In an ideal world, my average day would look something like this:
6am: Wake up, get out of bed, do some exercise and some yoga
7am: Eat breakfast, get washed and dressed
8am: Sort the child out, do school run
9am: Tidy, start work, write
12pm: Lunch, do some meditation
1pm: More work, more writing
3pm: Make list of the next day’s tasks, retrieve the child, do homework, play for a bit
6pm: Throw child in bath, tidy up again
7pm: Get stuff ready for the morning, put child to bed
8pm: Make list of jobs/appointments for the next day, read a book
10.30pm: Go to bed
Look how simple yet productive that is! It’s brilliant. Unfortunately, my current average day looks more like this:
7am: Get up, drink coffee and sit with a thousand-yard stare for twenty minutes
8am: Get dressed, argue with the child, rush to school, almost end up late because the child has to hug her dolls at the gates as it’s the only thing that will stop her crying when I drop her off
9am: More coffee, stare at the wall again
10am: Finally wake up properly, do a half-arsed job of tidying
11am: Realise the coffee isn’t working, have a nap
12pm: Sit on the sofa, drink a stronger coffee, try to stop being confused
3pm: Wonder where the last three hours went, collect child from school, have a sit down
6pm: Put child in bath, have a sit down
7pm: Get stuff ready for the morning, have a sit down
8.30pm: Finally put the child to bed, spend an hour yelling through the wall at her
10pm: Make lists for the next day, put as few items as possible so I can take it easy
11pm: Think about going to bed
3am: Go to bed
This is just terrible. And it’s even worse at the weekends and during school holidays. They’re always a ‘day off’. I don’t need days off; I don’t have any days on.
The thing is that I know how much more productive I am when I have a routine to stick to. I can get so much done if I know where I’m supposed to be and what I’m meant to be doing at any given time. I grew up with grandparents who were incredibly set in their ways, and when I actually had to conform to their routine I found that it did actually work for me. And they were very set in their ways, believe me. You always knew what was for dinner depending on what day of the week it was (and it was the same thing, every single week). There were set days for absolutely everything – even tasks as menial as dusting the ornaments, and when they went out at the same time every week to the same social club they always went to, they sat in the same seats every time and ordered the same drinks and probably had the same fucking conversations with the same bastard people and… fucking hell, that’s not a proper life, is it?
Well, something that strict probably won’t work for me. Breaking my day into chunks that are filled with tasks that need to be completed, however, is definitely more helpful than being left to my own devices. But that’s part of the problem: left to my own devices, I’m likely to get bored or distracted and just wander off from the job at hand. When I was looking after my grandad and had to adopt his routine, it was easy because I didn’t really have any choice in the matter. Now that I do have a choice, it turns out that I have a motivation problem so I just choose the easy option every time. There are no consequences to my actions because I’m only letting myself down and I already think I’m useless and lazy so that doesn’t change anything. Coming up with a routine isn’t enough by itself; I need to figure out how I can actually make myself follow the routine and stick to it, whether that involves a bit of hard work or trickery and self-deceit.
Right now the only thing I do every day without fail is read my daughter a bedtime story. The only reason I don’t let myself get away with not doing it is because in my head it is important. It is important that she enjoys books, it is important that she hears weird and wonderful stories, and it is important that I spend time with her like that. Other things don’t matter to me in the same way. Even my own studying doesn’t feel important to me in that way – I’m proud of what I’ve achieved over the last few years but the feeling of pride that comes from achieving a decent mark even when I’m under pressure, I’ve run out of time and I’m behind on the course materials is accompanied by the feeling that I could have got a much better mark if I’d actually properly tried. I know that’s true, yet each assignment is still done at the last minute and generally involves an obscene amount of cramming.
To butcher a couple of quotes often attributed to Einstein, it is insanity (or stupidity) to expect things to turn out differently when you continue to do the same things you’ve always done. No amount of lists that I make or how fancy I make the pages in my bullet journal, I will never actually change the way things are unless I change the way I act. And I fucking hate change: that’s the whole reason I need the routine in the first place. My action plan is designed with avoidance in mind; if I don’t have to do something and it’s not important enough to be worth my time and effort, then it doesn’t make the list. And half the time I wake up tired and don’t even bother to look at the list because the list is only important to me on my terms.
It would be very easy for me to absolve myself of responsibility here and write it off as an unavoidable symptom of borderline personality disorder – and, in all fairness, there are a number of traits typical to BPD that could lead to this kind of behaviour. A fucked-up sense of self can make you feel as though you’re unsure about what you’re supposed to be doing, which in turn leaves you feeling unsure as to whether something is actually important or not. That’s if you can even choose something in the first place, as sometimes the mere thought of prioritising tasks can overwhelm you into inaction. Then there’s the impulsiveness, the inability to work at something which offers only a long-term reward and not immediate gratification, and the feeling of emptiness that leaves you wondering what the hell the point of it all is anyway. And if you somehow avoid all of that for a while, you’ll have one bad day where you can’t control your emotions which means you can’t concentrate on anything BUT your emotions, and then the resulting chaos will leave you right back at step one where you’re unsure about everything again. The demon of self-destructive behaviour is constantly on your shoulder, constantly waiting for something to happen that gives him an excuse to fuck with you. The sly little bastard.
However, as easy as it would be for me to pin all the blame on my broken mind for my low productivity, I refuse to do so. I feel as though that would be writing myself off. Absolution of responsibility only comes in the form of surrender; if I accept that I have no control over the cause of the problem then I have to also accept that I have no control over its solution, and that is power that I am unwilling to relinquish. I realise I can only speak for myself here and that other people don’t necessarily feel the same way – and I also accept that I could be in denial about the whole thing – but I feel as though it could very quickly become an excuse for every other problem, including problems that could have been avoided had I not convinced myself that I have no control over any aspect of my behaviour. There’s no hope whatsoever if I have no control, so if I am in denial then just let me stay here. Even just typing that up has made me realise just how long I’ve been trying to fix myself and how long I’ve been promising myself I’ll start tomorrow and now that’s making me think that maybe I am just irreparably broken and maybe I should just give up… It’s all ammunition for the shouldergremlin, and I am fucking sick of his shit.
So. I’m going to start my routine slowly, and incorporate new things over time as I work out which changes work and which ones don’t. I’m going to figure out how to convince myself that each change I make is hugely important, regardless of its actual importance. I’m going to start with sleep. I like sleep. Sleep stops me acting so fucking crazy; lack of sleep slowly shuts the more evolved parts of my mind down until all I’m left with are animal urges and a constantly wrongfully activated fight-or-flight response. Once I’m asleep I sleep wonderfully, it just takes me a while to get there. Days, sometimes.
Unfortunately, it’s 4.30am. But I promise I’ll start tomorrow.