some compassion for my crap in the new year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all that jazz!

I’m not gonna lie, 2013 really sucked big time, and I’m really looking forward to the new year for a fresh start. This year I’m only making two new year’s resolutions, and I’m pretty excited about them:

1. BE KINDER TO THE INANIMATE OBJECTS IN MY LIFE

Allow me to explain.

Around Thanksgiving, I read this article on Apartment Therapy and was kind of inspired by it. It talks about how to give thanks to your home, and frames the article as if your home is a living, breathing being that deserves appreciation. It got me thinking about the house in a different way, and then it got me thinking about everything in a different way.

I’m an incredibly impatient person. Most people who know me probably wouldn’t guess this, as people have told me that I give off a very relaxed vibe and that being around me makes them feel calm. They’d be surprised to know what goes on in my head half the time. I get frustrated incredibly easily, but I suppose I mainly internalize it. I’m the sort of person who, if we’re out at a restaurant and my sandwich starts falling apart, my evening is basically ruined.

Most of the time, my life feels like a war – a war between my brain and everything else. I treat everything as an obstacle to get past, but I’m not sure what the ultimate goal is once the obstacle is passed. If the tub is grimy, I get angry and frustrated with the tub. If there’s a pile of clothes on the chair in the bedroom, I get angry at the pile. If the roof is leaking, I’m furious at the house. Every minute spent dealing with these obstacles is infuriating to me, and it makes me want to get it over with as fast as possible. Which means I half-ass EVERYTHING.

So after reading the aforementioned Apartment Therapy article, my thinking began to change. I started to think of the house as another “person” in my life. And then I began to think of everything as another person in my life. I began to anthropomorphize things and realized that these objects perform a service for me and are therefore deserving of my respect. So instead of being angry at the tub for being grimy, I started to think things like, “That poor tub doesn’t want to be grimy. It wants to be clean and white and have fresh new caulk. It’s only grimy because we shower in it every day and don’t take care of it.” Or if my car is a mess, I think, “This car treats me very well – it gets me from A to B, it drives me to work every day and keeps me safe. It doesn’t want to be full of dust and trash and dog hair.” I feel myself developing compassion for these objects in my life, and that compassion makes me want to take care of them calmly and thoroughly.

A secondary resolution that has grown out of this one is:

2. START MONOTASKING

Part of my perpetual state of frustration and anxiety results from letting my brain become overwhelmed with the thought of “what else?!” If the tub is gross and I decide to clean it, I don’t do it well because I’m preoccupied with the thought of all the dishes in the sink. If I’m washing dishes in the sink I’m consumed by the fact that the living room is a mess. When I’ve moved on to straightening up the living room, I spend that time stressing over what a mess the closet is. And so on. I spend all my time racing through each activity to get to the next. My mind is never where I am but where I’m not, and that is a huge source of constant low-grade stress.

I need to reign in my thoughts and I’m thinking the solution to this is monotasking. In the short amount of time that I’ve tried this out it feels so good. Even when I’m washing my hands, I’ve tried to stop letting my mind wander further down the line and focus on just washing my hands and washing them well. When I’m folding clothes I’m just folding clothes, nothing more. And if I start to feel myself get frustrated because the fitted sheet isn’t cooperating and my mind starts racing, I stop and relax and give myself a little pep talk, like, “Kate, you’re just folding right now; this is what you’re doing, nothing more. Just relax and take the time to do it right.” Once I do that my body immediately unclenches and I actually enjoy folding the sheet. I know that this is really just what people refer to as “mindfulness,” and mindfulness is associated with all sorts of wonderful health and happiness benefits. But I think for me, saying “be more mindful” sounds a little vague, and “monotasking” has a more immediate meaning that I can put into action.

So I’m pretty psyched about these two resolutions. They seem more like building blocks to a better life than simply, “lose weight” or “keep the house clean.” Wish me luck!

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