Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bad choices

In a post the other day, The Simple Dollar suggested that we consider five things in our lives that "inject poison" into our lives. Meaning little things that bring down my attitude, my self-esteem, and my finances. Here goes.

Part One: Identifying toxic spots in my life.
1. A friend who has recently begun to act as if I am less of a valued friend and more of an "old reliable." Changes in his job have brought him a new circle of people, and the result is that I am seeing less of him, and when I do, it is clear that he has "made the time." He texts and takes calls while we're at dinner, talks about people I don't know, and is constantly ignoring me at parties at his house in favor of newer folk. I don't care if he has more friends, but I don't like feeling like a convenience or second choice. I come away feeling irritable, unimportant, and like someone he can call "whenever."

2. Too much TV. Even though I got rid of cable, the current combination of Netflix and iTunes sucks me in, too. I come away feeling like I've wasted too many hours daily on that, rather than research, teaching, or writing, the things I want and need to fit into my day, things that will move me toard my goals. TV is passive and sedentary. I end up feeling tense and pressured to catch up.

3. Hamburger and fries. One of my favorite meals, but it definitely leaves me groggy and feeling bad for two days after. Also, I only get this meal at a restaurant, which means I am also spending money on this when I have a houseful of food, and unless the H&F is really, really good, it's too much money for something equal to McDonald's fast food. Which I don't ever buy.

4. "To do" lists. I tend to overload them, which means I can never complete them or accomplish enough. I'm sure everyone can identify the toxic residue here.

5. My school office. I don't like to work there, never do research there, and spend no more time in it than I must. It simply feel wrong, and I can't wait to leave.

This is the negative part of the event: identifying the small poisons that we live with or bring into our lives that bite into us. The really interesting part of the inspirational post, however, is the actions the blogger took to mediate or transform the bad situation into a good one. Right: he didn't just bitch or vent.

Part 2: Solutions

My friend: I have two choices, the first being to renegotiate our relationship solo so that I am not really friends with him any more (and thus wouldn't be expecting anything from him), while the second is to sit down and be honest with him. Truthfully, I don't know if he can take the honesty, but since my relationship with him is important to me, that's the way I choose to go. At best, our friendship will be stronger, which is what I hope will happen.

One reason I also believe the honesty is necessary: I am not the only person who has mentioned this behavior. Meaning it ain't just me: it's him, and it's costing him friends. But our talk will only about our friendship--not gossip.

TV: This is a tough one. Two thoughts: set a daily limit on TV hours, and add a reward system for bonus hours.

Honestly, I LOVE TV. Find me a good program and I am quickly addicted. More, I am addicted to reruns, like rereading a good book. Netflix streaming makes this way too easy! Yes, it's cheaper than cable, easier to opt out of bad programs, and works to my crazy schedule (all secondary reasons I turned off the cable in the first place).

My limit: 4 hours/day. Reward system: completing to do list = another hour, etc. I can negotiate with myself to make this work. Or I can always read.

Hamburger and Fries: Put myself on a no H&F diet. Replace this favorite meal with better stuff at a better restaurant. Keep from giving in to hunger/convenience pangs. Remember the bad way I feel after the short-term pleasure dissipates.

"To Do": Make a list with no more than five items on it for the day, keep on them until I finish them. Have real expectations, but let myself off the hook when "life" intervenes. Start there.

Office: Sigh. No ideas. I've rearranged, brought in coffee and tea, added happy student pictures. My feeling is more about the obligation to be there than the office itself. It's the long hall where my co-workers keep their doors closed, don't stop by to say hello, and where students only come to visit with problems. So one solution might be to get out of the office but stay in the building: to be present in the halls and green room spaces, to be outside in front or back--not just in my office. To stop by and say hi to my co-workers when they're in (which I try to do). To make the entire experience of the building happier, with my office only as an anchor.

In any case, now that I've identified these five, I want to work on them. Each one makes me feel nasty, often with a hangover into the next day. Today I'm just going to start with the TV and the "to do" list. Small steps.

Update: For the last two days the "5 Things to do list" has gotten completed. I did far more than those five things, but I got a definite sense of accomplishment from identifying 5 items from my overall list, doing them, and crossing them off. Everything else: there's always tomorrow! 

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