Day 23 ~ From Haywire to Empowered

simplicityMy life tried to go haywire on me today. It really did. First off, my older daughter is supposed to be in her seat for her first class at 8:15, and she was jumping out of the truck and boogieing (as fast as someone who is lacking the ‘hurry-up gene’ can boogie) to her class at 8:14:30. It’s the closest we’ve ever cut it. This, of course, made me late dropping my younger one at her homeschool group, which isn’t a big deal but still made for stress.

Then I went grocery shopping. I had a conference call at 11:00 and at 10:25 I stepped into line behind the WRONG person. She had about 20 coupons (which is fine) but one of them, for 20% off some item, was being rejected by the cash register. So the clerk was scrolling through her receipt, looking for the item to enter it by hand. She spent over $300 so you can imagine how long this was taking. It turns out my meeting was cancelled because one of the other people was sick, but I didn’t know this because…

My cell-phone is dead. The screen is black. It rings, but I can’t answer it. I can’t call out. I’ve ordered another one, but I don’t have it yet. So when I came tearing in to my house at 10:58, there was a message waiting for me. All that stress for nothing!

In my past life, this would have derailed my whole day. But not today. Today I had my life-changing notebook. I had written three to-dos for the day (one down already because it was grocery shopping), so I just pulled it out and started working. Here I now sit, and my table is feng-shui-ed, my kitchen is clean, my professional blogs are written (three business blogs I write for clients), my action items are complete, dinner is started, and I feel POWERFUL. Seriously, I think I could do just about anything. Is this how other people feel all the time? Is this how people feel who accomplish stuff on a regular basis? Sheesh – I really can’t conceive of what took me so long to get moving.

I think about all I’m accomplishing, and how exhausting it should be. But it’s not. I don’t feel wiped-out, I don’t feel overwhelmed. I used to be kind of manic about my approach to housework. I’d let it go for too long, then race around like a lunatic cleaning up, until at last I collapsed. Now, I do three things each day (one of which is chosen because it moves me toward my goals). When they are finished, I stop. I’m not exhausted, so I have what it takes to do it all again tomorrow. I have created a system – and I feel empowered.

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Day 22 ~ Little Bitty Steps

If I have learned anything so far on this 3-week journey, it’s that little steps taken consistently in the same direction will eventually yield big results. I have tried to change things in my life before, and failed. But this time is different. This time my goals are clear. And I know myself – I know to make changes in very small increments, wait until I feel comfortable with it, then make some more small changes. For instance, I could never set for myself the goal of going to the gym three times a week for forty minutes of cardio. First of all, I hate to exercise – that kind of exercise anyway – it is mind-numbing and I would want to stop almost before I started. I also hate running around in my car, and having another place to go would make me crazy. So I set a goal for myself that I knew I could achieve and maintain – just fifteen minutes of zero-impact exercise focusing on breath. I do this six times a week (allowing myself one skip). This combined with increased hydration and decreased sugar has resulted in a loss of eight pounds.  Just little, bitty steps, dear reader, with measurable results.

I’ve also learned how important it is to focus on today only. Each morning I tell myself, “You only have to succeed today.” I don’t think about tomorrow (too scary). I don’t think about yesterday – succeed or fail, yesterday is gone and no longer matters. Only what I do today, in this moment, matters.

So today, I reflected on things that are working. My dining room table is feng-shuied. It’s been amazingly easy to keep it clear, and it really does feel more peaceful. My kitchen sink and stovetop are clean. I’m making consistently good choices for my health. And today, I started using my notebook – you know, the one that’s going to change my life. I jotted down things that need to be done, then chose three to accomplish today. Shockingly, I did just that. (Maybe not shocking to you list-makers, but shocking to me). It totally worked just like it was supposed to!

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Today was a good day, but I’ll close with a humiliating confession. One of the three things I chose to work on was to start on the backlog of laundry in my house. I was out of clean dishcloths, so I did a load of kitchen laundry – 12 dishcloths and 14 dishtowels!!!! To understand what this means, I have to tell you that I toss a dishcloth in the laundry about every three days. In spite of the clutter issue, I’m actually kind of a germaphobe. I can’t stand the thought of bacteria growing in my dishcloth, so the moment it no longer smells fresh it goes in the basket. This means that I haven’t washed kitchen laundry since Christmas. Since Christmas! Good grief! This is a landmark moment – never again (I hope) will I let a whole month pass without washing a dishtowel. I am slowly but surely implementing a laundry system – one that works. Little by little I will find the easiest way to do things, and my life will be (re)new(ed).

Day 20 ~ The Life-Changing Notebook (I Hope)

Today was a day of getting small things done. My husband helped by sorting through some clothes. He opened a box of things we’d saved from our older daughter, and it was like Christmas for the little one. She was joyful and has already worn two outfits, which makes the whole process so worth it.

My dear husband also shredded the eighteen (or so) credit card offers we’ve received since Christmas from CitiBank. What is wrong with these people? I do not understand it – to me it is a shocking waste of time, money and paper. But since I don’t know how to remove these people (and others like them) from our lives, I’ll just be grateful we have a shredder.

And then I got my life-changing notebook. I was aiming for cute (not so much) but I think I hit inspirational. I know it’s going to take some time to completely alter the way I’ve been living. Even though I plan to carry this baby in my purse, I know for a while I will forget to use it and revert to old (and pathetic) habits, but I am convinced that over time I will learn to write every little thing that matters right here.

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I started with my grocery lists. I don’t know what will eventually live within these pages, but for now this will be the one and only place I write things I need at the grocery store. To facilitate this, I first dug out all the lists currently hanging out in my purse. I must admit that it’s a little embarrassing that this was part of the collection of trash in the bottom of my bag. But, as sad as this is, I’m thankful it was only this many.

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I then started a list in my new notebook. I don’t use many coupons because I can’t keep track of them, so I decided this was as good a place as any to attach coupons I know I will use (at least for now).  My intention is to carry this book with me always. It fits nicely in my bag, it has a stiff cover, and every time I see it I will be inspired to write notes and ideas. This is one step towards consolidating all the chaotic detritus of my life. I’m quite pleased with myself, I must say. Little steps, dear reader. Little steps.

Day 19 ~ Quitting is Failure (or Failing to Quit)

Yesterday I was writing about to-do lists, but I feel I should make something clear. I don’t have an actual list. I mean, nothing’s written down – it’s all in my head. I used to keep lists.  On used envelopes. And post-it notes. And random scraps of paper. Then I would lose the list, then I would try remembering what was on the list (if I could just visualize myself writing the list…) Finally, I just dropped the initial list keeping and skipped right to struggling to remember.

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Mother of the Year?

Then today, for the second time in two weeks, I messed up something FOR MY CHILDREN because I didn’t write down appointments and events. Two weeks ago, we missed a morning of sledding because I remembered the time to be noon, but it was really 10 A.M. My children were actually okay with it – no one was upset. Except me. I cried like a baby because I felt like such a heel. I’m sure this shocks everyone but, well, I’m no longer in the running for Mother of the Year. “Ruining things for your children because you’re disorganized” actually counts as a mark against you, if you can believe it.

Today was just more of the same, so tomorrow I’m buying a notebook (nothing fancy, but maybe something pretty so I don’t despise it) and I’m keeping all my notes and to-dos in one place. This means I’m consolidating all the little scraps of paper currently littering my desk. Working at a clean desk will be so different – I hope I can adjust.

Finally, dear reader, I have signed an agreement with myself to serve as a reminder of why I’m taking this journey. When I’m overwhelmed and feel like quitting, I’ll pull it out and this is what I’ll read:

  1. I want peace in my life. In order to achieve this, I must remove the chaos, and instill order. I want my husband to feel peaceful when he comes home, and for home to be a good place for him to be. I want my children to feel peace in their home. And I want to feel peace.
  2. I am tired of feeling like I’m treading water. I want to sense purpose in my living, in other words, to live my life intentionally, instead of simply letting life happen to me.
  3. I want to have goals again in my life, and to have a game plan I can execute to achieve those goals.

I commit to working toward these ends regardless of how long it takes me. The only way to fail is to quit.

Day 18 ~ Perfectly Disorganized

simplicityDid you ever have one of those days where every single thing on your to-do list was a have to? A list with no maybes, where absolutely nothing can be moved to a different day, and as the day progresses and you’re trying to get everything done you about have a stroke because of the pressure? Yesterday was that day for me. When 10:30 rolled around, there was still one thing on my list and I was just too exhausted to do it. I looked at my husband and told him I didn’t post on The Disorganized Perfectionist. He smiled at me and said, “Well, I guess that’s what you can write about tomorrow.”

You see, my husband knows me. He knows that even though my whole list had to be done (and even helped me by delivering a meal I had made for a sick friend), the only reason my list was so awful in the first place was because of an underlying, life-controlling disorganization. And he knows that failing to post on a Wednesday just might do me in … because I’m a perfectionist. I’ve chosen to refrain from posting on Sundays, but I erroneously believed that I would be able to post six days a week without fail. When the end of the day came and I knew I didn’t have what it takes to write anything worth reading, I felt so disappointed in myself. I went to bed saying, “What you really are is not The Disorganized Perfectionist. That’s too cute a title. You’re just perfectly disorganized.”

But I did realize a couple of things last night. After my pathetic little self-abasement party, I decided I don’t need to be perfect at anything. I just need to be willing to take the journey, and I am. Whew! That’s a relief, don’t you think? None of us has to be perfect.

The second thing required some self-analysis. I had eight things on that list, and three of them could have been done earlier, but I left them till the last minute. It wasn’t procrastination, per se. It’s just that they weren’t urgent, so other things got done instead. And this is the whole problem. This is how I’ve been living my life. I deal with the things that are screaming the loudest. I’m desperately trying to stay afloat but never, ever making any progress.

I know that a drowning person’s instinct is to flail and struggle, but that actually makes the situation worse. The best thing is to relax, take a deep breath, and float. It conserves energy. It reduces fear. So right now, as I feel myself drowning in all the junk and responsibility of life, I will let go of yesterday, breathe deeply, consciously release tension, and just be. And tomorrow,  I will do what I can do, nothing more and nothing less.

Day16 ~ Drink and Thirst No More (I Wish)

When I started this project, one of the things I chose to work on was health. I ate like a six-year-old whose mother wasn’t watching her. (Well, maybe not exactly like a six-year-old, but it wasn’t good). I didn’t drink enough water, and I got zero exercise. So I engaged in some self-analysis, and this is what I decided. Five years ago, I took good care of myself. I made decent food choices, and I tried to be fit. And guess what? I got breast cancer. I didn’t make a conscious choice at the time, but the conclusion I drew a few weeks ago is that I simply moved out of the driver seat of my own life. Somewhere deep in my sub-conscious I thought, “I did all the right things and I got sick. So why do all the right things? What’s the point?”

Well, the point is amazingly clear to me now. Inside my soul there exists an underlying dissatisfaction with the way things are, and the main cause  (and possibly the only cause) is that I am no longer authoring my own story. I am making choices by not actively choosing, and this has to change. I decided I needed change not just within the realm of health, but in an overall simplifying of my life. The result is this journey I’m on, and The Disorganized Perfectionist is the record.

So how am I doing? you may ask. I’m making solid food choices. Every morning (allowing myself one skip per week) I exercise, focusing on breath while I work each muscle group. I feel the difference – I feel better, I’m more limber, and my energy level is slightly improved. But the water part is KILLING me. You would think “increasing hydration” would be the easiest change I could possibly make. Not so. I’m having the worst time.

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I’ve tried all sorts of things. I’ve tried counting glasses. Doesn’t work. I’ve tried filling a bottle. I forget about the bottle. So now, I’m trying repeating this affirmation several times a day.

Water refreshes and revitalizes me. Water makes my skin vibrant and my body healthy. I love water and therefore I drink enough.

Okay, if you’re wondering if this makes me feel goofy, the answer is – sort of. I sincerely hope no one hears me saying it. It is said that, “as a man thinketh, so is he.” So, if I think I’m drinking enough, then I am? I don’t think it works quite like that, but I will say that this method definitely has me thinking about water an awful lot, and the consequence today was – I drank more. Whatever works, dear reader. Whatever works.

 

Day 15 ~ The Lair of the Clutter Monster

You know, people see what you present to them, and it’s not always the real deal. It’s not that you’re trying to be deceitful. It’s just instinct to talk about those positive aspects of your life, and ignore or gloss over the less appealing things. So when I talk to other moms, I might talk about baking bread, or fermenting my own yogurt, or making chicken stock from scratch. I love the kitchen arts and I do all these things. Or, I might talk about herbal infusions or homeopathic remedies, because I’ve made and used these things, too. Although everything I say is true, the listener would get a certain impression about me that may not be entirely accurate, because there would be things that were hidden from view.

For example, before committing to being authentic in this blog, I would have never, NEVER talked to anyone about The Closet. But because I’m being authentic, (i.e. willing to be humiliated), I’ll bare all. The Closet is a scary place, and it exists inside my home. It is the lair of the Clutter Monster. Sometimes the beast comes out and wreaks havoc in the rest of my home, but The Closet is where it lives. Occasionally, I throw something in there as a sacrifice to appease it, but I basically give it a wide berth.

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Not My Closet

You see, The Closet is the walk-in closet in my bedroom. It started its life as an organized and useful place. Then I got sick with a long-term illness. My husband would come in with some THING – it doesn’t even matter what – and he would ask, “What do you want me to do with this?” And I would say, “Just put it in The Closet.” My intention was that after I was feeling better, I would sort through all the stuff and put it all in its permanent home.  But here we are FOUR YEARS LATER!! and it has never been done. The Closet never recovered. It is broken, and must be fixed.

I know The Closet looms somewhere in my near future. I’m somewhat intimidated by it, but I will face the monster. And even though I’ve committed to being authentic, when my husband asked if I was going to post before and after pictures, I about passed out. The thought of posting a picture of what The Closet looks like now about gave me heart palpitations. The humiliation would be extreme. But as it is said, knowing the truth sets one free, and the truth is that The Closet is a mess. Hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll be brave enough to expose the ugliness ~ sort of like ripping a scab off a festering wound so it can be cleaned out and heal. I’m not promising anything, mind you. But, hopefully…