We’re in that weird calendar no man’s land, the bit of untime that exists between Christmas and New Year’s. The December holidays are winding down, but the end of the year approaches, so starting anything major (or minor) feels pointless.
As is tradition, I find myself at sixes and sevens. Nothing feels quite right. Christmas was its usual let-down, as it must be given the hype that now surrounds it, the house looks a mess, and the days are short and dark.
And then came snow. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I know that this week doesn’t work for me, so I generally don’t schedule much. I putter instead. I think about putting the Christmas décor away but reject that as both Scroogian and too much work. I start localizing it for its eventual removal instead. This decision is an annual tradition as well. I never clean up early. We keep Christmas going until the twelfth night.
Traditions die hard.
The great thing about puttering is it frees up the mind for thinking. My thoughts wander this way and that as I sort through what were once loved possessions. It’s a sad cycle – acquire, love, loathe, reject.
We’re a society of consumers. I think about that. I think about that a lot.
I think about the things I plan to accomplish this year.
I think about what has to get done before the year ends, the end-of-year obligatories. I get the new wall calendar set up, and I cross-reference it into my new desktop agenda and pocket calendar. A cell phone is an amazing toy, and the calendar app is great, and I obviously cross-reference there too, but analog remains faster for some things.
I’m going to get an address book this year too. I haven’t had one in a while, but I feel like committing my connections to paper.
Kicking it old school. I’m ready for the electromagnetic pulse. I even have a bow and arrow for the zombie apocalypse.
I also wait. The end of December feels like waiting time. New is coming. Time to put the old to bed.
(I wonder about people in the southern hemisphere where it’s summer. I wonder about the people whose year isn’t ending. I bet their Decembers read differently.)
I get my tax paperwork in order this week.
I go through things and get rid of what no longer serves. I follow up with a big house cleaning. I like to start the new year on a good note; a clean and organized space is a part of that.
I’m not feeling like my best self these days – my brain is rattled. In the movies, being triggered is treated like a light switch, on or off. I find it’s more like a dimmer switch that dials up and then down. It’s taking time to put my PTSD back to bed. I’ll be relieved when things settle back into calm – everything feels a bit overwhelming right now. The annual calendar update took me three days. [i]
Day one – get the calendars out and put them on the dining room table;
Day two – get all the bits and pieces of paper with appointments on it collected, along with the coloured Sharpies and put them on the table.
Day three – get it done. Which I did, but it took more than half the day. I’m not the best at staying on task right now. Another side effect of rattled.
I don’t want to start the new year lit. I don’t want to start the new year messy. I’m working the problem, I’m journaling, thinking, and meditating, but the comedown is slow this time.
I wish I’d been triggered in the summer. Calming myself down is easier in the sunshine. Instead, I start this, jump to that, and worry about the other. The things that need to get done aren’t even begun. I can’t prioritize well when I’m like this.
Where does one begin when the world is too much with us, late and soon, and decisions feel like something other people do? [ii]
It snowed last week.
It snowed a lot. Twenty centimetres, then twenty more. A foot and a third of snow over the course of twenty-four hours. I was not amused. Snow on the mountains and grass? Lovely. Snow on my driveway and walk? Pain in the ass.
I opened the garage door after the first fall and saw – nothing. Snow everywhere. Snow uninterrupted. No driveway. No path. No road. It was beautiful. It was also intimidating. What I had before me was a massive job. I was glad I bundled up – the snow was accompanied by minus twenty Celsius. Cold is not my idea of a good time. I wanted to be finished before I’d even begun. [iii]
It was overwhelming. I could feel my brain coming up with reasons to quit.
How are you supposed to deal with really big problems? Where do you begin?
This feels like a human question, like something we all struggle with at various times. How do I get going? What do you do when the task seems overwhelming? How do you start when it all seems impossible?
Paralysis by analysis is an option. Driveway first? No, the path to the road. No, sidewalk first so I don’t get a fine. Should I do the path and front steps first? Should I clean the basement or do the bedrooms? Do I sort the storage room or my sweaters? Clean the bath or do some touch-up painting? You can overwhelm yourself with choices in every arena.
There’s a secret to dealing with the problem, however. I don’t remember when the truth came to me, but when it did, I like to remember it accompanied by a slap to the forehead and a loud, “of course.” How simple. How obvious. How basic.
How do you deal with a huge and overwhelming problem?
I grab a shovelful of snow and tossed it in the general direction of the lawn. Then another, and a third, until a square of concrete was visible and the way forward became clear.
I grab a drawer and dump it out. Then another, and a third, and so on until the whole dresser/kitchen/storage space is lying out on the countertop/bed and the inventory becomes viewable.
You begin by beginning, and by beginning now.
The only way to finish is to start. Which is a good piece of advice to remember. It should help me in the new year when time starts running normally again.
Happy New Year.
[i] There are times when I’m triggered instantly, but they’re rarer now.
[iii] Minus four Fahrenheit.