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Posts Tagged ‘stressing about stupid things’

Procrastination list

Usually when I go to the trouble of writing things down on actual paper, I have an easier time of getting them done. Something about the physical act of crossing things out. Something about having a slip of paper on my table/counter/desk rather than easily-ignorable in an email or on my phone. Plus, by the time things are so dire I need to write them down in list form, I usually Mean Business. And I bullet the items and then whittle the list down until it’s merely a pile of strike-throughs.

Well, my current to-do list is resisting whittling. I have had it for… three weeks, now? And I have managed to cross off a measly THREE and 6/7 items. And one of those three is “laundry” but, while I have done an altogether excessive amount of laundry in the past few weeks, that it is DONE is a little bit of a fib, because I still have a pile of laundry on my closet floor, waiting to be put into the washer; a washer full of clean towels to put into the dryer; and a laundry bin full of clean clothing to fold and put away. SIGH.

Okay, there, I moved the towels into the dryer. Baby steps.

My To-Do list – well, I guess this is my procrastination list, now. Because all I see when I look at the list are Things I Do Not Want to Do for Completely Valid and Justifiable Reasons.

My Procrastination List stayed on my kitchen island for a very long time and I HATE having things on my kitchen island. That island is for preparing meals and eating those meals, nothing else. So I looked at it DAILY for a long time, hating it and its very presence but doing little to relieve myself of the need to have it there. And then it fell into the junk drawer (which I finally cleaned, although that was not on the list at ALL) and I saw it less often but still regularly, every time I needed some scotch tape or a pen or a rubber band. And then I used it as scratch paper to help Carla write some things. And then it disappeared for awhile until I spotted it again this morning. And now I have resurfaced it, because despite the fact that I am not DOING the things on the list, they still need to be done.

Let’s take a peek, shall we?

  1. Order contacts

Top of the list is ordering new contact lenses. I finally got a new eye doctor and went to see her, and she set me up with a trial pack of new lenses. Which I then immediately hated. She’d given me her business card and had told me to call the number listed to order my contacts, after I’d tried them. She didn’t mention what to do if I tried them and hated them, and I didn’t ask; we both assumed I would love them, I guess. Anyway, the card lists an “appointment scheduling” phone number and a “contact lens ordering” number. Which do I call??? I don’t need an appointment, but maybe if I called that number I could leave a message for the doctor, asking if she could get me a sample of a different kind of contact? But maybe I should call the contact line instead, because they are accustomed to dealing with the specific item I am in need of, and should be best positioned to help? But then again, what if the contact line people are equipped to put in an order only, and do nothing else? ARGH! So here I sit, dithering and refusing to call. Fortunately, I have a nice stockpile of the OLD contact lenses I have and hate, so I’m all set as far as seeing goes.

2, 4, & 13. Buy & change air filter, put up rack in laundry room, grill???

(I apologize sincerely for the lack of parallelism in the header of this list item. Especially because “grill” is also a verb. It’s very confusing. But I wanted to group them together for reasons that will soon become clear.)

Some of the things on this list are probably ludicrous; they’ve been needing doing for so long, it was simply some fit of hyper-industriousness that caused me to put them on the list in the first place. That’s the main problem with to-do lists in general, right? You usually don’t have as much of an issue with taking care of the URGENT stuff. It’s really the stuff that can languish for a while that needs explicit calling out. I mean, the little sticker on our air filter says we last changed in 2013, so clearly a few more months won’t hurt. (REALLY?!?! 2013?!?! The current air filter is as old as my KINDERGARTENER? That is disgusting. I don’t believe it, for one thing; I’d say that we simply didn’t change the sticker the last time we changed it, because that totally sounds like an oversight we would make. But how do I know for sure? The sticker says, very plainly, in my husband’s writing, that we changed it in 2013.) The laundry rack thing is similarly old and not particularly urgent; we got a new washer and dryer earlier this summer and had to remove the little shelf that was sitting on the floor in the laundry room, so we bought a hanging rack to replace it. We have not hung the rack yet, and I’m beginning to suspect we may never do so. Ditto the grill, which has been broken since LAST FALL and swells me up with such rage that I will have to write about it later.

  1. Halloween costumes

This item fills me with dread. We have, for the first time ever, been invited to a Halloween party and are expected to dress up. My husband does not want to dress up. But I don’t want to show up and be the only ones without a costume. So I have been spinning in terrified circles for WEEKS trying to come up with The Perfect No-Effort Costume that will allow us to fit in no matter what. The party is THIS WEEKEND so the time for wheel spinning has come to an end and I still have nothing to show for it. (I realize that I have shifted metaphors somewhere along the way but I am too panicked to fix it.)

  1. Mail boxes

I have had boxes sitting in my office for MONTHS that need to go to various people. But they aren’t technically urgent – they aren’t birthday gifts or anything, they aren’t time sensitive; it’s more along the lines of me saying I would send you a T-shirt you liked and then not doing it – so there they sit. And, of course, the longer they sit, the more I fret about them; are the intended recipients annoyed that it’s taking so long? Will they think poorly of me once they finally, presumably, receive them? Have they already written me off as a lost cause and not worthy of speaking to? It’s so bad that I haven’t even SPOKEN to one recipient in months because I am so embarrassed it is taking me so long to mail her this silly item. Two weeks ago, I moved one of the boxes into the kitchen, near the door, to help move it on to the post office more quickly. That has not worked but has increased my general dissatisfaction with a) my own lack of follow-through and b) the cluttered state of my kitchen.

This also reminds me that I need to mail a housewarming gift to a friend who bought her first house. In July. SIGH. Why am I like this?????

  1. Set up cooking class + sitter

We received – as a gift for our anniversary (in DECEMBER) (of 2017 I wish I could all-caps numbers) – a gift certificate to take a cooking class at Sur la Table. We’ve done one of those classes before and it was great fun; I have no idea why we haven’t scheduled this one yet. (Well, I have some idea; it’s the same reason that I only finally this past April used a pedicure gift certificate that I got as a baby shower gift in 2013.) Anyway, I have at the very least chosen the class we want to attend and texted the babysitter and am now waiting anxiously for her to respond; perhaps she doesn’t know how gratifying it would be to cross another item off this list or she would have gotten back to me more quickly.

  1. Presents for bdays

Carla has been invited to a LOT of Classmate Birthday Parties this fall. So I have been buying gifts left and right. I am down to needing ONE gift (of the upcoming birthdays I know about; but we’re into December already for three of the kids, so I feel pretty safe) and I already have that child’s card, so I feel good about the status of this item.

  1. Cards

For the aforementioned children, plus my brother. DONE.

  1. Fill out details for TB

This is a detailed financial overview for a prospective financial advisor. It asks a bunch of questions about retirement and money fears that either a) I’ve never thought about with any purpose or b) send me into a frenzy of “life is short and then it ends” pessimism. So I’ve been avoiding it. Plus, it requires information from me and my husband, so we have to find simultaneous time to go through it together.

  1. Call about ice maker

Our refrigerator’s ice maker has been on the fritz for several years, and finally, over the summer, gave up producing anything besides a horrific grinding noise. So I have to figure out how to get it fixed. There’s nothing in the manual about how to fix it. My best bet is to call the appliance store where we bought it and see if they know who I can call to look at it. But that’s a guaranteed TWO phone calls about something I don’t know how to describe (aside from “horrific grinding” and “no ice”). So it remains on the list.

  1. Air filter cleaning?

By the way, this should say “air DUCT cleaning” but whatever. Doesn’t matter as long as I know what it means, right? After the horrifying discovery that we may not have replaced our furnace air filter in five years, I started feeling like maybe we should do MORE to purify the air we breathe. I happened to stop at a light behind a truck that was advertising air duct cleaning, which got me thinking that maybe we should do that. (It’s a service I didn’t know existed.) I went so far as to research and email three different companies that offer this service and get estimates from two of them via the phone. But I have not yet scheduled anything.

  1. Laundry

Well. We know where this stands. It’s an ongoing thing. It only made the list because it had gotten out of control. Now it is back to manageable status so I guess crossing it off is the right thing to do.

  1. New sneakers

I need to get new sneakers for Carla. But I hate buying shoes for her, because a) they are expensive, b) they will need replacing in about five minutes, and c) she will insist she likes a pair of shoes… and then never wear them. And I don’t know about you, but getting her out the door and to school on time is already so fraught that I am not going to add “forcing her to wear shoes she doesn’t want to wear” to the mix. No thank you. But now we’re getting to the point where she needs shoes for gym and the shoes I bought her in May are too tight and I can’t find any good sales and BLARGH. I just need to bite the bullet and get her ANY PAIR, but I keep looking online and then going back through a, b, and c, and not buying anything.

  1. Teacher appreciation

The PTA asked parents to volunteer to bring snacks for Teacher Appreciation week; I signed up and already bought the item I signed up for AND already delivered it to the school. BOO YA ending on a high note.

 

Okay, the whole point of this post is to shame myself into tackling SOMETHING. What shall it be? What… shall it be?

UPDATE: Per the magic of posting one’s failings on the Internet, I did, in fact, pursue a few of these items.

1. I called the place where we got our refrigerator and asked for a recommendation for an appliance repair person. However, when I subsequently googled the appliance repair company they suggested, I noticed they have TERRIBLE reviews. So I think I need to either a) find my own appliance repair company or b) call the fridge place back and ask for an alternate recommendation. So I am back at square one with this one.

2. I called the appointment-making line for my eye doctor and explained to the receptionist what I needed. I apologized profusely for calling her, when I KNEW she was an appointment making person, and she was very nice about it but also very clear that I had called the wrong number. She connected me to someone with whom I left a message for my eye doctor; whoever THAT was said I might need to come in and get refitted for contact lenses which fills me with despair. I JUST had an appointment, and I don’t see why those measurements would have suddenly disappeared just because I don’t like the brand of lenses she had me try. Can’t she just… give me another type of lenses to try? Without having to make a separate appointment and come in for what surely will NOT be covered by insurance? But I suppose we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

3. I put my brother’s birthday card in the mail. That wasn’t one of the packages I mentioned above, but it’s something.

4. I am taking Carla to a department store TODAY after school to fit her for new shoes, and then if they aren’t horrendously expensive, I will buy some right then and there.

Man, this was a LOT of work and I don’t think I can even cross a SINGLE THING off of my list. BLARGH.

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Well, the world seems about ready to spin off its axis entirely and every time I even so much as glance at the news I start hyperventilating, so let’s talk about MORE FRIVOLOUS STUFF.

At some point last spring, I decided I wanted to Mix It Up a little bit with my hair. For me, a person who avoids change at all costs, this meant asking my hair stylist to add a little red to my normal brown hair dye.

I think I was picturing something like Anna Kendrick’s hair… Dark, but with a reddish tinge…

(Photos, clockwise from Anna, from myhaircolors.net, pinterest.com, and ouchpress.com)

I liked the result okay. But it wasn’t anything like ANY of the above photos. It felt so BROWN. More like… Young Rory Gilmore. Or… Jennifer Garner without highlights. But… Less shiny.

(Photos, left to right, from worldhairextensions.com and allwomenstalk.com)

So I went back to her a few months later and told her that I wanted to change things up AGAIN.

“What was wrong with the last color?” she wanted to know. She was non-accusatory, not hurt in the least; she just wanted to know what the issue was so she could help avoid similar issues.

“It was just too… brown,” was all I could come up with. But she nodded like I’d been extremely explicit and detailed with my criticism and presented me a few alternatives.

She did so by putting together a little board of hair samples. A literal curl of hair in four different colors that I could choose from. The far left was my hair color of last fall. The far right was Really Red. The two center options were somewhere in the middle.

But here’s the kicker. She recommended one of the options. I can’t remember which, all I can remember is that she compared it to Hair of Last Fall and said something like, “This will go much better with your skin tone than what we used to do.”

I trust her and so we went with the option she’d recommended.

You see where this is going, no?

I do not like my current hair color. It’s fine. It’s not bad or anything. It’s closer, I guess, to Anna Kendrick Brownish Red. But it’s lighter than I like my hair to be, and it’s still too brown, and it’s different enough from my natural hair color (mouse brown interlaced with grey) that you can REALLY see the difference now that it’s growing out.

When my husband – who, bless his heart, doesn’t notice these things – not only agreed with my assessment that it was very clear my hair was in need of a color-update, but also said he’d noticed without my pointing it out, I made a hair appointment immediately.

But now I am fretting. I mean, it’s MILD fretting. Nothing on the level of School Stress or What If Writing a Book Is a Huge Waste of Everyone’s Time Worry. But I like to wring every last bit of anxiety out of every possible situation so here we go.

What I really want is to go back to my hair stylist and say, “Let’s go back to how it was last fall.”

Simple enough… Except that she has already expressed a preference for NOW vs. THEN.

It’s like when your friend breaks up with that kind of boring dude she’s been with for five years, and when she finally does it, you can’t help but say, “Oh, I’m so glad you aren’t with him anymore! He really wasn’t bringing out your inner sparkle!” And then a few months later she decides to get back together with him.

Only I’M the one who is getting back together with the dull boyfriend, you know? And my hair stylist is the one who has to reunite us.

I would almost rather find a NEW hair stylist. But it’s so hard to find a good one, and I really do like her, and she does do a good job, and I really like the way she cuts my hair. Plus, my husband goes to her, too. So if I quit, it seems like he would have to quit, too, just for the sake of awkwardness and I’m too tired to worry about any of this.

My husband helpfully discussed this with me (although I doubt he will engage in deeper or additional conversations on the topic) and agreed that a) my former darker hair color worked just fine with my skin tone and b) it was totally reasonable for me to have a different opinion from my hair stylist and c) I could very reasonably ask her to change the color back and all would be well.

But YOU understand my fretting, don’t you?

What if she does it, but clenches her teeth the whole time, so certain is she in the life-altering mistake I am making?

What if she does it, and then it turns out she is RIGHT and my skin tone is Totally Wrong for dark brown and I HATE IT?

What if I can’t think of any other disastrous outcomes?

In any event, I want to go from Reddish Brown to Dark, Glossy, Gorgeous Brown and completely avoid Just Plain Brown at all costs.

Maybe what I do is pretend that I am NOT going back to my old hair color… and ask for a NEW hair color?

Something like one of these?

(Photos, left to right, from pinterest.com, hairboutique.com, hairstyles123.com, and pinterest.com)

Yes!!

I could totally go in and say, “I want my hair to be a bit darker for fall. Let’s change it to Katie Holmes brown please.” And then see what happens.

Perhaps I will even bring her this photo as an example!

Hair dark brown 1

What do you think?

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Unrelated to the title of this post: Carla has recently begun speaking with what I can only describe as a Baltimore accent. We do not live in or near Baltimore.

Now to the topic at hand.

You know how sometimes there are good things going on in your life – good, or at the worst, neutral – and you know you should feel happy and grateful… and you DO, you do feel happy and grateful… but also they are kind of stressing you the cluck out?

Yes. That.

It’s kind of like saying that you have an exotic luxury cruise coming up, and you are so stressed about whether the new bathing suit you ordered is going to give you weird tan lines but you may not have enough time to get the strapless version shipped to you from Milan… and you are having anxiety about making sure that your Ferrari is going to be driven once a week while you’re gone… and you’re hosting a welcome party for Beyonce’s twins but the caterer isn’t very responsive and you’re not sure if she was able to get the live baby lobsters you wanted to give out as party favors.

Why are you complaining about something that is a) voluntary and b) positive? Why are you expending energy on being anxious about THIS when there is so very much going on in the world to which you could direct your worry? CAN YOU NEVER BE HAPPY?!?!?!?!

I mean, I’m not saying I’m going on a fancy vacation or that I even have a Ferrari. (Nope. My turn-of-the-century Honda doesn’t even dress up as a Ferrari for Halloween.) And Beyonce and I are just not that close. But… good things, nonetheless.

[Edited to add: This is nothing crazy out of the ordinary, by the way. It’s more along the lines of — but not quite — buying a new house: great! But accompanied by lots of meetings with the mortgage broker and dealing with home inspections and packing and learning the new neighborhood. Or like — but not quite — getting a promotion, where you may get a raise and a new title but you have added responsibilities and maybe need to take a management class and also now you have to give presentations to the whole company. That sort of Good Thing with Added Stresses.]

So. Good things. And yet… I am stressed out.

There are so many logistics! And planning! And phone calls! And Unknown Things!

My face is breaking out from the overwhelming weight of Copious Junk Food and Excessive Anxious Thoughts (not to mention the heat, that awful old-dish-sponge heat that lies on you in a stinky, sticky, damp layer). I cried on the phone to a stranger this morning. My sentences tend to begin in my head and end in speech, leaving the person I am speaking to feeling confused and a little concerned that I am in need of medical attention. I am forgetting things, and having to re-do things.

Part of this is because I have not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in a week, instead spending the wee hours of the morning staring at the ceiling fan as all sorts of horrific tragedies play out in my brain in Game of Thrones style gore.  Waking up at every hour like clockwork solely to watch the ticker tape of Things That Have to Be Done scroll across the bottom of my mind screen while a wide-eyed newscaster screeches Breaking! News! of Things That Are Making Me Anxious one right after another. Sitting straight up in bed in a panic about something ridiculous, like the well-being of the (now two) baby deer who live part time in our yard. And when I am sleeping, I am having nightmares of the trying-to-save-my-child-from-a-shooter variety.

On top of everything, Carla is turning FOUR, which means that I am also smack in the middle of my annual Mooning About the Relentless Passage of Time and also Having Strong Feelings About Carla’s Birth because that will apparently never stop being a hot topic for my brain to stew over.

Also, there was a centipede in my kitchen this morning.

[Edited to add: Not five minutes — MINUTES — after I posted this, I went into my bathroom and there was a giant silverfish lounging on the floor, all, come at me, bro.]

To combat the stress, I am: A) Making lists. B) Reminding myself, in a stern but kind way, that the stress is in service of a positive outcome. C) Working out as often as possible (which makes it sound like I am at the gym multiple times a day, when really I am trying to get back up to the baseline of multiple times a week), because there is something weirdly soothing about sweat and working-out-related pain. D) Writing it all down in great melodramatic whiny paragraphs, then deleting it. (This post is, um, the not-deleted part.) E) Telling you, in hopes that you Get It and/or will distract me with something, anything. F) Trying to take some of the creative energy that is currently going toward catastrophizing and redirect it toward my actual writing. G) Keeping caffeine to a minimum. H) Reciting the things I am grateful for in a loop while in the car, in bed, in the shower.

Are any of these things working to keep the anxiety at bay? Not so far, no. But these are early days. And what do I know? Maybe they are keeping the stress at a lower level than it would be otherwise. WHAT A FUN THOUGHT THAT IS.

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I am sitting here embroiled in all the humiliation and frustration of an Unsatisfying Interaction… Only the Unsatisfying Interaction took places EONS ago, so all my eloquent speeches and clear, reasonable explanations are useless.

Why does the brain insist on doing this? There are DOZENS of times when I have a thousand other things to do/concentrate on/worry about/binge-watch on Netflix, but CANNOT FOCUS because I am busy replaying the events of the Unsatisfying Interaction on repeat.

I would list a few of them, just as examples, but I don’t want to because they will earworm their way back into my brain and next thing you know I’ll be calmly explaining myself or making the perfect (heretofore unsaid) retort or reacting in a totally uncharacteristic c’est la vie way that will erase the Interaction from my memory for good and I’ll have just replaced The Useless Mind Churn of the Moment for another.

WHY does the brain do this? I could try, I suppose, to make an argument FOR this functionality: perhaps the brain thinks that if I turn The Past over and around enough times, I can prevent the same thing from happening in The Future. Which makes some sense! But… in this case, I highly HIGHLY doubt that this Unsatisfying Interaction will repeat – or even come close to happening again. And it’s not like all this internal practice has helped me to now; I still have Unsatisfying Interactions; I still fumble and say the wrong thing and am obtuse when I mean to be clear and am gauche when I mean to be funny and am tearful when I mean to be strong; I still come away flustered and wanting a re-do. And I am STILL spending countless hours thinking and fretting and stressing over things that have already happened and therefore CANNOT CHANGE.

So I’m coming down firmly on the side of USELESS.

It’s like a hysterical jaw, just gnawing and gnawing and gnawing away at the past. But instead of easily crumbling like a cookie, or even gradually giving way like a rawhide bone or a piece of wood, The Past is a many faceted diamond, and at best (at BEST!) the jaw is chipping off microscopic shards of the memory, which, instead of disappearing, simply lodge themselves more deeply in the humiliation centers of my mind.

Anyway, if you spot me having a very earnest conversation with the air later, this is why.

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