Old Habits Die Hard… like really, really, really bloody hard, if they die at all…

I’ve drifted away from the computer for a while trying to fix things (including said computer) and take a realistic look at things. “Trying” being the misnomer of that sentence, because the things I needed to do most of all were on my mind, and I might’ve tackled them a few minutes at a time… but other than that, I failed to get much of anything that actually needed doing done.

That old habit has reared it’s ugly head: keeping busy, but getting nowhere necessary.

I had to remind myself tonight that there are too many things I must do this weekend, lest I mess up my tentative schedule for the umpteenth time. I can’t stand the idea of pushing things back further, because they’ve been pushed back too damned far already. I should be miles ahead of where I am career-wise, artistically, intellectually… and yet, I just seem to let myself stagnate and wonder why.

Of course, in the light of day, these thoughts barely make themselves known. It’s generally in some 30 minute block of time every night when I’m about to go to bed or in bed trying to go to sleep. Then, when I literally can’t do anything about it (eyes drooping or just too late), those thoughts berating me about not getting things done come to play.

And then that smidge of depression begins, sometimes getting bigger and worse every night til I’m not able to really do anything (or think I can’t).

This past week, and I don’t exactly know how it happened, but I started to focus my time and energy on making note cards for the kids I tutor to help with math. Why I decided I just had to do them a certain way, or they had to be colored instead of black and white, or whatever… those things didn’t occur to me. That said, part of it I know was because of my last note-card making session (different skill levels and signs, 2 sets to use) meant I had a lot of extra note cards and nothing I could think of doing with them.

So, the idea to make smaller sets of cards for the kiddos to take with ’em for practice at home took over. And I’ve spent most of the past week making said card sets. And I’ve got a shoebox full of blank cards to play with now (all cut in half), and no end in sight to what I’m doing that I can tell. Because if I feel that productive rush and like I’m getting so much done and done well… I’ll go buy more and keep going.

And it’s not helpful at all.

Granted, there’s a small voice in my head telling me that some of the kiddos will definitely appreciate it and it will help them out, though what would be more helpful in the long run is if they made their own, I’m sure. It makes me a little mad because there were far too many other things I should have done instead.

That feeling of thinking I’m being productive takes over and I run with it. The trouble is–like usual–I get wrapped up in the doing and the feeling instead of focusing on things that would actually improve my life.

I should have gone to the gym, cleaned, and re-started my workout plans. I should have budgeted my time and money and gotten my tax info together at last. I should have been online learning how to do zoom meetings and other things I haven’t had a chance to work with in ages (because let’s face it, having a boomer mindset about job searching or learning computer/tech skills is employment suicide these days). I should have been looking for work opportunities and jobs online to supplement my rapidly-dwindling finances and give me a living wage. I should have been cleaning my house and organizing my office. I should have been playing guitar, piano, violin. I should have been writing.

I definitely should have been doing that. Writing helps me, even as little as two pages in the day, to focus my thoughts. Writing would’ve helped me figure this out sooner. Instead, the only writing I did was with Sharpies and pencils on colored index cards, for days on end, set after set.

And once I stopped for the day, those negative thoughts about how foolish I’ve been come flooding in. But the need to “feel productive” trumps all. The vicious cycle continues.

I should have focused my time and energy on finding ways to get a paycheck, or at least far more of one than I’m currently capable of getting. Because the things I’m doing might be considered nice, but they’re never things that actually improve my life (or my bank account). And I’m at the point that I can’t afford to do that anymore.

But that’s the old habit that dies: I do things for others that leave me even more broke–time and money-wise–and the feeling of accomplishment is so minimal it makes me wonder why I thought it was so worth it in the first place. My inner people-pleaser just focuses on the feeling-good. It’s the “What if?” gremlin (thank you Shel Silverstein for that poem–too apropos)

So tonight, I actually went out to see if I could get some more note cards (thankfully they didn’t have any colored cards, and I wasn’t about to brave the cold rain and terrible traffic to go farther down the road to where I knew some were). And when I got home, I pushed them to the side. The ones I haven’t started yet I’m going to put in a lidded box and pull them out some other day. I still have plenty available for kids to get if they ask for them (and a notebook with names so I don’t give away my whole stash to the same kids–one per, and if they lose some cards or need any, they can make their own).

I think I wore myself out with my concerns about all this. I’d actually come in from work, made some coffee, and planned to get a few more sets of cards made. That was the plan. But the biting cold, my headache, and knowing I have to help the neighbors tomorrow put a stop to it. I doubt I’ll be awake much longer after this post and will just crash and re-start tomorrow. But re-start with a cleaner living room and no index cards in sight.

I can’t keep letting helpful (for others) distractions rule me, because I won’t be of much help or use if I can’t pay my bills or work because I let things get too far behind or off the ball. My perception of myself and what I’m capable of (and what my labor’s really worth) needs to change for the better, because I keep selling myself short and have been too cowardly to push further for my own career or goals… or both.

Yes, old habits die hard. The habit whereby I just give and never take–even when I desperately need it–has to end. I’ve shot myself in the foot too often. It’s time to learn what I can really do and get to it, because I’m definitely almost out of time. I foolishly wasted so much of it on busywork that in other scenarios could’ve been paid work. It’s like “working for exposure,” but nobody really cares about the product.

I suppose I’ll have to sleep on it and dream up a plan. I’m guessing NyQuil might actually be helpful for that. Point in my favor, I suppose. Maybe the universe is trying to work with me today…

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