Thursday, July 1, 2010


I like doing things. It’s hard for me to just relax for the sake of relaxing. My time must be productive.

OH, you say, then how come like, everything, isn’t getting done over at your house?

Well that’s usually because when I’m paralyzed by all the things screaming to be done so I collapse into some sort of procrastinating, time-wasting activity. And of course everything gets worse. You better believe I’m berating myself for not doing all the things that are crowding into my brain, and yet, it’s not my natural inclination to leap up and accomplish something at that point. Of course doing something, ANYthing, for any length of time is better than doing NOthing, even I can see that, but this is where perfectionism comes in. I can’t do anything unless it’ll be perfect, remember?

Enter overwhelming hopelessness and feelings of utter despair. It will never be perfect; I will never be done; why should I bother to try? Exit contented, abundant living full of grace and peace. Except wait, did I ever have that to begin with? Not really, no.


My counselor and I recently explored this whole idea of getting my mind and body to relax and rest. Because I don’t, and this is bad for anxiety.

She wanted to know what I do for fun.
I told her I read and write.
She wanted to know what I do for fun that doesn’t engage my mind.
I stared blankly.
She asked what I liked to do for fun when I was a kid.
I told her I liked to read and write.
She stared blankly. (OK, not really, she probably just rolled her eyes and sighed.)
Then I remembered that I really loved to climb trees! And swing! And play or listen to music! Oh and we had a trampoline, too! I felt proud to be able to have so many helpful answers.

Then she wondered if I had ever considered setting a time each night past which I was NOT to be “productive.” Past that time, I was only to relax and “play.”

I replied that no I had not ever considered that – why on earth would I?!? Waste all that valuable time that I currently spent… wasting?!? Preposterous!


In case it hasn’t already been evident, I have a horrible track record of self-care. I don’t really do things JUST for me. I’ve never learned how and it seems like such a pointless endeavor to my poor, misguided brain. Doing things for me… bah… who has time for that… there’s so much else to do that is far more important… I never heard of such nonsense… that is until I was more depressed than I’d ever been in my entire life, sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. She told me two things that day.

1. Take the dang medication.

2. Do one nice thing just for yourself every day.

I supposed I would have to do the first thing, but was the second thing really necessary? Really? Didn’t she know I had a 4 month old and a 2 year old that my parents were currently caring for?!?! Do something for myself, indeed. Hah. I didn’t even know what qualified, that’s how clueless I was as to how to give myself what I needed.

So it’s a little over a year later, and I think I’m ready to start doing nice things for myself on a regular basis.

(Why is no one applauding and cheering? I sensed a collective sigh and eye-roll. I’m SLOW, ok? Sheesh.)

For the past few nights, I’ve stopped all work at 9 pm. The eventual goal is that I’ll be in bed at 10 pm, but so far it’s been closer to 11 pm.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the change I’ve seen in myself. Now that I know I’ll have relatively guilt-free playtime, I’m motivated to make the time before playtime as productive as possible. It’s a race to see if I can get everything done before 9, because right at 9, everything stops and I’m not allowed to work.

It’s nice. It feels good. There’s a lot less guilt than I thought there would be. Plus, the house is looking much better, too. Jobs that are done imperfectly or even slightly sloppily are still better than jobs that weren’t done at all because there wasn’t enough time to do it perfectly.


  1. Yes, it's hard to take time out to be "non-productive" when there are always a million things that NEED to be done. And for me, I have a hard time being fully engaged in said "non-productive" activity when I'm obsessed with thoughts of how much I should be getting done. For me, being productive makes me happy, feels kind of counterintuitive for me to go off and be non-productive in pursuit of happiness, you know?Oh, I just love it when you write about this stuff because we're THE SAME.

  2. I'm cheering!!! I had to laugh at the exchange with the counselor as well--I see we had similar childhood interests;). A little over a year ago, D made me leave one night a week to "do something for myself." It was hard. And where did I go? The library. LOL BUT, I did do something new--I began exploring the non-fiction section and enjoying the quietness there. It was good. Wait, why am I not still doing that???

  3. A Grandma Brimlow quote about quality control: "An untidy mend is better than a neat hole."Amen! to #2. As you do nice things for yourself, do you become increasingly creative in thinking up different and more satisfying experiences to try?