Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My (Dopey) List

I’m at my tipping point in a lot of ways. After an incident watching The Young Victoria (me: bursting into tears saying why can’t Matt be as romantic as Prince Albert and leaving the room / him: panic-stricken and not moving from the corner of the couch) Matt is steering clear, which is probably the smart choice. Yesterday I called our county’s Roads Department and argued with the Roads Manager so I really don’t think anyone is safe. (We get a train of traffic during rush hour as drivers cut through our neighborhood. I want speed bumps. He doesn’t want to blow his budget. At this point I’m thinking of mobilizing the neighbors, a la Kathryn Brackovich.)

I’m at my lowest professionally and personally, and really, being sad is the pits. There are many things I cannot change directly (my workplace, my health), but enough is enough. I know one thing: going home, eating Oreos, and watching The Bachelorette from bed is not the answer (it took a lot of strength to write “Oreos” and “not the answer” in the same sentence).

Matt likes to remind me my life is good. Every instance I lament something he compares my place in society to that of a woman in a far-off developing nation, shoeless and starving. I don’t write that to be callous or glib: I know very well I was born into a lucky lot, and my situation doesn’t begin (BEGIN) to compare to most. I know that. But throw me a bone, will ya? Things aren’t exactly hunky dory, and patronizing me is only going to make me write about you on my blog – see? (Don’t worry, I still love him.)

But I know I have to work though this. And even if it’s in the most contrived, laughable way (and I open myself up to ridicule) it’s worth a shot. Thus, this:

You cannot compartmentalize your life. Or add up to 10 to create happiness – yeah, yeah, I know that. It may be incredibly dopey (fine, it is) but why not? Who’s to say if I read a book instead of looking at celebrity blogs, cleaned my bedroom, and made a salad from greens from the garden I won’t be more happy? More at peace?

Today I already blew a lot of them, but that’s fine. There’s always tomorrow.

UPDATE: I would love to know what you would add to your daily list!


  1. although it is painful to admit as before H.K. i was supremely anti-modern-romance (i.e., personal romance in my life), i had a very similar reaction after watching that film. this was partially due to what you have scripted, and partially because i just want to live five hundred years ago in general.

    i love your dopey list. it encompasses everything (aside from walking the dog that i desperately want but don't have) that would make me feel better about my day (with a fifteenth bullet for spending non-movie-watching time with H.K.). i believe i will reference it when i need to be reminded of what i could instead be doing to make my day feel more purposeful :)

    i wish i could say something more appropriately comforting in the face of your current struggle. my own recent rut dug itself out behind my back, however, and i remain weak to the threat of both professional and personal setbacks. i am still working on confronting them in the way i do science, and the way i did before becoming a grown-up: the whole thing is about trouble-shooting, very seldom do things go according to plan, and there is always something unexpectedly rewarding that comes out of the trouble-shooting process.

    sent warmly.

  2. Ragamuffin,
    I always say I wanted to live in the Victorian age (or any age where they wore decadent dresses, really) but then I'm reminded life would only be good if I was rich (like, really rich) due to the class system.

    I'm glad you liked the list! I suddenly don't feel so dopey.

    I like the thought that these setbacks give one more character - I'll go w/ that!

  3. Hi Kathryn!

    I don't think your list is dopey at all. I've been in your shoes many times... feeling burnt out, and looking at my life wonder what I have accomplished. Heck.. I'm in the middle of wondering why I have an Honours university degree and almost 10 years experience in my field and I still don't make nearly what I think I should. I'm a bit of a crazy list maker and have had very similar lists to yours.

    Some things I've learned, which may or may not be helpful to you:

    - TV and web surfing are HUGE time sinks. You think you're relaxing, but you just end up wondering where the time went. It helps to make a list of the shows you want to follow, cut out any you can do with out... and then ONLY watch those. I found hours of extra time each week once I stopped randomly surfing the channels.

    - Make a list of things you're thankful for. It can be hard on yourself if you only focus on the things that are lacking - that you should be doing or that you don't have. It should be balanced out by a list of what you do have and what you're doing well.

    - Disorganization can be murder on our state of mind and our ability to live intentionally and to accomplish things. I suggest tackling one thing at a time. Try reading the book Getting Things Done: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done). There's also a lot of info about 'GTD' online and even lots of free online to-do list software. Multi-tasking makes you feel like you're getting more done, but you're actually getting less done. I made a radical change in my life when I realized this. I used to watch TV while eating and working on projects. What a mess.

    - Try reading up a bit about the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness. It deals with the practice of trying to be mindful and intentional in everything we do. Helping us _notice_ when we're about to eat those Oreos... rather than being on auto-pilot.

    - Don't forget to acknowledge when you've accomplished something. It can be easy to finish a project - like reorganizing the closet... and then immediately move on to the next task. This makes you feel like your life is just a never-ending list of work. Step back... admire what you've done: "isn't that a damn fine closet? Look at all the extra space!", brag about it- show someone, announce it on facebook, pat yourself on the back - whatever it takes. Then... take the rest of the day off as a reward. Continue to think about your accomplishment the next day. Leave it on your list with a bit CHECKMARK next to it for a few days before erasing it. Sounds corny - but it helps.

    Funny thing is... I even created a whole personal wiki to organize my projects and to-do lists and random thoughts. You probably won't go that far... *laughs*, but maybe start with a notebook. Write down every little thing you want to do- then you won't have the "I can't forget about __________" stress. Then just start tackling items from the notebook one at a time. Heck... I was carrying around a blue notebook for 2 years until I got my outstanding projects down to a manageable size. A bit part of it was saying no to some things and no longer doing them / planning to do them. I took down a few of my websites too.

    Anyway good luck! Keep me posted of your progress. I'm happy to help with suggestions, encouragement or anything- email me anytime.


  4. I love lists of all kinds. I think they are the answer to all of life's problems. Last year I started making weekly lists on a legal pad (which I also love). I start on Monday with about 10 items and add to it during the week. Then (and this is the best part) as I complete each task I cross it off. I must admit sometimes I add a job I've already done just so I can cross it out. I also write lists on post-its to move to the next week's list--Things to buy at Target, Songs to download to my IPod, etc. To wrap up, I think your list idea is great, because lists aways make me feel better. Oh, and I like the points idea too, another thing that is always fun.


  5. Bright Side, You're not the first person to talk to me about mindfulness and meditation. I think it's duly needed; by 8 am I'm already gritting my teeth and clenching my fingers! I also have a podcast talking about "Getting Things Down" in my queue to download. Thanks for the thoughtful recommendations.

    I too add things to lists (which I also love to make!) that I already accomplished. I love crossing things out: tasks, days on the calendar, etc. I'm a list maven, but they're always very concrete, like "Buy stamps" and "Email so-and-so". I don't think I've taken list-making to an art-form like you...I just do it ad hoc. And I LOVE office supplies too (who doesn't?).