… must come to an end, and so it was for the Great Checklist Streak of 2015.
For those who are new to my blog or my social media accounts that I notify of each post, I am on disability for PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder, and suffer from a handful of other physical afflictions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. I find it difficult to remember from day to day the various things that I have to take or do or log in order to maintain my health, and so I’ve devised a system where I keep track of my day with a series of alarms and with the help of two Moleskine notebooks, one squared and the other ruled. In the squared notebook, I keep track of my various required regular daily activities, like medications and taking vitals, in a checklist format, along with a few added activities such as writing and socialization (important to develop in someone suffering from an anxiety disorder). In that same notebook, I also track the results of my vitals – my daily weight, and my blood glucose and pressure readings throughout the day – so I can share them with my doctor. In the ruled notebook, I keep track of my master to-do list (when my list is done for the day, I can then go to the squared notebook and check off “to-do”) as well as basic notes to help me remember the three good things that I write about at the end of my day (also a separate check box).
It’s not a complicated list, to be honest, but completing it is a measure more often of energy level rather than productivity, and I had completed all the items on my list for twelve straight days prior to yesterday, a streak that I had not achieved before in the eleven and a half months that I’ve been working with the checklist system.
Yesterday, however, I had a perfect storm of distractions that kept me from completing my list. I took a series of naps in the morning, in preparation for some in-person socialization last night. My wife and I welcomed two friends of ours into our home for an evening of “chili and shenanigans.” We chatted animatedly, we joked, we played three separate card games (Exploding Kittens, the game that took Kickstarter by storm earlier this year; Munchkin, the runaway hit from Steve Jackson Games that pokes fun at fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons; and finally Cards Against Humanity, which is very simply put a game for horrible people – if you’ve never heard of it, feel free to Google it, but be prepared … this is NOT a children’s game in any way, shape, or form). What I thought would be an evening lasting until around 10:00 or 10:30 finally wound down well past 1:00 am. We all had a great time and, as an added bonus, the (new) chili recipe was a big hit, with just enough heat to give a nice slow burn as you ate and plenty of good smoky flavor.
The trick is, I was anticipating the earlier time when I planned out my day, so I left some things until after the party broke up, and by that time, all I wanted to do was go to bed. So rather than stay up and exhaust myself for the sake of trying to keep the streak alive, I made the conscious decision to listen to my body, end the streak, and pick it up again either today or tomorrow.
Earlier this morning, I was having regrets. I was getting anxious about a perceived expectation that I was having about my friends and followers that were cheering me on with each passing day of perfection on my checklist, that not only had I let them down with the failure to continue the streak, but that I had to pick the streak back up immediately or I would disappoint everyone. (For those that don’t know, generalization and black-and-white thinking are extremely common in people with both BPD and bipolar disorder, and it’s something I struggle with during my rough periods, times that I can best describe my thinking as “irrational.”) I managed to stop and calm myself down fairly early in this process and for most of the rest of the day I’ve been saying “I’ll get to it if I get to it.” It won’t kill me to just take a day today to really de-stress and reset my energy level for a fresh start tomorrow, and besides, there’s no possible way that I could have continued the streak for much longer anyway. This week I have two days that I’m going to be socializing the whole day, and concentrating on a perfect checklist is going to likely go by the wayside in favor of the more spartan necessities version of my checklist, which consists of medications, vitals, and meals. Regular followers of my blog will know about one of these days; it’s the day that I’ve been preparing to recite a poem publicly, something that I used to do frequently in my historical re-enactment organization and haven’t done at all for over a year. The other is a very special day with even more importance for me than Poetry Day. My daughter will be in town for a few days visiting friends and we’ve scheduled a day to spend time together, and well, everything else that day is just going to have to take a back seat to that.
So all in all, it’s not a bad thing that the streak came to an end yesterday. I was doing something that I was enjoying for a good portion of the day and it was good preparation for the comparatively huge amount of socialization that I have in store this Saturday. It’s also not a bad thing that I take today off from stressing about getting everything done. Mentally, I could use a break from the pressure that I put on myself to DO ALL THE THINGS, to paraphrase Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half. (If you haven’t read her blog, treat yourself to a few minutes of indulgence. Her writing is as funny as I’d like to be and just as poignant as it is hilarious. She’s one of my heroes for dealing with her own demons with grace and levity.)
And besides, the end of the streak just means I have an opportunity to prove that I can break it in the future.