Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive

Adulting, Happening the Things, and Poop-Based Technologies

Things that are basically fucking miserable: finally waking up after a major life/responsibility crash and being deeply aware of just how much shit one has to shovel to get back up to speed.

Like, just looking at the laundry, and stuff all over the floor, and the weeks-old e-mails, and realizing that groceries haven't really been happening consistently, and knowing that the only way out of all of it is to deal with it.

And, you know, that would be awesome except that as ability tanks, accumulated crap intensifies. So when you wake up on that morning knowing that Things Must Happen Finally, the difficulty level on the Happening of Things is absolutely ridiculous and totally inimical to the gradual reintroduction of Thing Happening.

Because if you Happen Some Things, there will still be a billion Things That Must Happen, and some of them will require an extra push because procrastination and inertia are both shockingly difficult things to confront and work with.

old-shovelSo maybe you figure, "Okay, I've got a shovel. I'll just take it easy and work my way through this pile as I have time and energy." Except that pile didn't just appear. It's the sum total of regular daily things left undone, and the regular daily difficulty level is already a challenge because you're not 100%. You're maybe 50% or 75%. So you do stuff, but the pile just gets bigger.

And that's if you're lucky. Because if you're not lucky, you'll be tooling along trying to get through this, promising yourself it'll get easier as you get stronger, just in time for the Shit Truck to mow you down and leave some new fresh Hell to deal with.

This is why picking up the shovel is terrifying, and why it can feel like leaving it where it is, or ignoring it, or nesting in the great big pile of shit feels like a reasonable life decision. I mean, if your options are: a) re-injure yourself trying to do a thing, or b) accept the status quo and/or perpetual downward spiral?

Well, let's just say that familiar pain is background noise.

So why even bother picking up that shovel? Here are some reasons:

1) Forfeit is no longer an acceptable option.
Not-doing is an automatic loss. Attempting to do at least comes with some potential margin for success. You might still lose, but at least there was a chance.

2) You do not exist in a vacuum; you matter.
I have yet to meet a person with no redeeming qualities, and who does not improve somebody's life by existing. It's hard to remember this if people never tell you -- which is probably the finest argument for small acts of kindness as a lifestyle choice I've ever encountered -- but even if nobody is saying it, you are beautiful. You are worthy. You are not required to hurt. You're allowed to dig toward the things that connect you, or to ask for help with the digging, or just to acknowledge the enormous pile of shit to others.

3) There's a light.
Sometimes you can't possibly move the whole pile, but maybe there's a thing you can get to that nourishes you and makes you stronger and at least gives you some comfort while things are a mess, and can give you a toe-hold on the whole shit-moving thing.

4) Something to do.
Maybe not right away. Maybe not even for a long time. It might even get worse for a while. You might fuck up and end up with an even more ridiculous pile of shit. But at least you got to have an adventure on the way, right? Vastly superior to treating life like a waiting room.

5) You are a mad scientist.
Human beings genuinely can move a shocking amount of shit if we try. We are wily and industrious and strong even when everything is coming down around us. We survive in absolutely murderous biomes. We have gone to space. We make tools and use reason and create art. And most importantly, we learn. We can spot patterns. We're freaky-clever. 5000 lbs of manure? That's not an impossible obstacle. That's raw materials. Admit it: building a castle out of that pile of shit, filling it with fireworks, and setting that bastard off sounds pretty cool, right?

6) It really can get better.
I'm not going to lie, it might take some time and a hundred false starts. The fight-to-reward ratio might suck. You might never get to be an astronaut. But having agency, even in a bad situation, is fucking magic. Never forget that if you are alive you can make choices and do things. "Better" doesn't mean perfect, and it doesn't always look how we expect it to, but it can and does happen. You can do this.

So yeah. Talk to me about life shit management. Talk to me about your poop-based technologies. Talk to me about small kindnesses, things you have blown up just to survive, and what you do with your shovel when the party's over and things are back in order. Talk to me about the things that make it hard to dig.

Let's do this.

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  1. The only thing I miss about the days before I got a bit more mentally healthy was my capacity for rage. It was the incandescent fury that got me through those really hard days when I had to build back up again. (My mother throwing me out, everything from 17-21, my divorce, etc) Every bit of anger and sadness and self loathing was pushed into this tiny space in my chest. It made me get up every day to do things even when I was scared because that rage a diamond inside me that kept me safe from anything that anyone could do to hurt me. It was not healthy probably, and I don’t think I could replicate it now. But god it helped me claw my way out of those dark places.

    My go-to thing even now for dealing with the hard things is scrubbing the bath tub. Feel depressed? Scrub the damn tub. Feel angry? Scrub the damn tub. Feel like you want to hurt yourself or sleep for days or everything is too fucked up to even think about? Scrub the goddamn bath tub until it is sparkling. Do not hurt yourself because blood will mess up this shining clean bathroom. Do not eat until you puke or drink too much because you just scrubbed this toilet to perfection and like hell are you going to throw up in it now.

    To double down on it, I go to the gym and see how long I can run. Taking a shower in a nice clean tub after that always makes me feel at least somewhat accomplished.

  2. Havi says just do one thing. Not one thing because it will lead to another or other trickster strategy, but because then you can go back to bed knowing you accomplished one thing that helps, and that sensation helps more.

    Personally, I like doing laundry because the machines do most of the work and it’s so obvious an improvement. Living out of laundry baskets is A-OK. Getting the kitchen under control is a huge task, but being able to eat well makes me feel so much better. I drag the laptop/Netflix into the kitchen, launch a marathon and wash away.

  3. Anton: I don’t have the rage, but I definitely have things that give me walls and distance and distrust, and that lack of connection some days is fuel. I don’t quite know when or if how that will resolve. Right now I think I probably still need it? Hm.

    I need a magic eraser for my shower. I could give this a go. And running? I need to restart. Last week Project Moose took a nosedive.

    Ann: Havi as in Shiva Nata Havi? Also, I have a lot of laundry. Wanna come over? 😉

    (I lie. I do not have that much laundry because I don’t own that many clothes.)

  4. Some poop logs are just too big to be flushed. The solution to that is to break them up into smaller-sized pieces.

    So, making a list of what needs to be done (whatever it may be), and then breaking each task down into its component parts. The list can be as basic or as detailed as it needs to be.

    Even though each task is a micro-victory, it’s still a victory, and at the end of the day, you can say, Look, I Did X Number of Things! And the written list is what helps me not forget all the little steps that it takes to do things.

    I, uh, also occasionally bribe friends to “help” me do stuff. Meaning, they come over, I fix them a nice dinner and a glass of wine, and they sit, supervise, offer commentary, and keep me focused and on task while I do whatever I need to do. It is surprisingly easy to get people to help you clean a bathroom when their part of the task is laughing and drinking wine.


  5. I encourage myself with a reminder that I can get the most extraordinary amount of stuff done in a day. Even in a low-energy day. And how satisfying that is.

  6. This works for me sometimes, but I have to be really careful. It’s easy for me to get into a cycle where I don’t do anything, and that turns more into a “see, actually I can’t!” than a motivator.

    When things are middling to good, though, it’s Eye of the Tiger, all day long.



  8. This speaks to me on a spiritual level. I was literally crying last night because I was so overwhelmed and frozen. I’ve been having THIS happen: “And that’s if you’re lucky. Because if you’re not lucky, you’ll be tooling along trying to get through this, promising yourself it’ll get easier as you get stronger, just in time for the Shit Truck to mow you down and leave some new fresh Hell to deal with” all for like a month and I’m so overwhelmed with everything I should be doing and wondering how I’m going to dig myself out of it while the crap just keeps piling up. I have health stuff that doesn’t help matters (both psychological and physical) but also this line: “because procrastination and inertia are both shockingly difficult things to confront and work with” resonated with me because yeah, I’m guilty of that. It’s in some ways easier to say “poor me” and act like life has just dealt me a bad hand, but personal responsibility is so empowering in the long run. I’ve gotta’ pick up that shovel and get to work. I’m keeping this blog on my toolbar so I can see it and re-read it and remind myself to keep fighting.

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