Staying Alive

We're a third of the way through the last quarter of the year. Think of it. Another year almost gone. Many pieces of wisdom came my way this year and it applies to us all. It was a horrible, wonderful year for me. Yeah, I hate those extreme years, they unsettle me. But, they're a time of growth and you either grow or wither. That's a farmer's bit of wisdom.
A year and a half ago, I had so much work on my plate and so much left undone that I called a personal organizer person who works with business CEO's and other people who have no time. I'd been getting her newsletters and had even purchased some books to help. She also sells time for one on one counseling. This particular day every surface of my desk and the surrounding area was covered. I needed to pay bills. I had to open a file drawer to make another flat surface to put something on. I was ready to scream aloud. I had been screaming inside. Then one of the piles fell over.
I looked up one of her newsletter's that I'd saved on the computer until I had time to read it. Found her e-mail address. Then I found her telephone number and I called.
And got an answering machine. I left the message that I needed her now. I was at the end of my rope and that I'd only gotten her message machine.
I got a call back in fifteen minutes. I never thought about how desperate I must have sounded. She sounded gentle, as if she thought I was hanging and about to kick the chair over. Maybe I would have, but there wasn't room. (ok, not really, but I WAS overwhelmed).
We spoke a bit and set up an appointment to talk. She was in Seattle--I'm in Kansas, obviously we were going to do this long distance. After the free first hour, I signed up for three more and still reserve another hour. Yes, this person helped me. Soon after, I could at least find half my desk and all of the floor. That was such an improvement I thought things were going well.
Until.
This summer, it was gradually born upon me that I have no time. Not even to keep my most basic human personal body upkeep done--my nails filed. My nails filed. Think of that for a minute. This is the vessel that I'm living my life in. I'm too busy to file a nail? Actually a couple of them? What is the point of a life if I'm not the center of it?
What has this to do with writing? Writing is important to me. Is it getting done? No. Just like my nails, my writing is getting the jagged end of what's left over of my time. And that friends isn't much. You may have laughed when I said I was to busy to file a nail. What are you too busy for? Think about it for a moment.
I had to decide that I was important! The world didn't stop. The ceiling didn't fall in. And guess what? Keeping my mouth shut when someone gave those subtle hints that they needed help was really HARD! But I did it. Their nails were filed. They had time for sports. They had time for a weekend at the races. There were a lot of 'theys' and I let silence do its part in letting them find a different answer than me.
Then.
I figured out how to put my conference tapes on my ipod. It took me three days but it was for ME. And I listened to them whenever I was on the road for parts, groceries, and whenever else. All three hundred hours of them. I felt connected to writing even if the only writing for myself I was actually accomplishing was this blog.
But still--no time. Nails not filed. Then I heard one line on the conference tapes. Flylady. Sounds yuky, but the flylady has seen the bottom of her life and others and helped. Habit at a time. I urge you to go to her website. Sign up for the digests or whatever you can and start.
As I read today--(dentist office ceiling). 'We are what we do. Excellence then is a habit not a character trait.' (I think I just misquoted Aristotle, but you get the idea.) Last March I started getting her digests. By now, especially in the last thirty days, tiny habit at a time, I have found a few hours in bits and pieces. By following her advice--anything can get done a few minutes at a time. The last few months have seen a to do list of over ninety things (last spring) dwindled to less than ten. I'm not as calm as I'd like, but I can see ninety percent of my desk top. The bills are paid and after I get some equipment ferried to town this week for repairs, I can actually write on MY stuff.
The house is company ready. The holidays are upon us. By using the Flylady's holiday control journal as a guide, my stamps are ready for the Christmas cards NOW! Good, retrained habit is getting me through. I think I'll be able to stay alive. More than that, I think I'll be able to enjoy the holidays without feeling rushed, overwhelmed, in more debt, and generally have the feeling of wellbeing. Now I'm turning my habit plan to working on the habit of something important to me. Writing.
I'm going to be in the habit of writing. For me. (With filed nails.) And this I am thankful for.

19 comments:

Pat Davids said...

"We are what we do." That's very profound, even for the dentist's office.

My life is cluttered. The only open space on my desk is the mouse pad and that's only because I need to use the mouse. The bills are stacked up, the dirty dishes are on the counter, there are clothes in the washer and the dryer as well as on top of the dryer and I don't care.

I do pretty much what I want to do.

There will always be laundry and dishes and trips to the doctor or dentist, but I slide along over the humps and bumps of life without thinking much about them.

If we are what we do, I guess that makes me a snake type personality...only not venomous.

I never really liked snakes but I don't mind being one.

Roxann Delaney said...

I wouldn't know what to do if my life wasn't constantly in crisis. I supposed there was a time when it wasn't, but that time doesn't come to mind easily. I'm one drop away from 'total overwhelm.' Yesterday was a nightmare I don't care to repeat. I used to believe I was an organized disorganized person or a disorganized organized one, but the 'organized' part has died.

Nina, I salute you for taking hold of your life and gaining control. I'll check out the flylady as soon as I drag the 3-year-old grandson back in to the house. (sigh)

Pat, I can't imagine you cluttered. Your home has always been an oasis of serene to me.

Roxann Delaney said...

So I went to the Flylady's website and discovered there's a connection to SHE (Sidetracked Home Executives). Long ago--and probably now in a box in the machine shed at the farm...that's locked and I don't have a key--I had a couple of Pam and Peggy Jones's books and actually used them! I may have to did deeper at Flylady's. ;)

Penny Rader said...

Omigosh, Nina. I totally see myself in your post (except that you work way harder than I do!).

My house is so out of control that it's beyond embarrassing. Some people have even used the word (gasp) hoarder. There are times I feel like I can't breathe and it's causing much stress. I really hate this CFS (Can't Find S**t) Syndrome. One way or another, I am going to get this mess under control. Gonna make a plan and start working that plan...even it's only 15 minutes a day.

I do love having the writing workshops on my walkman thingie. I listen to them on my drive home from work. They teach me, relax me, inspire me, and make me laugh.

Thanks for the nudge. I'm off to clear off the couch. :D

Nina Sipes said...

The Flylady says that many people who live in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)are artistic in their natures and visual disarray disrupts their calm. And therefore their ability to put as much thought as they need in their pursuits. (OK, my words, but it gets the idea across). They also tend to be perfectionists. Their perfectionism paralyzes them into inaction. Can you see yourself there too. I can. Oh, and the endearing thing about Flylady? She had to dig herself out from under an ungodly heap too. I am finally finding myself with enough calm that it shows in me. (And my nails are filed.) I look forward to more.

Nina Sipes said...

Pat,
Snake or not, you seem to be productive. What more can a person ask for?

Nina Sipes said...

Rox,
I have the Sidetracked Home Executive books on the shelf and tried their card system for quite a while, but got snowed under dreadfully. This is the next evolution of their system by an admirer and it works so much better for me in its philosophy of 'don't try to catch up, just start today.' and 'let go of thinking every job must be done perfectly. A soso job is making progress over nothing.'

Nina Sipes said...

Penny,
I wouldn't want to keep up with you! Seems to me you're pretty busy. Flylady has two bags--one for tossing one for things to bless someone else's home. Both get stuff you don't love out of the house. She advises setting a timer for 2 minutes if you don't have 14 and run through the house picking up 27 things to toss out--then put that bag in the trash. Then another time, set the timer and run through the house picking out 27 things you don't absolutely love, or you have two of, or you haven't used it and put that bag in your car for Goodwill or another charity while you're out and about. I gave a couple of bags to some folks having a charity garage sale and have also managed to get stuff to Good will too. It made me feel very virtuous.

Nina Sipes said...

Whatever you take away from this Blog offering--take care of yourself. The simple things. You don't have to take up jogging--just wash the sheets more often. You don't have to take up charity work--do the dishes so that bacteria isn't growing in them. You don't have to take in refugees--just clean out the car once in a while of its lab experiments. People will miss you when you're gone--don't go early.

Pat Davids said...

Nina,
My saving grace is the ability to block out absolutely everything going on around me. The world narrows down to the words in front of me, be they a book I'm reading or my computer screen. God gives us all unique gifts.

I truly admire your ability to wrestle your life into a shape.

Nina Sipes said...

Pat,
I admire anyone who can block things out like that. My darling can. I cannot. I got distracted the other day and the cake I made stayed on the counter until I wondered how come I couldn't smell it cooking!
I was feeling pretty inadequate and pathetic the day I was picking at the rough spot on my broken nails--just before I chewed it off even.

Maybe the Flylady isn't the answer. Fly stands for Finally Loving Yourself, but I've caught myself telling myself as I see something out of order, "Nina isn't going to like seeing that tomorrow." Some might think that's a little too close to 'crackers'. I prefer to think of myself in the third person as motivational.

Roxann Delaney said...

Yeah, I did the index cards with SHE. I can't remember why I stopped, but they worked. Of course I adjusted to fit my life a little. It's hard to believe that my life is busier now than it was when raising 4 kids. I have so many things going right now (book due first of the year, as in Jan. 3) that I'm overwhelmed. I'm one of those people who needs a block of time. I don't do the 5-minute thing well at all. And the older I get, the harder it all is.

I greatly appreciate what you've shared, giving me a bit of a hankering to see if I can't make at least a little improvement. It can't get a whole lot worse. :)

Starla Kaye said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing your frustrations (all of you) and how you cope...well, sort of cope.

I'm one of those people who isn't really a "pile" person, except immediately around me when I'm working on a particular project. I guess I got this excessively neat habit from my mother. If you sat a glass down somewhere for more than a minute, it was gone and in the dishwasher or being washed. (I do that to my husband all the time. However, a momentarily unused glass of mine is totally different.)

When I work at the office, I spread out all over the place. But the neat-freak in me has to declutter and at least hide whatever I was working on in a drawer somewhere before I leave. Some of that comes from having been a legal secretary. You don't leave important papers out. And a typical office rule is you straighten up your desk before you leave. Client information (or your personal work) isn't for the eyes of someone passing by your desk when you're not there.

Okay, I'm even scaring myself now with how ridiculously neat I am. I'm going to have to start leaving piles on the floor around my desk...like my husband does. But everyone in the office who walks around his desk and trips over a pile hates it. Especially me. Okay, I can't do that.

Anyway, great post.

Roxann Delaney said...

Starla, there must be neatniks for the pilers and dumpers to have a way to measure their "success." (grin)

Reese Mobley said...

Nina, were we twins in the womb? Today is a rare day off for me and I was so excited to start on a to-do list that I felt like dancing around naked in my office. Thank heavens that passed quickly! I can't remember the last time I saw my desktop. I just always assumed I lived better in chaos. At least that was my excuse.

Joan Vincent said...

Nina, I so admire your ability to take hold of the situation and seek out solutions. And to keep trying. Meanwhile you manage to write. A farm wife's work is never done--I think you do great.

Nina Sipes said...

Starla,
I can only envy your mind. You are truly blessed to have such order. It makes you capable to take on whatever you desire.

I can only get close to what you do naturally through conscious and consistent effort to create the habit, one at a time.

I feel like I have to wade through mud waist deep to begin to accomplish what others appear to do easily. It takes a toll and sometimes I want to chuck it all. But chucking it makes tomorrow's efforts ever harder.

I'm streamlining systems around here to make things go quicker and easier. I now know exactly how many servings my pots make if filled to x depth. I've figured out many harvest recipes and put the ingredients in columns for 9 harvesters, 12 harvesters and 15. It made fall harvest go alot smoother. I keep thinking if I keep doing these small things, gleaning little bits of time, I'll get to spend blocks of time writing.

Nina Sipes said...

Reese,
Nothin'wrong with naked dancing--depending upon the audience. I hope you did whatever filled your soul with hope and fun on your extra day off! Those times feel like finding a five dollar bill in your coat pocket from last year! A gift from the happy gods.

Last saturday my darling decided to go to a friend's house. Yippee! I suddenly had a free 3/4 of a day. I had to call a friend to help me figure out what to do with it.
She said:
1. Pull out a movie or book or put on nice music.
2. Get some snacks and a drink so you don't have to move.
3. Put on happy clothes.
4. Enjoy.

I watched two old movies I had recorded. Ate popcorn, chocolate, and a cola. And had a nap. (and did three loads of clothes) It was good.

Nina Sipes said...

Joan,
Thanks. You always say the nicest things.

Where would I be if I didn't keep trying?

It is time to send out our billing. I usually handwrite the envelopes and the return envelopes. This year I had them printed thinking that would save me some time. They came in. They're all wrong from what I ordered.

Last year's efforts to shorten time took three days longer.