Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 43 – SAD is not even a little AWESOME

I looked at my next AWESOME prompt this morning and quickly closed the file. Awesome Surprises. WTF is that supposed to mean anyway? There are no awesome surprises. Life sucks. Every day is the same. Cold, dark and dreary. All the things I enjoy, I can’t do because of snow and ice and cold. The only surprise would be if the sun would come out and the temperatures would rise above freezing and the two feet of now-brownish-black snow would just disappear.

I am deep in the throes of SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Winter Blues.

It really hasn’t been this bad for quite a few years, and it has pretty much blindsided me. So if you want to call that my Awesome Surprise for Day 43 of this journey, go ahead. Knock yourself out.

For those of you who love winter and just don’t believe SAD is real, I have a visual for you that came to me this morning as I was huddled under my covers, trying to drown out the plinkity plinkity plinkity sound of ice on my roof. There was this little triangle that the blankets had formed, and through it I could see my bedroom wall. It seemed close yet very far away. Like a tunnel. I knew all I had to do was throw off the blankets and get out of bed to begin my day, but the tunnel seemed too long and too dark and too cold. It was very Alice-in-Wonderland-ish. Drink me. Eat me. I’m getting smaller. Wake me when it’s spring.

I have been told that accepting something doesn’t mean I have to like it. And believe me, I have tried my best to like winter. I’ve bought clothing designed to keep me warm, footwear designed to keep the snow out, even a car designed to drive in the harshest conditions. But at the end of the day, none of it makes any difference if I can’t fight my way out of the tunnel.

The French call it ennui. Which is a fancy way of saying that this is the worst frigging cabin fever I’ve ever had and I can understand why the three most popular things in Alaska are domestic abuse, alcoholism and suicide. Nothing seems interesting to me, except perhaps a tropical vacation. But just thinking about making travel arrangements and worrying about going anywhere in this weather immobilizes me. So I sit and do nothing. And of course that only gets me more depressed.

I’ve tried – and continue to try – all the remedies for SAD: vitamin D, St. John’s Wort, SAM-e, a 10,000-lux lightbox, a dawn simulator, exercise, cutting carbs and sugar. And in the past they’ve worked. But not this year. This year we’re four-for-four since Christmas: four storms in as many weeks. I’ve had to go on a weather fast so as not to commit hari-kari every time I open up the Weather Channel app on my iPhone. And every morning for the past several days, I’ve cried.

Somehow that has helped. Just releasing the frustration and whatever nasty chemicals scientists have determined are expelled in tears seems to clear some of the fuzz that has settled around my brain. Seems to make the tunnel not so dark and deep and cold. Seems to give me just a little glimmer of hope that yes, I can slog through another day. I know that no winter in the past has lasted forever, so I am confident that this one will not either.

And so I give myself permission to move slowly today. To crawl out of the tunnel an inch at a time if that’s all the strength I can muster. To crawl back in and rest if I have to. And to forgive myself if I can’t do much else. That may be the most awesome surprise of all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 42: Awesome Planning

The adage goes something like this: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
But the OTHER adage goes something like this: We plan, God laughs.
Usually it’s just a question of which pithy saying applies to any given day. Because I am a consummate planner. I love to plan itineraries, fill in a blank calendar (isn’t January wonderful?), make meal plans, check off the items on my to-do list, find new ways to organize my office. In fact, at one point, I thought I might need an organizer to organize my organizers. I spend (waste?) an entire week of my vacation each year decluttering each room of my house. I get a little thrill when I discover a new planning tool. (My latest heartthrob is Cozi, available both online and as an iPhone app. Heaven!)
And yet somehow I still feel disorganized more frequently than I like to admit. And downright chaotic at others.
Planning in the winter can be particularly frustrating. Snowstorms do not answer to my scheduling needs. And my pig-headed determination to do what I want and damn the torpedoes has the potential for disastrous results. They say everything happens for a reason. Yet why is it that I’m so reluctant to accept the message that maybe – just maybe – what I planned to do is simply not what’s supposed to happen?
So as an experiment, I printed out my calendar for the week to see how much of it would get done and how much of it would need to be rearranged by Friday. (I can hear God chuckling now …)

Monday pretty much went according to plan – I had lunch with my friend in Fairfield as scheduled. So far, so good.
Tuesday was smooth sailing too … but trouble was brewing with a huge snowstorm looming. Maybe they would be wrong?
Wednesday dawned with nearly two feet of snow on the ground. All outside appointments were cancelled or rescheduled. Despite the changes, it turned out to be the most productive day of the entire week since there were not a lot of distractions to pull me away from work.

Thursday was pretty much spent getting over Wednesday. Lots of time wasted on Facebook chattering about the weather. Looking at pictures of dogs in the snow. Kids in the snow. Cars in the snow. 
By Friday cabin fever was kicking in and I began frantically Googling snow depth maps to find out if there was anyplace we could hike over the weekend without wearing hip waders. There is not. Unless we leave the state. So it looks like the plans we had for Saturday may have to be scrapped too.
So the result of my experiment in planning? Two out of five days went the way I anticipated. That’s about 40%. Back in my school days, that would have been a big fat FAIL.
But in spite of it all, I’ve already started next week’s list. Because failing to plan is planning to fail.
What’s that raucous laughter I hear coming from the heavens?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 40: Awesome Spending

’Tis the season when financial constraints tend to be thrown out with the old year … that is until the new year comes around and with it the bills for our frivolous spending.

Let’s face it … the commercial enterprise that is Christmas has infiltrated our very being so that we’ve all been conditioned to celebrate the season by maxing out our credit cards. And no matter how much we talk about “the reason for the season” and getting back to our spiritual side, in the end if there aren’t enough gifts under the tree and we haven’t stuffed the stockings full to bursting, we just feel inadequate.

It’s not hard to overspend even on the “little things” – like food. Years ago I gave up dining out on New Year’s Eve because there was too much cost for too little food and too horrible service. The same meal purchased on December 31 miraculously halved in price on January 2. I guess the hope was that by the time the bill came, you’d have had enough of the free sub-par champagne not to notice.

Because I do all my Christmas shopping early (I’m one of those annoying people who likes to have it done by Halloween), I’ve already received most of my credit card bills by now and have paid them down. So I enjoy hitting the stores the week AFTER Christmas to see what goodies I can find on the markdown racks. Here are the results of my awesome post-Christmas spending:

Thanks to the blizzard (named Adrianne – who knew?) I was forced to delay the start of my shopping spree, although we did manage to get to the mall Monday afternoon to see a movie. No awesome spending there. One needs to have the deed to one’s home as a bargaining chip just to purchase popcorn.

But I made up for it Tuesday when I bought an elliptical trainer. It is something that has been on my list for about 10 years. We ended up getting a great bargain, totally by accident, since no one had remembered to remove the “sale” sign on 12/26 when the special ended. Lucky me! I’m pretty sure the marketing strategy is to raise the price the week after Christmas and slam all the people who will make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, then use the equipment as a clothing rack by February.

Feeling buzzed by the endorphin high, I suggested to my husband that we continue shopping. Unfortunately, he has an “off” switch (mine broke years ago) so he put the brakes on the spending after a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, which netted me six filets mignon for New Year’s Eve at $15.99 a pound. Not exactly a bargain, but they really looked good! Undeterred, I resumed decluttering the kitchen, list nearby to jot down other items I needed to replace during the week.

The following day, I really went to hell with myself and headed to Bed, Bath & Beyond where I picked up a couple of Yankee Candles for next Christmas, a runner to protect the kitchen floor from tracked-in snow and ice, and a toilet brush. Gotta admit that last item did not give me quite the same endorphin rush I received from the elliptical. Then I hit CVS for two half-priced boxes of Christmas cards.

My Thursday was a little slow, although I did manage to find a snowman candle holder for 50% off at the Black Swan (the store in Newtown, not the recently released film).

After Friday’s New Year’s Eve festivities, I woke up early on New Year’s Day to head up to the Westbrook Outlets. Alone on the road and at the stores while most revelers nursed their hangovers, we found some amazing bargains and stocked up on many needed (and of course unneeded) items.

Having soothed the savage shopping beast with a week of retail therapy, I contentedly prepared to return to work so I could earn the money to pay for my awesome spending.

Happy New Year!