Work

Good Mondays – Break

Today I want to talk about, and appreciate, days off. Yes, it’s another generic one about the overall state of things, but I figure we can talk about the ridiculous amount of stationary I’ve amassed over the past year some other time (they do all bring me joy, each and every one). And I want to talk about forgiving yourself for taking a break, because we all need them, regularly, frequently, and they’re nothing to beat yourself up for.

This is brought on by the Superbowl yesterday. Usually every year we have a small party with a few friends to watch the game, complete with plenty of buffalo wings and beer. Not this year, obviously, but a friend of ours had set up a zoom hangout so we can sort of have a party. It worked alright, and in between getting angry at all the refs being obviously biased we caught up on our respective lives. Afterwards I was too strung up to do any work, so I didn’t, and just relaxed the rest of the day. I was supposed to be working on Sunday – I only allow myself 1 day break between workdays because otherwise I’d lose momentum so it’ll be extra hard to start up again. I spent most of Saturday just playing video games and do a crapload of chores. Sunday I was supposed to devote some time after the Superbowl to work. And I didn’t. And I want to say: that’s okay!

I woke up this morning ready to work. I made myself relax and not worry about the lost productivity from the day before. Superbowl is once a year, and it’s okay to take the day off because of that. It’s okay to take more time off if you’re meeting up with friends after a long time of quarantine, or having just come back from surgery, or your roof fell in from torrential rain and you have to call people to fix it. It’s okay to not get much done because your child is sick, or your mother had a fall, or god forbid someone in your family had caught a bad case of Covid and is in ICU. If you have the choice to not work on bad days, you should take the rest, whether the stress is mental or physical. It will help you in the long run. If you’re forced to work no matter what, then I’m sorry, and I suggest you take at least half an hour to yourself to relax, somehow. It’s important, and we as a society (especially Americans) are just way too focused on working and productivity. Constant production is unsustainable. It’s alright if you need some time to regroup.

So I did not feel bad (or as bad as I would’ve before) that I didn’t work yesterday when I should. I’m definitely back to work today, not feeling burnt out, and that is a whole lot better than trying to focus yesterday and failing and then end up completely losing motivation for the rest of the week. I lost a day and gained another five days of productivity. I think that’s a fair trade.

Work

Be Gentle, Be Kind

I had a terrible day yesterday. And the day before, but more so yesterday. No, nothing significant happened, just that I woke up anxious and therefore couldn’t really concentrate on work. And then because I couldn’t concentrate, I got more anxious, and the spiral of anxiety just went on until I basically stayed in bed all day and didn’t do anything. And then one of my packages from USPS didn’t get delivered due to a mistake. Totally understandable, since they’re so overwhelmed right now, but that seemed to be just the straw that broke the camel’s back and I burst out ugly crying on my husband’s shoulder while talking about how this completely non-essential delivery is going to be a few days late. I guess it really was just one of those days.

I woke up today still feeling horrible, still worrying about that super stupid package, and when my husband asked me if I could make some rice I burst out crying again. Yeah… He then was like, um, are you okay? Is something else bothering you that’s not just this package being late because it seems a little dramatic, and of course I said “I don’t know whatever” when of course I knew exactly why. In fact, I could just say that “I’m terrified I’ll never finish my novel why is it going so slowly omg???” and “I’ll never make money and I’ll be broke and homeless when I’m old due to no social security payments” and “I might as well kill myself and end it right here the future is so bleak.” And of course that’ll only get everyone more upset so I didn’t say anything.

So we ate lunch and after that I forced myself to just follow a routine. Not even a good routine, just a routine, just so I can stop moping around in bed. I played some games, put on my usual skincare that I’ve been neglecting, cleaned up the dishes, listened to a podcast, and then took out my bullet journal and started my usual checklists and other planning that I always do before starting work. I’m writing this entry now also as part of the routine. After this I’ll start on my novel again. (I did call the post office before lunch and everything seems okay – I just have to wait for the delivery for a few more days.) I still don’t feel that much better, but keep working seems to be the cure for, well, I think all of my woes. So I guess no matter what happens I just need to keep working until I’m done. Easier said by a wide margin, for realz.

Work

Be A Better Me Every Single Day

Let me explain the title a bit. It’s a quote I read in an article from Vogue, said by the artist Lizzo in an interview. For some reason it really struck a chord with me. I guess it was because I was in a writing slump and felt like I could never accomplish what I wanted to do. Like I just don’t have the willpower or something. But then I read that quote and thought, oh, I don’t have to be the best perfect self all the time. If I can just strive for the goal of doing better than yesterday (or if yesterday I did really well, keep up the same work), then that’s enough. If I worked on some part of my novel today, then tomorrow I will work on that plus an extra half hour, and add more the next day and on and on until I reach my maximum work potential. All sounds a bit new age-y, I know, but if you just break it down to the most basic components, it’s just a practical way to approach work (independent creative work, that is, I’m well aware there’s tons of difference between this and office politics, physical labor, etc.)

I also remember this interview with this small business owner I’ve heard on the podcast NPR’s Marketplace. She has a day job and her own side business, so her schedule is basically go to work from 9 to 5, come home, eat dinner, work on her own business at night for a couple of hours. Rinse and repeat every weekday. Weekends she devotes a lot more time to her own business but also give herself some more downtime. She called herself a work horse, and it just floored me that people work so much harder than me and I, well, felt bad about my lack of progress. I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others especially if you’re anxiety- or depression-prone, but I couldn’t help it. I feel like I’m not doing anything, and that just makes me even more discouraged. But at the same time I feel a tiny bit of motivation – like, I could actually try to be like her. Emulate her work ethics, you know? It’s worth a try.

So yesterday I actually worked the full 6 40-min slots I always aimed for but never got to (always zonked out around 4 or 5 slots, sometimes 3). Well, today I will aim for the same. My sleep schedule is still off, though, due to waking up super late and drinking copious amount of caffeine. So today I’m not going to drink any caffeine and will try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I don’t miss the morning progesterone shots days but I do miss the fact I was forced to get up by 8:30 am. So much time to do things, too bad then I was too stressed by hormones to utilize it. Well that’s not going to happen next year. I will get myself in shape and keep to a good schedule, and I will definitely start this month and hopefully watch it run through next year.

Work · Writing

A Case of the Mondays, on Tuesday

I’m feeling super unproductive today. The most appropriate phrase would be I’m ‘having a case of the Mondays,’ except it’s 5 o’clock on Tuesday, because my weekend was Sunday and Monday, because I actually worked a “normal workweek” and decided yes, I do need two days off just like everybody else that’s toiling away do.

Why is this significant? Well, this is the first time in a long, long time, that I actually took two days off. As in, I did the work I’m supposed to do, and in the two days that followed, not only did I not do work, I also didn’t worry about work. It was utterly and completely freeing, and I haven’t had that feeling in so long that I really don’t remember the last time that happened. Every day I spend either working but agonizing over that I’m not doing enough, or getting completely burnt out and unable to work and then agonizing over the fact that I’m not working. Every. Single. Damn. Day. For the past however many months – years even. I seriously do not remember how it felt to…not do that. To be honest it was a pretty weird experience for me the past two days. Like, the lack of pressure was so new that I have no idea what to make of it. Good thing I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll have loads to talk about over this.

I got out of the cycle because I had to submit to my writer’s group last Saturday, so I basically worked nonstop until I finally deemed my submission “good enough,” which was around 11 pm Saturday night. After that I just crashed. But the point is that I was done and more or less satisfied with what I needed to do, which was new, and so the days that followed were spent at peace instead of in mental agony. I’m hoping to keep this up – not that I’ll work nonstop or anything, but that I will keep a manageable schedule and take regular number of days off. And keep that up. Because it’s the only healthy way forward, I think. I’ve been mired in an unhealthy mindset for so long that to get a breath of fresh air is almost too overwhelming.

This doesn’t help today, though. I’m supposed to get back to work but I’m procrastinating like no tomorrow. The only difference is that I think I’m experiencing what normal people with a normal job feel like on a normal Monday, not what a depressed person feel like on, well, any day really. But let’s not jump the gun. I’ll update on how my therapist interpret this later. Right now, I just need to get back to work!

Life · Work

Social Media Is Bad For Me, Apparently

Well, I went to another session with my therapist and told him that, yes, I am keeping a journal, but no, I haven’t worked a lick. Yeah…remember I said I would really, really try to work these past few days? Tried and failed like no tomorrow. I told him this, and we went over all kinds of why’s and how’s and what now’s. So he set some new rules to try this week. One, do some kind of relaxation exercise for 20-30 minutes first thing when I wake up. Two, no checking any news/social media before five pm. And three, keep on journaling, of course.

So apparently what I’ve been doing the past few days was obsessively going on reddit and other news sites to check on the coronavirus situation, because right now California (and a lot of other states, but since I live in Cali it impacts me the most) are surging like mad in cases. It’s making me anxious, but I can’t stop myself from looking up discussions and other slightly alarmist news articles about it, and it went on for hours every day. As a result I get too jittery to concentrate on any creative work. So the doctor’s solution is to just ban myself from social media for the majority of the day. I may have to adjust his ‘no news before five’ stance to something like ‘no news until after dinner’, because I usually start working around 2 or 3 and 5 is way too early. But the point is the same. I wish there’s an easy-to-use site-blocker on Opera, but maybe it’s a test of character or something if I just force myself to not type in the address. I don’t know, let’s give it a week before I feel like I need to install something to do the job for me because I just can’t help myself.

He also said that I might be journaling the wrong way. I told him that writing things down in a journal doesn’t seem to help me much. I mean it helps me in that I no longer am bottling things up and am seeing things up front, and that’s good, but I feel like he’s expecting some kind of catharsis just from that process or something and I’m just like, uh, no? But he did say that maybe instead of me diving deep down I kind of just circle the same point over and over and that’s actually making me more anxious because I get stuck. Maybe. I am noticing, as of right now, even, that when I write my mind keeps on wandering to other, usually stressful things. (Did I take my medication? Garbage needs to be taken out today. I want to use this app but it’s a subscription but it might be helpful but it cost money which I don’t have! Etc. Etc.) And then I stop and try to do something else to alleviate the stress all these other thoughts brought me, which, you guessed it, most of the time is going on to social media, which then brings on more stress and oh my god it just never ends! I’m not sure what to do with that. Well, guess we have the topic for the next session, huh? In the meantime I’ll just have to, again, force myself to concentrate and not get distracted. Really makes one see the appeal of Addreall, but, you know, that’s not healthy for you either.

Work · Writing

How Would You Know If You Don’t Try?

I am having some serious issues concentrating on work these past few days. I don’t know if it’s fatigue or anxiety or what have you, but I’ve got no motivation to do work. I mean, so what else is new, but instead of pure panic I just feel demotivated and drained. I’m not fearful of my work, at least I don’t think, but regardless I’m still not working due to… depression? Boredom? Fatigue? I really don’t know.

It doesn’t help that I’m submitting some chapters for my writer’s group’s upcoming April meeting. (Don’t worry, it’ll be via digital means; we’re not going to someone’s house like we usually do.) I was hoping to submit 2-3 chapters but at the rate I’m writing them now it might not even be one. I’ve half a heart to cancel my submission already because I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to make it “good enough.” But you know, I still have two solid weeks to drum out a single chapter, at the most, and since I haven’t even started, how do I know I won’t have enough time? My fear of that deadline is creeping on me. Maybe that’s why I’m dragging my feet? Kind of like giving up before I fail rather than trying to win and then fall short. Ugh, yeah, I think that’s it. Well, the only solution is to stop scaring myself silly or give in to depression, but instead pick up my busted ass and try.

Didn’t mean to turn this into a semi random peptalk. On another unrelated, much lighter note, Amazon delayed my Animal Crossing: New Horizon copy by a week, so I just canceled it and opted for digital instead. It’s all ready and pre-loaded for release day (midnight tonight), which makes me happy, although I’m not going to actually start playing until tomorrow. Why? Because it’s in real time, so all the stores and other things are closed at night. (Yes, they have an overnight box but it’s not quite the same feel). I rather just play it 10 hours later when I wake up and am refreshed, and it’s beautiful daylight in the game, too.

Life · Work

It’s Super Effective!

Yeah so I now have concrete evidence that not going on r/coronavirus, or reddit in general because the front page is coronavirus related anyway, helps me with productivity. A lot.

On Saturday I deliberately forced myself to put down the iPad and not look at any outbreak related news. I was a lot more productive and worked longer hours. On Sunday I didn’t, and well, kind of whiled the afternoon away, so I subsequently freaked out and obsessively clicked on links. Yesterday I only allowed a little bit of perusing in the morning and not so much later, and guess what? I got no work done in the morning, and in the afternoon the minute I (again, forced myself to) put down the iPad, I started working almost right away. It’s crazy. Well, not exactly ‘right away’ as there’s an hour of ‘lag,’ per se, between me reading anything and starting working, but that just means my brain needed the time to switch gears. But as soon as I cut off the obsession the gear did switch, and that’s the important takeaway here, I think.

So today, and probably for the foreseeable future, I will at most allow myself some minor perusing just to keep up on the events. The minute I realize I’m getting sucked in I will stop. It works, but needs self discipline. I am in an entirely self-driven career anyway, so I guess this is a good way to practice as any.

Life · Work

Detox

I’ve decided that I should stop visiting reddit about the coronavirus. It’s not good for my mental health. I would be working and wanted a brief break and so go on the subreddit, and whop, there goes an hour of clicking on headlines and reading comments and silently freaking out. And then when I try to get back to work my headspace is nowhere near where it needs to be to concentrate. And so I open more tabs, because I don’t want to work, and so rinse and repeat. It’s why work that should only take 2 hours takes like 7 hours, which is ridiculous. And then I have bad dreams on top of that. My sleep pattern has seen some crazy wild swings like the stock market. All in all, I need to stop visiting that website.

If anything super major does happen (like we finally start actually testing and discover there’s 100,000 cases in California or something), I’m sure the front page of reddit will let me know. Or the actual news. Or anything, really. I have to concentrate on my novel now – I refuse to let it go past the full five year mark. I had a brief existential crisis before I went to bed last night, about how I’ll never finish writing anything, good or bad. Again, not good for my mental health, but I’m pretty sure that’s just anxiety talking (brought on by all the stuff that’s going on in the world). So I’m going to limit my exposure to fix my anxiety, and that starts with not going to r/coronavirus for a while.

Gosh, Animal Crossing: New Horizons can’t come soon enough.

Life · Work

A Break?

My husband said something to me this morning that made me think. Yesterday my doctor called me and told me that she’s very happy with the current results of the IVF process, and then delineated the next steps in the journey. Well, there seems to be a whole other half involving even more, bigger needles, more hormones, a possible additional surgery because there might be more polyps growing (guess I just have a propensity to grow the stuff. Biology.), not to count the actual implantation itself. So it’s far from near the finish and I’m going to rack up more uninsured medical costs, along with more body trauma. I’m still recovering from the surgery right now – coupled with the signs of the beginning of a long-overdue period – and so let’s just say bed rest and Advil are still my friends. So, my husband said, after I told him all this, ‘dear, why don’t you call the doctors and see if you can take a break to completely recover before we continue?’ Everything’s on ice as far as I know, and that means it can potentially wait a month or two. I thought, well, he’s right. I could use some downtime from all this, especially with the emergent coronavirus and the tanking of the economy. Money’s going to be tight and hospitals are a dreaded place to be in the near future, so maybe not going outside for a month or two and stay relatively restful would do me a lot of good.

Plus, I can finally get some semblance or normalcy back – physically, mentally, hormonally – and so can continue to work. There has been some serious disruptions in my daily routine, and as a writer struggling to write it’s not really helping matters. I’ll give a call to my doctor today. Really, could use a good break so I can actually work.

Work · Writing

Depression Comes in All Different Sizes

I took a look at my bullet journal work log yesterday, and found out that I worked so little that I should be ashamed of myself. Granted, I had a few other things on my mind this past month but the amount of work I didn’t do was atrocious. I’m glad I looked, though, because it basically gave me a kick in the teeth about how much I’m not getting done, so now I know to get down and do it. Seriously. Sometimes I really hate the way I don’t operate correctly, like a robot stuck on a loop of non-productivity.

Depression is a crazy thing, eh? I know there are folks are so depressed that they don’t feel like doing ANYTHING, like not even getting out of bed. I don’t think that’s how depression ever manifested in me except for like a very short period of time. My depression seems to manifest so that I struggle to do creative work, which is devastating for someone who writes fiction for a living. I’m functioning in life, but not functioning at work, and I don’t know how to deal with that. They say that insanity is the process of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Well, I want different results certainly, but I also feel like I’ve tried different tactics and none are giving me that. I guess the best way now is just to pick the one that works the best, even if it’s like at 25% instead of 100%, but hey, it’s better than 0%, and go from there. For me personally it’s setting a time (like 3 hrs every day or something like that) and stick to schedule. (And also avoid all procrastination websites like Reddit, which I actually did alright on.) It worked for at least a few days in the past, so maybe this time I just need to keep it going every day, like a recovering alcoholic who’s struggling to stay sober, one day at a time.

If I have a 3D printer I might just print some imitation AA tokens but for writer’s block. Or rather, working block – and see if I can get myself to not fall off the wagon. Because hell I’ve tried everything else.