Category Archives: focus

Making trouble

I recognized a pattern in myself recently, and I shared it with my husband last night. I am not so proud of this pattern, but it seems like something I should try to understand.

When things are going fairly well in my life, either in my relationships or in my work life, I tend to stir things up. I tend to make trouble in some area, like I cannot be still with the sensation of peace and calm.

I guess in my work life, that process begins once I feel that I have “mastered” the work at some level. I have learned the procedures, practiced them, and they are no longer difficult. The work starts to bore me a bit when it hits a certain mastery stage, and I start looking around for what is next.

Relationships have been a little bit less like this, but I managed to defeat a “rescue” habit I used to have, thankfully. However, I realize that when things are going too well, too smoothly, I have a tendency to throw a wrench in the works, and test things.

Why is it that I cannot rest with a life that is too peaceful, that is too calm? I wish I knew. I blame it on my a.d.d., and probably that has something to do with it. The a.d.d. brain craves novelty and stimulation, more than the average brain. It is one reason I am a voracious learner and reader. Sometimes it feels like I cannot get enough of ideas, of stories, of vivid imagination.

trouble makers.JPG

Photo credit link – Deviant Art

It could also be something like what Brene Brown calls “foreboding joy.” There is this sense that when everything is going really well, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, some even around the corner that will mess things up. But then maybe I want to be “in control” of that phenomenon, so I do the messing up myself…?

I don’t know about this one. I do know that yesterday I yelled at my boss during a meeting (actually a conference call).  I was upset with myself for behaving that way, and I apologized for letting my emotions overcome a calmer head, but I also felt relieved that I had spoken up in defense of my team. Fortunately my boss told me no apology was needed. He feels similar frustrations, and says we have to try not to be discouraged.

Here is where I disagree with that notion. Sometimes active resistance is not possible, that is true. But sometimes walking away is an option. Once we have done everything we can think to do in order to reform a system which is not working, we need to reserve the option of disengaging.

I am done making trouble here. Time to find another place to stir things up. The new opportunity I am pursuing has “drive disruptive change” in the job description. That is what excites me most, the idea that someone might actually pay me to be a trouble-I maker… is that really possible? I hope to find out.

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Sunday haiku – 2 verses

Slow down, my dear. Yes.

Center Yourself and breathe. Deep.

There is no hurry.

***

Turn away from noise.

Let yourself listen to You.

Drop the illusions.

***

April 14 blizzard

Blizzard of April 14, 2018. This is one reason I will slow down. My poor hubby will likely have to work another weekend day (MnDOT) to keep people safe out there. If you do go out, please be careful and drive slowly! If you don’t have to go anywhere, stay home and cozy.

Constraint

In this big, wide world with so many channels, choices and chatter, it can be hard to find our focus and stick to one main goal. I really struggle with this intention. I like to take on a lot of new things, but then sometimes I find that they “pile up” and start to crowd my life, in a way.

I generally try to put a constraint around things like the blog, for example. I give myself a limited amount of time each morning 30-45 minutes, to write the content. Sometimes if I am looking for photos to add, it can take up to an hour. But I try to make sure there is a limit. I could literally spend hours writing if I allowed it (and maybe someday I will), but I have a “regular” job. At least today that’s what allows me to pay my bills and not strangle my creativity by trying to make it pay.

As I near my 200th post (this Saturday!) I am considering whether to impose another constraint, to help me focus on larger projects that have been scratching at my consciousness. Since October 1st I have been posting daily here. Sunday is a haiku and it is short and sweet, though I cannot always resist 2 or 3 verses. And Saturday has become a blog share day, to pass along some love to other blogs I have discovered and enjoyed. So in a way, I already imposed some constraints that helped me find writing rhythm in my week.

I truly enjoy this daily ritual, writing whatever I happen to be thinking about each morning. So I hesitate to pull it back. It has given me structure and focus, and even when I have had to travel for work, I planned ahead and made sure to plan short posts sometimes scheduled for while I would actually be on an airplane.

There is a little thrill when we hit the “publish” button (do you get that too?) and our work goes out into the world. Even though I try not to get caught up with how many “likes” or “views” any particular piece has, I sometimes do consider it. Truly it fascinates me, which topics resonate with people, not always predictable and often a surprise for me.

Now that I have had some time to develop a regular writing practice, though, I strive for a bit more focus on some longer and “meatier” pieces, perhaps to submit to publications. I told my husband: I have a book in me (or three) and I would like to consider whether that is my ultimate goal. I sense a transition in my own creativity, and may need to constrain one area of my writing, so I can generate greater focus on another part. So again I toy with a frequency that will work for me.

When I imagine cutting back to once a week, as many bloggers do, I get this “muzzled” feeling which I do not like. I then consider 3 or 4 times a week as a reasonable limit. It allows for me to get my blog “fix” and generate some short(ish) pieces as warm-up writing and to keep myself loose. But it also allows for those other mornings when I can assign the time to a few project ideas that are longer and more involved, that require some editing and polishing.

Are there areas in your life where you recognize constraint helps you focus? Do you struggle as much as I do when you first consider cutting something out to make room for other things? I would love to hear about your experiences with this in the comments.

Post trip caffeine detox

I write this from the Caribou Coffee near my home. Fittingly, my drip coffee maker decided to stop working, and is no longer pulling the water up. I am not sure if it is the hard water coating the mechanism or what. Ugh. Maybe I’ll get a french press for a while and just us my water heater to make the coffee.

In any case, the only solution was to find another source. Going without coffee is not a viable option for me. I’ve done dietary detox “cleanses” before, in which I have given up gluten, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and animal products for a period of 14 days or 21 days. Both times I struggled most with giving up the caffeine, and also dairy.

As someone who both thrives and struggles with a.d.d., I have taken a stimulant medication to help with focus for about 14 years. There are biochemical reasons behind why this has been helpful for me, and why I tend to get addicted to caffeine very quickly. A lot of people with a.d.d. struggle with nicotine addition for this reason as well – it helps with focus.

While this may seem counter-intuitive, if you think of it as stimulating the “brake center” or the executive functioning center of the brain, it makes more sense. People think that stimulants should make you hyperactive, but the opposite is true. They tend to calm down an attention-challenged person. The exception for me is that when my synapses feel “burned” from too many days on too little sleep, typical for me after more than 3-4 days of a work trip.

When the body and brain need rest, they need rest. There is no substitute. In the two years I have really worked to make sure I get better sleep, take care of myself physically and focus on dietary factors which help me sleep better. I weaned myself off full-strength coffee on a day-to-day basis at home. I typically make myself a half caf blend in the morning and I savor it slowly with full fat cream, Putting a shake of cardamon and cinnamon in the coffee maker is delicious also.

Now that I am home again after 7 nights away, I know I will have to detox from the higher amount coffee I consumed in Argentina and Brazil. Coffee is a larger part of the culture, and it is absolutely delicious there, though the Argentinians frequently leave out milk or cream, so I find it’s too acidic for my system to overindulge too much on coffee.

Caribou

Caribou Coffee this morning, not too crowded at 7:30 a.m.

It doesn’t change the fact that I am, in effect, “double dosing” when I travel, since the half caf option doesn’t really exist on the road. I limited myself to 3 a day (which is usually 3 half-cafs at home). People looked at my strangely in the past when I’ve asked for decaf espresso or cappuccino in a restaurant. My Argentina colleague has an espresso after dinner at 10 p.m. at night and I tell him I’d be up all night if I did that.  He reassures me: it doesn’t even affect him.

I disagree, it probably does. Though the brain and body have a way of down-regulating hormones and neuro-chemicals when we have become accustomed to too much. When we allow ourselves to scale back on a stimulant substance like caffeine, we start to realize how much we had been depending on it, and our body adjusts back to a more normal baseline.

I like to allow myself a couple of days to gradually scale back the caffeine, while getting juicy, wonderful 9-10 hour nights of sleep. I log my sleep daily (clinical researcher here). When I looked at a stretch of 4 days in which my average sleep was 5.75 hours, I realized that I will need to allow myself at least an equal period of time to restore the balance. If I do not, I will suffer. Pure and simple.

I also notice my weight has been up a bit this month, and that’s typically an indicator that my body is stressed. But I know that when I give my body what it needs: rest, good, healthy food, lots more salads (god, I hate what they feed us on airplanes, that’s a post for another day), time to relax, yoga practice 3+ days a week, solitude, good time with my hubby and my kitties, my body returns to normal.

So while a detox can be challenging, filling my life with all the good things that keep me vital and happy also feels really, really good.

Happy Thursday, peeps!