Thursday, November 13, 2014

aliens in my head or just another day?

Today Jane and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally, after about a year, the Kaitaia TimeBank banner to be used outside the EcoCentre, at working bees, market stalls etc., has been finished. It didn't take that long to make relatively speaking, but there was about a 9 month gap between cutting out all the lettering and starting on the main panels.

The main reason things stalled was because my brain just wasn't up to figuring out the logistics of the banner which goes on one of those freestanding pole things. Should the pole go up one side or the middle? Should the lettering be from top to bottom (so you tilt your head to read it) or go across-ways? How do I make it so it will cope with the high winds of the Far North and not get ripped to shreds in a few weeks? If I put a pole pocket down the middle which seams can I sew before I turn the thing from inside out to the right way out and which have to wait until after?

Gradually I've plodded through the list. Jane, bless her, did the applique work which at least saved me that headache. Today saw the final piecing together of the two panels to make a single banner. It is a sign of how much I have improved over the last few months that I even tried. How often I used my quick-unpick is a sign of how much further I still have to go... I nearly had the whole thing sewn together complete with pole pockets etc before the penny dropped that the three lines I'd just sewn meant I now couldn't turn it the right way out - d'oh. I shouldn't have been surprised though. Earlier in the day, whilst working on another rather time-delayed project, I'd ironed several metres of binding in half the wrong way out before I realised what I was doing.

Common sense is something I've usually had a reasonable supply of. In various circles I gained a bit of a reputation for pointing out 'the bleeding obvious' to those who had somehow completely overlooked it. Until this year I could never fathom how people could miss such things. I really do feel handicapped without my usual capacity to see what's staring me in the face. Similarly towards the end of my time teaching I was finding my usually long patience had shrunk and I was snapping at kids in a way that shocked me when it happened. It felt like someone else controlling my tongue. I'd be horrified at myself at times and apologized straight away to whichever poor child I'd just bitten the head off. It was an eye opener to me to realise that this is what life is usually like for some people; that frustrated verbal response before thinking. Thankfully I didn't have to deal with an instinctive physical response on top, the flash of uncontrolled emotional response was bad enough.

For whatever reason I haven't had that flashpan response to children happen again since I stopped teaching week in week out at the end of 2012 and I am extremely grateful for that. I know one of my colleagues got the sharp edge of my tongue a few times when relieving last year. Our methods of teaching were completely at odds with each other and I wasn't in a space to be able to just let stuff go that in a better state I would've had the wisdom to just leave be.

The more my physical health improves the more obvious the anomalous state of my brain and emotions becomes, and reflecting back, the more I realise how long ago the changes started to become apparent. A lot of it is quite simply hormonal and due to going through peri-menopause of which several doctors, nurses and specialists have all agreed I've been having a lousy time of. The fact that most of the more obvious symptoms seem to fluctuate in sync with how tired, run down, and otherwise not well I am does give me some hope that 'this too shall pass' and normal service shall be resumed at some point. Hopefully some point sooner rather than later.

Spending a lot of time with those a generation or more older than me has meant I have been around regular discussions about those in the community slipping into states of advanced Altzheimer's, or senile dementia. I do wonder at times about the similarities between the way my brain feels mussed up and those conditions, although those I know with them aren't really in a state to compare notes. But in a week when 'today, tomorrow and yesterday' have got completely mixed up (what do you mean that if I re-read an email on Tuesday that I got on Monday that refers to 'tomorrow' that means today and not Wednesday??? In my defense I was expecting it to refer to Wednesday due to an earlier conversation); where I've given someone an answer only to ask them the same question back 10 minutes later; where I can't even get to the compost heap and back without forgetting what I was doing before I set off bucket in hand, I do have to wonder just how well I'd do in those assessment tests right now! But whilst I might be struggling to know what day of the week it is or how the heck it came to be Tuesday again already (but not today though!) I did figure out that Granny would've been 110 yesterday without even having to think about it. Admittedly remembering it was Tuesday before it got to 1.30pm would've been far more useful given Granny has long since gone beyond birthdays, whereas the pay office needed my timesheet posted yesterday and I was supposed to be somewhere else at 12...

I have to take heart though from the fact that I have more than one thing going on to keep track of, and that I do have a life again that doesn't simply consist of endless medical appointments and not much else. I don't mind unpicking seams half as much now as I used to as at least it means I had a go at sewing them in the first place, and I spotted the mistake before it was too late to change something. I still haven't quite plucked up the courage to attempt to unpick a counted cross-stitch I started some months ago and somehow managed to get the centre line in the wrong place, despite carefully (I thought...) counting the holes twice to make sure! Some mistakes are easier to fix than others.

Given what feels like personality transplants and my brain short-circuiting at times over the last few years I can understand why there have been people convinced they've been abducted by aliens in their sleep etc. It wouldn't need much mental instability, paranoia, certain drugs, or living amidst a culture of fear, scaremongering and some really dubious red tops 'journalism' on top of my own kind of experiences to really freak folk out. It's freaky enough at times as it is when I have a perfectly rational medical explanation for it all! Mind you when I had the third pregnancy test done on me this year irrespective of me pointing out that whilst I dropped biology at school as soon as possible, I did know enough to know without a doubt that I couldn't possibly be, there was that back of the mind thought 'But what about the Midwich Cuckoos?' I'm still debating whether aliens would be preferable to angels proclaiming or not... Thankfully the tests all agreed with me that I wasn't, so that all remains hypothetical!

So life trundles on. The 'guilt pile' is slowly being tackled and whilst new things inevitably get added to it at least I've not been looking at them all year. Another sewing project is close to completion, and only 6mths late this time so there is actually a chance of folk getting handmade Christmas presents after all. I'm not going to say when they'll get them mind, that feels far too much like tempting fate!

Monday, November 10, 2014

procrastination, part II

I almost got this finished last night, but the need for sleep got the better of me. Of course I've now left it until nearly bedtime to try to finish it off, some habits are hard to shake...

Well I'm making a start, however I'm also hungry, and it is lunchtime... I'll be back later, I promise!

Right, so where was I? Ah yes, procrastination. Something I've been an expert at for many years. I could get a degree in procrastination, oh wait, I've already got one of those, well not in it as a subject but as a study method. Well it worked didn't it?!

I arrived in this world about 10 days late and lets face it that is around the time when the word 'induced' starts being bandied around by the medical profession and there's still nothing like a deadline to get me moving! I'm also pretty practiced in being stubborn in the face of authority, or as I like to call it now, speaking truth to power. I managed to arrive just before the end of evening visiting hours, so contrary to the rules of the time my dad was given special dispensation to stay in the maternity hospital and wait in the nurses' rest room so he could see me (and probably more to the point, my mum) before he went home. So I was already aiding and abetting breaking the rules of convention as I took my first breath.

As many of the texts I read as part of my Early Childhood Education training point out, it is the early experiences of life that shape what follows. Well with that start to life I was obviously destined to a life of leaving things to the last minute whilst thumbing my nose (I never did learn to suck my thumb properly...) at the powers that be. Speaking of powers that be, that reminds me I need to sort out my visas again, I'm fine as long as I don't leave the country, so it can wait a bit longer, right?

Soooo, procrastination. See, I can't even get to the point without putting it off, wandering around the houses and going off at odd tangents - a bit like Ronnie Corbett rounding off The Two Ronnies, sitting in that big chair that looked like they'd borrowed it from the Mastermind set. Ooooh, is that the kettle I can hear boiling? Must be time for a cuppa.....

Mmm, that's better, tea and chocolate. You can put the world to rights over tea and chocolate, there obviously isn't enough of it around in places of Government. You know I never did read the article editorialgirl referred to at the beginning of her post, I probably should before I go any further.

Just as well I did, as on the one hand it matches my modus operandi, yet on the other it just so isn't me. I suppose I'm one of the 'predictably irrational' people who knows my own weaknesses. Picking up on the studying research mentioned, for my ECE Grad Dip I found myself several times with three assignments due in within a few days of each other several weeks ahead. Knowing my propensity for procrastination I would set myself self-imposed deadlines of one per week over three weeks.

Week one, I'd usually have the first assignment finished early. But then I'd take a couple of days off before starting the next one, as technically those days were still allocated to Assignment 1 and I felt like I'd earned a break. Assignment 2, well it would be harder to get going again after those two days off, and I knew I should really have got cracking straight off whilst the momentum was there, but.... And I'd end up dragging it out, finishing it some time on the last day of the allocated week.

Assignment 3's turn, and I'm feeling really hōhā about all this and am totally over it. Who on earth thought writing thousands of words in short spaces of time was a good way to train teachers anyway? Didn't the university actually read the stuff they were setting us? It was a dreadful way to learn, it becomes meaningless and boring, students disengage from the subject etc. etc. etc., if I could be bothered I could find the APA referencing for the texts that prove my point! So, yup, Assignment 3 is the one that involves sitting up until at least 2am on the last night going crossed eyed checking the commas and italics in the aforementioned APA referencing and descending into absolute panic mode as the internet decides to throw a hissy fit the moment I'm ready to submit my last assignment with about 5 minutes to spare. Ironically of course that is the assignment I'd get the best grade for. Which is why any attempt to convince myself that there is a better way of studying was always halfhearted and destined to fail.

But on the other hand unlike the other examples given, I have ridiculous amounts of will power (aka stubbornness...). I can budget over a year and live off a very small amount if I have to. I can manage my diet and shopping in such a way that I avoid what is bad for me, although admittedly knowing something will make you sick is a far bigger deterrent than just knowing that 'junk food isn't good for you'. I was totally the kid who can wait 15 mins for the bigger reward. I learned to save at a young age, both pocket money and chocolate. I was the child who made my Easter eggs last for weeks if not months, whereas my brother thought he'd done well if they lasted hours. Yet I'll still leave things I don't want to do until the last minute.


Therein lies the crux of the matter usually. If I have to do something, I invariably find 101 other things to do first. If it is an essay needing written it is amazing how it is suddenly so important to give the bathroom a really good scrub. Yet if it is the bathroom really needing cleaned, well I could go and do some gardening instead... I can get stuck in a good book for hours and hours, and stay up all night if need be to finish it as I can't bare to put it down. But ask me to concentrate on anything else for the same timeframe and I simply can't do it. I zone out, fall asleep, end up doodling in the margins. No matter how hard I try I just can't focus on one task for that length of time. Even in the garden where I can while away an entire day it won't be solidly on one task no matter how big it is or how long it will take. To be fair to myself though books read like that I usually then reread almost straight away at a slower pace to pick up on all the details I've invariably not taken in in my blinkered dash to find out what happens next/in the end.

What seems to make the difference as to whether I procrastinate most is the element of choice - am I doing something on my terms, on my timescale, to my standards because I want to do it, or am I expected to meet someone elses? As soon as there is anything out of my control I seem to procrastinate. Not out of sheer bloody mindedness, but because if something isn't finished it can still be improved. Once it is finished it is there to be judged, and the perfectionist streak in me doesn't like that. So I'd rather be able to say 'it's not finished yet' which excuses any imperfections, than admit that my best just simply wasn't perfect. It's why I needed Natalie reminding me constantly through our Grad Dip that 'Cs make degrees' and 'good enough' was okay. As a strategy it obviously worked as we were both ended up A grade students! Something I would never have dreamed possible given my previous mediocre academic track record.

The other procrastination tactic is to not even start/attempt something; if I don't start I can't mess it up can I? Which is why so many sewing projects this year have stalled as soon as any maths has come into play as my head hasn't been very reliable at thinking straight. There's something so very final about taking scissors to a piece of fabric... Yet I can happily accept that my sewing will never be perfect and accept the fact that there will always be room for improvement. I know that if I strive for perfection I'll never finish anything so I pass the finished items on with the clear message that 'it isn't perfect, but it is there to be used, not framed, so please use it!'

I know that this year my procrastination has known no bounds. Given I can find some things hard enough to start/finish at the best of times you can imagine how it most definitely not being the best of times has made it far worse. And what is more my confidence has taken a battering to boot. So finding these articles has been timely as I start to feel more able to tackle stuff again, but so far only on my own terms, or with someone else checking it as back-up. My future self would love to be able to look back at the end of the year and see that in the end I did manage to write more blog posts than the previous year, or at least match the 38 posts of the last two! But as soon as more than a week goes by without blogging it becomes harder and harder to start a post or finish one, as I know it is becoming less and less likely that I'll reach 39, let alone 52... a target I set, that no-one else even knew about until they read this! And what is more it doesn't even matter whether I reach it or not, yet still I procrastinate as it is easier to accept that I failed from not trying hard enough than to try my hardest and still not get there.

So I need to stop being so hard on my future self, stop beating myself up for things that haven't even happened yet and might not, especially if I stopped procrastinating and just got on with things! I know I can do it, there are times when Cat's 'think it, do it' attitude kicks in and I just get stuck in and see something through to the end come what may. Like the time when we decided 15 minutes before the end of our shift to re-organize the linen cupboard, a task that usually took at least an hour! As for the day we decided to re-organize the pantries, well lets just say weren't popular with the next shift who had to cook tea in the midst of our chaos, but we stuck at it until it was done and all agreed that in the end it had been worth it. I must admit though it is usually my stubborn streak that over-rules everything else at times like this though, along with to heck with convention....


So I'll try to remember each time I procrastinate to consider whether that is fair on future me and aim to 'think it, do it' more often. Sometimes looking after myself has to over-ride any other considerations though, which is why I gave up proof-reading this last night and have returned to it now. I nearly put it off again as I'm tired and I really shouldn't have left it until this late at night, but I knew I'd be more cross with myself for not posting this today than I would be for not including all the things I meant to, but now can't think of as I'm too tired.... I just know there was more! But there's always another post and another day. And who knows, if I make this into three posts rather than one (or the current two) I might make that target of at least 39 posts this year after all!

Saturday, November 08, 2014


A friend of a f/Friend wrote this blog post which I came across via Facebook. It resonated with me and I really want to write something about it. But not tonight! Believe it or not this is not procrastination (who me?) but genuinely about looking after myself. I need sleep, and I needed it half an hour ago. So instead of procrastinating over actually getting ready for bed any longer, which somehow needs more energy than sitting here reading random things on the internet, I'm going to leave this like this for now and log off. You get to read her blogpost now, and I get some much needed sleep. In theory I'll write what I was going to say tomorrow.... assuming I don't put it off.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

keeping track

Having taken part in Plastic Free July and have continued to try to keep my single use plastic to a minimum I was curious as to how I'd get on whilst away from home for 10 days. Not only was I away from home but I was travelling on all but four of those days, and I was trying to travel light which meant there was a limit as to how much food I could bring from home.

The journey from home to Wellington went well as I had my wee Marmite lunchbox with me to fill up with self-service sushi in Kerikeri rather than use one of their plastic boxes. The cashier was surprised to see me provide my own box but thought it was a really good idea which was encouraging. At the airport I had oodles of time so could get a proper pot of tea with cup and saucer rather than a takeaway cup, and the miso soup which I had expected to come in a bowl (as it always used to) came in a paper cup but without a plastic lid. So I was feeling rather pleased with myself after the first day.

I've debated for some time whether it is worth getting one of those reusable coffee cups for takeaway cuppas, but I buy so few in a year it hasn't really seemed worth it. I was looking at them in the Kathmandu sale though in Wellington umming and ahhing over it yet again when I spotted some small vaccuum flasks. My old one leaks so it's no use for travelling any more, so rather than get a coffee cup (for about 4 cups a year!) I got a flask which had the added bonus of meaning I didn't need to buy a cuppa so often and I was guaranteed a cuppa I like as I generally try to avoid ordinary tea these days. I soon discovered though that it is a highly efficient flask and thus I need to add some cold water to my tea otherwise I have to wait way too long for it to be a drinkable temperature! There are way worse problems to have than a burnt tongue though.

Snacks for the road proved to be a challenge and I failed completely to avoid small packets and individually wrapped bars. When you're vegetarian and avoiding dairy, gluten and unwarranted amounts of sugar in things your options are limited. I'm fine at home as I simply make my own stuff and generally snack a lot less, but that's not so practical on the road. Also I simply didn't have room in my bag to buy a big bag of something and make it last several days of travels. I think I need to refine my 'packing light' skills - it was tricky though when the possible weather options for my trip were potentially 'four seasons in one day' let alone in one week and I was only going to be at one of my stops long enough to do any washing and get it dry.

But generally I think I did reasonably well until the penultimate day. I succumbed to the lure of a decaf soy latte at Christchurch airport and that meant a disposable coffee cup and plastic lid. Then on top of that the turbulence on the way north meant the Air NZ staff served the cuppa on the plane with a lid too. Quite understandable and far more necessary than such lids often are, but two such lids in the space of a couple of hours did feel a tad excessive. I did enjoy my coffee at the airport though.

What would I do differently another time? Well other than try to pack less so there was more room in my bag for bigger supplies of snacking food I should probably do a bit more research when I have browsing time to spare in a supermarket. Part of the reason why I ended up with some of the stuff I did was because I kept running out of time in shops and there is a limit to how many things you can read the ingredients list of when you're in a hurry! I'd forgotten/not realised that some of my old travelling staples whilst wheat free weren't gluten free and I'm trying to stick to being GF as much as I can as it does seem to be helping. Having got into the habit of making so much of my food from scratch at home I've not needed to buy such things for a while. If I've got a 'go to' list of things to look out for that I know I can eat and are sensibly wrapped I can probably avoid the GF snack bars which ended up being the default option this time. I did treat myself to a box of Nairns stem ginger oatcakes though and refused to feel guilty about it. I usually avoid them for food miles reasons, but I reckon an annual treat is allowed! I'm still experimenting with recipes to try to recreate them at home but haven't quite cracked it yet, one day I'll make an acceptable substitute....

As ever making lifestyle adjustments take time and effort to put into place and become the 'new normal', after a while it will become second nature and then I'll be ready for the next change, whatever that may prove to be.