Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Four Month Check In!

A little more each day!
Time for the monthly check-in of those New Year resolutions and, I'm proud to say, the news is mostly good and in a way that I wouldn't have thought of as "good" a few months back.  I guess that's what you can call "growth."

See, I'm using a "star" system.  I have certain tasks to do each day and, just like in kindergarten, if I do them all, I get a star.  If I don't do them all, but made an attempt, I get a star of a different color.  That's it.  It's a "yes/no" system; I didn't want to get into a Madras-plaid color chart based on how many of the tasks I accomplished.  All = one color (it varies from month to month; April is green) and not all = another color (silver this month).  I have more green stars than silver this month, but I've had plenty of days where I didn't make my step count (you try 8,000 steps in an April monsoon!), or I failed to eat five servings of fruit/vegetables (tonight, for example, a horrible day of grading meant I not only fell off the "good eating" wagon, I performed a reverse 2 1/2 somersault in pike position to stick the landing with chorizo dip for dinner.  My lunchtime carrots are long ago and far away). That sort of thing.

Here's the funny part.  As recently as two months ago, I'd see a silver star as a failure, even if I'd gotten four of my five tasks done for the day.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up a nasty case of perfectionism and let me tell you - that sucker will kill you flat.  If I didn't complete all my tasks, I felt like I wasn't quite good enough and that, my friends, is a soul-killer.  It's one of the reasons I marvel at my new attitude regarding the cleanliness of the house and the tidiness of the yard.  In the past, cleaning the house meant yanking the furniture out of place to get at the baseboards, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing, running six loads of laundry, and yes, when I was done, the house would gleam and be scented with the sharp pungent clean of bleach.  Outside, it meant digging a flower bed by hand - starting with tearing up the grass, then mixing in heavy bag after heavy bag of compost, garden soil, etc., then planting - all in one session.  At the end of either, I was exhausted and usually badly out of sorts and I never wanted to do it again.

Honestly, perfectionism can paralyze you.  By being so persnickety about - well, everything - it becomes harder and harder to start.  "Well," you think.  "I don't have time to do it right and if I don't do it right, it doesn't count, so I might as well not try at all."  Further, you seldom give other people a break, insisting self-righteously instead that they're just not trying hard enough.  "No," you say.  "You can't help, because you won't do it right and then I'll have to go behind you to fix it and that just makes more work."  You are, in short, a stressed-out shrew of a human being, who is clinically unable to give yourself or others a moment of compassion.  Clutter and chaos gain another toehold while peace and calm retreat a little further.

But people can change.  Slowly, but it's possible.  Now, I do a little each day and a few simple routines every day to keep the hot spots I've cleared from flaring back up.  (Thank you, FlyLady!)  And the house is cleaner than it's ever been, I'm slowly getting more organized (plan-ahead menus and grocery lists are next month's additions to the Isle of Calm), and I'm less stressed about it than I've ever been.

It's also a matter of having the right tools.  I tell students this all the time - although a hammer and a screwdriver are both useful tools, they are hardly interchangeable.  Use the right tool for the right job - it's much easier.  Yet I refused to take my own advice when it came to caring for my home, which is supposed to be a haven from the nuttiness of the outside world.  Gradually, I've been investing in better tools and, as Stepford Wife as it may sound, it really does make things easier to do, which makes me far more likely to want to do them.

Is the house perfect?  Is the yard?  Oh, no.  Nonononono.  But it's cleaner and flowers may yet bloom and tomatoes may yet be picked.  What's even better is that things are distinctly calmer, for there is Great Truth in that old adage, "If Mockingbird ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Sing it, birds!

If Mock ain't happy . . . 

No comments: