I had a nice visit with my family last week, had a pleasant drive home, promptly got sick, and now I’m kinda recovering. Next month I get to do it all over again, because the major family-centered holidays are not distributed well. I’m still excited to see them again, though.
Today, I got the results of my sleep study, which basically said that I’m permanently jet-lagged because my internal clock disagrees with reality. It’s the downside of being a natural night-owl. I’ve always known that I sleep best around dawn, but I’ve never had a doctor straight up tell me to start going to bed later because it might improve the quality of my sleep, so that was refreshing and actually helpful. They’ve pretty much always insisted that, regardless of my inclinations, if I practiced good enough sleep hygiene I should be able to sleep from 11pm to 7am and then wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but that was literally never going to happen for me and I finally have official confirmation of that. Fortunately, she also said that I didn’t show any signs of sleep apnea. That at least means I’m not having trouble breathing every night, just when other things make it worse.
So, I’m going to shift my bedtime to 2:30am, on doctor’s orders. I’m pretty fine with that, honestly. I work better at night, so having an hour or so to myself before bed might be really good for my writing. Plus, about half of my pets are nocturnal, so they can keep me company while I work.
Always always clear your workspace before going to bed.
Yeah, we’ve all been told this as kids, but I think it’s especially important for all people whose focus and executive function is naturally unreliable. I can leave a project in the middle, plan to clean up my office in the morning, and really mean it, and then it can suddenly be a week later. The office has just gotten messier, and I’ve been too stressed to go in there for days. I only know how long it’s been because my poor houseplants have shriveled up in the intervening time.
Sleep is when our brains tend to do a major reset. My mood and motivation when I wake up is at its least predictable. I may have been fired up to finish that project when I went to bed, riding high on many hours of focused effort, and I still might wake up with zero interest in continuing it right now. Then, that project is suddenly standing between me and any other work.
I tend to feel guilty when I leave something unfinished, especially if it produced some sort of mess. The guilt stops me from even wanting to clear up the project so I can do other things, because I feel that if I’m interacting with it at all, I should be finishing it. This is a trap. It’s a trap I could have avoided if I had cleared up the night before, before my brain reset.
Yes, it’s a bit of a dilemma if you’ve been working for twelve hours straight, and now it’s 4am, and you desperately need to sleep so you won’t be a sad potato in the morning. You’ve got to weigh the potential results, though. If you stay up an extra hour to force yourself to tidy up while you still have a teeny bit of momentum to work with, you’ll definitely be tired in the morning. If you don’t do that, and you do go to bed, and your brain resets, and you can’t face the mess, and you can’t use your workspace for anything else until you do deal with the mess, how many hours or days will take for you to recover from that?
If you work on your couch, like I did until recently, make sure you get rid of your old coffee cups and hide the TV remote before going to bed. Fluff up your pillow. Don’t leave anything in your spot that would require an extra step before getting to work. Charge your computer. This applies to digital mess, too. If your screen is full of the thing that you were working on before, will you be able to go straight to work on other stuff, or will you panic when you open your laptop and start binge-watching Youtube videos on time management instead?
For me, this means that I have a rule now: I can’t go to bed until my desk is clear, my chair is ready to sit in, and my laptop is charging. I know from experience that the cost of me being tired in the morning is not as long-lasting as the cost of me feeling stressed about going into my office. I’d rather plop down at my desk with a cup of tea and blearily mess around until my meds kick in than spend three days avoiding my office by doing every household chore and errand I can think of and then telling myself I’ll get back to the writing work tomorrow.
Whatever the space and resources are that you need to work, make sure they’re ready to use before you do something that you know tends to reset your motivation, whether that’s sleep or video games or another activity. You can’t necessarily count on having the energy later, but you can try to help take care of your future self when you do have it in you.
Spring is almost here! I have proof, and I’m very excited about this.
I do not have any focus, though. My ADHD meds started making me feel even more ill, so I’m gonna figure that out. My editor was very understanding, and I’m taking a break while I sort out my apparent lack of ability to find some sort of homeostasis.
Here are some more pretty pictures of flowers as compensation for a complete lack of substance in this post.
Black panther rocked! Not going to go into detail about it yet, because this is one of the few movies I’d really care about spoiling, but it was absolutely beautiful and had an excellent soundtrack. It also had more dynamic and empowered female characters than Wonder Woman, and I mean that both in number and quality. Anyone who disagrees can fight me, because I’ll take four amazing black women with differing motivations and strengths over Wonder Woman’s blatant reliance on the born-sexy-yesterday trope, gross portrayal of the female villain, and weirdly male-saturated cast any day of the week. I was also super thrilled with having a male main character who was so free of toxic masculinity.
Basically, Black Panther was everything I’ve ever wanted from a superhero movie, or any other kind of movie, and all future dude characters will now be measured against T’Challa’s awesomeness.
Other than that, I’ve had a pretty quiet week. I baked yummy banana muffins and enjoyed a cozy soak in the spa with my boyfriend and awesome metamour. Unfortunately, I also managed to catch a cold, so I’m pretty tired. It’s been snowing all day, so I’ve been watching the fluffy flakes blow past the window and enjoying not having to go outside in it. (Except briefly, to prevent a puppy rebellion.)
My 29th birthday is on Tuesday, which is exciting, and my sister sent me this cute sparkly dress. I had to wear it when we got some sun even through my legs froze a bit.
Writing days this past week: 0
Yeah, the panic block is strong right now. I ended up working on a whole bunch of other things, but not Somnolence. I’m going to force myself into it as soon as I post this.
I don’t have a ton to say today, but I’m kinda proud of the work I’ve done this week. It’s been busy, but mostly productive. I got my hair cut, finally. It had been threatening to strangle me in my sleep. My valentine’s day came a day late, but it was very comfy and full of yummy food. My husband made his awesome rice pilaf, and we got all caught up on Crazy Ex Girlfriend.
Oh, I also un-broke my dog. Peruvian Inca Orchids tend to be a little high-strung at the best of times, but our boy gets especially weird when he doesn’t get enough exercise, and it manifests as him becoming incredibly clingy with our other dog, to the point where it genuinely pisses her off. This leads to a horrible cycle where she snarls at him for bugging her, and he tries even harder to be all up in her personal space because he’s upset about getting barked at, and I can’t work because they’re doing this right next to me on the couch. Walks around the city seem to do nothing for him, but a few trips to the park a week completely restores his chill, so I’ve learned my lesson. I had been putting off the park and telling myself that I needed to stay close to home and focus on work, but that ends up being counterproductive, even when it doesn’t turn one half of my pack into an emotional wreck.
I don’t necessarily end up getting much more work done when I put off doing stuff I enjoy, since it’s easier to work when I’m in a better frame of mind. There’s a fine line between that and totally losing track of the whole day, but I’m getting better at toeing it.
Plus, I guess, exercise is supposed to have some sort of health benefits and make it easier to think clearly or something. Seems questionable to me, though. I don’t buy into all these newfangled fads like cardio and celery. I go outside mostly to turn over logs for salamanders, watch my dogs hunt chihuahuas, and take moody pictures of trees.
A day may come when I’ll sleep like a person instead of a raccoon, but it is not this day. Nor was it any of the previous days this week. On the upside, I have toast. Toast is excellent. I also got to go to the park with the pups and the boyfriend on Sunday, which was super nice, so technically I’ve been outside and seen actual sun pretty recently.
I’ve been trying to make my bed every day, even when I haven’t exactly slept in it, and found that it does make a surprising difference in my general chill level. It’s comforting to have a spot in the house that’s always neat, and it makes it more inviting when I actually do convince myself to lie down. Plus, it feels good to have taken even a small constructive action early in the day.
I recently finished reading The Power of Habit, which said something about small wins and how they help build momentum. The idea is to warm up with small, manageable tasks that give a sense of accomplishment and progress to work from. I feel like if I can get better at that, it might help with the executive dysfunction issues, because part of the problem there is that I tend to constantly feel like I’m waiting for some condition that’s right for getting started, even though I know that there’s nothing to wait for.
Experience should have taught me by now that it helps immensely if I just stop waiting to start whatever big task has me stalled and do something less intimidating, like loading the dishes or feeding the snakes. Switching gears is often the only thing that’ll get me moving, no matter how hard I feel like I should be focusing on the more important or time consuming task. Forcing it can be extremely pointless when willpower simply is not the issue, and as a matter of practicality, I really need to admit that and stop allowing myself to stall out. It’s not a conscious decision, but there are conditions that make it worse, and they tend to coincide with the typical responsible-work-ethic suggestions I grew up with. The common wisdom says to focus on the hardest task first and offer yourself some sort of reward for later, but I’ve found that that particular strategy can actually freeze me in my tracks for an entire day. If I had just gotten the dishes done, or gone to the park, or even just enjoyed the bath or snack that I was planning as a reward, I might have unfrozen myself earlier. Relabeling a distraction as a small win can sometimes yank my brain out of ruts much more effectively than just trying harder.
In that spirit, I’ll also say that it’s nice to be scheduling this on time, and I’m gonna count that as a medium-sized win even though it’s not all that much of a post.