Lurching Toward Self-Care (Plus Cats!)

I hope you are having a most pleasant Sunday, my magnificent horde. (Or, if it’s not Sunday when and where you are, a most pleasant whatever-day-it-happens-to-be.)

As I go about the work of realigning my schedule and my priorities to better accommodate the business of writing, one thing stands out to me in a way I didn’t expect. So today I’d like to spend a few words talking about my experiments in creative self-care. Plus also—an obligatory cat anecdote, since my stats tell me you guys love cat posts, and especially cat posts on Sundays.

And because I am kind and merciful, I’ll tell you the cat thing first.

Cat Stuff

Lately the cats have been on a diet. The vet pointed out that Agnes, who is a very small kitty, has put on a little weight is basically attempting to transform herself into Tetsuo from Akira or maybe Jabba the Hutt. She accomplishes this by stealing Kane’s food whenever possible and then pretending she is famished so we will feed her again. I do my best to watch them at mealtimes, but Agnes’s SNEAK is up to like 99 or 100, and she can slip in, wolf down Kane’s breakfast, and be away before I notice.

So per the doctor’s orders, both cats have been condemned to eat low-calorie, extra-filling crunchyfood (we allow them to free-feed because they stress out if they can’t), and Agnes’s squishyfood portions have been radically reduced. We’ve also wrestled them into a much more conservative feeding schedule so they will eat what squishyfood they’re given right that minute and not leave any lying around in their bowls.

Thus far, it’s working, and Agnes has begun to de-puff just a bit (I wonder why). But she’s still phenomenally displeased with the arrangement and does everything in her power to subvert it.

Today around lunchtime, they got their midday squishyfood, which was promptly consumed. Agnes, of course, was displeased, and she was doubly displeased when she discovered that I had already collected Kane’s bowl and washed it.

So she licked the floor a couple of times—mournfully—and proceeded to give a few affectionate rubs to the fridge, where she knows the leftovers are kept.

Her overtures went unanswered, however, much to her displeasure.

Meanwhile, in the process of washing the lunch dishes, I noticed that the crunchyfood hopper needed replenishing, so I added some kibble.

Miraculously, this cured Agnes’s melancholy in an instant, since obviously the food I just added, which looks exactly like the food that was already there, will somehow be different. She headed straight to the hopper and began to partake, behaving as though I’d just dispensed the most precious thing in the world.

Kane (who had just been squirted with the water bottle for attempting to run off with a bugbear miniature sitting on the bookshelf) decided to see what was so novel and magnificent about the food hopper. Agnes, however, was not having it, and hunched over the kibble, refusing to give him any space.

This led to a ridiculous spectacle during which Kane put a forepaw on Agnes’s head to push her out of the way as he used the other paw to gently rake just one kibble out of the bowl and onto the floor to eat. They repeated this whole process about half a dozen times before Agnes decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, gave Kane a resounding slap across the face, and sauntered off to sulk on her throne (an old chair she defends from all other possible claimants).

And Kane? As usual, he was oblivious. He shook off the slap and settled in for a snack.

One of these days I’ll catch them on video and share, if I can. They are endlessly entertaining, and—who am I kidding here?—cat videos are internet gold.

Writer Stuff

Since the new year, I’ve set myself a pretty structured schedule. I’m getting up around 6:30am (I’ve moved back from 7:00—huzzah?) and sitting down to start my day no later than 8:00. Typically, I spend at least three to four hours on the manuscript, then break for lunch for an hour, and come back to do whatever freelance work I need to get done.

This means I’m checking out of Workland around 2:00 to 3:00, depending on the day and the particulars of the workload.

Which, admittedly, sounds pretty sweet.

But I’ve discovered there’s a catch (there’s always a catch), because even though work ends in the mid-afternoon, my standing obligations do not. Outside of just being a human with a spouse, I have Things That Must Be Done most evenings of the week, and these start around dinnertime and often run until 8:00 or 9:00pm. On Fridays, things run later.

Sometimes it’s errands or chores around the house, others it’s, say, running my Friday D&D game or putting in my time at the local game store to help teach the hobby to new players (both of which require prep time). On Wednesdays, it’s that I actually get to play a game instead of being the DM, so while that’s not properly an obligation, it’s a necessary steam valve in my life.

The end result is that by the time I hit the bed on Friday, I’m pretty damned tired. And pushing through the weekends these last several weeks has made me even more tired. It’s also put a crimp in the schedule around the house, since Saturdays are when we run most of our big errands and do most of our grocery shopping, and Sundays are when we do things like wrangle the laundry and cook a bunch of food to make meals easier during the week. Plus, if we want to do anything that remotely resembles spending time together, Saturday and Sunday are our best bets for that.

The rest of the week we’re both too buried.

So I’m going to have to admit to myself that I need my weekends—not so I can cram two more weekdays into my life, but so I can come down from the week, make sure everything is taken care of for the five days ahead, and generally remember that I live with another person, and that we both exist outside of our jobs.

The perfectionist, workaholic part of my brain hates that. Hates it with a passion.

You are awake and breathing, it tells me. You need to be in front of that screen.

And most of the week, you know, it’s right. Most of the week, if I’m up and away from the keyboard during the day, it’s probably because I’m farting around, avoiding work. But what the workaholic parts of my brain (or anyone’s brain) tend to forget is that we are not robots, and that recharging is somewhat more complex for the average human meat-puppet than just plugging into the wall till the batteries are at 100%.

There will be occasions when life will require me to push into the weekend. That just happens from time to time. But the rest of the time, I need to be willing to give myself space and time to recharge in preparation for the wild charge that begins on Monday morning (promptly, at 6:30, with cats in my face because oh god where is the squishyfood there is no squishyfood nevermind the hopper full of crunchyfood we are going to STARVE).

So that’s my self-care concession, after just over three weeks of reflection on my process and my new schedule. What about you, horde? Do you have a particular ritual, method, or stretch of time that you keep sacred in order to keep your batteries charged?

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2 thoughts on “Lurching Toward Self-Care (Plus Cats!)”

  1. You absolutely need to cut out time that is not in front of computer for work or writing – or D&D organisation. You need to do that to connect, not just with spouse, but with you. Writing is isolated enough. It is not meant to be a punishment, it is meant to be something you enjoy, so don’t do yourself a disservice and cut yourself some slack, you deserve it! (you do!)

    I am doing this ‘one thing at a time’ mindset, to stop the overwhelm of ‘oh my god I have so much to do, so I will sit and stare at social media and not do anything, so it all repeats again’. I was feeling so unaccomplished, and so irritated with my lack of achieving anything, and have found that this way works better. I have this little time management excel sheet – real basic stuff, so I can at least see what I have done. I am impressed with the 2K words I wrote on Wednesday, of a major final scene, just one left to the end (I think), but that scene had be squirming for weeks before writing, so it felt good.

    I have my brother coming over from Hong Kong (he moved back there last year, his wife comes from HK, and he lived there in the 90s), so everything will come to a stop this weekend. I am okay with that and have prepared for that, and this week all the things I wanted to do before he arrived have been accomplished! Huzzah!

    In the background the whole ‘everything is pointless’ demon keeps hovering, but I have decided that ignoring is the best way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing, Miranda!

      You make some very solid points about time management. It’s easy to fritter away the day online or otherwise in front of the screen, even under the guise of ‘research’ or ‘connection’ or whatever, and it gets to be such that a person’s boundaries can easily break down or dissolve altogether.

      Your time management sheet sounds cool! I’ve been doing similar: each night before I head to bed, I make a checklist for the next day. This usually contains the 3 most important things I need to get done that day (an idea I picked up from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits). If I manage to finish those before my workday ends (it now has a set end time), I can move on to other, less vital things.

      I’m finding that’s about the right amount of ‘stuff’ to put in my day. I’m able to get things done, mark them off the list, and step away from the screen and keys at the end of my workday with the sense that I’ve accomplished something.

      I’m not perfect at this yet. In fact, I have some freelance deadlines this week that have complicated things, but I knew those were coming, and that they’d have to be dealt with to “clear the board.” Moving forward into the new month, the recent changes to my workload will begin to take effect, allowing me to get a better grip on the schedule in general.

      Thanks again for your comment! I hope you have a great visit this weekend!

      Like

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