Six Things I Really Should Have Learned By Now
1. Sleeping In Doesn't Work (except when it does)
My wife can sleep for England. If I let her, she'll naturally wake up close to midday, every day. It's a part of her near constant pain problem; it varies from day to day but never fails to exact a toll on her.
Myself, on the other hand, can't stand it. Part of it is just having other stuff to do. Take yesterday, for example. Friday night, I felt extra tired, the busy week extracting a heavy price on me. I figured I'd turn my alarms off, see when I woke up and get whatever sleep my body needed in the hope I'd feel better.
But I never do. The thinking is always I'd nourish and reset my body, dealing with whatever it was that exhausts me, but then I'd wake up late, lose half my morning, and now fight an uphill battle to get stuff done. Dog needs walking, wife needs waking, house needs cleaning, words need writing, food needs cooking, cooked food needs eating, and I need to relax around all of this on a usually busy Saturday.
I could, and do, do less during the day, and I've gotten better at accepting this as a trade off, but there's still no benefit. The stuff still needs doing at some point, and meanwhile, I don't feel any better for the extra sleep.
There are exceptions: sickness (obviously) or late nights (Super Bowl evening for example). Generally speaking, however, it's much, much better to wake up when I normally do.
On the topic of sleep.
2. Stop falling asleep on the sofa
This doesn't apply to naps. Napping on the sofa, now that I actually can nap on my sofa as opposed to the confined space of our old two seater sofa, is a super nice thing. Especially on relaxing Sunday afternoons. My wife on one end, my dog cuddling up to me, and then there's me, plied with alcohol, mentally checked out after a load of reading, dozing off merrily.
However, I have a terrible habit of falling asleep on the sofa in the evenings. If I'm particularly tired when my wife gets up to get ready for bed, I might lay down in just the right way, cushion under my head (or on some nights, a giant plushie we keep downstairs), and I'm out in seconds.
I'm a stubborn sleeper. If I'm out, I'm out. On times my wife has tried to wake me up, I'll get annoyed; why would I need to go bed, when I'm sleeping perfectly fine right here? And then I'm out again in seconds. One a good night, I'll force myself up about an hour later. On my worst night, I didn't go up to bed till about half one in the morning, and I was freezing cold in the winter with the heating off at that time.
Aside from the fact that the sofa is not my bed, with my warm and comfortable duvet, memory foam pillow, and actual mattress, there's a whole bunch of reasons why I should be going bed rather than the sofa.
- Less broken sleep - I'm not waking up in an hour or two and realising that I'm not where I should be and going over the arguments to force myself to get up whilst I'm in bed.
- Earalier actual bed time - see above.
- Less pain - I can be as comfy as I want initially, but a sofa is not a bed (except when it is, I guess), and too long on the sofa will give me neck and upper back pain.
- Bed time with the wife - first, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about pillow talk, catching up on other bits in the day, making each other laugh, and then even littler things. I'll often fall asleep watching her read for example. The peaceful image of her concentrating, the adorable little facial movements as she gets to the good bits. It's a lovely way to fall asleep, and better than staring at the blank TV screen.
- More cuddles with the dog - dog goes to bed with us when we do, and it's much more satisfying to fall asleep with him against my leg that it is to lie on the plushie.
It's more difficult that you'd think to stop doing this, but it's well worth the effort.
3. Complain Less And Let It Go
This is probably one of the most repeated piece of advice you see. It's pretty much everywhere. Complaining doesn't achieve anything, they say, or it's a waste of energy, a waste of emotion, etc etc.
The problem is complaining can be really fun, especially with others going through similar stuff. It's almost always been a part of my work day, whether that's complaining about the company, about management, about customers, or about some idiot in the department making my job even harder than it should be.
It's also cathartic in that respect. It's not like the world is short of reasons to complain, and if you let it, it can foster the anger and annoyance and build up into a big old ball of negativity threatening to blow you up from the inside.
But when I'm constantly complaining about a thing, or at least aspects of that thing, that negativity starts to colour it. Easy example: the more I complain about work, the more I hate my work, even though objectively it's not that bad and pretty far from the worst job I've ever had. Or the more I complain about my bills, the more I resent paying them even though there's no real way around it if I want energy and water.
Plus, the more I complain, the more negativity I'm experiencing, which then colours everything else that I do. I suck at switching mood, so if I"m stuck in a rant for half an hour about some office politics ruining my day, it's probably going to be another hour of me feeling that anger slowly die down, spiking every now and then when something new comes up (like a blue shell on Mario Kart on lap f-ing one).
If there's something I can do to resolve the problem, do it. If not, just keep singing Let It Go until you do.
And on a similar note.
4. I'm Probably Not Going To Do The Thing Tomorrow
I wouldn't even be able to begin to count about the number of times in the last week alone that I've said 'I'll do that tomorrow'. Reset my password, book myself in to go to the office on Friday (because we can't just walk in with our pass, that would be...oops, complaining again), go the gym, go get a few things from M&S, tidy up the kitchen sides, order some ear drops, call for the dog's prescription refil, book his next appointment, read more of my poetry book, write certain posts, kickstart my gratitutbe journaling again, tidy my office, on and on.
Some of those I'd said I'd do by Tuesday and then maybe did much later. Some I haven't done to date.
Procrastinating is one of my worst habits, and I do it constantly through the day. I'd say it's been made worse by the age of smartphones and constant connections to the internet, but it hasn't. I've always been a bit like this. Especially if I have little else to do, meaning I have little reason to do the thing right now when I could just be browsing the internet and doing everything else. The stakes just being incredibly low, and so I artificially pump them up by delaying doing the thing now.
And then I complain when I get closer to the deadline for the day (other commitments, places closing, etc), not because I haven't done the thing, but because I still have to do the thing because I have other things I want to do, like scrolling Reddit again. I've already covered that part though, so moving on.
I know there's lots of strategies for this, different ways to try and trick your mind into doing the thing, but the thing working for me more and more at the minute is just being mindful of what I'm telling myself and countering with 'that's BS, get up and do the thing.' Not the most scientific or consistently applicable technique, but it's a start in the right direction.
5. Just Give It A Try
I grew up being pretty set in my ways and stubborn to try new things. We didn't exactly have a great deal of opportunity to do so, and found comfort in my many routines and habits and resistant to try new things in case I shock horror enjoyed it. The problem with enjoying it, meant I'd like more, and being dirt poor meant that was pretty unlikely to happen.
The problem is this stay in my lane approach lasted well in to my adulthood despite having the means to enjoy things more.
Disney, and Disney+ in general, is probably the biggest example in recent memory. My best friend from back in my call centre days would constantly get me to try and watch Moana despite absolutely not being a New Disney fan. Toy Story, sure. Nemo and Bugs Life, absolutely. New Disney? No nostalgia, and little value for Serious Adult Man. Then there was the Hamilton suggestion. Do I really want to watch a musical about the American Revolution?
Of course the answer was YES and that New Disney rocks. Both of which were a pandemic revelation. The wife and I caught Hamilton on Disney+ when it came over here, fell in love, then spent a chunk of my redundancy pay on tickets as soon as the West End show opened up again. I was not prepared for being reduced to a blubbering mess in a theatre.
Then there was New Disney. We started with Moana, Frozen and Frozen 2, then caught up with the last decade or so (still haven't watched Brave yet though, we'll get on that). I now can't imagine my life without the simple joy of watching Encanto on a lazy afternoon, and still get misty eyed at the climax of Moana.
There's loads of TV show's we've discovered this way, by just taking a punt on them rather than snarking dismissing it and going back to re-runs. What We Do In The Shadows, Alma's Not Normal, Am I Being Unreasonable?. Hell, even Modern Family. I remember when that first came out over in the UK and not being sold on it at all, only to stumble across it on TV one Saturday afternoon, getting curios about it off the back of it, and blitzing all 10 series available on Prime within six months. We even bought seasons 7 to 10 on Prime to do so (before they came out of Disney+ frustratingly).
And that's just TV. Cooking and eating new food stuffs, going out to new restaurants, trying new drinks, and especially doing things other people suggests rather than trusting my own mind (which is usually stubbornly wrong). All things I find I enjoy a lot more if I just let myself.
6. Things Are OKAY
My brain is very, very good at convincing me that things are almost completely out of control and will remain very, very bad unless I get a solid grip on myself.
There's a million things that we could do to and around the house to improve it and make sure our investment is safe (ugh). We could be saving more in case one of us loses our job. There's things that concern me around the house. I need to lose a lot of weight. My wife needs ways of coping with her pain, and her diet is the reverse of mine, which I think could be affecting her energy and maybe even her mood. Is the dog ok? Do I need to give him more attention? Or the opposite? How can I get him past his social anxiety? If I don't, am I doing him an injustice? Do I really not want kids after all? How much of a risk of blood clots do I have, given my weight and family history? How's my heart? Is that twinge really an old chest strain injury flaring up? What about that little bump on my leg? What about that aching elbow, should I stop all activity? What I doing here on the blog? What if I don't hit my 50,000 words target, how will I handle that both here and privately? What am I doing here with my life? How have I hit my thirties and still not figured it out? Why can't I just stop?
I could probably go on like that for another 10 minutes, and it all piles up to give a false impression of where I am.
We're not at risk of losing our jobs at the minute, and there are other vacancies we could go for. It'd be tough, but we've survived worse and go through it.
We have enough that we can spend and save, and the house is not in a state of disrepair. There's some plaster work that could be done, and the garden is in dire need of work so that we can let out dog out without fear of him being peppered with seeds and weeds, or worse, get loose out the back in the absence of a fence. We need to get that done, and we can replenish the savings in a few months, so we need to get that done.
I might not have a long term career plan, but I've got time to make one, and in any event it's much more important to spend time with my loved ones and enjoy that then flog myself constantly over that. There's a balance that can be struck there (sounding familiar?).
My head wants me to care more about every little thing. I don't have to listen to that. I just have to breathe, live, and do what I can in front of me. I can still be more organised, I can still have more plans and structure, but I don't have to let a hariline crack or the ominous threat of unseen and unpredictable health conditions get the better of me.
I can just smile, breathe, and move on to the next thing.
Like waking my wife up on a Sunday morning.
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