I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
A month and a half ago, I stumbled across this link
on changing habits, specifically with respect to nail-biting. I figured I'd give it a try, since I've been a lifelong nail-biter and absolutely nothing has gotten me to stop for more than a week or two at a time. I didn't bite my nails at all the week that Kit was born, so I knew it wasn't a stress response; it was something I could be distracted from, or too busy to do. Habit reversal training seemed like a good match for that.
I identified my nail-biting trigger: rough skin, corners, bits that stick out or catch or feel not-neat. I dug back in my brain for the self-observation techniques I learned from Headspace
and practiced observing myself as I noticed the roughness and felt the urge to gnaw it smooth. I redirected the urge into filing or moisturizing, or just sat there with it and experienced the feeling without judgment. I treated it the way I treat Kit trying to punch themself in the eye: "I see that you want to do that. I'm not going to let you do that. I will hold your hands as gently as I can while not letting you use them that way."
Within a month I'd entirely stopped biting my nails. Entirely. I wasn't even using my thumbnails as sacrifice nails. The urge itself is gone. Now I can put my fingers in my mouth or fidget with my nails and not want to bite them.
Two weeks ago I got a manicure, with beautiful iridescent beetle-wing-green nail polish. A week ago I got another one because I use my hands all the time and no nail polish is going to last for long--but I didn't gnaw any of it off. As I type this entry, my nails click on the keys. This is a very annoying feeling, so I'm going to get another manicure either tomorrow or Friday and get them filed a little shorter this time. I can see a near future in which I become one of those people with a fancy nail polish collection, though I will always prefer having someone else do my nails to doing them myself. emilytheslayer
has promised to put nail wraps on me at Readercon, and I might try making my own nail wraps with nail polish
or origami paper
, as it seems easier than painting directly onto my nails (which I am spectacularly bad at).
I'm very lucky that my nails grow very fast and are thick and strong and healthy. If my nail beds weren't so short, you'd never know that I used to bite them. I hope that if I leave them just a little longer than I actually want them, over time the nail beds will regrow--though it's hard to know whether that can even happen after 30 years of biting.
Meanwhile, on the front of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one, I've flossed my teeth every single night for almost 28 weeks, with the exception of the night X was in labor. That one I did by keeping a tally in dry erase marker on the bathroom wall--dry erase markers write very well on shiny white tile--and telling myself that if I missed a night I'd have to erase my entire progress and start over. My goal was absolute compliance. (I feel entirely justified in giving myself a pass on the single exception; it was an exceptional night.) This is a pretty hard-line approach, but I'd previously tried simply tracking my progress as a positive incentive and it wasn't quite effective enough; it had worked for getting me into a twice-a-day brushing habit, but flossing eluded me. Obviously, the longer my streak went, the less I wanted to break it, and the combination of increased practice and increased incentive was very powerful. After meeting my initial goal of 26 weeks I stopped keeping the tally, but the habit appears to have stayed. It's now just a thing I do.
It feels really good to be the sort of person who works on self-improvement at age 37, and is successful. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself. And I'm really looking forward to bragging at my dental check-up on Friday. :)
Thus ends my lengthy streak of TMBG subject lines, but this Tom Lehrer quote is too perfect to resist.
I haven't cried since Saturday afternoon, so I think the PMS is finally gone. In its wake I've been astonishingly productive and contented. All the parts of my brain that were hormonally offline have come back with a vengeance.
Dishwasher filled, run, emptied, refilled, run again. A load of laundry done. Work to-do list complete. Baby shower prep complete. Work inbox zero. Personal inbox 1, and that 1 is a chatty email from mrissa
. Writing to her is my reward for getting everything else done.
When my OCD gets wound up, I have this feeling like if I just do enough things then I will reach a mythical state where everything is done and I can relax. Tonight I feel like I've actually attained something like that state. It's wonderful. I could list all the remaining undone things... but I won't, because none of them need to be done tonight, and that's enough for me. I have regained my ability to set them aside, to boomerang them out of my mental inbox (how fucking great is Boomerang for Gmail
, by the way? I don't know how I lived without it) and trust that I'll remember them when the time is right. Hello, brain, I missed you. Welcome back.
I really want to savor this moment, when the house is clean and my belly is full of good homemade food and the work is done and everyone is sleeping and soon I will be too. This is a good place to be.
If you say the word "clafouti"
to me or my brother, we will immediately start giggling. This is because my mother spent several months in a clafouti phase, making every possible type of clafouti: sweet, savory, small, large, for breakfast and lunch and dinner and dessert, clafouti unto forever. We eventually staged a revolt until she agreed to stop making clafouti.
There was similarly a homemade marshmallow phase. (The one I remember best was the savory basil marshmallow, served in a bowl of tomato soup.) And there have been several iterations of the monochromatic meal phase; that one is not so much a phase as an orientation, really. And there's the Simpsons
episode where Marge is hammering tiles on the roof and Homer says "Marge, it's three a.m.! ...shouldn't you be baking?" and yep, that's my mom. (And me. And my brother. And, I suspect, my uncle. In case anyone wondered whether this sort of thing was genetic.)
Anyway, I have been testing this horchata recipe, and recipe testing is perfectly fine and normal, nothing wrong with that, but then I looked up horchata on Wikipedia, and now I'm contemplating horchata cubana
and tigernut horchata
(I love the Spanglish on that page) and Puerto Rican sesame horchata
thinks would be gross and I think would be delicious, like a liquid version of one of those sesame and honey candies) and horchata cocktails and all these recipes
(FRIED HORCHATA ZOMG) and I want one of these machines
and oh god it's a horchata phase
and I'm turning into my mother
I suppose every woman has a moment like this at some point in her life. And at least I recognize the danger of entering into a horchata phase, and I can reassure myself that this is what tagging is for and I can always put the recipes away for a while and then come back and find them exactly as I left them. Which I will totally do. Right.
Unrelatedly, while looking through posts on various recipe blogs, I found the best spam comment ever
on a recipe for Guatemalan oatmeal horchata
. I am in awe.