Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Do It on Days You Can't Do It

Millie writes:

We all have 'em – those days where we just can't. Whether it's illness, depression or just boredom, we all have times where we just simply can't change one more diaper, weed one more flower bed, or file one more TPS report.

To paraphrase “Office Space,” it's not that we're lazy – it's that we just don't care.

Unfortunately, for most of us, not showing up for work just because we don't feel like it simply isn't an option most of the time. Diapers fill, weeds flourish, TPS reports don't file themselves. I myself am beginning Week 4 of The Shape-Shifter's Plague. It started out as a garden-variety cold, but every time I think I'm getting better it's because the virus has gone underground and is preparing some fresh hell for me.

Last week it was coughing fits that necessitated adult undergarments. This week it's boils. I have one inside my nose right now that has swollen my upper lip so much that I look like a Who in Jim Carrey's “The Grinch.” I have a fever. I can't sleep because my poor husband has seasonal allergies and spends the nighttime hours making respiratory noises that resemble an adenoidal hippopotamus gargling hot roofing tar.

In short – if I had a choice between writing how-to articles or having the bottom of my tongue tattooed by an epileptic biker suffering a seizure, I'd take the Hell's Angel.

However, in the the grand tradition of pioneers, martyrs and mothers through time immemorial, I am going to do it anyway. I am going to hate whatever I do today, so I may as well do what needs to be done and hope I'm stocking up a few karma points.

Put on your game face
. Even if your daily grind doesn't necessitate leaving the house, do your grooming. In the first place if you don't, you can guarantee that you'll run to the drugstore, where you'll stand in line behind Jensen Ackles

(probably while you're clutching a tube of Preparation H or a breast pump or something equally sexy, to boot). Secondly, as “Cosmo” as it sounds, looking better will make you feel better. At least, glancing in the mirror won't make you feel even worse if you've made some effort to look pulled together. If you're a woman and you wear makeup, slap some on. If you are a man, do whatever it is you do to your facial hair. If you're a person of either gender and you have hair, at least brush it. This is probably not the day for a major 'do, but don't leave it hanging greasy in your face.

Let it go. You know in advance you're going to be pissy today, so make a deal with yourself ahead of time not to engage with people in areas that are ticklish at the best of times. This is NOT THE DAY to start the convo with the teenager about his sex life, or tackle your boss about her breath, or start toilet-training that toddler. Make it easy on yourself and on the people around you (the people whom, ordinarily, you love or like or at least tolerate) by vowing that you will be oblivious to the idiocy all around you.

Eat real food. When you're in the doldrums it's so much easier to grab the crackers and cheese or hit up the candy machine or stop by the Drive-Thru than it is to cook yourself a proper meal, but a long run of bad nutrition can turn your day or so of The Blahs into a vicious cycle. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that we tend to avoid grocery shopping when we're in this mood and if we do go, nothing looks good but microwavable deep-fried cheese and the large bag of Mallomars. Boil yourself some eggs if you can't bring yourself to saute a chicken breast and heat up some rice, but get some nutrients into yourself somehow. Try and remember the Food Pyramid you learned in the third grade. Well, I learned the Food Pyramid, I think now it's the Food Parabola or something equally moronic. Point is, eat some real food.

Prioritize. If you suffer, as I do, from List-Making Syndrome, this is one time it'll stand you in good stead. Write down every single thing you have to do, then prioritize the things. I mean every single thing: Put “brush teeth” down there, right next to “re-roof garage” and “finish TPS reports.” You may find that you don't have as much to do as you had feared, but you may also find that there's a reason you are overwhelmed – you do have too much to do. (Don't do anything with this knowledge today; keep it, like Mary, and ponder it in your heart.) Do a few of the easy/quick things first so you can get some encouraging “Finished!” check-marks under your belt, then tackle the rest of the list. Intersperse the vital things with a few easy tasks to keep your morale up. Don't take a break unless you're pretty sure you'll be able to talk yourself into coming back. Once you do quit, even if you haven't finished it all you've done the most important stuff.

NEVER: Never get your hair cut when you're in this mood. Don't get married when you're in this mood. Never say “yes” to taking on more volunteer work in this frame of mind – say “I'll get back to you.” If you decide it's about time you told Ol' So-and-So what you really think about her, write it down if you must, but don't send the e-mail or letter for at least 24 hours. Don't quit your job.

ALWAYS: Accept help, I don't care how “independent” you are. If your 4-year-old sees you're struggling and offers to do the dusting, hand her a damp rag and turn her loose. She may not do it as well as you do, but when you see the streaky coffee table all you'll see is the love behind the task. Throw a piece of meat and a can of cream soup in the crock pot in the morning and all day you'll know that at least dinner is taken care of (at least, it is if you remembered to turn the crock pot on). Listen to music that moves you, even if it means sitting in your cubicle wearing ear buds and bouncing around like an electrified jello. Have sex, if you have a partner who's interested in things like that. (Think of it as someone “giving” to you, not as one more item on your To-Do List!)

Okay, I'm off to work. Frankly, I often wonder how women who aren't driven by a combination of guilt and the Puritan Work Ethic ever get anything accomplished at all!


  1. This is wonderful. In my world, guilt is a great motivator. I actually had to force myself to shower today, and after I showered, I had to force myself to braid my dripping wet hair before I leave the house (which I have to do soon because I have to return a DVD before the store staff comes looking for me). I did cook for myself but nearly burned down my kitchen in the process. This, oddly enough, made me howl with laughter, and the meal I'm going to eat in about 30 minutes is going to be the best meal I've eaten all month despite the loss of my favorite pot.

    You're just lovely. I hope you feel better soon.

  2. We DON'T get much done, frankly. That's why there are three baskets of unfolded laundry in my bedroom and a week's worth of mail on the table. ;-) Even those of us who aren't as motivated by guilt, though, and usually able to be moved by the possibility of embarrassment ("We can't let the cable guy think we live like THIS!!!").

    Also, I could be actively pumping a breast and applying my ointment, and I would probably STILL jump that man. Rowr.

  3. May, you crack me up!
    Millie, oh Millie. I'm SO sorry you're feeling poorly! This post was SO timely. I've had a horrid "Defiant Elaina Day" (D.E.D.--dead!) and had to give myself several marks on my Yell Check--one time earned TWO marks, just because of the severity of the... losing it.

    I will keep these all in mind for the next day I just Can't.

  4. I think those types of days were going around. Lets see, according to OD, maggie, mandy, myself and millie (Alliteration!!) were ALL having days full of crapola. Timely post. AS I was sifting through page after page of ehow pages that were about as helpful as a used kleenex, I found myself thinking of you and after reading this I wish YOU would write me an ehow on how to procure money for my business start up. It might not be any more helpful then the ones I read, but at least it would be fun and entertaining!

    Thanks for that piccie. I did not know that one existed. Yummo!!!

    (That have sex suggestion might have hit me differently if my dearly beloved husband looked like him! ;) )


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