Spring Clean… up your life

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I’ve been having a lot of issues getting a new post written, I even had half of a post drafted for the past two days and just decided to delete it entirely. The post was largely passive aggressive towards my husband (full disclosure because I’m trying to remain honest on this blog) and our little mini kitchen makeover. Going into the details would be tedious (as tedious as painting cabinets) and very involved for a very basic cautionary tale.

Here’s the short of it: don’t paint your cabinets (without doing TONS of research first).

Here’s a little longer version: wood tannin and wood stain have oil which is not conducive to latex based anything EVEN if you sand everything first. You need to prime with an oil based, enamel or stain blocking primer first and then carry on with the appropriate paint for your primer. The oh-shit-I-already-sanded-primed-and-painted-two-coats-of-paint-on-everything-and-it-took-me-an-aggregate-10+-hours solution would likely be to clean the stained spots, dry them, use a water-based stain blocking primer and then paint over that. I bet you can guess what experience we had. Stay tuned to see if that solution actually works.

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So anyways, after hating how boring my cabinets story was and how unnecessary it was to complain to everyone about how my husband doesn’t listen to me, I deleted everything and started anew and now here we are.

Speaking of starting anew, we’re on the precipice of spring and not to sound cliche, but I think it’s time to clean. But I don’t really mean clean, I’m pretty good at that in any season. My life, like most other young adults these days, is very busy and also full of ups and downs. When you have a mental disorder there seem to be a lot more downs and they’re normally pretty deep but something everyone can relate to is a little bit of seasonal affective disorder which I think is where this whole concept of spring cleaning comes from. Our motivation picks up when we’re happier (or contented) and so the big deep cleans that happen in the spring would presumably be prompted by a little extra motivation that comes from the end of our winter “blues”.

I would argue that the worst part about being depressed isn’t the crying spells or the constant feelings of hopelessness but rather the lack of motivation. I think the lack of motivation is why so many people STAY depressed or live with their depression instead of working on it. When I was younger, I “tried” to get by with the least amount of effort. This was partially by rebellion’s fault but so much depression played into it as well. With my adult depression, my motivation has remained low but I’m a little better at forcing it. I can force myself to be selectively motivated. I can hyper-focus on keeping up with something that’s easy for me to keep up. I can keep up the friendships that are steadfast. I can keep up the house. I can even keep up the house projects. I can keep my dog alive. These probably sound like really lame accomplishments in life maintenance but this is what I can do and this is what I can force myself to do.

I SHOULD be working on my marriage, learning how to be more affectionate, exercising more, creating better spending habits, hell, just creating normal healthy habits like making the bed every day. I should be eating more consciously and figuring out how to grow in my career and maybe even pivot into something I actually enjoy and not just something I’m good at. Coincidentally all of these “shoulds” are things that generally help people with depression to function better, sleep better, be better. But here they are, all in the “should” bucket.

Some (my husband especially) would say I’m in love with being outside. This is relevant, just stay with me. I like to eat outside, sit outside, hike, bike, camp, kayak, work, walk, whatever gets me outside, I like doing it. Nature (or just regular old outside) is what fuels me, I don’t even remember when the switch was flipped. Maybe it had something to do with a camping trip I went on in high school where we had “class” outside in the wilderness of Michigan and northern Wisconsin. We discussed bio-ethics, religion, philosophy, writing, and self discovery after long coursed out bike rides or kayak trips. Something about this trip really resonated with me and has constantly reminded me how nurturing and necessary nature is in our lives. Like all good things, my mental disorder has managed to taint this love of being outside by making it a constant source of anxiety. I actually get ANXIOUS if it’s nice out and I cannot be outside. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this but whatever, I wish I were exaggerating. I feel panic and disappointment if I “miss” a nice day. If someone were to ask me what I think life would feel like without depression, I would say it probably feels something like the way a sunny, 70+ degree day feels when I get to spend it outside.

So now that we know this, let’s remember that it’s the beginning of spring in St. Louis. My weeks are dotted (sporadically) with sunny, life-giving, 70 degree days. I’m being teased with this phony feeling of happiness mixed with the anxiety that comes with the turning forecast. This is my opportunity to skate off the ramp of fabricated motivation! It’s time to clean my life up.

If you were thinking I had some wonderful plan as to how I will be doing that – I don’t. My plan is mainly the idea of being prepared for this “surge” in motivation and trying to direct it towards more than just the easy things. This blog is arguably part of this plan. This is like mild accountability. The 5 people that read this are aware now that I’m trying to clean my life up and that involves a lot of things. That involves getting back into shape, eating better, focusing on my career trajectory, and spending and saving money more prudently. This is an incredibly daunting list but I have learned to set the bar very low. I’m okay with how terribly deadbeat that sounds, I just know it’s what I need to do. At this point, going to the gym 3 times a week is a win. Drinking a green smoothie for breakfast even on a day where I know I’m going to be eating bar food for dinner is also a win. Saying “no” to plans that would quickly lead to big bar tabs and dinners out is a win. Looking at my phone less – win! Changing my cardio at least once in a week – win!

I don’t believe I need to celebrate these very small victories, but I do believe in recognizing them. Skipping the gym and taking a walk instead is better than skipping the gym and cracking open a beer at 4pm. Being incredibly aware of small successes can help create habits out of these successes. When small habits yield growing success, you get more ambitious with them.

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(this is old, don’t congratulate me)

When my husband and I were getting “wedding ready”, we had two very different experiences. There are a lot of things that contributed to these differences like the fact that he’s 6’4″ and I’m 5’4″ (and a half!). Or the fact that we were both trying to get into running but he’s naturally inclined to be good at running and I’m just not made to run. These differences had huge impact on our respective weight loss success and therefore impacted our individual ambition. Matt excelled at running and the weight fell off, I struggled to feel good about any of my workouts and the weight loss was slow and unsatisfying. You get the picture. This is why I’m trying to focus on good changes that make me feel successful and allowing myself to deviate from my natural inclination to compete (even with my husband) and compare.

In the interest of finally posting this entry and getting past my blogging block… I will wrap this up. For all of my fellow depressed friends, I hope you get to experience some sort of motivation from the impending spring. I hope we will take what little push we can get and do something difficult with it. Don’t forget that not everything has to be a victory. Right now I’m about to go spend 4 hours at a beer fest but not before drinking a green smoothie and mentally planning on going to the gym tomorrow. And if I do, in fact, go to the gym tomorrow – WIN!

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