For sitting on my ass about 10 hours, I sure got a lot done today

Every once in a while, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves: am I spinning my wheels?

Am I running on empty?

Is something burning me out?

Two things happened last night – besides that whole food thing I wrote about earlier today – that contributed to me sitting on my ass for the majority of today. I think it was about ten hours, in total.

1. My daughter broke my heart and told me, completely out of the random and for no reason at all, that she sometimes thinks of me as a birthday candle that tries too hard to stay lit, but as a result has very little left because it’s all burned away.

She’s very wise for her ten years.

2. My old friend Period Pants showed up, and not in the subtle way she normally does. There was no taking her sweet fucking time to get going, giving me a day or so to prepare myself for the carnage of her monthly hormonal fluctuations. I had no opportunity to “pre-med” (take plenty of Ibuprofen the night before shit gets real so as to minimize the pain.)

Nope, this time she just came stomping in the door, around 11:30 at night.

When I’m really stressed out, she does this. First I get sick, then in about 45 seconds I develop cramps no amount of over the counter painkillers could fix. Then I get really hot and headachy until my brain catches up with my body, realizing that I need to slow the fuck down and relax while Period Pants resets my body.

It’s all in good fun, and yes I’m sure you all didn’t want to hear that much detail. But it’s not like I’m talking about freebleeding under my dress, or knitting sweaters with fallen pubic hairs or anything; so just get over it and understand my point. This happened, forcing me to slow down and calm down and remember that my body is going to tell me when I’m going too far on the stress-o-meter.

Needless to say, when I got up this morning I had – again – remembered the point of this all. I asked myself those questions: am I spinning my wheels? Absolutely. I’m cleaning and yet nothing is really getting clean. I’m cooking food that isn’t being eaten. I’m making efforts when I know the effortlessness of others will make it all moot anyway.

Am I running on empty? You bet I am. It isn’t that I’m physically tired, it’s that I’m mentally exhausted. I can’t think straight most of the time, and I’m so scattered I have a hard time even paying attention to the book I’m reading, the painting I’m painting, and the blanket I’m knitting. And then there is that simple fact that – for the fifth time in a day – I put my keys in the freezer. My brain is trying so hard to escape this situation, it’s become almost nonfunctional.

Is something burning me out? Yes. Activity is burning me out. Constantly having plans and activities and errands and projects and expectations from others and of myself is burning me out. Life is burning me out.

So today I decided I was going to take a break. I mean I’ve really tried to make an effort to cut back on activities and giving a fuck for some time now. I wear yoga pants and comfortable sweaters most days of the week, now. I’m worrying less about things like the placement of the towels in the bathroom as well.

But this overwhelming sense that I need to justify my Stay At Home existence with constant movement and nonstop commitments has me occasionally heading down this path of bodily pain, and metaphorical burn out, that tells me I haven’t done enough to have a healthier balance in life.

I started out planning – intending – to spend the majority of my day on Pinterest and in front of Netflix. As I started to destress, though, I thought that what I’d really like to do is write. (So I wrote 20 pages of good, solid fiction.) Then I destressed even more, and decided I would get up and bake some Valentine’s Day cupcakes for my husband to take to work later in the week. And as I calmed down more and more, feeling Period Pants calm her ass down as well in the process, I decided to write a blog, do some marketing, and I even did a Fiverr gig I had waiting to be done.

So what I’m saying here is that I got more work done today while I sat on my ass than I have probably gotten done in the past couple of weeks.

What I didn’t do was run errands or return phone calls I had no interest in returning. I also didn’t worry about making a fancy dinner; and – for once – I just let the laundry from the last two days continue to pile up.

The moral of the story is – I think – that when we force ourselves to slow down, we realize the path to do more meaningful, balanced things.

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I’m a loser, baby

If you’re like me, any thought of the 90s is immediately accompanied by a music flashback to Beck’s Loser.  I have many-a-fond memories of kicking back in high school and loving Beck more than life, itself.  Like many other teens during the dawn of teen angst, that song was my battle cry; and very likely, I was just as much a loser as the next kid.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that even hearing or reading about losers harkens me back to that song of my youth.  This morning, reading Darren Hardy’s How to Be a Loser blog post was no different.  The publisher of SUCCESS magazine, Hardy blogged with intention to look at what makes a loser from a satirical standpoint … a guide, so to speak, to becoming one of those many people walking around with the big L dangling from their forehead.

The thing about Hardy’s blog is that, while it raises some excellent points, it also is a bit too general to hit the mark on each point.  In one instance, Hardy says you can make yourself a loser by never setting goals and only taking things day by day.  Sure, this may be true in some instances, but it is so general and does not necessarily apply to everyone.  There is such a thing as getting too out of control with your goals; and for some going through major life issues (marriage, divorce, new baby, death in the family) day-by-day is the only way to survive.  Ultimately, I think the blog would have been more effective if Hardy had gone with a straight-forward approach; his backhanded way of talking about loserdome just doesn’t jive with the advise he is trying to give.

Beyond that, though, I think the idea of how to be a loser is still a good one.  This week has been all about balance:  the healthy way to live life to its fullest.  With that and Hardy’s blog post in mind, I decided to create my own list of ways to be a loser.

I’m a loser, baby #1:  

Lose sight of happiness in the name of undefinable goals

We all know someone that has done this.  Rather than let themselves live in the present, they are so far in the future and/or the past that they can’t even tell you what they are feeling right now, let alone whether or not they are happy.  And in many cases, they come to the end of the rope only to realize that everything they gave up was not worth it.  Goals and plans are important, but there is something to be said for being both emotionally and physically present in the now.  And hey:  you never know what could happen – you could leave for work tomorrow and get hit by a truck.  Laying on the concrete, dying, will you regret not having savored life now at least once in a while?

I’m a loser, baby #2:  

Always eliminate people and things from your life that deviate from the way you are

It is astonishing sometimes to hear people say that they broke up with someone because they saw things differently, or that they decided to give up certain things in their life because it got in the way with what was most important to them:  them.  Yesterday we talked about things the world doesn’t stop for... I’ve got news for you, faithful blog followers, you are included in that list of things.  Life is about both a give and a take; and the truth to the matter is there is not one person or thing on this planet that will see entirely eye-to-eye with you.  Some (myself included) might even go as far as to say that people who are much different than you are good in the sense that they offer a more well-rounded view of your otherwise closed circuit life.

I’m a loser, baby #3:  

Never take risks.  Ever.

I recently read Eric Sevareid’s “Canoeing with the Cree,” which is a true memoir about a 2250 mile canoeing trip up the Missouri River into Canada.  The trip took place in the 1930s and had never been done before, let alone by two 18 year olds, fresh out of high school.  The main focus of discussion at my book club (which the book was read for) was focused on this idea of risks:  that we do not take risks anymore, be it physical or emotional risks, like they did less than a century ago.  Life is about continual leaps of faith, and to think of anything as a safe venture is just foolish.

I’m a loser, baby #4:  

Don’t keep things in perspective

Ever talk to someone that blows everything so far out of proportion, and gets so caught up in the “what if”s and “I assume”s of the situation that it makes you want to stick a piece of dynamite in your ear and make your own head explode before they get a chance to do it with their incessant blathering?  This can go a lot of ways.  One is in the case of the overachieving idealist.  Sure, it’s great to have ideals and forward-thinking ways of living; but it’s another thing to not look at the situation realistically and pragmatically.  Another is in the case of someone that acts as though a minor event is the absolute end of the world.  It’s not, bitch.  Get some perspective.

I’m a loser, baby #5:  

Constantly blame other people for your problems

There are certainly a lot of things out of your control; just as a lot of times people around you influence you to do things you may have otherwise not done.  But enough with the blame-game, loser.  Nothing is more annoying than someone that cannot take responsibility for any of his or her actions; especially when they go as far as to suggest a change in the way things happened, or put words in people’s mouths or assign intentions in people’s minds.  Chances are, unless you are 15 years old or a complete douche, you were at least 80% responsible for the situation you are blaming others for.

Am I a loser, baby?  Some people might say I am.  I certainly try and avoid the five scenarios above, and in fact, I generally try and live by (at least most of) Hardy’s list too.  But then it takes one to know one, doesn’t it?

The World Does Not Stop…

I’m not quite sure why this has happened, but more and more it seems that people have this weird idea that the world stops just because [fill in the blank] has happened to them.  To be honest (and I’m sure this will annoy some of you closest to me), it really makes me pause and question just where our heads are.  Sad to say, I think they are on (ahem, in) the wrong end.

So to help us all get those proverbial heads out of our real-life asses, I’ve decided to make a list of things that the world does not stop for.  The point is not only to advocate for a healthier, less egocentric viewpoint (typical of the misanthropic vein of this blog); but more importantly to harken back to the idea of happy and healthy balance that we discussed yesterday.  There is hope for everyone, and there is no room for “well everyone has different priorities…”  So with that in mind:

The world does not stop … because you are having a baby.  Remember that first blog on this new site about the tendency people have now to act like they are the first people on the planet to have a baby?  Well, you aren’t … and the world does not stop for that very reason.

The world does not stop … because you have a big project going on at work.  This one hits really close to home for me.  While I know that in a trying economy, employees want to bend over backwards to please their employers or open new career paths, there still must be a balance to make sure you do not hurt your entire life in the process.  If you cannot have that balance, you either need to find a new job or consider whether it is the best time in your life to take on that extra level of responsibility.  Just because you are working 24/7 does not mean that bills can go unpaid, kids can go uncared for, prior commitments can be canceled, and relationships outside of work can just set to autopilot.  That just isn’t the case.

The world does not stop … because you are planning a big event.  It could be a wedding; it could be a baby shower.  In any event, as important as that big event seems to you, a lot of people around you don’t care.  Remember with friends, family, and coworkers to talk about things they are interested in; and give them a chance to talk about their big things too.

The world does not stop … because your girlfriend/boyfriend dumped you.  Get over it:  there are plenty of fish in the sea, right?  Just because your girlfriend/boyfriend couldn’t take your snoring/feet/body hair anymore, doesn’t mean life around you ceases to continue.  Marriage is a much different story, but as for kiddie-type relationships that probably never went further than first base, try and move on.

The world does not stop … because your favorite TV show/sporting event is on.  God is there nothing more annoying than someone who will blow off an important phone call because of Dancing With the Stars; or someone that spends an entire dinner watching the baseball game showing on the big screen behind them.  Invest in a DVR if it’s that important to you.

The world does not stop … because you walked in the room.  More accurately, I should probably say “… because you got on the freeway.”  These people that act like they own the road (when the rules of it generally mandate that we should all be sharing …) really have gotten bad.  It starts with those people that do not realize they are supposed to yield to traffic when they are entering the freeway; and is capped off with those that change lanes without even looking.

The world does not stop … because you are on the rag.  Yep, I did just say that.  What a terribly sexist thing for me to say; but I’m a woman and I can say with absolute certainty that the worst thing ever is a woman that thinks the world is supposed to bow to her because she has cramps and a foul attitude.  It goes for men too (because they do, in fact, go through monthly hormonal fluctuations just like women); so perhaps I could soften it to “… because you are in a bad mood.”  However it’s phrased, take note.

 

The list could go on, but you, faithful blog followers, get the point.  Head-in-ass-syndrome could very well be substituted for “egocentric” or “narcissistic personality disorder.”  There is a healthier, balanced way to live life than you are.  Wise up and realize that the world does not stop for anything.

What’s In a Goal?

Once upon a time, I was a philosophy major.  Of course by “once upon a time,” I mean about a year ago; and by “I was a philosophy major,” I mean I was a graduate school slave.  Regardless of what I did or when it was, a lot of what I learned still sticks with me today.  No doubt it will for a long time.  So when I came across a blog the other day devoted entirely to ways you can sacrifice for some grandiose (yet undefinable) goal so far down the line that you don’t even know if you will be alive to do that thing that you have not even defined, I turned to my philosophical training to determine whether this blog was legit or just more bad personal ethics our generation seems to be addicted to.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m all for sacrificing a Starbucks a week so that you can stop charging Christmas presents every year.  And I think that saving for retirement is essential in an age when social security is dwindling.  But there are those practical things everyone should do to have a more balanced life, and just making yourself completely miserable by sacrificing everything for goals that you, yourself, cannot even truly and specifically determine.  On this topic, Speiman said something that will always stick with me in one of his many essays on Aristotle’s ethics and the road to happiness (and I am, of course, paraphrasing):  how often is it you attain a goal only to find out that what you sacrificed in the process was not worth it?

What a powerful statement that is.  How often is it you attain a goal only to find out that what you sacrificed in the process was not worth it?  I think the perfect example of this is in the case of a person that sacrifices everything for their career.  Family is put on the backburner, or abandoned altogether; friends are reserved for only when it is absolutely convenient.  Personal health is even bargained when stress levels and the toll of physical exhaustion are ignored in the face of career advancement.  And on many occasions, what seemed to be the right path ended up being the worst road that could be taken, even a dead end.  When I worked in pharmacy, we used to say all the time:  “when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be thinking I wish I had worked just another day in pharmacy…I’ll be saying I wish I had worked just one day less.”  Truer words were never spoken.

But it goes beyond that.  I had a friend a few years ago that signup up to run in the Chicago marathon.  This is a real fad right now:  everyone seems to be interested in pushing their physical limit in the name of some vague philanthropic goal.  (Kudos to those that do, but the status quo of it all has become a little overkill.)  From the get-go, her physical limitations were at odds with her completion of the marathon.  Ignoring the advise of her physician that said her already-present back problems would only be worsened by running on a regular basis, she decided she was going to do it no matter what it took.  For the five months of training, she was in daily pain – sometimes so bad that prescription strength painkillers did nothing.  In the end, she threw her back out a week before the marathon and was unable to run (barely even able to walk).  It has been two years, now, and her back problems have only been made worse by her stubborn attempts to defy all the odds.  She did not even attain her goal and now contends that even had she it would not have been worth it.  … only to find out that what you sacrificed in the process was not worth it…

Speiman’s whole point is that there is a happy medium, what Aristotle called the Golden Mean.  On either extremes, there is only suffering.  In the case of the work-aholic (what I think is the most relevant for people of the 21st century), on the lower extreme there is unemployment, poverty, and desolation; on the upper extreme there is loneliness, materialism, and a life not well lived.  But in the middle – in the compromise, the best of both worlds – there can be goals attained that do not require such life-changing sacrifices.  Ultimately, trying to live life so grossly out of balance is like an elephant standing on a beach ball:  it may be great for an occasional circus trick, but in the end the elephant just comes toppling down.

How often is it you attain a goal only to find out that what you sacrificed in the process was not worth it?  I think the truth to the whole matter is that sacrifice in the strictest sense is rarely a necessity when a healthy balance is always in sight, in everything you do.  Thus, I think the only real goal anyone should be working towards is in avoiding that problem altogether.  The whole idea of a goal or a sacrifice does seem irrelevant when you consider that in living a life of balance, happiness comes naturally and no sacrifices or goals are even necessary because they have already been achieved.