Getting Stuff Done
Last night, I streamed Fauré’s Requiem and scrubbed the ceiling fan in the kitchen.
I could, realistically, have spent the time sitting on the couch and chillaxing, but cleaning the ceiling fan sounded more interesting. I had already spent nearly four hours sitting down to watch an opera, after all.
The Great Polishing of the Fan took an hour. The thing was filthy, coated with who knows how many years of aerosolized cooking grease (probably not that many, though, because Denis doesn’t cook — before I showed up, he ate out a lot). I worked steadily, singing. The cat supervised, as cats are wont.
While I was cleaning I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to conceive of starting a project like that, let alone of getting through it without feeling like I was going to explode — like, seriously, since before the summer term when I scheduled two intense classes for one six-week session and completely cracked afterwards. Even back then, I did a lot of starting things and then getting overwhelmed.
It feels weird to be able to simply finish things. This is not something that has ever been all that possible for me. It’s weird to just come up with a project and bang away at it ’til it’s done. It’s equally weird to be able to walk away from a project, come back, and pick up where I left off without first spending half an hour remembering where, precisely, that was in the first place.
It’s a good kind of weird. Slightly jarring, in the way the first year or so of my relationship with Denis was: this sense of always waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for it all to go off the rails. So far, things seem to be under control.
Working on catching up all the leftover projects has made me realize exactly how tough last year was for me. It’s strange, because there have certainly been years that I would have described as, perhaps, experientially harder — but last year, I was clearly not functioning so well in a lot of ways. A lot of stuff took a back seat.
In the long run, that’s probably a good thing. I’ve spent most of my life driving myself pretty hard (and, sadly, often to insufficient effect), and while perhaps screwing up your finances and horribly neglecting vast swathes of domestic responsibility aren’t the best way to do it, sometimes a rest is needed.
This is one of the major problems with American culture: we seem to think that if work is productive, even more work will always be more productive — which is not, in fact, at all the case. Our culture and our economy are structured in such a way that restorative rest is rarely possible, and yet they’re actually essential to being happy, healthy, and productive. This is doubly true for those of us who live with mental illnesses.
I’ve heard it said that mules are smarter than horses, because a horse will let you work it to death (caveat: not so sure about some of the horses I’ve known!), while a mule will simply up and stop when she’s good and done, and no amount of haranguing will convince her to do otherwise.
Part of me wishes I’d bitten the bullet and hopped back on the ADHD meds sooner. Part of me recognizes that, if I had, I probably wouldn’t have addressed some stuff that needed addressing. I guess I needed to kind of fall apart to realize that I couldn’t just hold the universe together by force of will alone, and that, in fact, it’s okay not to be able to do that.
Zen focuses a great deal on the idea of no control — that, really, control is an illusion; that efforts to grasp it are futile. Last year was one hell of a good example. Not to say that it was entirely a wash — I had some great experiences last year; ones that are now driving the forward-going direction of my life. But I definitely took a lesson in how illusory control really is.
I’m still having trouble initiating tasks that involve sitting down and using my brain instead of standing up (or, as I did this morning, crouching on the floor) and using my body — writing excepted. In theory, increasing the dose of my medication might help with that, but honestly I don’t really want to do that.
I’d rather see, first, if I can build that skill through experience. Right now, it’s hard for me to start those tasks in part because I associate them powerfully with frustration and failure. This is why I can muscle through the “sitting down” part when I need to do homework, but not always when I need to work on the filing or the finances.
The thing is, I’ve managed to undertake quite a few onerous sit-down-and-brain tasks in the past couple of weeks. While starting is still quite hard, I’ve found that I’m much better at finishing them now — and generally without gaining a splitting headache for my efforts! Cracking out two months’ of financial catch-up in the course of maybe four to six hours was huge. Huge. In the past, that would’ve taken a solid two days — and it would’ve been a thousand times more miserable.
Denis has apparently been pretty impressed with how things have been going for me as well. On Wednesday, I went and got my hair cut by myself. This was the particular thing that felt like a real signifier to him: the thing that he focused on when we were talking to my therapist this week. He mentioned a couple other things, but he kept coming back to that point — in part, I suppose, because it involved making a plan to do a thing I don’t usually do by myself, then executing that plan successfully. This, from the Boy Who Doesn’t Plan.
Getting a haircut by myself really is kind of a big deal in my world, since getting my hair cut is something I have historically found highly stressful for reasons I don’t quite understand. I also figured out how to communicate what I was looking for to the stylist, who in turn did a fantastic job implementing it — so there’s another reinforcing experience.
So, in short, as I build positive associations with sit-down-and-brain tasks (and others that I find stressful, like getting haircuts), I think I’ll find it easier to initiate them. Meanwhile, I’m finding that I tolerate Adderall quite well at the current dose, and being that I’m very prone to developing side-effects (though far less so with stimulant meds than with those that involve depressant mechanisms), I think I’d rather not tinker with it right now.
At the end of March, I have another appointment with Dr. B to check in about the meds. Unless she feels very strongly that my dose should be increased, I think I’m going to request that we keep it right where it is.
I don’t think medication is a magic bullet for me (it might actually work that well for some people, and that’s great). It does, however, work rather better than I’d hoped — and I find that I don’t really want a magic bullet, anyway. I want to be functional enough. That’s it. And I think I’m getting there.
So that’s it for now. Back to preparing all the paperwork and so forth for our meeting with our accountant.