December obsessions (and other wishes)
How are we doing, sweet friends
How are we coping, how are we holding up?
For example, attempting a hip stretch or a shoulder stretch (or both!) for the first time in [REDACTED], which is of course absolutely heroic, even if we just thought about doing it later and planted the seed.
Thinking about doing is also a step
Thinking about it is also a step, which makes it non-zero effort, in the invisible continuum between zero and one, and I love this for us.
And I mean all of that very genuinely.
Quite often I need to think about things I might do or wish to attempt before I go for it in real time, and yes, the invisible steps are also steps.
Groundwork is groundwork and it counts
Groundwork is groundwork, heroism all around.
It’s brave to try, and also to consider trying. This is something I would have thought was extremely silly twenty years ago, and now I understand that there is so much wisdom and compassion in being able to perceive the invisible seeds of wanting.
There is so much courage in the invisible seeds, and in the patience to let them do their thing in their own right timing.
Still following the protocols
This past week I’ve been having some Total Breakdown days, or semi breakdown days, or whatever, I don’t know, a non-zero amount of breaking down. It happens.
It really does. The extenuating circumstances are many, these are not easy times, and the world is the world.
So I have been following the protocols, because when in doubt: follow the protocols. And when in a breakdown, definitely-definitely follow them.
Your mileage may vary of course, because we are different and we all need different things
The protocols, for me, start off with two questions:
- What is useful about this breakdown?
- What would help most right now in the moment?
Not all questions need answers
The first question does not need to be answered; it only needs to be asked.
This is important, actually. It is a question that exists to be a reminder that many, many times in the past, these breakdowns have turned out to be useful.
Maybe these breakdowns revealed an insight or some direction.
Or maybe they got me to clean my floors, amen.
Or maybe they got me to do some journaling after all the crying.
It’s good to be reminded that these experiences of falling apart can be useful and even important, that they are a step in a process, and while this particular step is not enjoyable, the larger process might turn out to be meaningful and fulfilling. It probably will, it quite often does.
The second question grounds me in the moment
The second question grounds me in the moment: What would help me most right now?
Not what might help in general, though that’s a useful list to have on hand or to come up with, but what might help me right now in this moment?
These can be physical things: sixteen breaths, hand on heart, feet on the ground, maybe a mini dance party to one song…
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to, following the protocols, asking the questions, doing the things that help or might help, one step and then another step, good job.
And trying to focus on December Obsessions and other December Wishes.
As you know, I love a good obsession, as well as the idea of a good obsession, any obsession port in a storm. My ADHD brain needs to hyper-focus on something enticing, give me the deep dive.
Some good candidates for December Obsessions
I’m thinking about trying a different recipe for tahini brownies (gluten free, vegan) every week until I either find the one true love tahini brownie that knocks my socks off, or, alternately, until I decide that this is not my yes, and some other small dessert can be my winter love story.
Similarly I’m thinking about making granola, though I’m not entirely sure why, or if it would even work with my impossibly tiny oven, since doing things in batches does not always work well with ADHD life, and I am extremely likely to forget what I’m doing and give up partway through.
And I’m thinking about a return to hiking (aka a leisurely meandering walk of an hour or less), something I haven’t done since summer, and then I wasn’t feeling well for a few months. But lately I’ve been training, and endurance is up, and I think I’m up for it too.
Tabula rasa, as symbolic as it needs to be
As always I would love to obsess over any form of a clean slate: an empty inbox, a clean bedroom, closing the tabs.
Obsessing over vocabulary quiz, obsessing over remembering to do LUTW (Legs Up The Wall), obsessing over delicious nourishing breakfasts, obsessing over Do Less To Get More, I’m here for all of it.
What do I know about this
I was thinking this morning that my wish about the tahini brownies is really a wish to have a vegan and gluten-free dessert recipe that I can just make without thinking.
Like I do with chocolate sesame banana bread or with coconut pudding, former obsessions that are now just integrated into my life.
But then I was thinking that this is not a new obsession, this might even be a continuation of a fantasy from childhood, when I would imagine being an adult and magically able to to just whip up some cookies or do some art, like my mom could.
And something about how maybe I focused my attention on those specific types of [let’s call them domestic pursuits, even though they don’t have to be], because I knew I would never do the main one.
Ever since I have known myself and remember myself as a person, I have always known that I did not want to be a parent, and I also knew that becoming a parent was what was expected of me as a person. So maybe I solved that in my mind by imagining myself baking instead. We’ll see what my imaginary therapist says about that.
The art of a fifty minute hour
I love a fifty minute hour, be it therapy or a soak in the hot pool. It’s kind of how I do my writing hour (non-zero words, for five sets of ten minutes), and it’s how I do kitchen jogging, set a bell for an hour and the last ten minutes are for slow-down…
An hour is a big commitment, but fifty minutes is somehow more doable.
A fifty minute hour means time for entry, or exit, or both.
I am also thinking about hourglasses as a potentially lovely way to spend a period of time. If I get lost in hyper-focus then I won’t even know how long I’ve been away at sea, but in a good way.
Obsessions with ritual
Because my brain is how it is (ADHD plus traumatic brain injury plus long covid, the trifecta of being super fucking out of it a lot of the time), I use ritual even more than usual to set the form of my day.
Ritual is the container.
It does not matter how I feel when I wake up in the morning (tired, panicked, confused, unsure), I do the morning things in the order of the morning things. It helps, even when it is unfulfilling, though quite often it both feels good and helps more than I expect it to.
So how can we slowly and steadily layer on more and more of these?
Obviously my monsters of self-criticism have formed a choral group (it was also Monster World Cup last week if anyone noticed extra monstering in the air) to follow me around and sing songs about how I make poor life choices and have ruined my life, etc etc.
They think obsessions are silly, they think tahini brownies are a bad idea.
They say I am just setting myself up for failure and disappointment, what if I don’t even like my obsession?
But guess what
But guess what, obsessions are a vehicle for passion, but the object of the obsession is neutral and can be changed. If brownies aren’t the thing, maybe a green chile apple crisp is the thing.
We’re experimenting. We are trying things out in order to set into motion the experience of caring about things again, and if I can care about things again, I can care about life and aliveness, I can do a better job of taking care of myself.
It’s not nothing. It’s a lot.
Alright, what’s working?
Honestly, this December is already better in many ways than the last one.
The enormous projects of replacing the two windows on the north side of the tiny house trailer and getting a new hot water heater installed took over a year, but now I can wash my hands in warm water, which is life changing, and the house holds in heat much better than before.
Tea lights are lit, with loose incense I made. And the December experiments are going strong.
The experiments are starting strong
I’ve already run some Hannuka experiments (can you make latkes in a waffle iron, hell yes you can, wafflatkes are delicious) for this next week, and in general maybe even feel a little less deer caught in the headlights about the passage of time than I usually do.
Trying to tire myself out with movement has sadly not been helping with getting me to want to go to sleep, but I think it is helping my mood, so that’s something, and the experiments with a more firm schedule (operation we run a tight ship) are helping too.
Let’s name some December Wishes…
Someone to go on hikes with and explore.
More fifty minute hours. It holds itself.
More joyful obsessions, good ideas sparking. It solves itself.
Infusing rituals and [containers of time] with more pleasure, more joy, more of the good kind of obsessive.
More winter cheer. Better sleep. Waking up with a passion for something, anything!
Some deus ex machina solutions to my two biggest house-related problems.
Something to be excited about and maybe even look forward to, I need this.
Hannuka starts Thursday night. Chag urim sameach, a happy festival of lights.
Then Tuesday, December 12, is the new moon and also National Ambrosia Day.
I do not know what that means, but to me it suggests making a delicious hot beverage, so I am definitely going to do that.
So, between now and next Tuesday, how about a trial run for December Obsessions, with as many do-overs as we want, throughout the month and beyond….
After all, these December Obsessions themselves are a trial run for 2024 Obsessions, and there’s a beautiful wish hidden in there too:
The obsessions write themselves! The obsessions run themselves!
All I have to do is pay attention, and they can channel excitement and they can channel grace, enough for me, and for the collective too.
One week in. How are we feeling, what are we noticing, where are we being pulled, what is needed most, what is useful about feeling what we are feeling, even if it happens to be end-of-the-year upheaval?
(Which it might not, obviously! People Vary, and you feel what you feel, it doesn’t have to be related to what I’m feeling…)
What good obsessions can we brainstorm, what low-stakes experiments can we embark on, or what non-zero movement can we take in that direction?
Wishing is the invisible part of generating momentum, maybe, and either way, it couldn’t hurt to make room for the vulnerability of wanting something better.
I am wishing everyone so much love, support, grace, comfort, treasure, whatever you need for this time.
How about you?
Thankful for each day that I get some focus and energy, for each good song on the radio, for all hope sparks, for the lovely and thoughtful comments people left on the last post (thank you!), for porch breaths, and all moments of calm. How about you?
What are your wishes? How was your week! I am lighting a candle for all of it.
Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company
You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. Wishes you are wishing.
Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.
You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.
I’m working on bonus material on how I relate to time, if there’s stuff you want me to cover, let me know!
Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email when I finish edits.
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. ❤️