Tag Archives: perfectionism

Jan
31
2013
2012: Year in Review

The 2013 calendar on my wall suggests another year is over. I marked the end of 2010 and 2011 by answering the following set of questions. The questions annoyed me this year. I hope that means the dying embers of my “I have to track everything” fire cannot be stoked back to flame. I’m cultivating a new mellow vibe. Next year I will sum up 2013 by how I feel at the end of the year, not by how many boxes I can tick off a list. I don’t plan on doing this quiz again, so let’s send it out with a bang (or a whimper).

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Enrolled in some adult education, started making ice cream, created an ice cream blog, published a memoir piece, gave up trying to de-link my name and this blog (note to co-workers: while I mutter profanity under my breath at the office, I write it out loud here), “won” a craft contest, and had a tarot card reading.

The tarot reader was kind, but these cards basically said, “get off your ass and make a decision already.”

 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes and no, and not really. The monster in my head set 30 goals for 2012. You can see them here. I have a different mind-set about goals right now (stay tuned). I have no desire to paste my 2012 goals here and painstakingly document which I met and which I did not. Does it matter that I didn’t run a 5K in under 30 minutes when I trained really hard, completed two races, and ran faster at the end of training than at the beginning? Does it matter that I went to bed an average of 20 minutes earlier in 2012 than 2011 or that I got 33 minutes extra sleep per night on average when I’m still tired a lot? Isn’t it disturbing that I can tell you those figures?

Looking at last year’s goals cracks me up now. How did I get to a point in life where I could suggest “scheduling weekly unstructured time” without irony? How did I type “go cold turkey on perfectionism” as one of 30 goals with a straight face?

One of my goals was to “locate my inner voice.” Wait…shh! What’s that? I think I hear something…

“ENOUGH WITH THE GOALS…TAKE A FUCKING NAP ALREADY.”

I like my inner voice.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I’ve been meeting quite a few childfree people lately. And I’m getting old. So I’d be really shocked if anyone close to me got pregnant/gave birth.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I spent several horrible days believing one of my in-laws was not going to make it, but thankfully (and possibly miraculously?), he did not die.

5. What countries did you visit?
If the U.S. doesn’t count, then 0.0.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Enough money to retire. Not kidding.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I could talk smack about the ice cream class or some other happy event, but the only day from 2012 that “will remain etched in my memory” (which I interpret to mean “never going to forget the date of the event”) is November 6. That was the day my Mom told me she had cancer.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I guess I’d say making new friends. I had really started to worry I wasn’t capable of doing that.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Negativity? Not being a good-enough listener?? Not getting enough sleep??? Tracking my failures so vigorously???? Fuck this question.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Ice cream machine!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Seriously? Mortgage. It will always be mortgage (or rent), won’t it?

13. What did you get really excited about?
Ice cream!

14. What song will always remind you of 2012?
A whopping 9.5 percent of my music collection came out in the last ten years. Here is the only new music I bought all year even though I’ll almost certainly not associate it with 2012 long-term.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?
Both. The more I know, the harder it is. The closer I get, the farther away it seems. You know?

b) thinner or fatter?
Fatter.

c) richer or poorer?
Richer, bitches (it’s all about retirement, baby).

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
What I wanted to do.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
What I didn’t want to do.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Erie with my family. Spent the first few days of my vacation frantically trying to finish my first cross stitch ever. I won a Subversive Cross Stitch in the Craft Whores contest and selected the bad boy below for my brother, only to be surprised (and horrified) that it was a kit I had to make myself. This was one of my brother’s favorite phrases in our misguided youth. By the time I got this in the frame, it also turned out to crystallize my thoughts about cross stitching eloquently.

peace on earth

peace on earth

19. What was your favorite TV program?
I’m addicted to watching House Hunters International while saying “fuck you” with jealous venom. You guys need a vacation home in Belize? Of course you do. Fuck you. Accountants can easily find work on Grand Cayman? Fuck you. You’re really going to complain about the lack of double sinks in a vacation home? Fuck you. Special shout out to the guy with a 2 million dollar budget who expressed disappointment that there were no windows in the closet: OMFG, FUCK YOU!

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
If I wanted to read, I’d go to school.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Holy repetitive quiz, Batman. See #14.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
Jesus, I don’t get out much, do I? We streamed Moonrise Kingdom for our 2nd annual pajama night and were not amused (we have a 0% success rate for avoiding movies in which a dog bites the big one on our “happy family PJ movie night”).

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I guess I’m too old to remember what I did on my birthday. I know I ate cake, but that’s only because I have a blog. I turned 39, and I don’t plan on aging further.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Errr! How does this question differ from #6? 

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Not naked

26. What kept you sane?
Fear of anti-depressant side effects.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
A lot of the stuff I thought was important (or at least devoted a lot of time to) is really, really not. Like tracking every last detail of my life…ahem…like end of the year surveys such as these.

Jun
7
2012
If I Wanted to Read, I’d Go to School

Yesterday, I was the featured writer on the Studio30 Plus community blog. It’s a great community of writers that used to be for people 30 and older, but now is open to anyone who wants to connect with other writers. As promised, here is my featured post.

********************

Writing advice often includes a recommendation to read more. But these days…

It wasn’t always this way. I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. In kindergarten my classmates and I sat in a circle on the floor. We took turns reading aloud from a Dick and Jane book.  When some students struggled to sound out the words, I blinked in confusion. The words somehow made sense to me already.

I read so quickly I had to rifle through my Mom’s bookshelves for reading material. As an innocent 12-year old attending Catholic school, reading The Thorn Birds was an ironic way to learn about sex.

So what happened to my love of reading? I’d like to take a moment to thank my high school. They took my youthful love of reading and stomped it into the ground, set it on fire, pissed on it, then buried it while it still had a slight pulse so it could suffocate and die a more painful death.

Here’s a helpful hint for any educators out there: there is such a thing as too much required reading. Maybe I shouldn’t complain about the volume of reading I had to do in high school. It exposed me to so many classic books I probably would not have chosen to read on my own.

But my teachers were more interested in trying to verify we’d read every word in the books than whether we understood them. That is the only way I can explain the bizarre questions on our tests.

Take this question about The Red Badge of Courage, for example: “How many pairs of socks did Henry have in his bag?”

Dude, seriously? Presumably the teacher asked us this question because we couldn’t answer it having read only the Cliffs Notes. But no one needs to know this detail. I resent the space the answer (eight) takes up in my brain.

In addition to random details, they also liked asking us to reproduce entire quotes. One teacher tested us on the number of lines we could remember from The Merchant of Venice. I still laugh over trying to get her to count “My daughter!” “O my ducats!” as two quotes.

This type of testing required committing as much of the text to memory as possible. In response, I forced my eyes to stop racing ahead, sometimes using a sheet of paper to isolate the lines as I read. If I thought I hadn’t really absorbed something, I’d go back and read it out loud. My speed plummeted, but I aced the tests.

Soon I could read no other way. Whether I read Moby-Dick or an article in Cosmo, I read it laboriously.

If high school killed my love of reading, my job hammers nails into its coffin. I get paid to read and edit a lot of stiff research writing, which doesn’t motivate me to look at more words in my free time. Other people seek me out to read yet still more technical writing because of my attention to detail…ironically, the same attention to detail that made reading so maddening for me in high school.

I’ve tried several things to reignite my love of reading. Years ago, I joined several book clubs. Now I have one rule about book clubs:  I don’t like book clubs. Reading books that other people select (does any book club use a democratic process?) is too much like school, thank you very much.

I’ve tried carrying books with me everywhere I go, including taking seven to the beach last year. During my week-long vacation, I read about seven percent of them. I had trouble absorbing the words. Watching the waves crash onto the shore was much more soothing.

Starting my blog has helped me more than anything else I’ve tried. Through writing, I’ve pinpointed what I’m most interested in reading. I’m giving myself permission to read what I want.

There’s nothing wrong with my preference for non-fiction (take that high school and ex-book clubs!). Not everything I read has to be “literary,” or even a book. I love reading blogs. I’ve found exquisite examples of memoir, poetry, and fiction, as well as writing that makes me laugh out loud. Blogs are worth reading.

So much of what I’ve read during my life has been chosen for me. Now it’s my turn.

By the way, I do still occasionally finish a book. Sometimes I even read fiction…taking it back full circle to my childhood days…

Yes, I read this. Shockingly, it wasn't very good.

How have your reading habits changed throughout your life?

May
26
2012
Fixing a Hole

For someone who spends as much time in my own head just thinking as I do, I don’t reach very many conclusions. For someone who has as many lists and plans and goals as I do, I don’t get very much done.

Why is this?

I have trouble focusing. I’m overwhelmed by the clutter that surrounds me. I don’t even mean just physical clutter. For example, at any given moment I have 3-5 different internet browser windows, each with 5-20 tabs, open at once. My online to do list has hundreds of tasks sitting in it. There are probably 20 tasks listed for today (I’m not bothering to look), if for no other reason than the program automatically moves tasks not completed from one day to the next. How helpful.

Twelve weeks ago, the clutter situation in my office at work reached a peak. I could barely function around all of the books, and piles of papers, and proliferation of post-it notes. I wrote a post wondering out loud how a perfectionist like me could have an office that looked like that.

Then I read the Pish Posh call to action. She proposed a 12-week “Get Fit Challenge.” The challenge wasn’t just about losing weight. And thank goodness for that, because although I did post a race report to the challenge, I haven’t lost an ounce during the last 12 weeks.

I wasn’t the most devoted Get Fitter, and I didn’t really even articulate explicit goals. But guess what? My work office is clean, my work email inbox is still under control (down from 1,600 emails to zero) and I’m looking forward to chucking the clutter from the rest of my life.

BEFORE

The deepest reaches of Hell (A.K.A. my office)

AFTER

I’d forgotten what my simulated wood-grain desk looked like.

So what have I learned?

I hold on to too much: clothes in my closet I never wear, books I will never read again, emails I don’t need to keep, songs I always skip on my iPod, tasks I can’t prioritize, things I’ve stumbled across on the internet that I don’t want to forget, blogs I don’t have time to read, and 800 scraps of paper with thoughts I don’t want to, but maybe should allow myself to, forget.

All this crap distracts me from what’s really important. It’s allowed me to stay stagnant. It’s long past time to let this crap go or I will never be able to figure out what I really want to do.

I have to learn to focus on one thing at a time. With pride, I can say that I did NOT check any of my email accounts or Facebook before writing this post this morning. I got up, set a timer for 15 minutes and just wrote. I’m going to edit for 10 minutes, add my pictures and publish this thing. It may not be a perfect post, but I focused on writing it and only on writing it and did not allow myself to get distracted by anything else. Go me.

Do you have trouble staying focused? Or clearing out clutter (physical, digital, mental)? Want to support each other and check in sometimes? Let me know, I need all the help I can get.

PishPosh

Mar
16
2012
Photo Friday: Vanilla Ice Cream

You know what? I really don’t have time to blog. This is annoying, because I enjoy blogging so much more than many other activities (for example, work). 

I’ve been obsessed with the ice cream thing.

I made five versions of vanilla ice cream last weekend in the continuing quest for my perfect ice cream mix. This test was about eliminating egg yolks without sacrificing texture. The recipes I had been using all called for four to six egg yolks per quart. First of all, that’s a lot of eggs. Secondly, that shit is called custard (custard mix must be at least 1.4 percent egg yolk solids by weight, and that’s only about one egg yolk per quart of mix if my figures are right). I have nothing against frozen custard, but I’m anal and want to make ice cream. When I was testing my more strongly flavored brown sugar ice cream, the custard vs. ice cream thing seemed more a matter of semantics and texture, but plain vanilla custard with six egg yolks tastes like eggs, y’all.

So while I can see making a custard for some flavors (I’d like to make a nice creamy lemon custard, sort of like frozen lemon curd), I really want to develop most of my flavors using no egg yolks.

Here are the five vanillas I made this week. I’m irritated that this is the best shot because the bowl blocks the little tag I made to label ice cream #3 (hello, perfectionism!).

#1: custard mix made with 6 egg yolks

#2: same mix, no egg yolks

#3: same mix, no egg yolks, 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (the xanthan gum is a stabilizer that commercial ice cream makers use to combat iciness and improve shelf life. I hoped it would serve the same purpose as egg yolks, without the egg flavor and the wasted egg whites. I couldn’t get the powder to blend and ended up having to strain most of it out. But it still gave the ice cream a weird gummy texture and a slightly off flavor. I think I’m done with the xanthan gum).

#4: same mix as #2, made with organic heavy cream (it took me several weeks of ice cream testing before I realized the regular heavy cream I’d been using actually contained a stabilizer (carrageenan) already and I wanted to test whether that mattered. It didn’t seem to.) This one also replaced a tiny bit of the sugar with 1 tablespoon corn syrup (which I learned at Ice Cream 101 can help reduce iciness and improve shelf life). I actually haven’t found any of the ice creams to have an icy texture as of three days out. Also, I felt I could taste the corn syrup (in a bad way).

#5: same mix as #2, made with organic heavy cream, all regular sugar

These were all passable (except #3) but I wasn’t super thrilled, so it’s back to the drawing board this weekend. I’m already getting a little sick of vanilla.

Mar
9
2012
Photo Friday: This is What Perfectionism Looks Like

On the surface, it may seem counter-intuitive for a perfectionist’s office to look like a cyclone hit it. But those of you who have the perfectionism affliction, or love someone who does, see the truth.

Am I comfortable with this picture? No. Do I enjoy working in this environment? No. While a normal person might think, “just spend a few minutes cleaning this up,” I know it would take hours or even days (hours and days I don’t have at work) to clean and organize it the right way. To do anything less is not comfortable, so it will just have to wait until I can do it right.

I’m a perfectionist; I’m hardwired to do shit the tediously inefficient but right way.

I think I would have skewed this way no matter what, but my first grade teacher didn’t help. She split my classroom into the “good side” and the “bad side” and placed me on the bad side because I’d forgotten to turn in a permission slip. Mistakes, no matter how small, would be noticed, would be punished. Got it, thanks!

This experience lodged itself into my amygdala, where it still drives me toward a goal I can’t reach. When I was little, my thoughts on perfection were simple, “if I stop making mistakes, people will like me more.” I even had a code word, “NOW,” that I’d say to myself as a pep talk to be perfect from that point forward. Until the next time I made a mistake, of course. These days, “NOW” has been replaced by exhausting post mortems on what I could have done differently to avoid a mistake and often an internal berating for not knowing this already.

I’m sick of it and I’m trying to recover from perfectionism. I’ve realized there’s so much I want to do. I just don’t have time to do everything I’m interested in doing as well as my brain tells me I have to do it.

But letting the perfectionism go has been hard, for at least two reasons:

1. My brain doesn’t seem to have the capacity for the kind of flexible thinking needed to create shortcuts.

2. Even if by some miracle, I think of a shortcut or someone offers me a different solution to a task, I don’t feel comfortable implementing it. It feels half-assed to me.

I didn’t even realize how crazy my methods seemed until the running shoes conversation. You see, a few weeks ago my knees started feeling wonky and I wondered if it might be time to buy new running shoes. I thought nothing of my process until I talked to a normal person about it. I mentioned how I needed to add up the mileage I’d run on my current pair of shoes, but before I could do the calculation I had to enter the back log of data from my Garmin GPS watch into my workout log spreadsheet.

I’ll never forget the look that passed across the normal person’s face.

Her: “How long will entering all that data take you?”

Me: “I’m not sure…probably two to three hours at least.”

Her: “Uh, what would be the harm in just buying new shoes without doing all that data entry?”

This suggestion blew my mind.

Today I reached two personal milestones. I achieved a goal I’ve had for over two years; to get my work email inbox of almost 1,600 emails back to zero. And, perhaps more importantly, I did it by implementing a shortcut that my perfectionist brain had previously convinced me was “cheating. ”

I moved everything older than 2012 into a separate archive folder labeled “unsorted.” If I get around to culling that great, if not, c’est la vie. I had told myself I needed to wait until I had time to cull 1,600 emails. But that was going to be never. After removing the old emails, I culled the 404 emails left in my inbox to zero in a few hours. Yea!


PishPosh

Jan
3
2012
2012: My Last (According to the Maya) Annual Goals

Probably not the most thrilling content I’ve ever written, but I’m pasting my 2012 goals below:

  • because I said I would,
  • to help with accountability, and
  • to serve as a foundation for what I’ll inevitably write about some of these.

As a reward for sticking with a list post in table format, see the end of the post for an embarrassingly unflattering photo of myself–menacing and holding the umbrella I attacked in a vicious rage.

I welcome feedback on any of what’s below, but particularly seek input in the “go cold turkey on perfectionism” area. Too much of my time gets sucked into the perfection spiral of attempting to make the good enough better. “Perfect is the enemy of the good” is my new adopted mantra, but the perfectionism is so ingrained in me it’s difficult for me to devise ways of knocking it the hell off.

Big-Picture Goal

Specific Activities / Strategies

Increase energy/reduce anxiety
  • Get more sleep!
  • Have nightly relaxation time & schedule weekly unstructured time
Go cold turkey on perfectionism
  • Use timer to snap out of over thinking and hyper-focus
  • Viciously cull to do list (stay tuned, I’ll be failing at this soon!)
Find career fulfillment
  • Locate inner voice / expand knowledge
Increase fitness (run faster, build strength)
Maintain intimate and fulfilling marriage
  • Walk Chuck in the evenings/take over 1 weekend morning walk for Dave
  • Real (not visiting family) vacation (London for Wimbledon?)
  • None of your business
Develop and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Host at least two events
  • Develop annual get together tradition
  • At least monthly social event
  • Reach out more frequently to friends (not just Facebook!)
  • Make amends where needed
Continue to write and build blog community
  • Post 2-3 times/week (develop editorial calendar)
  • Visit and comment on favorite blogs
  • Finish blog redesign
Plan for early “retirement”
  • Save refinance and health care savings
  • Confirm plan with financial planner
Simplify and customize house for oasis-like awesomeness
  • Declutter
  • Reorganize basement, get treadmill

There’s other stuff I’d like to do, like read some damn books this year, but this list is already too long. Hopefully there can be some synergy among my goals. For example, I plan to start a nightly reading before bed ritual to ease into an earlier bedtime and get more sleep. Presumably this will also result in my reading more than one book this year.

So I promised you an embarrassing photo, eh? I’d put the umbrella photo here, but that wouldn’t help me pimp the Logy Express Facebook page.

Go check out the photo, freshly published there. While you’re there, why not click the “Like” button?

———————

Do you set goals or make resolutions? What are your plans for 2012?

Dec
31
2011
2011: Year in Review

I like traditions. I’ve been reading Linda’s yearly recaps for years so it seemed natural to do this little quizzy thing myself last year when I started the blog. Even though trying to come up with answers to some of these questions makes me realize how piss poor my memory of day-to-day stuff is, here is my 2011 recap.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Started writing memoir and linking up to Write On Edge, an online writing group. Completed my iPod shuffle challenge (listened to my entire music collection without skipping a single song). Saw Paul Simon in concert. Saw a Broadway musical. Came out of the childfree closet. Had one of my posts “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress.com. Learned how to make videos out of my pictures. Celebrated my husband’s 40th birthday. Finally rented a dog-friendly beach house.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Here are the goals I set for 2011, along with my assessment of how well I did. Since this whole blog is basically the articulation of my goals, I’m going to discuss my 2012 goals separately.

-Get more sleep. Not so much.

-Exercise in the morning rather than the evening. Jesus, no. But I did do a decent job of keeping up with running anyway.

-Keep running (see last year’s post for specifics). I ran with a winter running group, and improved my personal best at this year’s Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Race, but I didn’t run any races longer than 5K after that. Even though I tried several times, I also couldn’t break a 30 minute 5K.

-Get stronger (see last year’s post for specifics)Oops.

-Be more productive (see last year’s post for specifics). On one hand, I don’t feel like I’m more on top of things now than at the beginning of 2011. But I also added things (blogging, meeting new people, thinking about a career change) without taking anything away. So while I still think I need to become more productive, this year I feel I need to do that by letting unimportant things (and my perfectionism) go, whereas last year I was just piling unrealistic expectation upon unrealistic expectation. I need to give myself a break.  

-Become a better photographer (see last year’s post for specifics). I signed up for the County’s photography class in summer and fall, but it was cancelled both times. I also wanted to make better use of my pictures. To that end, I did a massive photo digitization project in 2011, made videos for Chuck’s and Dave’s birthdays and our anniversary, and I framed and hung some of my photos in our powder room (post forthcoming). 

-Take a French class (see last year’s post for specifics). Non.

-Be more social (see last year’s post for specifics). It’s difficult for me to assess my progress in this area, and given my introversion I don’t think it’s fair to be too negative. We did host two get-togethers at our house and have made a pretty big effort (for introverts anyway) to meet new people and stay in touch with friends.

-Eat dinner in the dining room and not in front of the TV. Not even once. In my defense, the dining room table was inundated with stuff for big projects (photo digitizing and the Advent Calendar) most of 2011.

-Walk Chuck in the evenings (see last year’s post for specifics). I feel like I did better at this in 2011 than 2010, especially while I was still doing my iPod shuffle challenge. But Dave would probably beg to differ. Dave still does more of the evening dog walks than is fair.

-Fucking chill (see last year’s post for specifics). This might be the most important goal, but it’s vague. We did take a nice, relaxing (non-driving to visit family) vacation this year. But I wasn’t good at leaving work on time or taking time to relax, or avoiding angry reactions. And I also experienced more anxiety in dealing with people than I’d like.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

I hope not, because I don’t remember any babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What countries did you visit?

Outside the U.S., zippo. I entered the public lottery for Wimbledon tickets next year, so fingers crossed for a trip to London in 2012.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

An inner voice on career that says something other than “this is not it.”

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

New Year’s illness (see #10), seeing the D.C. fireworks for only the second time in my 15 years of living here, my birthday weekend in Erie, seeing the look on Dave’s face at his 40th birthday celebration, walking on the beach with Dave and Chuck during our week at the beach and feeling peace.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally getting all of our pictures (mine, my family’s, and Dave’s family’s slides) digitized. I also feel pretty slick for pulling off 40 gifts for Dave’s 40th birthday. Honorable mention for reaching my 15th anniversary at work.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting enough sleep.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Dave and I both got horribly sick over New Year’s (days after I had bragged about my hand washing and good health in my 2010 review post). Not a good way to start off a year. It was the first time I’d vomited since 1994 (if only I could say “vomit free since ’93…”). I also had a pretty annoying cold in June.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Photo digitizing services from Foto Bridge (post about this is long overdue).

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, savings (early retirement, baby!). The photo digitizing, beach vacation, and 40th birthday celebration for Dave were also fairly large (but totally worth it) expenses.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Blogging (finally getting some readers and also finding some great new blogs), taking a vacation, making new friends.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

I’ve been obsessed with Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel for most of 2011, but I have to be honest, the song I will most associate with 2011 is a ridiculous song by Beetlejuice of Howard Stern’s “Wack Pack” fame. Dave and I have been saying “Let it roll” all fucking year (although the best part is his emphatic “yeah!”). Sorry about this:

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  YES! I find the more I work on my issues, the more emotion-ey my emotions are. So I’m happier and sadder.

b) thinner or fatter? pretty much the same

c) richer or poorer? financially better off

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Sleep, relax, read

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being anxious, looking for stuff, trying to do things perfectly

18. How did you spend Christmas?

We always spend Christmas in Erie with my Mom. The twist this year–we went to my brother’s in the afternoon. So Mom, Dave, and I decided to open presents Christmas evening, making 2011 the only year ever that I didn’t open presents right after waking up on Christmas morning.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Switched at Birth. Makes me want to learn sign language. I also started watching How I Met Your Mother on my Mom’s Roku over Christmas vacation and I’m hooked. And also pissed that Dave convinced me not to start watching it back when it started in 2005.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I’m pretty open on this here blog, but this shit is embarrassing. I finished (wait for it…) one book this year. I partially read a couple of other books, and my list of books I’d like to read grew even larger, but…I guess the Sweet Valley High sequel has to be my favorite (and least favorite!) book of 2011. Good lord.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

As we learned through my iPod shuffle challenge and re-ignited obsession with Simon & Garfunkel this year, I need to infuse some new music into my collection. I don’t think I have any favorite music from this year. I (like everyone else on the planet) liked that Adele song “Rollling in the Deep.” I’m going to train Pandora to feed me great new music in 2012.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

The embarrassment continues. We saw The King’s Speech in the theater and I believe that’s it. We rented Blue Valentine and Crazy, Stupid Love on streaming video. And we are going to see the Muppet movie tonight (best New Year’s Eve plans ever, eh?). I’m guessing the Muppets will win me over for favorite film of 2011.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I ran a tenth of a mile for each year. I went to the Erie Zoo with my Mom, Dave, an old friend from high school and her two kids and rode the red panda on the carousel. I turned 38.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

More time to spend however I want.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Sahalie butterfleece sport pants.

26. What kept you sane?

(Who says I was sane this year?) Having this place to write shit down. Dave. Loving on my dog.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Still need to learn to apply this to my life.

Aug
16
2011
Deprived

We sat in silence in the back of the cab. The driver wanted to share one of his poems. Oh God, I didn’t think this ride could get any worse. The driver probably thought we were flying to a funeral. No, we were going on vacation.

Six months earlier I had broached the subject of a “big trip” to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We earn a good living, we don’t have kids tying us down, why don’t we ever go anywhere, do anything exciting? We settled on Belgium. Exotic enough to mark the occasion, but comfortable since I had lived there for a semester in college.

At first, excitement fueled marathon internet research. There was so much to do. After much mental hand-ringing, I booked an apartment and a flight and was too overwhelmed to do more.

A few weeks before our departure, I started to panic. I would never be ready in time. I asked Dave for ideas. I rejected his suggestions as not sufficiently informed by our books or my inflexible idea of what it meant to be ready.

I read the travel guides cover to cover. I spent hours searching the internet, printing custom maps, creating spreadsheets with sight-seeing and restaurant ideas (sorted by location). All while worrying about being ready.

I became fixated on the perfunctory section in the travel guide about security. Somehow “be aware of your surroundings” turned into an internet search that uncovered a murder over a MP3 player on the Brussels metro.

Dave used his iPod all the time. He was trusting and not very observant. I became convinced something bad could happen to him on this trip. Rationally I knew this was extremely unlikely, but my mind kept conjuring up terrifying scenarios, including death, anyway. No trip was worth any of these scenarios. 

I started to dread my looming…vacation.

When we arrived in Brussels, I was horrified to find my French had deteriorated so badly I couldn’t communicate. I hadn’t prepared enough, I wasn’t ready. The first morning, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. Worse, I could feel my body about to reject what I’d already eaten. Even though I was exhausted, my insomnia the first night didn’t surprise me. Rick Steves had warned me about that.

Surely I would sleep the second night. I got comfortable and tried to clear my mind. After hours of lying still without sleep, I tucked deeper into the fetal position and stuck my hands under my chin. My fingers rested lightly on my neck and I felt my heart pound at double my resting heart rate. Images and thoughts raced through my mind, unintelligible but disturbing. I did not sleep for one minute.

The nausea didn’t let up. In a country we had selected in large part for the food, I ate only to avoid passing out. Walking around the city, I felt weighed down by my brand new pants dragging on the ground.

Midway through the week, we sat at the small kitchen table in the dreary apartment. I choked down tiny bites of takeout. I worried about getting sick on our trip to Bruges the next day. I felt guilty Dave wasn’t getting to eat any real food, that I was ruining this trip for him.

I wanted to tell him I’d been counting down the days until it was over and how worried I was that I couldn’t even enjoy a vacation. All I could say was “I just want to go home.” The words caught in my throat and I sobbed.

I made a deal with whoever might be listening. If I got through this vacation, I would figure out why I made everything so difficult and fix it.

—————————————————–

This post is in response to this week’s RemembeRED writing prompt.

“This week we’d like you to write about a moment in your life when you knew something had to change drastically. Really explore the moment.”

I decided the word limit should be 619 words. I managed to hit the mark exactly!

“How was your trip” was never such an unwelcome question. I do have some pleasant memories of the trip, like the way Dave held my hand. He was steady and comforting and wonderful.

Dave told me after the trip that all my rules (no iPod!) freaked him out so much he was afraid of the little old ladies who’d tried to strike up a conversation with us on the train to Bruges. I’m sure they planned to stab him for his iPod, then sell me into slavery.

This was really hard to share. I’m telling myself everyone has things they want (need) to change. And that being open about it can only help.