to meet it in. Even so, I sat down feeling satisfied when I realized it wasn’t going to happen, perhaps for the very first time. Despite the fact that I hadn’t met my own self-inflicted “requirements”, I felt I’d done enough, and truth be told, that feeling is rare and new and exciting.
But I came out of it feeling discombobulated and slow and a little overwhelmed and unable to keep going in any efficient way. So, I reported to one of my tarot decks — the meaner of the two, the one that likes to tell me things I don’t want to hear and isn’t gentle about it. (The other is kind and motherly and breaks things too me tenderly.) The deck told me that I’m great at making things, and all it would take was some proper contemplation to get myself back on track. It was just a lack of willpower keeping me from doing so, really.
“…yes,” I said. “Yes, I’m very tired now.”
This acknowledgement sent me into one of my negative spirals immediately. I come from the sort of family where we “just get over it” out of necessity, and though I logically understand the need to be less dismissive of our own troubles, it’s not something I’ve ever been able to do for myself. “I’m tired” or “I’m not in the right mindset for this” sound like excuses to me, because I’m sitting in a place where I can look back into my work and see all the moments I spent procrastinating and all the reasons I found to go do something else, stolen hours that would have rendered me much more efficient if I’d focused instead of swindling them. But this time, I had all I did accomplish built up around me to stand against that, and it made me suspicious enough to ask the deck — if I say that I’m tired, does it mean that I’m just being weak? Is it a real feeling? Or am I only making excuses for my own teeny tiny daily failures, which is always what I accuse myself of when this thought pattern comes around?
No, said the deck. No. If you’re tired, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you aren’t taking care of yourself in such a way that you’re giving yourself the energy you need to succeed. It means you’re imbalanced, that your equilibrium is off, that you need to give yourself the sustenance it will take to get yourself back on track.
They said, too, that to focus on my failures the way that I do is to pick a fight with myself, to attack myself, to beat myself down. They said it’s arrogant and vain of me to do that when I can look around myself and see so many ways that I’ve succeeded. To be preoccupied with the negative is to reject the positive, and that’s what throws me out of whack.
I went and made a list then of all the things that happened this year and things that I accomplished that made me feel like celebrating. I took stock of how I felt and what sort of situation I’m in, now that I’ve run this personal gauntlet. I found that I’m opening up at last. There are burdens I’ve been hauling around for years that don’t seem so heavy anymore, because I’ve finally paused to look at them and I’m starting to understand them at last. I’ve gained a good fifteen pounds, but that’s because my health has improved so drastically that I can actually eat and enjoy food again without worrying how my digestive system is going to punish me for it later. (Much.) My urge to bake has returned. I’m learning to cook some new meals, something I’ve always hated in the past for the amount of effort I had to put in, and finally exploring some beloved recipes that my mother wrote down for me before she died. I no longer wake up every morning and spend an hour or more screaming internally because there’s so much to do and it’s impossible to prioritize it properly and there’s no sense fussing because I won’t finish everything I hope to finish anyway so what’s the point, let’s just bum about on the internet for a while…
Both of my decks have been telling me all year long that I need to be trying new ways of doing things, and I have resisted this for two reasons. The first is that I misinterpreted what they were saying, and thought they meant I should try some new hobbies — which struck me as a terrible idea because my wide variety of interests is a part of what’s caused me to be overwhelmed in the first place. The second is that change is frightening and I hate it. I need variety to keep me engaged, but that variety is set within the boundaries of routines I’ve relied on for years, and the idea of breaking them left me feeling so adrift that I couldn’t even think of where to start. However, taking stock of things here at the end of the year, I’ve finally figured out just where I can shift things in a way that will be positive and helpful.
I keep a planner book where, traditionally, I give myself a list of things to accomplish every day. I usually set it up as a little reading, a little knitting, one household chore, and something to do with whatever my focus project at the time is. But I rarely follow the list from day to day. I’ll fall behind in my knitting and devote and afternoon to catching up; I’ll feel like cleaning, so I’ll do all the chores for the week early on and cross them off in advance. Sometimes I’ll get distracted with things that aren’t on the list at all and have to give myself days to go back into the planner and catch up to myself. Obviously this isn’t really helping me. The listing itself does, I’m sure, but arranging it by day does nothing but make it look tidy in my planner book.
I’ve decided that in 2017 I’m not going to make goals like that. I’m not going to set myself up to be disappointed in myself every single day for “failing” to finish all that I think I “should”. Not in a world where things always take a different amount of time than I think they will, and I never know when I’m going to need to drop everything to tend to something else for whatever reason. Instead, every day, I’m going to write down what I do as I do it, no matter what it is and how small it may seem. It won’t be a to-do list so much as it will be a diary, a record of what I get into when left to my own devices.
Also, whenever I finish something, I get a sticker. My collection is getting out of hand, so clearly the only solution is to reward myself by sticking them to things.
My hope is that at the end of 2017, I won’t have yet another planner book full of things I meant to do and may or may not have ever gotten around to crossing off. Instead, I’ll have a book full of accomplishment, a proper physical record of what I have done. Beating myself up about how I can most certainly accomplish more has never actually motivated me to do better, but it’s all I’ve ever known to do, so it’s a habit as deeply ingrained as scratching when I have an itch.
Treating myself with positivity, I suspect now, will be much more successful.