Restructuring My Mornings for a More Functional Brain

I’ve always had serious trouble waking up before noon, but for the past couple weeks I’ve been waking up pretty consistently around 9:30am. Usually a little bit earlier, because I have a setting on my phone that senses when I start to move around naturally and triggers the alarm then, so it doesn’t interrupt a deeper sleep cycle. That makes it a lot easier for me to just get up and not hit the snooze button, and not hitting the snooze button means I don’t fall into a horrible sleep inertia trap.

I’ve added a tiny bit of journalling right after I wake up and before I check my phone. Free-writing first thing in the morning was always too daunting for me, so I picked up something called The Five Minute Journal. It’s a little silly, but it gives writing first thing in the morning a little bit of structure, and it really does only take about five minutes to fill out. I’d like to eventually start free-writing every morning, but this is a good soft start. It also focuses on setting intentions for the day that are realistic, which is something I really struggle with. You pick three things that would make the day feel successful if they got done, not fifteen. It’s handy.

I make my tea and breakfast, heat up the dog food, and I usually listen to audiobooks while I eat and feed the pups.

I cuddle the pups and the bunny for fifteen to thirty minutes, usually also while listening to audiobooks or watching documentaries on youtube. If I don’t schedule this in, it tends to happen anyway, so I just decided to embrace it. At this point I’m usually still in my pajamas, which is fine.

I either set my computer in my office or on the living room couch, and I start work. Or I get distracted and start work an hour later. I’m still working out the kinks in this new schedule, but just being able to wake up well, without a lot of stress or tiredness, makes a huge difference in my whole day.

The main thing, other than having the right medication for my ADHD, that makes all of this possible is that I’ve been really insistent about getting into bed around 12:30am or 1am. I take a pretty long time to fall asleep, even when I’m not stressed about anything, so I need a solid head-start or I’m definitely not going to get enough sleep before my alarm goes off.

Another hard lesson that I’ve had to learn is that I always take a pretty long time to actually get into bed once I start getting myself ready. I end up doing the dinner dishes, letting the dogs out for a last bathroom break, checking all the doors to make sure they’re locked, rechecking them because I don’t trust my memory, turning off all the lights, putting the bunny back in his cage for the night and giving him his bedtime treat. (He’s ridiculously spoiled, but in my defense, he’s also super cute.) Anyway, you get the idea. It takes a while for me to actually put on my pajamas and get into bed, so I have to start a lot earlier than my actual planned bedtime. Starting early for anything is not a thing I, or most people with ADHD, tend to excel at, but the aforementioned medication early in the day and a well-timed dose of melatonin in the evening make it easier.

It’s a work in progress, but it does feel like I’m really making that progress. It feels good.

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A weird and interesting dead tree with dead vines wrapped around it at my dog park.
Blackberry leaves and thorns with a cloudy sky in the background.

Sorry for Ghosting on Y’all

Some things that happened over the last couple of months:

We had an unexpected houseguest who stayed with us for a month and some change.

My dogs consequently developed the delightful habit of baying almost constantly at any hint of someone walking by the house, instead of just barking their heads off at the odd squirrel or package delivery. It was not great for my nerves.

I adopted a little rabbit in need. His name is Frodo. He has some special needs that he’ll hopefully grow out of, so I occasionally get to stay up until 4am nursing him. It’s okay, though. He gives me cute bunny kisses to make up for it.

Some of the African violets my friend gave me finally bloomed for the first time, and they were lovely. For a couple of days.

Frodo ate all the flowers off of the African violets, dug up a fern, and then decimated my windowbox basil, making himself temporarily ill and living up to his hobbit name.

The beautiful fish pond that came with our house quit working for real and several solid weekends of work haven’t managed to get it up and running yet. Our fish are not happy about this, but the mosquitos are.

An unexplained fly invasion of almost biblical proportions. The lizard and our small, bouncy dog enjoyed this more than I did.

Several meltdowns on my part, or possibly one slow and prolonged meltdown that lasted for about a month and some change.

I eventually stopped banging my head against a brick wall in my Somnolence manuscript and decided to work on something lighter for a while, so I’m currently writing the second draft of a young adult book that’s been waiting in my project list for years. It is cute and it has dragons. Jumping between projects usually isn’t recommended, but if it’s between less than ideal practice and another month of being too stressed and up in my own head to actually get words on the page, I’ll take it. Some words written, even on what’s technically the wrong project, are infinitely better than no words written at all.

I learned how to make pizza without garlic or dairy, so my husband and I can both eat it, and it is really awesome.

I completely reworked my scheduling practices and managed to wrench my sleeping patterns back to mostly normal and almost enough rest each night.

I got a couple of very cute pink plants today, partially as a reward to myself for pulling my shit back together after letting myself get pretty thoroughly derailed, and partially as a bribe to myself to get back into writing blog posts even though it’s embarrassing to have just vanished for two months. So, I’m back now.

Weekend Projects

Our pond has been having some filtration issues, so we went to a pond and outdoor plant nursery over the weekend. The pups came along and got to see some chickens and peacocks for the first time. Meeting such giant birds kinda blew their little minds. The ponds there were beautiful, and they had so many cool plants and lovely fish. I got a few koi a while ago for our pond, but they’ve been super shy and they spent all their time hiding. I noticed how friendly the koi and goldfish at the pond place were, and chatted with some people there for a while. We ended up bringing a big healthy pair of shubunkin goldfish home and they’ve helped our shy koi be a little braver and more active. It’s very cute.

My office needs some new shelving pretty badly, so in preparation for that larger project we made some saw-horses on Sunday. Sawing stuff is pretty fun, and I only got a little bit of sawdust in my eye.

My home improvement skills are growing, but I did manage to thoroughly bungle an attempt to hang up a towel ring in one of our bathrooms. Turns out, it’s not a good idea to try home improvement projects by yourself when already kind of tired and hungry. There are some new holes in the wall now, but at least I learned a few things.

Not my koi, but they’re so pretty. Maybe ours will be as friendly as these eventually. I can dream.

It’s Been a Buggy Week

I’ve caught so many cool bugs this past week. Since I’ve been kinda hyperfocused on them, I figured I’d share.

I collected some very neat isopods on my way home from California a few weeks back. It reminded me of how much I like bug hunting, so I investigated my yard a little more thoroughly and discovered some really cool stuff.

The springtails we have here are much larger than I’m used to. Springtails are tiny detririvores that live in leaf litter and soil. They’re highly beneficial, and very cute if you can get close enough to see them well. They also hop when startled. Most springtails are smaller than a grain of sand, but these guys are much bigger and easier to handle. I’m calling them werewolf springtails because they have cute fuzzy manes on their shoulders and because I don’t know their Latin name yet.

One of my werewolf springtails

I found out that the cute little pillbugs in my yard are a European species called the common striped isopod. They’re apparently difficult to culture in captivity, but they come in some neat colors, so I’m gonna try.

There’s a red mutation of this species, and I’ve been finding some reds, but I’m not convinced that they’re actually the same species as the rest. I’ll need to see if they grow larger or if they stay this size and reproduce. Either way, they’re really cute.

Different color mutations of the common striped isopod, and mystery red guy.

I also settled all my road trip finds into their own tubs so they can produce little broods of tiny pillbugs in all their pretty colors. My favorites so far are the ghosts, which almost have a lilac or pinkish tinge to them. The calicos are pretty adorable, though. These ones are all a larger and more placid species than the ones in my backyard, so they’re very fun to watch as they trundle around in their new enclosures.

Calicos
Baby calico, a ghost, and a wild type

Anyway, there are some cute bugs. Technically, they’re actually mostly crustatians, actually. Isopods, including all pillbugs and rolly-polies, are land crustatians. They even have little gills on their undersides. So, there’s a thing you know now.

I Honestly Can’t Think of a Title For This

I’ve been a brain-foggy pile of useless since I got home from my trip. I think the disruption to my sleep schedule and somewhat questionable food choices kinda caught up with me really hard. Wasn’t breathing so well at night, and wasn’t sleeping sensible lengths of time, so I tried to compensate with sleep meds that left me incredibly spaced out and weird the next day. So, lesson learned, I guess. I’ll be even more careful about all of that next time I travel, and I guess I need to not use those over the counter sleep aids too much if I want my brain to work the next day for anything other than zoning out to educational dinosaur videos on youtube and then wondering where the hell the past six hours went and why I’m still in my pajamas. It’s a little funny in retrospect, but getting into a shower and then into outside clothes generally shouldn’t use up absolutely all of my mental energy for a given day.

Really makes you wonder why sleep isn’t just a wee bit easier, given how it’s essential for survival and stuff. I know literally everything about modern life fucks with our natural biological rhythms, but come on.

I say this while typing on a white screen at past-my-bedtime o’clock, of course.

Some gorgeous deep pink geraniums a friend gave me because she’s super nice. They rode in my front seat all the way home from California. I thought I didn’t like geraniums because I was used to those eye-scaldingly red ones that smell super weird when you break their leaves, but I was wrong.

ADHD Willpower Drain

There’s a theory that every choice we make in a day uses up a portion of our supply of willpower. It gets replenished while we sleep, and drained over the course of the day the more decisions we have to make. That’s part of why habits and routines are so helpful, if you can form them, because ideally they each take one or more choices out of the day by making those actions automatic.

I think that that kind of incremental willpower drain is extra hard on people with ADHD, because every time my brain goes “I wonder how hard it would be to build a miniature beach in an aquarium complete with real tiny fish and crustaceans” I have to use a little bit of energy to stop myself from immediately googling the best sources for Thai micro crabs and corkscrew vallisneria. I have to use some willpower every time I think of a cool thing to draw, which happens multiple times a day. I have to use it to decide that I’ll go out in the garden later because I’m currently writing my blog post. And then I have to decide that again fifteen minutes later when the dogs get excited and bark at a squirrel outside the window. And again when I hear the birds outside on our bird feeder. And again when I remember that I meant to move our tomato seedlings back inside so they won’t get sunburned.

Eventually, I usually get derailed. Maybe it’s because I just run out of willpower juice after ignoring every random suggestion my brain makes while I’m trying to just do one damn thing at a time.

I have no proposed solution at the moment. I’ve just been observing how many times a day I have to decide not to do a random thing and how tired that eventually makes me feel. It also, unfortunately, makes me sort of averse to doing creative stuff on a whim even when I do have the free time for it. I get into the habit of telling myself I’ll do that stuff later, even when I totally could just do it now.

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One of the trees in my yard that unexpectedly makes flowers. They are white and pretty and I have no idea what kind they are.
Little white tree flowers on the deck. They’ve been falling like snow, in part because the local birds seem to find them delicious. It’s pretty, but they stick to your shoes if you walk around on them.

Balancing Creative Attachment

I’ve been struggling with some mounting anxiety about writing choices lately. I tend to get into worry spirals about my plot decisions and characters and how different people I know, and lots of people I don’t know, might react to them. Sometimes I can cope with creative anxiety by emotionally pulling back from my work, especially when processing professional feedback, but I think I’ve actually done that too much. I’ve kind of lost track of my affection for Orane and my emotional involvement in her journey. Some distance is definitely good, because a writer who is afraid to make bad things happen to their good people is generally not going to tell a very compelling story.

On the other hand, though, staying that emotionally detached from the story has left me much more subject to the pressure of other people’s opinions. I can’t really feel comfortable with any of my choices because I’m not trusting my own judgement and creative intuition anymore. There’s no point writing a book entirely driven by what I think other people might think. There’s nothing wrong with writing to a particular market, but that’s not my goal at the moment and it’s definitely not what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been scared of judgement. My instinct is to escape the judgement by not writing anything anyone could possibly judge, but that really means not writing anything at all.

That anxiety reached an unpleasant peak this week, where I couldn’t even think about my work without my head just filling up with a whirlpool of worries. I literally can’t function under that much external influence, since every single thing will ultimately be judged negatively by some people and positively by others. There’s no way to please everyone, so for now I’m trying to focus inward and reconnect with my own judgement and creative preferences.

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Image: A pussy willow in late afternoon sunlight.

Writing days this past week: 1