Monday, February 16, 2009


For ten months, my life has been on-hold as I've waited out the next step in the Angry Fat Girls saga. I sent the manuscript to my original publisher in mid-April. Months later, my publisher declined to publish it because they were pursuing a new editorial direction. We re-auctioned it. Berkely won the auction. We waited through pregnancies for contracts and revision directions. The date for the revisions kept changing. By contract, the revised manuscript was actually due yesterday. I will be getting the revisions this week and then, after reviewing them, we'll amend the contract for a new due date, keeping in mind that we all want and intend to publish in January, 2010.

Before that, of course, my life was on hold as I wrote the manuscript, which was a struggle for me. One of the things I have to do is reign in my anger in the manuscript. It's a dark book on a dark but essential topic that no one wants to admit to: weight loss is always temporary, even if you maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life. Ninety percent of us don't.

We're all too familiar with the depressions I've been through in the last year but I'm going to discuss one aspect of a subset, which is how I flay myself with to-do lists in my ongoing effort to sustain my self-revulsion.

Each week I usually start a new to-do list, with carry overs from the week before. There is a master list, and then daily lists. I usually do a separate list for the weekend because I have more time and because some daily things can't be done on weekends (i.e., I still need to get a New York State driver's license). Despite how much I enjoy crossing things off, too often I don't do what's on the list so that a task carries over from day-to-day, and then week-to-week. Anal compulsive that I am, I keep the old lists until their contents have been reasonably addressed. Right now there are three lists on my computer, with a really long list in a file called "The Big To Do". They torture me. They lay down precepts that make it harder to perform. "Jewelry," an entry might say, meaning, put the jewelry away. Because it's on a list, I become stubborn about doing it.

K-sh, k-sh, the whip lashes.

The lists on my computer are dated January because I've stopped making them. They were hurting me. I've exchanged a daily fare of tasks for the mental chatter of priorities. Each morning I mentally go over what is most important to do. Abstinence is first. Dogs, meetings, writing, bathing, contact with my 12-step pals and sponsor fill out the rest.

And then there's the question of when to shower, who to call, and what else needs to be done.

With a manuscript to revise in the immediate future there are a number of big things I need to do to be as easy in my skin as I can be as I juggle dogs, editing, eating, sleeping and a program, and all those voices are vying to be first.

I'm writing this as much to understand what my priorities today need to be as to talk about the harmful effects of a to-do list. I need to do a very big grocery shopping -- and I simply don't wanna. It's dumb but I've been avoiding the grocery store. My television, I discovered during the elections, has nice clear sound and nice snow flurries in the picture. My DVD never worked & my VCR is trusty but antique. I could not get myself to P.C. Richards this weekend to replace them but finally realized I could order them online with some help from customer service about the two pieces of equipment's compatibility.

That, however, meant I should be ready for delivery, so I pulled my entertainment thingy out and swept up a basketball of dog hair and grit, undid cords and hauled my TV to the basement. Things got disrupted in doing that and I should put some of the disruption in better storage than it had been. I'm going to have to face the piper on the new TV sooner or later, so why have all that junk there when it comes?

I would have liked to have cleaned the bathroom. I would like to do a last load of laundry. I finished the third chapter of my novel yesterday and really had hopes of writing the fourth, or being so far into the fourth that I could dabble at it while I'm in Revision Land. But the chatter of groceries & cleaning are sapping my mental energies for chapter four, which is really stupid.

All I have to do is grab my rolly cart and go.

The thing about replacing a written to-do list with a mental list of priorities, however, is that priorities are more service-oriented and repetitive. I can cross "be abstinent" off a list but it feels very much more like a task than a way of life. "Do well by my dogs" is a consciousness of what they need and like. Priorities are services to my self and to others.

I had difficult week of dogs last week, following a month of boarding for a month of weekends, and came out of it nearly numb with a tiredness that wasn't so much about sleep as depletion. I'm still recovering. I really do need to get to Key Food but more than that, I need to stick to my other new promise to myself: first, do no harm.

That means, don't eat. Don't buy another Barbie doll on eBay. Don't get into a tangle about old grudges. Don't start a substitute project that will make another mess that will either drain me to finish or remain unfinished.

So instead of clattering off to Montague Street this morning I sat down and read. I napped very lightly. I got up and felt the ennui of not having accomplished anything. So I've written this blog to remind myself that the groceries are a priority, not a task. They are a service to myself because come tomorrow, I'll be back on the streets with long hikes between dogs and it will be good to know that the right food is in the house.

In that light, maybe the best thing I did yesterday was not finishing the chapter or ordering a new TV. It was chopping up celery so I didn't have to do it to make the salad I'm eating right now...

P.S. I washed my dishes after writing this and took my cart (the New York station wagon), debit card and long list to the store. It took 45 minutes and about $90 to get protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, dog treats, coffee, olive oil, vinegar, canned staples, oatmeal and rice, milk and soap into the house.

I feel like I could take on the world.


Anonymous said...

Yeah! Congratulations on reaching the top of this hill? Isn't the view wonderful?

By the way, I appreciated your "First, do no harm..." comments. Simple words to try and live by.

Have a good week!

Anonymous said...

I just had to comment on your post. You had to "reign in [your] anger" at the fact that maintaining weight loss requires hard work? Who are you angry at? If it's yourself, you would be better served by redirecting all that wasted energy into diet and exericse. If you're angry at the world because life isn't fair (and I suspect the latter is the case) well, you just need to grow up.

Laura N said...

I find to-do lists highly depressing. I've got a mental list that's a mile long that I just try to ignore--scrapbooking, decluttering, cleaning the bathtub, organize my bathroom closet, and on and on. The Big Stuff doesn't get done because my life is a series of little stuff that, in reality, IS the big stuff. Grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, bath time for kids, dishwasher loading & unloading, clean the cat box, feed the dog. The days I can't stand it any more--I remind myself it could all just *go away* in a milisecond. A semi-truck could crush us under it's 70 mph power. A tornado could take our house to heaven. An earthquake could swallow our lives whole (the midwest has the New Madrid fault that rarely quakes but sits there silently waiting to strike only God knows when). Morbid thinking? Perhaps. But it grounds me & pulls me back to how blessed I am to have baskets full of clean clothes in my hallway.

You are blessed, too, my friend. In the middle of the chaos of your life, you are finding those small blessings. Your "Hope" snowdrops picture is a beautiful testament to your finding those blessings.

I hope my multiple comments/emails aren't driving you nuts. Your writing helps me think more clearly and see life in sharper images, and I've just gotta share. :)