Why Do I Keep Getting In My Own Way?

Tomorrow is January 1st and the start of a brand spanking new year.  Some people make resolutions of one sort of the other.  I have yet to decide if I will make a resolution to deal with the title of this blog.  I keep getting in my own way.   It’s as if I stick one leg out in front of the other purposely to trip myself.  Frankly I think I’ve done this for a long long time.  

When visiting friends years ago he was remarking how when they had visitors and there were immediate tasks at hand she would decide to “dust the wheels on the fridge” instead.  In other words she would take on tasks not directly related, or on the ‘critical path’ as project managers would say, to getting ready for visitors.

Is this something you do?  There is some large task or issue sitting there in your mind.  It is something you must tackle or manage but instead these other non-critical, unrelated maybe irrelevant tasks jump out in front and you say to yourself “Hey, let’s do that instead!”

If you observe your behaviour somewhat dispassionately and from a distance, then perhaps you can take steps leading to improvement.  I know, for example, if I am going on a trip, particularly a trip that involves air travel instead of packing I will undertake tasks that should have been completed months before.  I will go renew my library card, those batteries get taken to the depot to recycle and I tackle that far corner of messy stuff in the basement.  Meanwhile the packing time grows shorter and shorter.

These past few weeks I’ve been getting in my own way  a great deal.  We were having a lovely party about a month ago and would be blessed with family coming to stay with us.  Instead of making beds and setting out towels, buying groceries and doing some cooking, I decided it was crucial to re-finish the front hall bench.  The bench was picked up at a neighbourhood garage sale and has been sitting in the front hall with its original look for 8 years and now I decide to re-finish it.  And I either can’t or won’t stop myself.


The old look
The old look
The new "distressed" look
The new “distressed” look

I get the bench done and decide instead of getting the house ready and such, well I decide to make marmalade and chutney.  Marmalade and chutney???  Why do I need to make marmalade and chutney right now?  But I do just that as the time for guests draws nigh. Even as I’m doing it I know I should direct my attention elsewhere.

Marmalade and chutney
Marmalade and chutney

And then this week I decided I need to untangle some chunks of yarn that have, as yet, no useful purpose.  They may never end up being incorporated into a project but I sat down and put in a good 2 to 3 hours untangling that yarn.  I’ll spare you a picture of untangled yarn.  

Amongst the many sayings our mother ingrained in us was “everybody has to have a purpose”.  And like all her sayings, there’s truth to it.  Perhaps I’m expecting too much.  Not everything you do has a great or higher purpose.  Most of us will never receive Nobel Prize, be awarded the Order of Canada or Citizen of the Year or find that every task we undertake is of great import.  

One way of looking at it is family coming to stay was an impetus to re-finish a bench that  might otherwise stay in its original state.  While we never got to sending Christmas greetings this year, the marmalade and chutney were nice gifts from the kitchen and that yarn might never be used but it gives me satisfaction not to see it sitting in a tangled mess.  Maybe it’s more about giving oneself a (sometimes misguided) sense of purpose in the smallest of tasks.

For example, writing this blog this morning, has questionable purpose.  I haven’t been blogging much lately and no one is clambering to read bits of wisdom from this keyboard.  But I’ve done it anyway.

I think I’ve just talked myself out of one potential New Year’s Resolution.

Tell me, do you get in your own way?

Housebound For A Day : An Observational Study of One

Today was a very windy, somewhat showery day.  There have been wind warnings and 21,000 homes in our area have lost power.  I had no need to leave the house and thought I’d spend the time on a variety of activities, many of them overdue.  One thing about re-wirement is you have more time to be an observer of life’s ordinary moments.  Here are my observations of a day of being housebound.   Fair to say there were 6 or 7 things I thought I’d get done today.  How could the day be summarized?

Everything takes longer than you think.

  1. A planned 30 minute DVD on exercise takes almost 60 minutes when I can’t get the DVD to play immediately.  It may be a generational thing (i.e. I am, as some might say, getting long in the tooth). where remotes are not intuitive.  I’d like to think it’s a technical problem, not of my making.  
  2. A plan to fill out a form online, a PDF form, ends up taking a looooooong time when I wasn’t able to enter any characters into the form.  Off I go to Google to search what the problem might be.  Look at the tool bar, look at the settings, look at things I didn’t know existed and in the end I gave up.  Convert it to text…or was it Word and muddle through it. 

I fell far short of the things I thought I’d get done today.  I did a number of things that I hadn’t planned as one thing lead to another.  A day is sometimes like picking up a thread and following it around corners and down stairs and into nooks and crannies when you should have just left that thread untouched on the floor.  

Now that I think of it, this day is not all that terribly different from days in the workplace.  At the start of the day you have great plans to accomplish a number of things but by the end of the day you realize a number of things will be carried over to another time.  The beauty of today is I didn’t have to go out in the howling wind to be inefficient.  I could do that without stepping out our front door.

Do you have advice for me on how to be more productive?  Some tips and tricks you use in your daily routine?

A Year Away From The Day to Day

Life’s transitions and purpose

If you are fortunate, you are able to experience many transitions in life.  Infancy to childhood, childhood to the teenage years from there to young adulthood and so on.  In addition to the transition from one age to another, we have many other life transitions.  We start out totally dependent on others, move to complete independence and for some of us we may end up towards the end of our lives being totally dependent on others once again.

I have known some people who have had very clear ideas about their lives.  As  a child they knew they wanted to grow up to be a (fill in the blank), they wanted to buy a house, have 2 children, travel and so on.  Lots of things to do, lots of things to accomplish and not a lot of time to do it, it seems.  


My mother had many sayings.  They are all indelibly burned into my memory.  They should be burned in for we heard them over and over again!  One of them is “everyone has to have a purpose”.  It’s true and it’s plain speak for a life with meaning.  We may feel  we have more than one purpose but it or they are there somewhere swimming around in our conscious or unconscious selves.  That purpose may be re-focussed as we go through life.  While very young, perhaps our play was our work and purpose, then school, adult relationships, a family of our own and a career.   Then comes a time when full-time work ends-for some they choose to say goodbye and for some the end is decided for them.  There will be quite a bit of that in our city over the next few years as there will be downsizing in the federal public service.

So How’s Retirement, They Ask

I stepped aside from full-time, flat-out work just over a year ago. Here’s my take on this transition:

  • Rewirement is the word. We need to use a new word for this stage in life.  The word is rewirement.  Retirement might have started out as good term but now sounds too lethargic, too flat, too, well, too retired.  I’m not retiring, I’m rewiring.
  • Everything takes longer than you expect.  I thought I’d be a lot more organized than I am one year out.  Boy it takes a lot of time
  • You notice more things. Not flying out the door to work early in the morning and returning many hours later day after day you have a bit more time to look at things with new eyes.  How long has that bit of the house needed painting?  Have I ever cleaned that closet?  
  • Photos do not organize themselves.  If you avoided tasks before you left full-time work, you will avoid them afterward.
  • Time and freedom of choice.  Whether you take up some part-time work, immerse yourself in old or new hobbies, connect or re-connect with family and friends, the choice is yours.
  • The day in, day out routine.  Don’t miss it one bit.  The people yes, the routine of up and out the door day after day, no.  I am fortunate to be doing some part-time consulting and find the variety and flexibility to be wonderful.
  • Connections are the key.  Life is rich and purposeful when we are connected.  Connected to our loved ones, our friends, a community.  Connections can take many forms and they are what give us purpose.  If you think others care a great deal about what you do or that it makes you something special, another of my mother’s sayings ring true.  “The higher the monkey climbs, the more you can see his ass.”
  • A lifestyle to be highly recommended.  Yes work is important and yes we get tied up in careers and things, however I would recommend life beyond full-time work for anyone who is able.  It seems a bit backwards that when we are younger, perhaps raising young children and busy with so many things that we also may have full-time work in our day. It’s upside down, really.  I believe many people would like to work part-time but circumstances don’t allow it.  

Life can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye.  Make the most of it. 

Have you found your life stages unfolded as you anticipated?  Do you have words of wisdom to share?

I Am Going to Live…How Long?

Yesterday the Globe and Mail sported an article titled “How long will you live?  Just crunch the numbers”   The calculator was created by Ontario scientists and is based on real data on factors contributing to deaths in Ontario, Canada. You have to think, though, it would have relevance in other places too. The crux of the matter for the data is the degree to which our lifestyle choices affect our health.  

Being the inquisitive sort, I plugged in my numbers into the calculator:  rrasp-phirn.ca/risktools     They ask questions about your diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, etc in the past week.  I have had a pretty “healthy lifestyle”  past week.  It was a good time to take the test.  The number for me…..96 years old!  Are you kidding?  My parents died at 52 and 61 respectively  (I’m older than that now) but 96-that’s a ripe old age.

Some reflections on the whole thing.  First, if I had done the test that reflected my lifestyle choices when we were on vacation recently, my life expectancy would have fallen for sure.  Second, indeed, I may live for some 30+ years yet and yet it could be 3.0 years or .3 years or, or, or.   And third the answer to planning for what’s next is somewhere between scouting out long-term facilities and not buying green bananas.

Anything But Syndrome (ABS)


Mankind is bent on discovering and labelling its activities and observations.  Take the weather-and all the terms you hear now that you never used to hear.  They aren’t necessarily easy to understand-a plain language course for some people who think these things up might be in order. Here’s a few in the weather vein (pun intended):

  • distant precipitation (aka I can see it’s raining over there)
  • micro-burst (aka boy, that was a short but heavy shower)
  • plough wind (aka a huge wind came through)

And so on.  


Then there are terms for the human condition, for maladies, for behaviours.  And if you look into the history of the condition, you can usually find who initially coined the phrase.  I figure why should I be left behind.  It came to me recently that I have a syndrome…it’s the Anything But Syndrome-shortened of course to its acronym ABS.  I plan to bring this up at parties and family gatherings.  It should flow nicely.  A conversation often might move towards an illness (someone has RA-rheumatoid arthritis or have you heard about the increase in the diagnose of ADHD-attention deficit  disorder) and I’ll slip in and say “and I have been having quite a time with my ABS”.  I should get credit for initiating the phrase-I googled it and it doesn’t show up yet. So it’s mine.  And the neat thing is the acronym is adaptable.  It can have subsets.

Anything But Syndrome (ABS)

It’s not clear just how long I have lived with ABS.  My life now-beyond full-time work has granted me opportunities to observe things I haven’t observed before.  There just wasn’t time before to notice it.  It hit me like a plough wind recently.  My cousin Cliff and I decided it would be fun and high time to hold a family reunion.  We got together in November 2011 and I agreed to do the next bit-contact some family members from each of the branches on the family tree and so on.  It wouldn’t take long.  We thought August 2012 would be a good time to hold the reunion.  And I had LOTS of time to contact people…there are 9 months between November and August.

ABS- in this case it’s ABR

I didn’t forget I had committed to contact people.  I thought of every other thing I could instead.   I asked people about their experiences in organizing reunions (let people know early , they said).  I didn’t have phone numbers, there were other things to do and so on.  The months passed and finally one day when rolling out of bed, I thought-there’s only 6 months left before a reunion no one knows about!  I had a full-blown case of ABS..more specifically ABR- Anything But Reunion.  That got me going and to make the rest of the story short-planning is underway and hopefully we will have a good turnout-despite one of the organizers’ living with ABR.

Over the years I now recognize several subsets of ABS in my own behaviour.  I have lived with ABC (Anything But Cleaning), ABS (Anything But Studying) and ABP (Anything But Practising) for as long as I can remember.  

I am likely not alone in living with ABS.  Perhaps we could start a support group.  Do you think you might be touched by the syndrome too?