Trusting That I Can, Day 6: A little bit at a time

It takes time to get to the heart.

Put the deep inner work aside. Sometimes, it’s the little things that turn the tide.

Last year we ended up having a bunch of septic work done, which meant that our yard was dug up, with huge mounds of dirt for months. Many months. We had drama with our contractors, drama between ourselves, and happy drama with our kids and all their friends doing flying leaps across the trenches.

The trenches are now filled and the weeds are growing nicely in the flattened dirt. This spring, it came down to me to recreate our backyard and it has felt overwhelming. With few spare funds for landscaping or yard help, and a back that likes to get stiff and sore very regularly, I’ve been looking outside and feeling miserable — right on that needle point of not wanting to let it go and not wanting to go on because of how hard it is. A small version of an often-repeated life story.

And because it’s not a major component in our lives, I am capable of letting it sit in the queue of actions in my mind for quite a while. Where it will get lost. But I also know that a reasonably pleasant, usable back yard is going to bring me huge amounts of pleasure for the entire summer, much more pleasure than if I let it go until next summer. (See yesterday’s post about meeting goals versus avoiding consequences) So, how to squeeze it in?

I’ve turned to the redoubtable Flylady, whose credo (she has many of them) is to jump in to a task where you are and do it for 15 minutes at a time. I can do anything, she says, for 15 minutes at a time.

Her peppy emails, compassion and savvy grasp of why people get stuck sinks under my skin like an injection of “Do It!” potion. She started out with housekeeping and the perceptive observation that there are some of us who won’t have people over if the house looks awful. She’s expanded to gardening, money issues and weight loss, all with a happy take it or leave it atmosphere.

I like to think of myself as a superior being who doesn’t need tricks. But with a family, it all changed and I broke down. In that hushed intimate space between me and my computer,  I let my inner downtrodden Cinderella soak in her encouragement like a total nerd.

The main thing that has stuck is this 15-minute thing. It seems stupid because I often don’t finish (but surprisingly often I do). It seems stupid because I’ll often decide to do more. It seems stupid because if I’m doing it, why don’t I just finish it? Because next time, I’ll procrastinate for months to avoid getting so dragged down again, that’s why. Or in the case of gardening, I wouldn’t walk for weeks.

I don’t always do 15 minutes at a time. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But the concept of tackling unsatisfying but non-exhausting chunks over a series of day has worked wonders. I have periods in my life when all kinds of things get done; exercise, meals, repairs, dishes. Amazing!

I was thinking about it today because I feel I got nothing done. Piles of papers, clothes, dishes, unplanted seeds; all are crumbling at the edges of my well-being. Inside, I’m nipping at my decisions to live this week the way I am living it. I feel a thin, irritable film of dissatisfaction that is hardening around my sense of overwhelm.

Time to breathe and remember than I shoveled and dumped three wheelbarrows of wood chips today. Yesterday I did five, but my neck got sore. So today I did 15 minutes, and more of the backyard is covered. I wish I’d done more, but homework will get started and we’ll eat something reasonably nutritious, and tomorrow is another day. That’s not nothing.

This post is part of a series of posts on trust, based on the 21-Day Salutes originated by blogger Colleen Wainwright. The intention is to write daily to help shift a habit. Originally, she had been told that it takes 21 days of new behavior to change a habit. She has since found out that it is apparently takes much longer. Oh well….

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6 Responses to Trusting That I Can, Day 6: A little bit at a time

  1. I was just talking about this style of getting chores done with a friend of mine today. Growing up my mom always had us do a project slowly over the summer. One summer was spending every weekday from 8-9am painting the outside of the house. The next summer was slowly stripping and refurbishing our piano. The pro is that you can attack those big projects that you may have given up on; the con is your progress is slow.

    • growingmygirls says:

      Wow — painting a whole house and refinishing a piano in one-hour segments! That would feel too slow for me too. However, it did get done, and it has seemed to me that in my current life with fractured bits of time, it’s the best way to tackle at least a few things. I’ve lived with this little system long enough to know that it eventually does get done. Not that I’m immune to little tantrums about not getting things done my way and in my time!

  2. christine says:

    Tomorrow is another day and look what you did accomplished! The fly lady’s 15 mins is good although somedays my voice says get it done, don’t stop and that helps, but I wish I could just do the 15 mins and be happy. Oh, the compulsion. I also have days where nothing “extra” gets done and that is frustrating. I so often am over ambitious and it easy for me to see what I didn’t get done.
    The weather is perfect to be outside and I haven’t had time to enjoy it with all the piles inside. Oh, for tomorrow!

    • growingmygirls says:

      Thank you! I hate it, just like you, when the indoor stuff keeps me totally inside. And I hear you — It’s so hard to stay content with what’s been accomplished. It’s partly why I started writing this series — to try to find a better way to be ok with what is accomplished, rather than fretting with what isn’t accomplished.

  3. First Gen American says:

    Wow..I am the complete opposite of fly lady. For unpleasant tasks, once I start, I want to keep going until exhaustion, because I know that starting is the hardest part for me. So the thought of starting something 25 times vs 5 is pretty depressing. My husband is moremthe slow andmsteady type. We are so tortoise and hare. With gardening specifically, I avoid starting because I know I will be out there for hours weeding and it’s often the sunset or Mosquitos that drive me back inside. One weed leads to another. For a task that’s never ending like exercise or laundry, I can see how fly lady’s approach would work very well though.

    • growingmygirls says:

      I tend to be more like you, and I hate starting (an alternate title for this series could be called “how to get started!”), but for many things, I simply don’t have the time and for gardening, I simply don’t have the physical stamina. And I’ve noticed that if I do marathons, than I really avoid starting the next time. Anyhow, as long as stuff gets done!

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