Monthly Archives: October 2017

99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

Generally speaking, my inability to make progress in life boils down to three chronic problems, all of which I have written about on this blog before:

Problem 1:  I spend money I don’t have. (See “Woe Is Money”, 11/3/16, and others.)  My current financial situation is dire because I was lazy all summer, and if I don’t put in the hours, I don’t make any money.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m always hounding Darian about making a budget and sticking to it, but clearly I need to follow my own advice.  Yes, I’m not an extravagant person, and I don’t usually go around willy-nilly buying unnecessary items I can’t afford, but I certainly don’t deny myself or my daughter anything.  I need to go on an austerity budget.  And while this problem is especially acute now, it is something I have struggled with all my life, even when I was making a healthy salary as a full-time (but thoroughly miserable) lawyer.

Problem 2:  Another lifelong problem of mine is that I eat what I should not eat, and way too much of it. (See “Weighty Management”, 3/1/17, among others).  The corollary to that problem is that I don’t move enough.  In recently months I have engaged in no substantive exercise whatsoever.  I take in too many calories and I don’t burn any, so I’m fat and staying that way.  It has health effects beyond just making me feel bloated and balloony.  The overeating and the lack of activity create a vicious cycle, because lethargy just feeds more lethargy.  Yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been dedicated to movement – power-walking, yoga, even going to the gym when I had money and a gift certificate for six months of a personal trainer.  But the longer I go without exercise, the harder it is to get back on track.  Of course, even if I start exercising (and I will, I swear!  I honestly enjoy working up a sweat – when I can manage to get off my ass to do it!), I still need to make major changes in my eating habits.  I can’t help that I prefer sweet things like cookies and ice cream to, say, vegetables of any kind.  Thus it feels like I have to deprive myself of something I enjoy and force myself to endure something I find unpleasant.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  Why does taking care of my body feel like torture?  I have to boil it down to a pro-and-con situation:  Pro – I have a few moments of joy and deliciousness.  Con – I’m doing damage to my body, which needs to last a lifetime.

Problem 3:  My worst problem of all – the one that ties in to everything else – is my overwhelming tendency to procrastinate, in every sphere of my life, for big items and small. (See “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15.)  I put off tasks and action items in the deluded hope that they will go away or miraculously resolve themselves.  But by procrastinating, I also potentially deprive myself of personal development, forward movement and perhaps even the chance to achieve something wonderful.  My procrastination has its roots in my utter lack of ambition, which (with few exceptions) has been a lifelong affliction.  No drive, no motivation, no PASSION.  This contributes to the procrastination in a major way because, if I could find something that I felt passionate about, I wouldn’t procrastinate.  Right?  For instance, I love hockey, so I never miss a hockey game.  If I must, I record it and watch it on delay but I will ALWAYS make time to watch it.  It’s the same with all my favorite shows.  I also make time for my pets (permanent and foster) and for volunteering at the shelter, even though every once in a while I just want to spend a lazy weekend holed up in my jammies and give the shelter a miss (but then I’d also miss out on spending quality cuddle time with my favorite “away” kitties).

Unfortunately, my procrastinating has gotten in the way of keeping up with my blog – hence, the lamentable three-week gap between posts – despite the fact that blogging is something I love to do.  I do blame work for some of that, because I’ve had to put in more billable hours in the past couple of months to make up for my “lazy grasshopper” summer.  If I didn’t have to worry so much about my next paycheck (which frankly is always already spent by the time it comes), I would write at great length every day, including more in-depth pieces for this blog rather than the quickie jobs I’ve been putting together just so I can keep up with my commitment (to myself) to post.

Where do I begin to fix this?  Well, for starters, I have to make a dent in the procrastination problem and “make it work”, like Tim Gunn says on Project Runway (which is one of my TV show passions that I never miss, especially this season with the adorable Brandon, who is destined to be a star; I only wish I’ll be able to afford his clothes when he becomes a famous designer).  I’ve just been to the doctor this week and, while she didn’t berate me for not losing any weight or bringing down my A1C, she easily could have.  I do enough berating for the both of us – often while I’m in the actual process of stuffing my face (“Nan, stop eating these candy corn!  Nan, don’t go back for another bowl of ice cream!  Nan, you will sorely regret eating this whole box of cookies as soon as the last one crosses your lips!”) – not that it does any good.  The doctor actually said something like “You’re not ready,” which is absolutely true, but also just another example of procrastination.  What am I waiting for??  A freakin’ heart attack?

On the money front, I should listen to my own advice and come up with a budget and then do my best to live within it.  I only have another six weeks or so to get my kid through college, and then she’ll come home and start earning her own money.  She is contemplating another field research program in Costa Rica for the summer and she has already been informed that, as much as the Board would like to support her higher education, the Bank of Mom is officially closed for business.  So that particular expense can be eliminated, although there will be a concomitant increase in the grocery and utility budgets now that she’ll be home full time.  I’m also going to have to increase my health insurance premiums because I’ll have to cover my kid as well as myself, and they’re discontinuing my current plan so I have to find a new (and inevitably more expensive) one in the limited 45-day window that the government has generously allotted for us to do so.  (I guess I should just be grateful that I still have the ability to buy insurance at all.)

I liken my cycle of self-destructive inactivity to the situation being experienced by the 2017-18 New York Rangers, ten games into the season.  They have been distinctly awful in spurts on defense and every mistake has cost them a goal.  On the offensive side of the puck, they do many good things but don’t get rewarded.  (Prime example:  Rick Nash alone has more shots on goal than almost everyone else in the league, with only one goal to show for it.)  So the frustration sets in and they try to do too much and end up doing themselves more harm than good.  It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a 2-6-2 record.  Eventually they will have to pull themselves out of this slump.  According to their coach, Alain Vigneault (who might be feeling a bit in the hot seat these days), the boys just have to take it one shift at a time, do the things they know they need to do, and trust that their efforts will pay off.  Then they can build on that.

That is certainly advice that I should take to heart.  One step in the right direction will lead to another, and so on and so on, and just keep on plowing forward till I get where I need to be.  Evidently, I get my best life counsel from Tim Gunn and AV:  Focus on doing the right things one shift at a time, and just make it work.  Ha!  That should be my actualization mantra!

P.S.  My permanent family has increased by one:  I have officially adopted Polly Wobbles as the newest member of the squad.  My foster kitten Gigi was adopted last weekend, and my other foster dog, the adorable Penny, blew up the Posh Pets website with applications for her adoption, so it is only a matter of time before we find the right fit for her.  After that, then maybe I’ll take a break from fostering – until the next one comes along, of course!

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How Is It?

My friend Curtiss, when he greets me, always asks, “Nan, how is it?”  He did it back in our college days and he still does it every time he calls.  He’s got a certain way of saying it that is just so Curtiss.  There’s no other way to explain it.

But when you parse it out, it is an interesting question.  HOW IS IT?  Not “what” is it, which is easy to answer – it’s a THING, an object or a thought or a non-human creature (in the case of a HUMAN creature, of course, it would be “WHO is it,” which is an entirely different exploration) – but HOW.  In what manner is your life now proceeding?  It is going smoothly or roughly, well or badly?  What is your overriding mood?  Are you happy or sad, frustrated or excited?  It’s really the perfect question upon greeting an old friend.

So, if Curtiss asked me today, “How is it?” I’d have a multi-layered response.

(1)   I am angry and sad that 59 innocent people were robbed of their lives, and hundreds of people injured and permanently scarred, by a lunatic with many, many guns. I’ve written before how much I hate – DESPISE – guns and would like them removed en masse from the world.  (See “Frustration Overload”, 6/21/17.)  I know that is an impossible dream; I mean, despite the overwhelmingly positive results in Australia when the nation’s government paid their populace to give up their guns, even they couldn’t get rid of ALL of them.  And I am grudgingly respectful of people who grew up in a culture where killing wild creatures to eat is acceptable.  But why in the name of all that’s good do normal citizens need semi-automatic weapons?  Frankly, I don’t know much about guns (by choice), so I don’t know what type of gun it is that can shoot multiple rounds, one after the other, without reloading, that I could only imagine would be useful in a war.  And those types of guns may very well have limited use in military situations (I’ll leave my anti-war blog post for another day), but why does Joe Average Citizen need one?  Why does Joe Average Citizen need over a DOZEN when one is enough to kill the intruder from which you are supposedly defending yourself and your property?  I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT AND I NEVER WILL.

And then, of course, there is the ever-present dark cloud that is the Trump presidency, which I was sure would have ended by now.  I was certain the scales would fall from the eyes of the unfortunate folks who fell for his bamboozle-ry and they would kick his fat ass to the curb (and tell him to take his entitled spawn and spawn-in-law with him).  So on top of being angry and sad, all of that leaves me feeling frustrated and drained, because there is nothing I can do about any of it except worry and sign petitions and call my congresspeople and hopefully, in 2018, put Democrats back in the majority in Congress to stem the bleeding of our hallowed democracy, despite the institutional efforts to prevent that.  Consider how large a risk it is that the Supreme Court will find in favor of gerrymandered election maps in Wisconsin to preordain election results presumably forever.  (The ever-wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great line about this case:  “It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting? This is a secure Republican district or this is a secure Democratic district, so my vote doesn’t count.’ That’s not a good thing for democracy.”  Touché, Ruth.)

BUT

(2)  I also feel happy and optimistic, looking forward to some pleasant activities this week. Darian is coming home for the weekend, and the Rangers’ 2017-18 hockey season starts on Thursday.  I’m surrounded by furry affectionate beings who follow me around like I’m the Pied Piper, although they only listen to me when they want to.  Case in point:  Lately Munchie has been hiding under the bed when it’s time for walkies.  From all indications (other than this hiding-under-the-bed thing), Munchie seems to ENJOY walkies.  So why is he hiding under the bed?  More importantly, why does he refuse to come when I call him?  I’ve basically given up.  He’s the only one of the four pups currently at my house who only ever goes on the weewee pads or outside, so I don’t worry about him leaving me gifts where he shouldn’t.  And the cats are always up for a cuddle, except for my crazy foster kitten, Gigi, who would rather run wild in the “kitty playroom” (i.e., Darian’s room, which will be converted back into Darian’s room tomorrow, which will create an interesting dynamic since her cat, Jojo, is the undisputed queen of Darian’s room) than snuggle with me on the couch.

Another thing that excites and pleases me is getting my cash-back rewards in the form of a $25 iTunes card (“free” music!!) and $25 Amazon card (perhaps a nice book or CD??), so I can treat myself to some new tunes and/or reading material.  And something else happened today that left me feeling like the universe is looking out for me.  Unfortunately, I came in about $500 short on my bills this month (the punishment for enjoying a relatively lazy summer, workwise).  I was going to have to borrow some of Darian’s extra student loan proceeds that I’m holding for her in my savings account.  But lo and behold, today I received a surprise refund check from my health insurance company.  Huzzah!  It was in exactly the right amount to cover my shortfall!  I remember reading Lit by Mary Karr (2008) and being struck by her realization that, even though she struggled through some tough financial times, just the right amount of money would always show up when it needed to if she hoped for it hard enough.  I must confess that has happened to me a few times recently, which brings me to the last arm of my current “how” state, which is . . .

(3)  Grateful. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head (almost half entirely owned by me!), a big-screen TV to watch my Ranger games, a comfy bed to share with some of my creatures (I’m down to two or, at most, three, if Savannah decides to join us, in my actual bed – everybody else is on their comfy little pillows scattered around my bedroom floor).  I’m grateful to have JUST ENOUGH money in the bank (although a little lottery win wouldn’t hurt!).  I’m grateful for my amazing human kid, who makes me so proud and who’s turning into quite an impressive adult who’s got her whole life ahead of her, and all my “fur babies.”  And I’m grateful that, even though I do have my health issues (obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and a weird seasonal allergy that I seem to have developed in my late forties), I am reasonably healthy.  This is especially the case because I’ve seen some of my friends suffering through life-or-death illnesses and conditions that leave me feeling sympathetic but impotent to help them, and yet secretly thankful that, so far in my life, I have been incredibly lucky with my health.  (Now if I would only take better care of myself, I might be able to improve that situation . . . )

So how is it?  It is MOSTLY pretty damn good.  Let’s leave it at that.