I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
To send me a private message, please e-mail me: flylittlewordsfly@gmail.com
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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Satisfaction and the Job Partially Done

Satisfaction comes from a job well done. In my case, I am learning to be satisfied with a job half done. Or even a quarter done. But when I finally get to the end, oh, how the satisfaction fills me.

I am writing this today as a reminder to myself, to not get discouraged when I can't do things the way I am used to and like doing them, when I can't finish them, or when, like yesterday, my biggest accomplishment was plopping a piece of chicken and some frozen spinach in the microwave.

Once again yesterday I found myself on the down slope of the ups and downs. Today feels like it could possibly be a little bit better, but it's too soon to tell. The weather shifting, and the rain storms all mean air pressure changes, which for me, mean woozy, cognitively-challenged, less energetic days. All the more reason to allow myself to feel good about doing just a little bit.

I had a wonderful talk with my therapist about tidiness and organization. My house is not like I would like it to be. It is not like it was before I fell ill, and it is miles away from what any of my classrooms ever were. My classrooms were anally organized, because Montessori environments have to be in order to function. My house less so, but still, everything was pretty much "just so." My books are organized by genre, then by size. My knicknacks are placed in ways I find aesthetically pleasing, as is everything in my kitchen (yes, I did originally organize my kitchen in a way I would find it pretty - it's a huge motivator for me). Even when I was perfectly well, there were a few things lying around not in their places - my house was casually lived-in, and perhaps more cluttered than some would like. But it was perfect for me.

Until I stopped being able to keep up with putting away the things I and my son used. And now it is cluttered beyond my, and pretty much most people who don't star in Hoarders' comfort zone. And I am overwhelmed, because all I see are the piles. So I talked to my therapist, and this is what I learned about myself.

True to my all-or-nothing approach to life, which you know I am shifting away from, I have a very thorough organizational style. And I  love organizing things, once their places are set, and if their place there is clear. If the place is not clear, it causes me great stress - I mean, really, where would you put an Umberto Eco illustrated fantasy novel? With graphic novels, with Fantasy, or with what I call "Serious Novels"? It fits in all of them, and there's not a perfect spot for it, and that does not compute, and my brain does not like it. There is rarely a perfect place for something, and so I turn the pleasure of organizing into a stressful situation. I hate those kinds of decisions. I mean, what if I put it in the wrong place? The sky will fall. You know it will.

My preferred mode of organization also does not help. I like to pick up a giant pile, dump it all out, and find that elusive perfect place for each item. Very very satisfying and very effective. Also the only approach I've tried that works for me. And very energy consuming. I need to find a new approach. Last week, I did something different with my kitchen. I did a dish or two at a time, rather than try to tackle the whole dishwasher, or even just one whole rack. It worked. Within a couple of days, things were almost back to normal. And I mostly cleared out a corner of my dining room, and a corner of my living room. One little corner in each room, and not completely cleared. And it felt so good. But every day I had to remind myself (as I am doing now in writing this) to focus on what I did do, and not on what was left to do. And every time I succeeded, I felt that satisfaction you get from a job well done.

Friends of the family will enjoy knowing that we also talked about why I have such a hard time wrapping my head around other organizational modes (and I say this will all the love, acceptance, and admiration in the world). My father is uberorganized - everything has a spot, that spot is sacred, and order is maintained by strict routines, from which he does not falter. In my childhood, I learned that the quickest way to get him angry was to move something of his, or forget to put it back. My mother, on the other hand, is everywhere all the time, and would probably have been diagnosed with ADHD had they been as obsessed as we are today with labels when she was a child. She has a very organic sense of organization, and things land where they will, and get shuffled off in boxes when the piles get too big. I can't live with either style. I am somewhere in between; like my father, I like to know where my things are, and I like them to be placed in ways that make sense to me, but like my mother, I need to have visual access to them or they will simply cease to exist in my awareness. The added bonus is, of course, that I need things to look pretty. So how the hell am I supposed to do all that, when I can't even de-clutter one corner of one room in one day?

As a child, growing up in Montessori classrooms where everything had it's place and was visible, and beautiful and available, it was perfect for me. Which is probably why my dishes, glassware, cutlery, and most often used clothing are all on open shelves. But that's harder to do with papers. They're just not pretty. And I have lots of papers now, what with the insurance forms, medical records, and so forth. It was similar when I was working: it was easy to keep my classrooms perfect, but just ask my co-teachers about my paperwork and my offices/cupboards! Sure, I could put papers in boxes, binders and other such organizers that are very pretty, but then I don't see them, and if I don't see them, they don't exist anymore, I won't follow up, and then I'm in trouble.

So, baby steps. First, I'm getting used to thinking about organizing and cleaning as things that can be done a little at a time. I am wrapping my head around the fact that if I don't find the perfect place for everything, the sky will not fall, and the world will not come to a fiery end. And most importantly, I'm redefining what a "job well done" is. Because every day I have a different tolerance for effort, and so every day, the limit to what I can do changes. So if one day I can shower and empty the dishwasher and go for a walk, then, really, that is an amazing day, and no question satisfaction is warranted! But if the next day, like yesterday, getting off the couch feels like an effort, then I need to recognize, for my own good, that popping that plate in the microwave so I can get my protein and vitamins is a Job Well Done and worthy of a good healthy dose of satisfaction. Yup, I'm good. Now let's see what today brings.


  1. This is a so Andy if ever there was one. But you are learning (as am I) that a lot of the stress we have we put on ourself.

    1. Love being on this journey with you, Debby!