I hit a point this summer where I was starting to pick myself and surroundings apart, only looking at the negative things around me and within me. If anyone had needed me to, I could list out all the things bothering me in a heartbeat. In fact, Josh often got to hear all the negative things I thought about myself and various situations in list form. I couldn’t really do the same for things I felt good about.
That all changed last week. Nothing set the change in motion; it was just an internal decision that I wanted to start bettering things that were wrong vs. feeling like crap about them.
I stopped doing daily yoga and running last fall, and while I haven’t put back on the weight I originally lost, I have felt sluggish and soft. My back and shoulders have started hurting again on and off, something that had stopped happening while I did yoga. And moreover, I felt less productive, my mind jumping from thought to thought like a monkey, leaving me feeling frantic after work time because I hadn’t gotten enough done.
I decided to return to the yoga app last week. Every single morning. I now spend a half hour with Lily before I shower and start working. It pushes back my morning coffee (which I was becoming way too dependent upon) and yogurt too. It’s helping me focus and sort of reducing my anxiety. (My anxiety may be too large to expect yoga to really make a dent in it.) It’s making me feel focused and grounded when I sit down to work. And it’s helping my back. So yoga for the win.
Very soon, I’ll probably start adding in running twice a week. But I want to make sure I’ve established practices that are sustainable before I start stressing out those practices by overloading them.
I decided I needed a mental challenge, so I went with learning programming. I like that Steve Jobs quote, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” And writers need to think in a very calculated, precise way, piecing together a story much in the same way that a computer program is constructed. Frayed storylines and loose threads of plot are just as problematic as coding missing a character. Plus, it’s something I can learn that is very important to the twins. There’s a nice hum between all of us as we work.
I wrote about how the kids are learning coding. I’m tagging along for the ride, using the same books since they speak to someone on my level. Right now, I’m trying to learn Python. The Wolvog is faster than I am at picking it up, but I know a lot more mathematical theory so it balances out, especially when I slow us down by droning on about tuples. He loves that. So as long as my programming partner doesn’t ditch me or refuse to answer my endless questions, expect a really cool game that the ChickieNob is helping me design uploaded to my blog some time this year.
I rarely say no. My thought is that if I can say yes, then I should say yes. What I didn’t realize was how often I couldn’t really say yes, but was saying yes anyway. So this year, I’m saying no. I’m not over-committing and then feeling frantic in the process. I’m offering things once, and if the person wants to take me up on the favour, the ball is now in their court. I’m not going to chase them down in order to provide them with a favour (something I often did in the past that left me feeling resentful afterward).
I am saying yes to things I enjoy, things I think are important, things I can do to be helpful that don’t detract from my own sense of well-being. And all other things, I am apologetically saying no and not obsessing about the opportunities I’m turning down. It leaves me more time to enjoy or do a good job on the things I am saying yes to.
We started home improvements this past spring. There are A LOT of necessary home improvements, and most of them feel fairly urgent, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. We took care of replacing the windows first. Window replacement sucks because it’s one of those things that cost a lot of money but doesn’t change the look of the house. So, for the most part, our house is EXACTLY the same as it was before they came with the exception that we can now open the windows. Which will soon become more helpful than I realized at the time.
After we finished the windows, we realized that they had cost a lot more than we had budgeted, and we would need to wait a while to make cosmetic changes to our house. It filled me with dread to live in this ugly space and it filled me with dread to think about a time when we’d be spending a shit-ton of money and have workpeople in and out of our home. You’ve probably also picked up over the years that I’m a little overexcited when it comes to things such as evenness and symmetry. Neatness. I am the woman who bleaches the inside of my dishwasher. So I spent a lot of nights lying awake, worried that the painters would — let’s say — leave a tiny sliver of extra paint in some unnoticeable corner of the wall, and it would drive me crazy forever.
The only person I trust to deal with my neuroses is me. And maybe Josh. But mostly me.
Over the last few months, we’ve gotten estimates for the work we need done, and whenever they tell me the price tag and the length of time (remember, I work out of the house, so it also means a loss of work time for me when we have people in here), I would spend the rest of the day curled up in a little ball emotionally. I didn’t see how we were going to do this in a way that didn’t demolish our savings and retain my sanity.
And that’s when I decided to do it myself. Like almost all of it myself. Like watching YouTube tutorials and then doing the whole ding-dong home improvement project mostly on my own. When I tell people who know me well that this is what I’m doing, there are long pauses of silence. But everyone eventually comes around to the idea. And for the first time in many many years, I feel calm about it. I feel in control. I feel like I own this renovation; that it will be done my way with all lines very very very evenly measured.
Redoing every room in my house on my own feels very Riot Grrl. I have a feeling it may also look a little Riot Grrl when I’m done, hence why I’m starting with low-stakes rooms such as my bathroom and building up to redoing my own kitchen. I’ll need to hire out for some of the plumbing and electrical tasks, but anything carpentry? I taught woodworking. I mean, sure, it was one summer and our projects ranged from wooden napkin rings to alphabet blocks. But it was woodworking nonetheless. And painting the walls: I have an MFA and six of those credits had to be in a different medium. Sure, my visual arts course work was in printmaking and my background is general illustration. But how different can painting on a wall be from painting on a canvas? Not that I ever really painted on a canvas but we can overlook that for a moment.
I am probably not going to post before pictures because they’re too embarrassing. But I will post after pictures. I’ve given myself a long window of time to complete this, and I’m going to do it in small pieces at a time. All the better to obsess over every rotation of the paint roller.
So that’s where I am. Not working toward perfection (except in terms of evenness of the distribution of paint) or anything silly like that. Just bettering. Making myself and the space around me better than where it is right now.
Anyone want to join along with their own personal bettering over the course of the year? It’s pretty laid back. Not too much stress (unless you count the fact that I am planning to lie on my side on the floor so I can be eye-level with the baseboard when I paint it). Just tiny, sustainable change. No, I’m serious: tiny, sustainable change.