Tag Archives: self-help

Cats and KonMari

11 May

I just want you to know that after my last blog post, Monk was really lovely for about three straight days. I started to feel a little bad for publicly shaming him. Then one day I was washing my face and as I bent over to rinse, all soapy-eyed and disoriented, suddenly he launched from the back of the bathroom toilet to the back of my body. I stood up and yelped and he got so scared that he dragged his claws down my back to hang on for dear life.

So. I have to get a second cat now.

cat face

Illustration by The Gross Uncle. Check him out on Twitter!

I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’m starting to look older than I feel, and while a portion of that is just the reality of aging, a serious part of it is that I wake up at least 3 times that I can remember the next morning from Monk just pushing shit off of shelves and onto the floor. All night long. I can play with him, feed him, let him sleep on my face, open windows for him, let him push through all the blinds and break every single set in the house – doesn’t matter. He thrives in chaos. He wants to watch the world burn.

I feel bad for whichever future cat has to put up with him. I’m just hoping it helps him chill out. Probably best if it’s a really fat one with a strong batting arm. And maybe an unnerving stare. It’ll be super weird and change the vibe of my apartment, but I’ll probably be able to do something about these bags under my eyes.

Partially because of Monk’s inability to allow things to be on open, horizontal surfaces, and partially because I recently read Spark Joy: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve developed a sort of obsessive habit of organization and systemization in my house.

One would think that with all my office jobs, I would have employed approaches to organization in my own home, but it really hasn’t worked that way for me. You might recall this from my frequent posts about the disgusting filth that is my apartment. If you need to get caught up, I think this shining diamond where I admit to hanging fly tape around my apartment and lived in filth until two flies mated on me will do the trick.

Apparently that’s the final straw for me: flies fornicating and turning my limbs into their love den.

Anyway I read this book on the life changing magic of cleaning up your crap, and it really flipped a switch for me. And like anything good in my life, I’ll just way overdo it until it’s actually kind of harmful.

If you’re not familiar, Spark Joy is a book about the KonMari method. You might be familiar with some jokes about it. They boil down the KonMari philosophy to hugging all of your possessions to feel whether or not they bring you joy and then ditching them if they don’t. It’s quite a bit more complex than that, but I have to admit: she does tell you to hug things. I skipped that part. I can get a sense of my level of joy from just looking at something. It comes along with my knack for being distant and judgy.

The more complex elements of the book involve proper use of containers, assigning everything a place, and giving everything you own enough room to breathe. Clutter is actively sought out and destroyed. Boxes begin to form systems that then run the regular functions of your life almost automatically.

This might not be true for everyone, but it’s true for me.

I took a note from the KonMari method that I needed to arrange my life in a way that best suited the things I do every day. Why, oh why do I get my makeup out of the bag every day, use it, and put it back in the bag? I should just keep it out and find a way to  present it so that looks all right while it’s out so and I won’t feel like the place is a mess. Also: why do I put the things I often need in hard-to-reach, ridiculous places? Why do I let a cupboard in my house be continually overflowing so that every time I open the door I get upset?

Of course, this sort of life-changing magic is what I probably need on my quest for super humanism, so I’ve basically gone section by section through my house and eliminated these occurrences. I know where almost everything is, I have implemented quick and easy systems, and my whole apartment is almost entirely customized to me.  

I think it’s beginning to be a problem.

I have a lot of systems now, and I really don’t like things to be out in the open. If I have clutter in an area because I’m working on a project, the materials all need to be in a basket or a bowl. All the cheese in my fridge goes in its own basket. Things I have to do are organized by section and type. I now have a To Do List template that breaks up my to-dos into correspondences, errands, tasks, and notes. Yesterday I asked our graphic designer at work if she could make me a desktop screen for my computer that was separated into labeled sections for my desktop icons to be visually filed.

I started to really wonder if I was having an issue when I insisted that my dirty silverware sit in a bowl in the sink because the look of them scattered all over the bottom of the sink made me kind of crazy.

At least I’m not hugging them all?

Admittedly, I think things are getting a bit out of hand. I was meal prepping for the week (putting lunches together for work) and decided to overhaul my kitchen cupboard with boxes for each type of lunch item: grains, bars, spreads…I just think it’s gone too far.

Of course I can’t just go back to letting things go; I have a monster cat on the prowl and if I leave my craft supplies out mid-project he will knock them to the ground. I can’t leave a ponytail holder out without him putting it in his teeth and carrying it to a hidden nest he’s made somewhere in the underbelly of my living room couch (THAT’S WHERE THEY ALL GO).  He has some strange obsession with seltzer water that means I can’t even put my drink on a table and walk way. If I do, he’ll knock the entire thing over and act like it was that way when he found it. Like I said: he just wants to watch the world burn.

So I guess I need to start searching the cat adoption sites again. Actually, a cat café just opened up near me (this is real. This is not a test). It’s a place where you can get coffee and hang out on the bottom floor or go play with adoptable cats on the second floor. Maybe I’ll just go take a look real quick – you know, just to see what’s there.

If I find a 20 pound one with a real mean stare, I’ve got a winner. 

foot eater

Illustration by The Gross Uncle. Check him out on Twitter!

The Restroom Chronicles, Part 1

13 Apr

 

I got lost looking for the bathroom in Mad Mex in a recent voyage out into the tundra of humankind.

Dave and I decided to have a date at a local favorite of ours – a Mexican-Southeast-Asian-Spanish-American foodstuffs joint. One of its claims to fame is the Gobblerito – each Thanksgiving season they’ll stuff a burrito with an entire Thanksgiving dinner for the citizens of Pittsburgh. It’s an act of patriotism if you ask me. Anyway, this place has a few locations around the city and we ventured out to a new one.

You should know somewhere, here, at the beginning of this long, humiliating story that I have a sort of disconnect in my brain with navigation. From time to time, I will exit a store and go the opposite of the way I intend because my brain throws away important notes too soon. This difficulty getting from here to there has some funny side effects. For example, on occasion,  I have a great deal of anxiety in a public place trying to find a restroom that is not clearly marked.

Dave, however, has no problem at all with tedious unknowns such as these. He’s bold – an adventurer at heart – and when we’re out in the forest of humanity, he’s happy to blaze a trail. He’ll launch down a dark hallway in a gas station in the middle of nowhere because he can sense a public restroom emanating from the corner of the establishment. He’ll get up from the dinner table at a restaurant and just follow his instinctual juices to magically locate one. He’ll boldly go in a direction until he gets what he needs, and if he can’t find it, he simply grabs a random person and asks them.

I, however, do not operate in this fashion. Over time, Dave has begun to locate bathrooms for me in advance when we appear to be in a place where they are not clearly marked. This is because he is an enchanted creature and is somehow charmed by and happy to care for my severe slights. I’m a lucky dame.

So we’re at Mad Mex. We head in, talk to the hostess, have a seat near the door. I have to pee. We do the initial sit-down things, get comfy and whatnot and I head toward what I believe to be the bathroom location – a long, dark hallway that is within my line of sight.

As I approach the long, beaded curtain that’s hanging at the front of the hall, separating it from the main restaurant area, I start to have doubts.

 

bathroom sign

image: liakapelke

Man, why is that hallway so dark? You’d think they would illuminate it really well so folks have an easier time getting to the bathroom.

 

I notice a couple right by the hall.

Oh – maybe it’s because the hall is so close to these people eating and they’re trying to keep the light low.

I arrive at the curtain and hold out my arm to swipe the curtain aside when my hand is met with a solid metal, black door.

OH! It’s dark because it’s a door, not a hallway, Jackie.

I begin to push on the door but it won’t open because there’s a long, silver crash bar running its length that has to be pushed to open it instead. I wonder for a moment why they seat people next to this door – I’m practically in their laps just trying to get to the bathroom and I’m interrupting their dinner by accessing this back hall.

It’s then that my eyes notice the Emergency Exit sign in front of me for the first time– and the gaze of the couple who, indeed, I was virtually in the laps of.  They spent the 2 minutes prior watching a restaurant patron get up from her seat, walk toward them, and proceed to paw at the emergency exit for no perceivable reason.

I’m mortified, and they know that I know they know what’s going on.

I quickly give up my endeavor and backtrack to safety by David where we were sat. I figure he’ll help me sort it out later. (Enchantment, et cetera.) But on my way back, I can’t spot him. I know I only went one straight direction to the supposed restroom hallway, but I’m searching every single face along the windows of the restaurant and none of them look even remotely like him. Given my circumstances, I did not want to make another close proximity visual mistake, so I kept walking. I walked down the length of the restaurant and arrived back at the hostess station. I stopped to think..

May I help you, Miss?

The hostess was talking to me. Tiny butterflies flapped up my stomach and fluttered in my mouth. I couldn’t ask her if she remembered where she sat us – I’d look like a moron. So I tried to think of something clever to say to explain my standing there dumbfounded, but just as I began to speak, I felt the hot hellgaze of the couple by the curtain who I just played sidedish to. They could still see me. And they knew I knew.

Desperate to release the steadily building pressure, I assured the hostess I was fine, and walked directly out of the restaurant.

I distinctly recall having a moment here where I was a little in awe at the depths I will go to in order to handle a social awkwardness that perhaps only I sense. And nonetheless, I’m passing the hostess, leaving Dave in the restaurant, and headed to God-knows-where. I’m not really in control at this point. The story has been written and I have to stay on the path to completion.

I’m hyper aware of the low patron base in the restaurant at this time and the clear view through the large windows that the hostess still has of me as she wonders why I’m already leaving when we haven’t yet been served. It occurs to me that I should just pretend to get something out of the van that I need, so I decide to do that and move toward the van with intention. Once there, I realize that I don’t have the keys. Convincing myself that the hostess is still watching my every move, I play the narrative through and pretend to just look through the windows and into the van for what I need, then gesture to myself that I don’t know where it is with a hearty shrug, and head back to the restaurant in the hopes that I can locate Dave if I have a nice, fresh start.

I head back in after my own personal Mr. Bean impression in the parking lot and see Dave sitting just a few tables in on my right. I glance to see if the Hellgazers are still at the end of the row. They are.

Dave’s mouth is ajar as I return to our table and he asks me where I went. He was sitting there, I got up, pawed at a door, and walked directly past him and out of the restaurant. I got him all caught up on the vast narrative that was building inside my head.

You still haven’t peed?!

Mr Bean

Image: Jeff

It had been about 10 minutes at this point. And no, I hadn’t. I tried to find the restroom but I failed in public and the hot breeze of Hellgazers were preventing me from exploring again. I had resolved to hold it.

Dave, incredulous, assured me that if I turned left at the end of the row, the bathrooms were clearly marked ahead. I told him I was going to wait until the couple cleared. He encouraged me, and I took off toward the second supposed restroom.

Mad Mex does this thing with their bathroom doors that some companies like to do where they indicate the sex assignment of the restroom with an artistic mural. Worried about adding to Hellgazers’ comedic narrative of their evening, I decided to make a quick decision – one of the bathroom doors was clearly ajar and I gravitated toward it. Relieved to see bathroom tile and stalls, I stepped inside and looked up to see the shining white butt cheeks of a gentleman who was relieving himself at the urinals. I went to the wrong restroom.

I excused  and ejected myself into the hallway to return to the gaze of the couple and quickly pawed at the women’s restroom door. After fumbling for and failing to find a knob or handle, I gave it a heavy push. I jolted inside the empty ladies room and breathed a sigh of relief. I had escaped the gazers, and if I stayed in the restroom long enough, I was pretty sure they would leave before I had to go back out.

I did my business and washed my hands and suddenly considered how long Dave had been sitting, reading the menu, waiting, and wondering whether I ended up wandering on the highway outside somehow. I resolved to go back to my seat, Hellgazers or no. I wasn’t going to be a bad date, dammit.

I made it back to Dave without trouble this time, though he lets out a little yip as I approach to make sure I don’t mess up again and spontaneously combust from the insufferable pain of humiliation.

As I was in the midst of regaling Dave with the various narratives inside my head from my journey, the server approached to take our order. I caught us back up to speed by just ordering my usual fare. Dave places his order and when the server asks if there’s anything else, he inquires as to where the restrooms were. She instructs him toward the location of my near self-immolation – down the row and to the left until you see the painted doors. I shoot him a confused look.

Oh. He says. You know it kind of looks like that door there is a hallway and the bathrooms are down there. Maybe there should be better signs to help with that.

She smiles. Yeah. Actually that happens a lot – but no, they’re to the left.

He thanks her and takes a sip of his water, all casual like, and shoots me a half-grin. I look to my left to check the status of the Hellgazers only to find that they’ve left during the time I’ve been in the radius of Dave’s safety. He truly is enchanted. ♣

This is just one such story of my adventures in society trying perform this basic, human task while in public. And so I shall declare and dub my lost-while-bathrooming saga The Restroom Chronicles. This is Part One. Long may the Chronicles reign, lest the day come that I do finally light myself on fire. 

 

This is Fine

 

The Death of Jabba

1 Feb

I’m christening February with a brand new shiny post. Since that’s the most I’ve written in 3 months, I’m going to go buy and eat an entire pack of Oreos in celebration.

Now – last month I threw down (as I often do) and made much of my obsession with resolutions and goal-setting. It left some folks wondering what exactly I was going to do for the year if I was parading around trying to get everyone else do to things. Behold: the plan.

When I took a nice hard look at my current life approach, I observed some great attempts at superhumanism (Post-a-Day Challenge, Lollipop Tuesdays, Project Fat Ass 365, Completing a half marathon) juxtaposed almost immediately by Jabba The Hut-like life halts. I come, I conquer, I shut it all down. Way down.

It’s all here on this blog – it’s chronicled. Extreme highs and lows. I lose 30 pounds and am fitter than I’ve ever been in my life then I’m half naked on my couch buried in Skittles. I’m a human machine, then I have to attach fly papers throughout my apartment because I haven’t cleaned in so long that my potatoes are self-imploding in the kitchen. I don’t post for three months, I post twice in a row and eat a whole pack of Oreos. For all my self-discipline, I’m unbelievably undisciplined.

Now, granted, I have made some meaningful and real change in my life as a result of sharing my degradation and my paralyzing, anxiety-filled monologue with you all. But in the midst of all these highs and lows and personal achievements, I’ve continually wondered what a well-balanced life looks like.

Are there people who actually meditate every day? Who manage to eat breakfast every day without counting M&Ms? Somewhere out there, are there humans who have drawers of clean underwear and can touch their toes all year? Can balance be learned?

Let’s face it folks – if I can’t do it before the babies start falling out of my body then it will never happen. Because you know what my babies will want to do? Sit around half naked and eat Skittles. I’ll be doomed to live this way forever and to create an entire line of humans who do the same. 

So that’s the ultimate goal for the year: to experience a well-balanced life in order to save myself from sending my defective seed into the future thereby dooming my entire lineage. Now, as you studious jackieblog pupils will recall, that’s not really an actionable goal. We need specifics- things that I can concretely accomplish on a daily basis. Numbers. Expectations. Measurable outcomes. It’s sciencey and stuff.

(You can hop on board if you want. It’s never too late. That’s a rule here. There aren’t many but the few we have are legit. In fact, check out this rock star over at FattieGettingFit who began her journey on Jan. 27th. It’s not too late in the year, and it’s definitely never too late in your life.)

So here’s the plan.

The “One Good Thing” Challenge

  • Make a list of habits you wish you had or believe that you would have if you were your best self. Make them reasonable and beneficial long-term.
  • Hold each habit at least 7 days. You can’t move on unless you can envision adding a new habit without being overwhelmed.
  • You cannot move on early and all habits must be additive, not subtractive. Not doing something is not a habit. (that’s a good thing to remember for life in general.)
  • Reward yourself along the way at whatever intervals you please and with whatever rewards you find meaningful.

That’s it. Seems like it should work, right?

Here are a few examples of good things I personally think that doing every single day would help make me a more balanced, healthy version of myself:

  • Eating breakfast
  • Flossing
  • Prayer/Meditation
  • Exercise/Stretching
  • Sleep for 8 hours (this is the most unfathomable for me)
  • Moisturize
  • Sending a note to someone I care about
  • Doing something creative

My list goes on. It’s big. I don’t even brush my hair every day.

My rewards list is also big because I plan to kick this squarely in the ass.

I started by picking one and doing it every day, no excuses. The deal is that I have to maintain it for 7 days straight. If I make it to day 6 and miss a day, I start again as if it’s my first day trying to do that habit. It’s okay if I spend half the year making an effort to eat breakfast every day. At least after 6 months I’ll be eating breakfast every day. Once I get two habits in the bucket, I cash in on a reward.

I started at the beginning of January and I’m 3 habits deep.  I’ve eaten breakfast every single day (perhaps a lifetime record at this point), worked out/stretched for at least 5 minutes first thing in the morning, and moisturized every day. I’m working on adding prayer/mediation. So far I’ve discovered the seemingly obvious: that the easier I make it for these things to happen naturally, the more likely they are to happen. I have a yoga mat and weights right beside my bed ready to go so that in the morning all I have to do is convince myself to roll over and start stretching. That usually leads to a little exercise. And that usually leads to me wanting breakfast. Sure – it’s just 5 minutes of movement and a breakfast sandwich now, but by the end of the year, who knows? I could be going for a long morning stroll to see the sun rise, get a cup of coffee and a newspaper (which I’ll presumably make time to read), and make myself Eggs Benedict before work. It will be a page straight out of Real Simple magazine.

I’ve been able to manage all right thus far, but I have to admit I’m having a hard time imagining getting too much farther. Sleeping eight hours every single night hasn’t happened since 3rd grade. That’s on the list. And sooner or later I’m going to have to come to terms with how to make it happen. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let some things go. I do a lot of my work while everyone else is sleeping. Like this blog post which I’m writing at 1AM and auto-scheduling for the following morning. 

So that’s the plan, folks. 2016 is the year I figure out what balance looks like so that in 2017 I can determine whether or not it’s all just a load of horse manure and go back to my night owlish, junk food injecting, willy-nilly ways with no regrets. I’ve got 11 months to go in my next human self-experiment. Yeeeeehaw. 

Psst:  I have a long list of ideas for daily habits, but I could use more.  What do you think is a daily habit of a well-balanced person? Let me know in the comments and help me to abandon my Jabba the Hut-like ways. 

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