Fighting Inertia

When things are going well or I’m doing something interesting, I tend to write. When things are overwhelming me, I have no time and don’t write. When I’m stressed, whether overwhelmed or not, I eat. Guess what I’ve been doing lately?

I worked hard to lost the weight that seemed to come off fairly easily last year. But that was during COVID time, when the world was contracted and I did little more than be home or go to work in the mornings in an almost empty office. I made trips to the store once a week, so my shopping was carefully planned and I bought less random stuff. And since there were no social outings on the schedule – no parties, no lunches, no restaurant visits – I ate more carefully and was more faithful in planning and writing my food.

I’ve gained 8 lbs of that hard-won weight back and I’m not happy about it. But at the same time, I’m not UNhappy that I’m 55 lbs down from where I started. On the other hand (and I have lots of hands to juggle things), I don’t want to stay where I am. I know all the things to do, I just need to do them. Yeah, I say that a lot, don’t I?

But I have a plan. I’m not starting ALL of these at once because that will set me up to fail. So this week I’m working on the first three:

  • Re-upped with Noom and asked my Goal Specialist to reset me to the very beginning. I will set aside 20 minutes every morning to read the articles and make notes for myself.
  • Plan to eat 1450 calories/day and NOT eat any exercise calories. They get out of hand too fast.
  • Go to the gym three days a week for 30 minutes, twice during the week and once on the weekend.
  • Emptied the pantry of the snacks, even portion controlled ones, that have snuck in there. — DONE
  • Plan my weekly food and shop from a detailed list WITHOUT picking up the extra random stuff (unless it’s produce).
  • Eat at least one meal (lunch or dinner) per week from the club or restaurant. Favorites: Jersey Mike’s #2 mini sub on rosemary parmesan bread, pizza or mini-slider basket from the club, or Chinese food from Liang’s (now open in a new closer location – yayyy!).
  • Switch my Diet Pepsi to cans from bottles as part of cutting back.

I’ve been acting from inertia for the last months. It’s as though I forgot how to handle social and work stress during COVID time, and I’m finding it hard to make decisions. My world seems to revolve around my cats, going to work in the mornings, eating unplanned things on my own, and not getting enough sleep or exercise. Where do I want to go on vacation? Dunno, and am not motivated to figure it out. When am I going to ask for a few days off? Later, always later. What am I doing about landscape changes? Procrastinating. Have I worked on my big genealogy project of publishing sourced histories for each grandparent? No. Do I have a plan to do it? No.

Sometimes I wonder if my part-time job is helping or hurting. I know I don’t want to be working full-time now, and the “full time part-time” job at the church seems ideal – close to home, easy hours, chance to play with new technology, time with other people, work not that difficult. But at the same time, I really like the few days when I can sleep until I wake up. It’s never LATE, but it’s later than I’m doing now. I have fewer options for doing things with friends who aren’t working and who take day trips or meet for lunch or other outings. I’d have more time to work on genealogy and putter.

But I would be lonely, I think. And as a single retired person living alone, that matters a lot. I might be peopled-out by the time I get home, but at least I have time with other people every day. There’s no pressure for me to change anything and I have the power – and am the only one WITH the power – to decide to do something differently. Like, make a plan for taking time off and then actually doing it.

Right now, though, I’m going to focus on getting myself back on track with eating more carefully. Not dieting, I’m not doing that. But carefully and with intention. I can do this.

And here we are

My goal for now through the end of the year is to not gain weight. I don’t seem to be actively working on LOSING it but am pleased to be holding within a 3 lbs range for weeks at a time. Going into holidays is stressful and usually full of social events, though this year that is probably not true. In any case, I’m still 55 lbs down from January 1st. I confess to being jealous of my friend Lisa who is down 75 lbs in the same amount of time, but she’s working on it harder than I am and it’s not a competition even though sometimes I feel that it is and that I’m losing. I hate losing. Even that isn’t enough incentive to push me right now. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

My brother was here for a quick visit and did “tall people things” from my project list. Because of my knee and my back, I’m pretty unstable on my feet on a good day and I don’t want to push my luck by getting on a step stool. It’s nice to have lightbulbs changed and things removed from high places. We had a good visit and a chance to talk without corraling grandkids or any agenda. One thing he did say was that it would be “thoughtful” of me to use a cane so he wouldn’t have to worry about me falling. Since the bad knee feels like buckling at inconvenient times, I think I need to start using a cane or walking stick much as I’d rather not.

Friends here are moving and it’s unsettling. I’ve found myself looking around at my own house and budget, wondering how long I will stay here in this house that has been part of my life for 35 years. I have so much more stuff than when I lived in apartments, which I did for my working life, but most of it I could leave behind. So I’m seriously looking to prune out “stuff” again so it all feels less claustrophobic. Even the genealogy books need weeding, though I did just get a book on Researching Presbyterian Ancestors in Ireland. A little light reading?

I need some time off and permission to TAKE that time off. It’s not that I think I’m irreplaceable but I’m acting as though I am, which is ridiculous. Actually, I just need to give MYSELF permission to take the time – it’s not that anyone is stopping me but me. I’m not sure what I would do with time off since I’m not going to hop on a plane or go for a long driving vacation. Those trips always exhausted me anyway. But taking 2-3 days off plus a weekend would give me a nice break. Just being able to sleep in an extra hour would be a luxury.

My Life is So Different Now

Three years ago this week I made the decision to retire from Yale and move to Texas to live with and care for my dad. I don’t regret the decision but my life is so totally different; sometimes I feel disconnected, because there is no one here who has any connection to the professional life I led for so many years. Married people, people with children, usually have at least someone who has shared those experiences with them. I don’t even have my cat anymore.

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Yale Law Library Reading Room

I worked on college campuses for almost 40 years and there is an energy there that keeps things hopping. I started working in general university libraries right after getting my M.L.S. and moved to law school libraries three years later, never looking back. My career was in Technical Services, which started out as cataloging and evolved into management of all of the specialties under the Tech Services banner: acquisitions, serials, binding, cataloging, electronic resources, integrated library systems. I worked long hours at challenging work – You want a book from Singapore that was published today? And you want it when?  Okay, let me see what I can do. I lived in Virginia, in Maine, in Boston, and Connecticut, sometimes moving without knowing anyone else in the state. Moving was hard but I did it – and by myself.

My organizations allowed me time to be active in my profession, going to national and specialty conference such as the Innovative Users Group for users of the system I worked with for almost 30 years. Of course, that meant working late and on weekends to get my regular work accomplished, but it was a good trade off for keeping my brain stretched and making wonderful contacts across the country and around the world.  I spent five years on the IUG Steering Committee, including being education chair for a national conference, followed immediately by three years on the Executive Board of the American Association of Law Libraries. And three years later, I was education chair for the AALL conference, too. Exhilarating, challenging, hard, creative, fun.

I loved working out the bibliographic puzzles that went with my job. Figuring out what happened to serial publications that stopped coming or morphed into other titles without warning. Finding books requested by colleagues and faculty that came with incomplete or wrong titles. Resolving systems problems. Dreaming up new ways to explain old things to staff.

Ah, staff. I hated supervising. That was the only really hard thing about my job to me. I want to work in a collegial relationship with people who act like adults and pull their weight. Supervising people, and especially those in a tough union shop, made that difficult at times. And it was exhausting. I do not miss that one bit, though I do miss some of the people. Okay, not many of them, but some.

12108756_10208073611423764_1885628941810349569_n (1)I thoughtfully planned my departure from Yale, working to transition tasks and responsibilites to new people and writing endless documentation to explain how to do it. One week after I retired from Yale, I got in the car with the cat and my sister-in-law and drove to Texas. There was no time to process or grieve because new things were coming. I almost never hear from the people I worked with and it’s as though who I was and what I did there doesn’t matter to anyone except me. I’m forgotten and left behind. Which is appropriate; I don’t want them mourning me, either, but people I thought were friends apparently were just passing in the hallways instead. And that’s hard.

So I have a new life now. Instead of being an experienced, senior person, I’m a youngster in a retirement community. I work part-time as a church secretary, making bulletins, writing documentation, maintaining the website. I sing in the choir, play Mah Jongg, and have friends. I’m also primary caregiver for my 90 year old father, who is increasingly fragile and forgetful. Never having had children, I have one now in many ways, and it’s difficult. It’s hard to know how to take time away when I have to be at the church at 8:00 a.m. six days a week, plus care for my dad. I don’t regret being here but I haven’t adjusted.

I miss my friends and am grateful to Facebook, with all its problems, for helping me stay in touch with people who knew me in my other life. I miss my cat, who died last May. I need a hug.

Mostly Lunch Dates Now

I’ve been booked solid for lunch every day for three weeks. Well, week days anyway, though I did have brunch on Sunday with my friend and catsitter. The other lunches, though, are with work friends and colleagues from the law school and main library. It’s funny learning lots of new things about them after knowing them for 8 years – one started her career in accounting before library school. Another was a professional singer before library school, and his library mentor and good friend of 30 years is someone I went to library school with 40 years ago in Texas. Things come full circle.

View from my new back porch

Above is the view from my Texas back porch, looking out at the golf course. Huge yard, lots of green, which someone else takes care of. It’s very peaceful and open and I’m looking forward to seeing it every day.

I ordered moving announcements from Vistaprint to make it easier to let folks know my new contact information. While I was at it, I also got new genealogy business cards. I still haven’t really thought about a business name or plan but I do need people I meet through genealogy circles to know how to reach me and what my credentials are. New cards are easy and inexpensive to get when I do decide on a name.

There are so many things to do when I get to Texas, getting started things. Car things to do – transfer insurance, inspection, registration, driver’s license. Find a new vet for Tessie. Figure out where to get her food. Investigate Texas medical insurance. Register to vote.

Some I can’t do until my stuff arrives, which could take up to 18 days because it’s such a small load. I want to completely reorganize the kitchen, taking out everything, cleaning the cabinets with wood cleaner and lining the shelves and drawers. Dad doesn’t care as long as he can find the basics, and those won’t be moving. But this will be my kitchen and I need to be completely comfortable working and finding things in it. Doing a little thinking now means final decisions on what I will take.

Doing things is easier than processing what’s happening. I’ll have time for that. For now, it keeps me focused to have lists of tasks with deadlines.

Being In the Zone

I spent last weekend evaluating 179 program proposals submitted for our annual meeting next summer.  We can only pick 63 of them, so we need to make wise choices, and that means reading each with care, assessing the topic, speakers, description, learning outcomes, level, time length, competency area, whether the topic was recently done, does the program overlap with others proposed, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve done this twice before, once as a member of the committee and last year as I shadowed last year’s chair, so I have experience in working through this whole thing.  But it takes uninterrupted time, focus, concentration – and being In The Zone.  I finally got there this weekend, as I made my second pass through.

The table was completely cleared of everything except my Big Notebook, lists of program rankings, final programs from the last 2 conferences, my pens and markers, and the laptop on the chair next to me for quick reference (doing “find” searches through the lists to make it easier to locate duplication).  On, and No email, no surfing, no TV.  My iTouch was hooked up to speakers, softly playing a mellow playlist on an endless loop, and the kitchen was nearby for water bottle replenishment.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and scattered, I was focused and purposeful.  I’d prepared by reading all of the proposals once already, dotting the pages with colorful post-its with notes and reminders.  This time I could really concentrate and had a context in which to see them all.

I don’t get in this zone very often with work; things are too fragmented with information and questions coming from every direction at once.  But when I can get into it, my mind is crystal clear and I’m extremely productive – and happy.

I need to find ways to build this into the office routine, especially with my friend’s retirement.  I’ll have more to do than ever and it would be easy to just be fragmented. I need my space to be tidy, interruptions at a minimum, soft music to help block out outside sounds and help me concentrate, and enough time to accomplish the task at hand, or at least in whatever time I allot for it on a given day.  Things to ponder.