Life under Lockdown or: what to do when there’s nothing you can do

collage city under lockdown corona 2020

Monday afternoon downtown – had to go to the office to organize some things even though we were technically already under lockdown.

It’s quarantine day 7 today. I’ve been from home since Tuesday, this will last until April 13, at least. I’m used to working from home and prefer it to most other ways of work (like office life), so this is not a problem for me. If I need something I can call my co-workers and I guess we all evaded quite a few meetings that in the end could be e-mails after all. Being the content loner I am, staying at home for days is rather easy for me because I don’t necessarily seek human interaction as much as other people might. To me, a lengthy phone call too can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. But – and that’s a huge but – I live with Wonderguy and our two kitties so I’m not all alone during the lockdown. This is something I appreciate very much and which can make all the difference for a lot of people.

 

All this noise … in my head

So it’s not the social distancing that made the last few days challenging for me but rather the constant influx of news and information from all directions. No matter if you talk to your friends, colleagues, and family or if you’re scrolling through your social media feeds: the pandemic is everywhere. It is important to stay informed and know what you should and should not do to help flatten the curve but can be overwhelming too. Sharing your thoughts and fears regarding Covid-19 is important and social media is the place to do so. We want to support each other by sharing our thoughts and emotions, kind words, funny memes, and other positive content that lifts our spirits and spreads some positivity (hopefully). That’s the blessing of our digital age and social media.

Then again, there can be downsides. I’m not used to so much news and I’ve felt overwhelmed and petrified often in the last few days and weeks. I quit watching television news 13 years ago because I don’t like how news content is filtered and presented on TV. I prefer reading about what’s going on in the world, so I get my daily dose of news from papers and magazines (online and offline). Depending on my schedule, my mood, and the international situation I often skip a day or two, because I don’t find the time (and nerve) to keep up to date. Therefore, refreshing the local news sites every few minutes or at least once an hour is an unusual new habit I developed thanks to Corona and one I don’t intend to stick to. My fuzzy brain has an even harder time focusing on anything when conditioned to expect new inputs every five minutes. As it takes 21 days to form a new habit I will get a grip on this and change this behavior asap. After all, this lockdown will continue for several weeks and even then it is not clear what will follow. So the last thing I need is my fuzzy brain being all over the place constantly.

 

Break the cycle – cut the crap

Over the last few days, I saw a lot of people on Instagram describing how they had a hard time focusing on their reading or work with all that is going on. This is a common sentiment I share. You don’t need to have ADHD to lose your fuzzy brain in the current news cycle. You want to stay informed on how your respective government handles the situation, you want to stay in touch with friends and family and you want to find out as much as possible about this virus that is threatening the lives of so many people. But at the same time one can only go so far … and stay sane, calm, and happy.

So what can we do to break the cycle? I for one decided to go cold turkey on news of any kind. I will stay active on the gram and google my way through the world as I usually do, but I will refrain from refreshing our local news channels/the Guardian/Reuters/… every other hour to ‘stay up to date.’ Wonderguy has a much healthier approach towards news and if anything groundbreaking happens, he will keep me posted. In the meantime, I won’t notice every verbal fart of the orange fucktard or the wigmaster of horror, but will only visit news sites once a day to stay in touch with the world outside (my head). Thereby I’m returning to my usual news dosage without this nagging feeling of emergency. This, I hope, will help me to calm down and get back to the things I should and could do in this situation. Like working on my thesis, for example.

Book Bill Bryson 'At Home'

Spirit of the day(s) … 

Seize the day (or night – whatever you prefer)

As I’m used to working from home, I have no issue with doing my ‘normal job’ away from the office. Working part-time I now save some time going to and coming from work, a time I could use productively. I guess most of us work from home right now and while some will adjust quite easily, this can be a huge challenge for others. Having a designated working space at home makes things easier since this may resemble a sort of ‘office’ some might miss. Calling co-workers and/or clients brings the social interaction some miss and helps you stay in touch with your work reality.

A lot of us may feel the effects of the pandemic crisis also regarding their workload. Working at an ad agency I prepare myself for weeks that might not bring as many jobs as we are used to – this will improve eventually but we will feel the result of this not only in our workloads but also our bank accounts. Anyway, this too shall pass – as long as I still got a job half a year from now I’m okay with cutting back.

Reduced workloads also mean more spare time, something that gives me an even better chance to pursue my goal of finishing my dissertation this year (I will regret sharing this ambitious goal here because the internet never forgets …). At present dissertation work comes in waves – I’m totally in the flow two/three days in a row and don’t even look at it for 10 days. That’s not a good ratio and there’s room for improvement. Having been sick for weeks was also hindering, though I’ve been well for a week now, so that’s not an excuse anymore. So for now, I know what to use my time and brain for once I calm down a bit …

Getting off the news ticker may not be doable for everyone and you may not even find constant news input as distracting and irritating as I do. So whatever is right for you, find your way to calm down and try to seize the day the way that’s best for you. Read that book, write that book, watch that show, call your friends, finish your paper, sow some seeds and plant some crops, sing, dance, exercise – do whatever you want to do as long as it helps you getting through your days …

Stay safe and healthy – take care!

Using a Traveler’s Notebook as a Bullet Journal (and more) – first impressions

Collage Traveler's Notebook closed and open

The new Traveler’s Notebook in black – already customized 🙂

As I stated in my last post regarding my February update, I bought a Traveler’s Notebook to use as my new main Bullet Journal and Notebook system. There are two main reasons for doing so.

For one, it’s a question of size and format. While I absolutely love my Dingbats Bullet Journal in regards to paper quality, design, and handling I find the width of 16 cm a bit too much – though this is a standard format for notebooks and suits most users just fine. I like notebooks that are a bit smaller, but since the Dingbats checked all my other boxes, I didn’t bother any further – until I found the Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
The other reason I wanted to switch notebook systems has to do with how I use my bullet journal. I will go into detail further below. 

After fuzzing about it for several days and discussing the issue with Wonderguy, I gave in. Because of my low buy challenge, I didn’t want to act like spending 65 € on a notebook and inserts is fine, but in the end I decided it’s worth it, which I explain in my last post (LINK). In the end, I purchased a regular sized Traveler’s Notebook in black as well as three additional inserts.

A new way to bullet journal

I use three notebook inserts in my TN as well as the zipper pocket für everyday stuff like post-its, rubber bands, and other things I might find useful. Of those three notebooks, I use one as a bullet journal, one for everything related to Ph.D. and academic issues and one for anything blogging and (creative) writing and reading. This separation of noteworthy fields will make it easier to keep an overview of the different parts of my life I need to focus on. Furthermore, if I fill up one of my notebook inserts quickly, I will only have to replace this single part of my planner and not the notebook as a whole. The other notebooks can stay where they are until I use those up as well.

collage 3 notebook covers

My three notebook inserts and my favorite pen, a Kaweco Classic Sport.

By thematically sorting my inserts, it will be easier to navigate through my notes once the books are full and filed. Additionally, it will also make my life easier because I don’t need to transcribe countless list and collections from one notebook to the other since I use my bullet journal insert mainly as a planner and for short-time lists, but still have my Dingbats notebook for curated collections like my reading list, book shopping list, diary writing and the like. I don’t have to care anymore to not waste pages or space in my bujo because otherwise, I have to do a lot of transcribing with all my list and collections. I can use my bujo insert anyway I want and if I have to replace it in a few weeks no harm done, I just start a new notebook. My longtime lists and collections are not affected by how fast I fill my bujo insert and how often I switch notebooks.

Back to the roots …?

When I started bullet journaling one of my main incentives was to bring everything together in one notebook. Monthly, weekly and daily planner, notebook, diary – all in my bullet journal. Mostly, this worked best for me. But because using my bujo as a diary too, my notebooks filled up faster than I expected and this affected how I kept lists and collections. More often then not I was too lazy to transcribe whole lists to new journals, so I just kept them in my old notebooks. As you may remember, when it comes to my ADHD riddled brain, out of sight is out of mind. So most of the lists in my old journals are simply forgotten.

Another issue Wonderguy frequently mentioned is the fact that my bujo is also my diary, which means that I should definitely NOT forget it anywhere lest I want strangers (or worse: friends or colleagues) to read about my innermost thoughts and struggles. While working at home this was no concern of mine, but once I started working at an office 5 days a week I realized what Wonderguy meant. While it might not be a good feeling knowing someone else could possibly go through your bullet journal because you forgot it somewhere, the feeling gets significantly worse when your bujo is also your diary. Having everything in one book has advantages, but there are also some downsides. And right now I’m about to find out which mix is perfect for me.

Regarding my diary and handling my lists, the split is working well. Knowing that I won’t have to transcribe my lists any time soon I work on them with more enthusiasm. When journaling I also have a better feeling knowing that this notebook won’t leave my home and there’s no need to stress about forgetting it somewhere anymore. And because it’s still in some way my bujo and not ‘just’ my diary, writing about my day doesn’t feel too much ‘dear diary’ like. So, for now, I’m fine with using separate notebooks for separate matters.

The planner setup

By splitting my bullet journaling habits up again it’s back to square one in some instances. In regards to the layout of my monthly, weekly and daily spreads I’m back to figuring out what works best for me. Right now I’m with a layout I’ve used before, but I’m not sure if I like it in this smaller setting. I might switch back to the style Ryder Carroll recommends and uses. On the other hand, I need a weekly layout to note appointments and dates, which is the reason I started mainly working with weekly spreads.

TN Bujo weekly spread

My weekly spread for March. There’s room for improvement …

Again, YouTube came to my rescue. Watching videos by Cissy’s Art Cafe and Sarica Studio, I found some inspiration on how to make my new notebook system work best for me. I will try this out in April. Maybe I just need to minimize the weekend segment of my weekly spread. I don’t use my planner on the weekends apart from jotting something down for the upcoming week, so I don’t really need “Sat/Sun” in my weekly spread. On the other hand, sitting down every weekend and doing a weekly spread like the creators in their videos do/suggest will give me a chance to get a better overview of the week ahead. I will see what works better for me.

Overall, I like the look, feel, and handling of my Traveler’s Notebook. I really like it. I even started a bit of scrapbooking and being more creative in my spreads. After all, I can use a different design and layout in my next notebook insert – which will probably come rather sooner than later, especially compared to my other bullet journals. But that’s one reason I chose to use a TN, isn’t it?


P. S.: It took me more than a week to write this post because I’ve been sick (not Covid-19, just a regular cold). I did my best, but if I sound incoherent or slightly off at times – I’m sorry!

Reading: “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

The bullet journal method book ryder carroll

“Studies have suggested that we have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. For context, if each thought were a word, that means that our minds are generating enough content to produce a book Every. Single. Day. Unlike a book, our thoughts are not neatly composed. On a good day they’re vaguely coherent. This leaves out minds perpetually struggling to sort this gray matter gallimaufry. Where do you even begin? What comes first? Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as “being busy.” Being busy, however, is not the same as being productive.”

I’ve started bullet journaling more than 3 years ago, though it wasn’t love at first sight (you can read all about that here, here and here). Wonderguy introduced me to the concept of bullet journaling and when I started, I was extremely under-inspired. Watching a video by Ryder Carroll in which he introduces the ‘bujo’ to the world I found the idea intriguing and interesting but wasn’t sure it would work for me. After halfheartedly journaling for a few months in 2016 I quit, only to return to it in the summer of 2018 after realizing that bullet journaling could be extremely helpful for people with ADHD – like me. What brought me back to the bujo was watching Jessica from How to ADHD explain how the BuJo could improve my everyday life (watch it here) and what she as a fellow sufferer advises to focus on (watch it here). This inspired me to give the concept another try since I’m always open to ways to optimize my ADHD me without meds. The second time around I tried harder, buying a new notebook and pens and getting more creative with my spreads and lists and the like. This time around it worked and I’m currently on my third notebook in 17 months. Overall, bullet journaling works way better than most organizational systems/methods or apps I tried over the years, so I’ll stick to it. Pinterest and Instagram are huge inspirations and I realized how much I enjoy drawing and creating bujo layouts, which offer me a creative outlet while also doing something useful and relaxing. As with Marie Kondo’s spark of joy, the bullet journal won my heart the second time around. 

And until roughly three weeks ago I never thought about diving deeper into the subject because hey, it works for me, so what else?

The Bullet Journal Method – the book

Well, in 2018 Ryder finally wrote a book about his wonderful organizational system called The Bullet Journal Method. I immediately put it on my wishlist and shortly before the start of my Low Buy 2020 challenge on January 1st, I decided to treat myself with a few more books (also thanks to my uncle and the invention of gift cards!!), amongst them being Ryder Carroll’s book. I read it within two days – probably because I had some previous knowledge but mainly because its conversational tone and the way Ryder structures the book make it an easy and inspiring read. Starting with “Preparation” concerning such topics as why we journal the way we do and how it could help you, he goes on to explain “The System” – a how-to bullet journal on a practical level –, which is followed by “The Practice”, a close-up look on how-to and also why to bullet journal on a theoretical and mental level, and “The Art” about additional important elements of a bujo. Throughout the book, you find parts that are designed like bullet journal entries to emphasize his point and illustrate Ryder’s concept of the bullet journal.

the bullet journal method book index

Though I’ve been bullet journaling for some time now I still found new insights and ideas. Reading the book I realized that I had completely misunderstood the idea of collections – instead of using them as a way to collect notes, ideas, or make a list, I always thought they were a sort of advanced to-do or shopping list firmly set at the beginning of the bullet journal and without any logic or system. I’ve never made any use of collections therefore, even though I made tons of lists, tracking my reading, collecting meal ideas, wish list of books I want to buy and sewing projects I want to tackle … I’ve just never thought of them as ‘(custom) collections’ and that I could use them in various ways and for different purposes, not just as some sort of shopping list.   

bullet journal method collections

Additionally, I’ve never worked on my goals in my bujo, mainly because I don’t think that much about goals and plans in general. Since my sanity canceled the contract with my mind and decided to go rogue on anxiety and depression many years ago, I refuse to make long-term plans because I think of them as a waste of time and energy. So much can happen in only a few weeks or days, I don’t like to plan traditionally and much rather try to structure my projects in a to-do list kind of doable chunks with a rather open schedule. So when Ryder tasks us with focusing on our goals and structuring them according to his system – 5 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 1 hour – I was overwhelmed, surprised and a bit angry at the same time. For one thing, I realized that I should probably review my goals and plans from time to time just to see where I’m heading. It doesn’t always need to be a structured plan, I can adapt it the way I want, but it indeed gives me a sense of security and structure seeing what I want to do, already have done, and may need to work a bit harder on. Still, strict timetables don’t work for me because they make me feel caged which in turn makes me furious and unable to focus on anything. I prefer deadlines that give me a certain time frame without scheduling every minute (okay, hour) of my day. Therefore, thinking hard about what I want to do in the given periods when doing Ryder’s exercise was a challenge for someone like me who much rather just waits to see what would come up – sometimes also for practical reasons in regards to working freelance jobs – than actively planning the upcoming weeks, months, or even years.

Another exercise I did not find to be helpful was one in which Ryder wants us to find ‘our meaning.’ To do so, he describes the exercise of “Two Lives” inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not taken”, in which we should write two different obituaries for ourselves, one for the self that took the well-worn path (stayed within the familiar) and another for the self that took the path less traveled. After doing so, we should reflect on the two lives we described, what we felt during this exercise, what we realized while writing the obituaries, which life we preferred and how we could integrate the accomplishments described in the obituary into our own goals. I found this exercise a bit pointless since I assume most of us prefer one of the two options long before actively deciding which life we like better, therefore following a (subconscious?) inner guiding when writing the obituaries. Also, as stated before, I don’t plan long-term, so I had a hard time imagining two different life paths that I could relate to. And while I did my best I was glad once it was over and could go on reading. Nevertheless, I found these exercises interesting if a bit underwhelming, because even though I’m not a planner and don’t intend to become one I realized that it couldn’t hurt to review my plans and progress from time to time – for someone like me, this is a huge realization. 😀

Benefits and Insights

“[…] the benefits of writing by hand stem from the very complaint consistently leveraged against it: inefficiency. That’s right: The fact that it takes longer to write things out by hand gives handwriting its cognitive edge.”

I agree with Ryder that one of the main benefits of bullet journaling is writing by hand: the haptic experience of the notebook itself, the countless options on how to tackle your special interests and needs in this very own notebook of yours is what makes the bullet journal unique. Everything you add, be it colorful spreads, creative doodles, various collections and whatever you need that makes it work for you is the special magic of this concept.

bullet journal method book monthly log

I thought long about buying this book because I already practice bullet journaling and I didn’t ‘need’ the book. I don’t follow Ryder’s concept to the t because I need some color and I’ve come to realize that I like drawing and all that (even though I’m shit at it …). Though I embrace minimalism in various parts of my life, my monthly spread is not the place to be as minimalist as Ryder is and that’s also what he mentions repeatedly: What makes the bullet journal special is how adaptable it is. You do you, and while he provides you with a concept and overall structure, what you make of it is up to you.
In his book, he gives an excellent overview of his method with an in-depth analysis of its concepts and ideas. And though you can find information and inspiration regarding the bullet journal all over the internet, nothing beats the original source. Ryder does not simply bolt through his ideas and topics, eager to fill a book with much information and hardly any soul. Rather, he gives insights into how he came to develop the bullet journal method in the first place and what fundamental issues lie beneath, such as the effects of writing by hand, or why rapid-logging is beneficial to the fast mind and why we should keep track of our goals (yes, even me …). Without reading this book I would’ve never realized how much more a bullet journal can be than just a ‘personalized planner.’ So if you’re already bullet journaling and feel like it is perfect just the way it is, you may feel no need to read this book. But if you are curious about what this concept could do for you apart from the obvious things so well documented on YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, you may want to give this book a try.

I am happy I did and it will continue to inspire and guide me for some time to come.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions … again

 

03-31-2019

So over the course of the last few weeks I again and again promised myself to simply stop most of my shopping, regardless of it being second-hand items or books or else. And it didn’t work. For one reason or the other I always found an excuse to shop, to buy new things, to spent money on stuff I did not need. Because I really got enough stuff already, all over the place …
Anyway, on Monday there will not only start a new week, but also a new month, and this time I really want this to work – a GRAND shopping detox. In order for this to work I have to find out WHY I shop until I drop, or. What am I falling for time and time again?
Bliss. Distraction. Relief.
In addition to the job I already got, I started a new job a few weeks ago. I’m still stressed, not so much by the work itself, at least most of the time, but by all the relational issues going on, finding out how the people – my colleagues – work, how they interact, how I should interact with them and, of course, also how I will cope with both jobs – so there is still a lot going on even though my initial fears dissipated. I still haven’t found time to establish a routine to get back into the never-ending drama that is my dissertation, and at times I’m so fidgety that I can’t even focus on reading though I have a really good book in the works right now.

So there we go, reaching for the iPad to look what has happened on my favourite shopping apps (mot of them second-hand shopping platforms) and the like; looking what I could get from Amazon that I’ve wanted to get for days, weeks, months YEARS but couldn’t or wouldn’t afford – ya know. And who would have thought it could take about three hours to find an adequate bento box to transport my lunch in?
Have you ever realized how many things you have to keep in mind when choosing the right, eco-friendly lunch box – on Amazon (of all places)? TONS. Which can take up HOURS of your valuable lifetime.
Not that I have nothing better to do — rather I’m not capable of doing or working on the more important things right now, so I go on a sort of compensation shopping spree. Eco-friendly, second-hand or the like, but still. Amassing stuff, again.

So, what could I do instead when feeling exhausted and intellectually drained but not wanting to waste money and energy on things I do not need (books are an exception – of course)? Reading, obviously. In the end reading is also a sort of training, and the more regularly I start to read — no matter how distracted I feel and would just LOVE to find out if there are any new second-hand Sandqvist backpacks available — the better it gets with time, meaning there will be less distraction, more joy and focus and therefore, in the end, less stuff.
Doing some research would be great too; since I have been “out” of my project for another four months or so, I again have a lot of catching up to do — the afternoons sans my second job would be rather perfect for doing exactly this so that I could not only slowly catch up again but finally also restart … again.
Also while we’re at it, how about some self-care? More sport and regular training sessions, no matter if at home or at the gym – I got some excellent equipment at home, and if I feel like that wouldn’t be enough, I can still hit the gym; furthermore, a bit of meditation, some yoga, relaxing a bit – doesn’t this sound just wonderful and stuff-less?
And, not to forget, some DIY works wonders at times. Instead of buying stuff – no matter if second-hand or not – why not take up sewing a bit more regularly? I could have sewn a whole new wardrobe in the hours I spent bargain hunting online in the last few weeks …

So, let the games begin. May the will to change grant me the strength to do so … even on the worst of days …

The Renaissance of the Bullet Journal

bujocover.jpg

Being all over the place is nothing new for me, as most of you will know by now. Apart from some serious ADHD doing a lot of freelance work (mainly writing and editing) as well as (still) organizing a dissertation may add even more pressure to my already overwhelmed mind. Furthermore, I have so many ideas in my head, ideas for texts, stories, what to read, which book to blog about, what to sew, and a lot more, that I mostly forget them and have neither the time nor the place to take a note… As stated before, I don’t use my cellphone for everything all the time because hey, there’s nothing better than wanting some down time and fortunately not remembering where you put your (silent) phone – this is pretty much heaven for me, so I’m most definitely the wrong person when it comes to productivity apps and the like. I need a calendar. I need a notebook. And I could really need a personal assistant, but unfortunately I can’t afford one. Also, I’m much to introvert to want to share my life and all that’s in it with someone outside my head… So instead I decided to give the bullet journal another go, after a rather half-hearted test of the concept two years ago (you may find some gibberish about it here).

After not succeeding last time I tried to adapt the concept for my needs, I decided to go in 200%, meaning I even bought a new notebook dedicated to the renaissance of the bullet journal in my life. The first time around I used an old notebook I bought years ago, which did not provide the best hardware and left me feeling rather underwhelmed by the results I got from my various layouts and doodles (a lot of ghosting, and also just plain paper, which in hindsight is not the best choice for a bujo – I now use one with dots). This time I bought a dotted Moleskine with roughly 200ish pages. Though I got some ghosting there too, it still provides a much better hardware for keeping and actually using the bullet journal …

My main goal this time around was to bring everything together in one place – not 15 different notebooks for different topics, but one notebook for everything, from my schedule to my to-do lists, my calendar, my diary and my various list for books I want to get/read, stuff to cook, ideas for my blogs and the like. Apart from all the notes for my thesis – my thesis notebook is not full and finished at this point – it seems to work this time around, at least it has for the last two months (yeah I know, what a milestone, two months and counting …). I even started to do some serious doodling and coloring, though this is light-years away from all those sophisticated and beautiful bujo spreads one sees on Instagram and Pinterest. But that’s ok, I like doodling around a bit, even trying my hand at some sort of hand lettering (or rather my interpretation of it) just because it’s fun. I got something called “daily recap”, which I use when I include some journaling in my bujo, so I won’t need an additional diary anymore. And once my thesis-notebook is full, I will include all my notes for my thesis project in my bujo, too. The big idea behind all this is to confine my chaotic state of mind and thought to one single notebook at a time so that I have one place to turn to to find my ideas, concepts, plans, memories, lists, and much more. I got a vintage label maker to put the dates of  the specific journal on the spine once it’s full, so I won’t get lost in various notebooks. So for now, it seems like a pretty good idea, and it feels like it’s a good way to tackle my ADHD state of mind…

bujocoveraugust.jpgAt least in theory. August is my third month with this new system of mine, I started my current bujo in early June. For the last three months I tried some layouts, seeing what works for me and what not, what is ok to design and draw and what is simply too arduous to do every month. I still experiment with some stuff – trying to keep a gratitude log has not worked that well overall, though I think it’s useful and important for someone like me; the spending log too has not worked out as planned, but I guess some things need time to get used to, so I will continue to include one in my monthly layouts for some time to come. I feel great with some other things – using the bujo as a diary and a work notebook makes a lot of things easier and motivates me to write much more in general.

habitandmoodspread.jpg

So much for the second try. Right now I’m still very enthusiastic about it all, and I hope it stays that way (I probably wrote that the first time around too). I long for some method to ease my mind and help me stay (get?!) more organized – not using any medication, there are days I can literally see my thoughts popping up and then slowly pulling back again, only to disappear in some sort of dark corner where I won’t find them again any time soon – the trivial and simple ones as well as the important and interesting ones. And when this happens I don’t have the time (or nerve) to look for just the right notebook to jot this special thought down – it’s at times challenging enough to find the one-for-all bujo in time to not lose the thought or idea. Maybe it works this time around. I dream of shelves filled with my bujos of the past few years while I stand next to it, all happy and organized and oh so polished.
Yeah well, one can dream …

FYI: if you want to find out more about why a bujo can be really great for ADHD minds, you may watch this very interesting and funny video –wonderguy found it for me and it helped me find a good concept for my current bujo. Enjoy 🙂

So many ideas, so little focus…

It’s a new year and we are encouraged to make a new start. Magazines, newspapers, friends, family, and pretty much the whole internet demonstrates some serious motivation regarding new year’s resolutions. That’s nice, and inspiring. But I know myself better than that — a lot of us do.

I hate Christmas, but I love the new year — not necessarily because of this inherent feeling of starting anew, all fresh and sober(ed up) and willing to make the best of the coming 12 months. I love the new year because it means last year’s merry shitmas is over and the this year’s merry shitmas is still really far away. Combined with the “start anew”-theme this feels wonderful.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference at Columbia University. It was interesting, frightening, awful, and inspiring all at once. It was also (hopefully) the climax of a really shitty episode of depression, anxiety, medication and all the other neat little shit that comes with something like that. Which means that finally, after nearly two years of good intentions that paved the way to my personal hell of frustration, I am ready to get back to work on my dissertation, like, actual WORK.

One main reason for this important step in the supposedly right direction is my fear of not finishing it at all. There will always be a job “I could fit in, after all it’s good money”, meaning since my dissertation is a sort personal project of mine — not working for any university or cooperating with institutions or the like — money work comes before work work, even if it’s not that important at the given moment. Right now, my monetary situation is okay (let’s hope it stays like that at least for some more months…!) so I can afford some work work. It’s my fourth year in this project, my sixth since I started this PhD — meaning it took me two years to finish all courses AND find the right material to work with –, and it’s about time to continue working on it more seriously, otherwise it may die the slow death of a passion project being sacrificed on the altar of modern capitalist delusion.

Furthermore, I got and get a lot of support, especially in recent months. Wonderguy is constantly looking for the right tools for me to find a smooth and distraction-free work space and flow (yes, ADD is greeting from down there, somewhere, always lurking around) and even bought me a new program — which I use right now — that will sync easily with my writing and working on my new iPad that I got from my uncle. And while I’m not necessarily a huge geek regarding apps and stuff and iPhones and stuff, this iPad pro works on a whole different level. Here too, Wonderguy uses his vast knowledge about apps — being the wonderful Apple Ipad/Iphone enthusiast that he is — to help me get the best out of my new gadget and boy do I love it! It’s huge, it’s got a pen, I can actually really use the keyboard because it’s THAT huge and therefor combined with my beloved Linux Lenovo it’s ideal to finally get shit done. I never thought I would be THAT enthusiastic about something like that, but this iPad already made some stuff a lot easier, and I just hope this enthusiasm in regard to the gadget itself as well as all the ways in which I can and already do use it will carry over to the actual task of writing the thesis. This paperless office thing (which sounds like and probably indeed is a slogan to promote iPads and apps) feels really good, which is a strange thing to say for someone like me, a post-it fairyqueen, taking notes constantly, scribbling on every piece of paper I can find, only to lose and overlook two-thirds of it once I could’ve actually used it. My my, I’m still totally overwhelmed by such a huge gift that my uncle gave me to show his support for my academic work on a practical as well as ideational level. I’m planning (and hoping) to live up to it.

So here’s to a new year’s resolution: get this shit done!

These heavy boots are not made for walking – meeting Oskar Schell …

book cover of Extremely loud and incredibly close by jonathan safran foer

I mentioned it before, Wonderguy gave me Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer as another part of our ongoing series “Goin’ to New York”. At first I was skeptical because I fear the child protagonist: many authors I read (Brothers Grimm, anyone?) use child characters to teach their readers a lesson, and the last thing I need right now is some elaborate lesson brought to me by 300+ pages full of moralizing undertone. But Oskar is a very special child and we got along well. Much better than I had ever expected.

Oskar and me

Apart from certain quirks that make him all the more tangible (though also at least ten years older at times) and the fact that I too (like most of us) lost someone dear to me, Oskar and I share another distinctive and at times very important feature: heavy boots. 

I read the first chapter of A Brief History of Time when Dad was still alive and I got incredibly heavy boots about how relatively insignificant life is, and how, compared to the universe and compared to time, it didn’t even matter if I existed at all.

I feel ya, Oskar. I do. I will not talk much about the book itself, because this time the connection with one character feels too strong and personal, an aspect that gets more important because of my current mental constitution. I gravitate around how reading about heavy boots makes someone with very heavy boots feel at the moment…

Oskar won my heart and mind in one passage that describes a situation I know perfectly well, even though not necessarily in this context, due to geographical differences:

It had taken us four hours to get to her home. Two of those were because Mr. Black had to convince me to get on the Staten Island Ferry. In addition to the fact that it was an obvious potential target, there had also been a ferry accident pretty recently, and in Stuff That Happened to Me I had pictures of people who had lost their arms and legs. Also, I don’t like bodies of water. Or boats, particularly. Mr. Black asked me how I would feel in bed that night if I didn’t get on the ferry. I told him, “Heavy boots, probably.” “And how will you feel if you did it?” “Like one hundred dollars.” “So?” “So what about while I’m on the ferry?? What if it sinks? What if someone pushes me off? What if it’s hit with a shoulder-fired missile? There won’t be a tonight tonight.” He said, “In which case you won’t feel anything anyway.” I though about that. 

It’s well in the second half of the book, p. 240, that Oskar describes this inner turmoil, but this was the moment I knew I will forever love this book, and this character. Because I know heavy boots, I know exactly how heavy boots feel, and I know how hard it can be to make something feel even ten dollars, let alone a hundred dollars. Sometimes it feels impossible, way out of my league. And every now and then, this ‘sometimes” becomes ‘often,’ and ‘impossible’ becomes ‘unbearable.’ Because these boots are so heavy I can hardly move. And because I’m a grown-up, I know that I’m on my own, that in the end of the day, I’m all alone in my head, alone with my thoughts, fears, and feelings. Alone with my heavy boots, custom-made for me.

‘Heavy boots’ – what a beautiful analogy

And these days my boots are very heavy. Though I’m looking forward to seeing NYC again, even look forward to presenting a paper and meeting fellow academics and people interested in my field of study, I dread the emotional and physical tour de force it will take until I get there. And I dread all these thoughts, freely floating through my head and messing with my synapses, much more than the fact that I will be awake and on the way for 20 hours. Fear, so much unfounded fear and panic: terror attacks, plane crashes, murder, death, mayhem. All that is possible – hardly anything is likely to happen exactly where I am at the time I am there. After all, this is the rather safe hemisphere of this tormented planet. I’m a rational person, I know that. But I also know panic attacks, anxiety, depression. Or, as Oskar describes it so poetic and also appropriate: heavy boots.

Oskar is actively working to counter his heavy boots, mostly by keeping busy, inventing stuff, designing jewellery and the like. This seems a good strategy though Oskar’s heavy boots and mine are two totally different things and what works for a fictional nine-year-old boy might not work as well for me. I’m not good at inventing and I’m not interested in jewellery; best case scenario is reading, worst case scenario is cleaning, decluttering, or rearranging stuff like there’s no tomorrow. Because a clean and tidy environment helps me to survive my mental chaos, so if nothing else works for me, this always does.

‘Heavy boots’ – what a difficult reality

At least most of the time. But not right now. And even though I feel like a whiny kid, I feel so stupid for not being able to get through this like all those times before, I know I reached a limit. I already had a lot going on in the last few months; this additional project, though it is a great opportunity and something I really look forward to, seems to be too much. Too much for my already hyperactive mind, my perfectionism, my aim of juggling different jobs and ventures simultaneously.

So I called my therapist today. I haven’t seen him in 6 years. It’s time for a reunion.