a tiny adorable sweet potato roll with zaatar and sesame seeds rests on a wooden trivet

Tiny baking in a tiny house: the most adorable miniature sweet potato roll, with zaatar and sesame seeds…

Going Clubbing (secret code for staying home?)

A breath for right here right now

Hey friends, what a time to be alive — that phrase being not exactly positive, not exactly derogatory; but like, not not-derogatory.

Certainly I personally am glad for life, glad to be, glad to be alive, a beautiful miracle, any beautiful miracle in a storm, but also wow, so many agonizingly painful disasters in the world right now.

Glad and thanksful to be here, truly full of thank-you in my fullest thank-you heart, and extra appreciation to CQ for dropping that amazing quality and turn of phrase in the comments of the last post, a glorious word that is much better than its predecessor.

Here, breathing, as thanksful as we can manage, and also not ignoring what is hard, painful, challenging, unjust or just really fucking sucks, many things in all of those categories at once.

And still we ride (and rise), here we are.

Here we are

Anyway, here we are in troubled and terrifying times, and also in thanksful-times in many ways.

And I very much hope you are holding steady, able to take some porch breaths or window breaths or hand-on-heart breaths, or whatever does you some good.

Last time we talked about December Obsessions (and other wishes), and before that about the surprising and unlikely power of sometimes, occasionally, just letting things be unfulfilling, it’s better than it sounds.

And today I want to talk about the way I get things done, but to do that I need to talk a bit about life with Long Covid, something I mostly avoid discussing, so let’s be brave and just do it.

Reality just is

January 7, which is even more just around the corner than it sounds, will be two years since I woke up to a new personal reality, though of course I had no idea what was coming for me.

Here are some aspects of Long Covid life I’m dealing with, and I know that I am much luckier than many:

  • Changing sheets on the bed is such an exertion that I need to take breaks while doing it
  • Often can’t hold in my head what I’m doing from moment to moment
  • I get dizzy from the smallest things, bending to pick something up, lifting something not particularly heavy
  • The loud whistling and ringing in my ears for hours at a time, sometimes all day…
  • And if I know an exertion is coming up (laundry day, for example, or a doctor appointment), I know I have to schedule rest and only rest for the days before and after.

Another example

I baked these very delicious, extremely tiny, extremely cute sweet potato rolls (pictured at the top of this piece) last week, and I love them so much. Dream life addition to breakfast.

But I had to make them over the course of several days.

The first day, I washed, peeled and sliced sweet potato. The second day was for steaming and mashing the sweet potato, and measuring out the dry ingredients. On the third day, I prepped the dough and baked half.

In other words, something that could have been a brief activity in the past is now a three to four day event. I’m not complaining, or at least I hope I’m not, it’s just: things are really different now. And often significantly harder.

I go slower, and I do less, because that’s all I can do.

And because if I don’t, I will pay for it later, and it simply isn’t worth it.

And yet

And yet we still exist in the world, the world of bills and obligations, the various deadlines, and there are things I need to do to stay alive. So how does that happen when I am disabled, alone, isolated, in the wilderness, with no support networks?

It happens in part because I am very lucky to often or at least sometimes have some energy, as opposed to the many people living with long covid who have zero energy.

And I conserve this energy, and protect it like the precious cargo it is, which means am extremely careful and with what I do and do not do, always following the protocols.

As you imagine, this is often not fun, and I need things to be fun and enticing, because ADHD means everything that is not a current obsession is boring and unappealing unless I can find a way to make it fun…

And this is how I came up with the idea of clubs, or, as I call it, going clubbing. LET’S GO CLUBBING!

What are the clubs

A club is an imaginary place and designated container of time for anything at all that I wish to do every day or at least do some days.

A club can also be a goal or an aspiration, or taking any steps in that direction.

I go visit one club and then I go visit the next. That’s what I do with my day, I’m out clubbing! And in between, I’m at Club Rest More, if that is what’s needed.

And of course, I do these in non-zero amounts, it doesn’t have to be much, we are just touching in. If all I do in Cooking Club is peel a sweet potato, good job, babe.

However much I do extremely counts as You’re Doing Amazing, Sweetie.

Let me tell you about my clubs!

I don’t name clubs for things I am able to do automatically (for example, when I wake up, I dry brush, get dressed, light a candle or turn on a lantern, hydrate, brush teeth), but that’s because I’m doing really well right now, and don’t need those reminders.

Sometimes these things do require a club to get them done too and that’s fine.

You might have noticed there’s a theme

Yes, these clubs are mostly grounded in the concept of non-zero — do a non-zero amount of movement, get non-zero nourishment into my body, take non-zero steps towards the most important things on the list.

As long as I’m still moving forward, taking any next step, no matter how tiny or symbolic, that is a big deal.

And when I can’t, I can’t. The point is, we’re trying.

If/when I get stuck, then we go to Surprise Dance Party Club, aka turn on one song and bounce it out, and yes, sometimes this happens in bed, good job, movement and aliveness.

Here are my current clubs…

Rest In Beauty (RIB) Club

This for bravely closing my eyes for Seven (Ideally Eight) Delicious Hours or more, whether I sleep or not, good job to me.

It’s also an acronym for RIB, a reminder me to keep my ribs anchored and not compress my lower back…

It’s going better now that I’m not calling this club Go The Fuck To Sleep Already For The Love Of God.

Club Happy Lizard

Once I wake up and do my first morning things, it’s time to make sure I’m a happy lizard (cozy in my aquarium), this is really about winter cheer and coziness in the context of oh right I live in an unheated tiny house in the mountains…

Cheer, coziness and deliberately making it harder to accidentally tumble into the pits of despair when things are extra cold and grey in these parts.

It’s making sure I have my warmest hat on, a heating pad to sit on, curtains open, maybe lighting loose incense that I made in a different club. This is the club where I check in with myself and ask the very useful question, what would help most right now, in this moment?

And then I try to do some of that..

Jog Club

I like to jog (this is a very generous word for a semi-bouncy walk) figure eights in my tiny kitchen, both in the morning and the evening, to stay warm, and also for thinking my thoughts.

Sometimes I listen to music or a podcast. When I am feeling especially brave, I will be alone with my thoughts just to prove that I can do it, but I don’t entirely know that I recommend this!

Sometimes it’s a slog, in the category of unfulfilling but I do it anyway, sometimes it’s fine to fine+, and quite often, it helps my mood. More and more often, it’s in the category of And I Crave It, but either way, it’s my club and I show up.

Anyway, yesterday was twenty three days in a row of a real commitment to both morning and evening jog time. Designated time to just bounce around and keep it moving.

It’s doing something good for my brain, and it’s good for my joints, I’m having fewer nightmares and, as we always say, whatever works.

Cake & Coffee club (this is my favorite club!)

The coffee isn’t always coffee, anything in the category of a Delicious Warm Spiced Beverage will do. It’s a ritual, and a form of light sorcery: something is brewing, something good. Often with chiltepin pepper.

The cake is usually banana bread (chocolate cinnamon, or coconut and brown sugar) that I make in my tiny, tiny oven that looks like a child’s toy, though I have been known to make other cakes as well.

Cake & Coffee Club started as a way to allow me a sweet and comforting transition from morning jog to whatever is next, a way to bribe me into not giving up on the rest of the day.

Over time, it’s evolved. When I skip stones (journal) with my incoming selves, we often talk about the day or week that was, what’s working, what’s needed. And several future selves suggested that I try making this time more special, more intentional…

As in: clean the kitchen table first. Light a candle. What if instead of using this time to read email, I use it for gazing out at the trees and the fields, just breathing and being, enjoying the pretty light…?

Sun Club / Get More Swift Club

Before long covid, I was so strong and liked to do an obscene amount of daily sun salutations. Now I have altered the practice so much that I don’t know if they’d be recognizable as such, but have found my way into a flowing sequence of gentle movements my body can handle on most days.

When things are bad, I do a few and then need to rest.

Lately I have been in a groove and they’ve been feeling better, but I often just don’t want to do them even when they feel good.

Sun club is for shifting that. It’s for greeting the day, tuning into all the qualities of turning towards the sun.

Swiftness is about speed and agility, but also a reference to that Time Magazine piece about Taylor Swift, and how she trains for her concerts by singing her entire set while on the treadmill.

This club is about the slow motion montage, building endurance, calling on all swift powers of recalibrating, and keeping on keeping on. Music helps. Repetition is good for my brain. This is a club of entrainment.

Non-Zero Stretch Club

This can be one song. Sometimes it’s five minutes. Sometimes it’s half an hour.

As long as I get a quad stretch in there, I’m good. Non-zero counts.

Do I miss having more stretching / yoga / feldenkrais / etc in my life? Of course, but we rebuild slowly and with intention, and right now one song is a good amount for me to aim for. If more happens over the course of the day then god bless, but the point of this club is truly the non-zero.

Club H.A.V.I. / sometimes known as HAVII

The acronym stands for either “Havi And Vegetables? Intriguing!” or “Have A Vegetable, I Insist”, and it relates to this monster fear-story I had when I was really sick that I was going to succumb to scurvy or something terrible, because I was not consuming enough food at all, and definitely not enough vegetables.

This club, which many of my friends have joined and I appreciate that, is just a way to remind me about the existence of vegetables, and to remind my monsters that yes, I do in fact consume them.

As a result I now eat a ton of vegetables because it’s always on my mind, and also the name of the club makes me laugh.

Yesterday for example, I had an onion spinach green chile dish with jalapeño, and leftover sweet potato onion hash, and then it’s fun at the end of the day to see that yes, we had vegetables! Yet again, monsters are virgins who can’t drive, and also they are wrong about me being not well-nourished.

Club HAVI makes sure I am well-nourished, and it turns food prep into a bit of a game. And honestly, I fully believe, for the record, that our bodies are wise and able to turn pretty much anything into the nourishment we need, so no worries if you’re in a situation that demands Twizzlers instead of vegetables, or whatever.

CvT Club

CvT Club aka Captain Von Trapp Club is probably most important club of the day? I mean, obviously Cake & Coffee Club is the most-most.

But CvT Club is about being as sexy, focused and disciplined (and sexy, did I mention that part) as Captain Von Trapp himself by which I mean Christopher Plummer in the Sound of Music version.

I was a fairly spacey, dreamy person even before a traumatic brain injury and then long covid stole my ability to focus. And thanks to ADHD, if I’m not hyper-focusing on an obsession, what am I doing? Unclear!

In CvT Club, I invoke all the Captain powers, choose/name my points of focus, and use the forest focus app which makes sure I won’t be distracted by my phone for two hours.

Usually the first thing I do for CvT time is wash and dry all the dishes, wipe down the countertop, clean the sink, as a form of entry. Then I have an open document for that day’s CvT plans which I check.

Sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s liberating an iguana (doing something I don’t want to do). It could be dealing with the Box of In. It could be brainstorming and problem-solving. Captain time is focus time. And if I can’t focus, I might journal or do Cooking Club ops.

Cooking Club

This club is for making sure tomorrow-me will also be well-nourished. Some days it’s for small things like making a simple syrup or gathering vegetable scraps for the freezer to make stock the next day.

Or prepping dry ingredients for a future batch of banana bread.

Other times, when I have more energy, I do more serious food prep.

This helps me make sure that even if there’s a power outage, or I just don’t have energy to make food, there will still be something to eat. I used to resent Cooking Club, and now I really enjoy it.

Club Dish Zero

What it sounds like.

I like to wash up as I go, but either way, I want to make sure that tomorrow-me doesn’t have to deal with bullshit from today.

If it’s the kind of day where my only options is leave dishes or eat snacks from jars in the pantry, I’ll leave dishes.

It’s a concept, not a rule. We are not strict here. The club exists to support me, not to punish me.

Club Interiority

Also known as Non Zero Words Club. This is for writing time, or: writing and processing.

I find it stressful to force myself to write; interiority and aiming for non-zero words feels more neutral.

Sometimes this happens in the morning, sometimes in the evening in bed, sometimes during CvT time.

I know some people really need a specific time, like morning pages or whatever, but for me, as long as it happens, I’m good. And for me, personally, it really varies from day to day when I want to be writing.

If I’m too tired to focus, I just skip stones like What’s Working, What Would Help Most Right Now, Where Is The Treasure, What Don’t I Know Yet?

If I don’t have any answers, I invite the cowboy, the assassin, my Neal Caffrey self, my Cowboy Drag Sharon Stone self, any iteration of Slightly Future Me, and so on…

Congruencing Club / Non-Zero Gleaming

Any amount at all of cleaning something or putting things away or doing pantry consolidation.

Slowly, slowly. It all counts.

Any Self-Care Club

When things get hard, I immediately drop all the practices that help most.

This is the club that gets me to comb my hair or moisturize or, again, whatever would help that I am not doing.

Club Porch Breaths

This is non-zero going outside, it could be a walk to the mailbox but if all I do is open the front door and take a breath of fresh crisp porch air and commune with the trees for a moment, good job to me.

♣️ Avoidance Club ♣️

This is for celebrating being off social media sites that are big time-stealers for me, I love to be in Avoidance Club.

Today is my twenty third day not reading Reddit, a place I often am drawn towards in order to be comforted by the reminder that other people’s problems (and opinions!) are usually worse than mine, a place I go when craving distraction.

It’s not about the place, it’s about what I call pellet-pushing. Like when rats in an experiment will keep pushing the lever in the hopes that they might get a pellet.

When you want a positive feeling so you go to the place that sometimes delivers a positive feeling, but more than not, it does the opposite.

Anyway, like with everything, YMMV, and a place that isn’t great for me might be fine for you, or serving some sort of need you aren’t ready to let go of, no worries there. We are all just human and figuring things out in a world designed by the smartest engineers to steal our attention.

Four new clubs!

Lately I have been tentatively feeling a bit better, some more energy, so I added more clubs, we’ll see if they stick.

Two were wishes that really scared me (keeping the inbox down and tab count down), one was something I’d been really missing, and one just showed up.

So now I have Small Inbox Club, Tabs Club, Arabic Club (40 day streak!), and Bonus Wins Club which is about naming anything else I did during the day that doesn’t fall into another club.

This is a chance to award myself even more sparklepoints, for existing, and making it through another day. Bonus wins! There’s always one somewhere, and if not, there will be a chance to try again tomorrow.

What is clubbing for!

For one thing, it’s a great way to get a headstart on new year’s wishes (or the word that rhymes with revolutions), if you do that kind of thing, or if you want to skip that, it’s just a fun thing to have a club!

A way to practice and experiment. For me, clubs are a no-guilt container; they do not exist to make me feel bad about myself, they are just a framework for trying things.

You obviously do not have to start with (or end up with) a million clubs like I listed here, I started with one or two clubs, and then more invited themselves to the let’s go clubbing party. Maybe one club is the exact right amount of clubs for you!

For me, the most fun part of my clubbing lifestyle (other than using that phrase as someone who is a hermit in the woods), is naming the clubs. And then renaming as needed. But also it’s helping me get more done, stay a little more focused, be a little less stressed.

Join me in a little Club Non-Zero Anything?

While it is true that I am getting way more done than I did in the days before Going Clubbing was how I set up my day, I also think it’s just fun to be in a club.

Even in an imaginary club, even in one that is just me.

Much like my fake band of the week, Cake Adjacent.

And it’s even more fun to name a club.

So you are welcome to join me in inventing any clubs that appeal to you, or something else. Maybe your thing isn’t going clubbing instead of doing things on a list, maybe it’s a secret third thing, and I support that, because of course.

Let’s play. And if you’re not in the mood or right headspace for clubs, totally understandable. I will light a candle and take some porch breaths for all the many hard things getting easier for all of us.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

What clubs are you inviting into your life, or wishing for?

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. I am lighting a candle for all of it!

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

Whatever comes to mind (come to heart?), let’s support each other’s clubs, hopes, wishes, dreams…

Thank you, everyone who reads, porch breaths, the winding path, the many clues that land when they land, receptivity, tiny hope sparks, keeping on keeping on.

Bonus question

Big progress on bonus material on how I relate to time and map out my quarters, lmk if there anything you want to know more about?

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email when I finish the edits!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self