Being A Tortoise

Back in the days of my misspent youth – which admittedly could’ve been a lot more misspent and I plan to make up for that in my next life – I was a hare. A sprinter of sorts. Someone who approached life with an all or nothing kind of attitude. I wrote 99.99% of my essays the night before they were due and really, do you need to know more than that? I told myself I worked best under pressure and since I never worked in any other way, it became true.

Before I started Enbrel, I'd had other priorities (like sitting still) for quite some time and the tasks and junk of my life had accumulated in immense piles. After I started Enbrel, it took a while for my strength to build up, then I was busy doing other things – like say, living - and then things got bad again. And the piles grew. Every now and again, I'd work through one or two, sometimes more if I could get someone to help me, but when you own so much stuff that you cannot put things away anywhere and you can’t reach any of the places where ‘away’ is located, the piles just… swell. It was hopeless. Neverending. Every time I got a little bit ahead, a couple of weeks would pass and the mess would encroach again. I felt like I was besieged by stuff, in a war of attrition with piles of paper and they were winning.

Sometime this year, I finally clued in to the fact that I would have to change my approach. I remembered a pain management course I took almost 20 years ago where they talked about setting attainable goals - instead of e.g., plan to spend five hours digging up the garden, spent one hour weeding every couple of days. Doing it that way means your chances of success are much greater and we all know that success breeds success. As well, it also means that you have enough energy left over to live, instead of tiring yourself out completely and then spiralling downwards in a cycle of self-loathing and depression.

My attainable goal was to everyday do one thing from my list and throw one thing out. It didn't matter how small or how big a thing, but I had to do one thing. Easily attainable - laughingly easily attainable - and I often found myself doing more, but on bad days there was a huge relief in attaining my stated goal, I felt productive, while avoiding wrecking my body. Not only did it help stave off the depression and self-loathing party, but the added benefit is that this slow and steady approach actually accomplishes something - after a couple weeks of doing this, there was an obvious impact and I began to see that doing a little every day gets me way further than the big dash at the end. Of course, when I started feeling a little bit better for a couple of weeks, that approach went out the window and it was quite lovely to be significantly effective on a daily basis.

It's clear that I have to get back on the "One Thing" train. In the past two months, the piles have grown again and my list is so long that I no longer remember what's on it and merely thinking about it makes me want to curl up in a fetal position, whimpering, because it's going to take me months to catch up. It's taking some time to readjust my expectations of myself to something that more accurately reflects my current abilities but I'm starting to realize that focusing too much on the "but I used to be able to do..." is not only a waste of time, but also requires rather a lot of energy.

So, after four decades of doing things one way, I'm back to learning a new trick. I am becoming a tortoise. A marathon runner instead of a sprinter. And, much to my slightly annoyed chagrin, I've been reminded that slow and steady really does win the race. Or at least keep you in it long enough to get something done, instead of flaming out in a glorious fireball halfway through.

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