One Foot in Front of the Other
It’s a song I vaguely remember from my childhood (or perhaps from my daughter’s or son’s childhood) … I Google it, wondering whether it was a movie soundtrack, or a 45 record on my portable record player … and I find it as part of the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” animated television show: Put One Foot in Front of the Other. ‘Tis the season, after all. So much to do, so many ideas and plans to approach and fulfill. Why does it seem so hard, when it can be so rewarding?
The first challenge is to remember what it is I planned to do each day. I began a few years ago writing notes to myself, but recently finding the notes is difficult. And so I have a new plan: I’ll write my ideas and wishes into my journal, and then review the previous day before starting the next.
The second challenge is to keep my energy levels more stable. Often I wake and know that I slept well and have enough energy to accomplish, say, a small quilt. After breakfast, I begin gathering the materials, cutting the pieces, planning the design, sewing the blocks together, measuring and cutting enough binding and border strips, then cutting the back and batting, then putting the layers together, then quilting, then closing the binding. If I spread this out over two days, I won’t exhaust myself. But if I impulsively keep working at it late into the night, and finish it in one day, I’m beyond tired.
My sleep is then restless, troubled with dreams of being lost, or of looking for someone or something that is lost … those dreams are so vivid that I often wake from them knowing I need more sleep. Some mornings I may not get up for breakfast until almost lunch time ~ a luxury that retirement affords me. On those days following a burst of energy, I might need to sleep for twelve hours two nights in a row, rising at the end of morning.But on some mornings, I have to rise earlier to get ready for a doctor’s appointment, sometimes in Cambridge or Brookline or Framingham.
If a morning appointment follows a day of spending energy, I won’t be worth much during the medical appointment. I’ll listen politely to the doctor, and try to join into the questions and answers, but on the ride home I’ll likely fall asleep as Rick is driving. He will help me by recalling with me the appointment details later in the day. I am fortunate to have his company at each appointment, and I depend on that. He remembers more than I do when I am spent. He is patient and retelling the events of the day, and in helping me remember what was said in the discussion.
What I need to do now, to help myself keep that impulsive energy-spending in check … to avoid the two-day recovery period … is plan projects in smaller increments. I need to downsize my closet again – if I plan to do that and sort the drawers in my bureau and in Rick’s the task becomes overwhelming, and I’ll more than likely avoid it, or dive headlong into it and spend too much energy and need that recovery period. If I want to go for a walk, I’ll plan with Rick a reasonable turn-around length so that I won’t be so worn out that nothing else can be accomplished that day. And if I want to make a quilt, I’ll limit those aspirations to making the front in one day and putting the front, back and batting together on another (which reminds me, I have three completed quilt tops waiting for backs and batting in the fabric closet.)
What does this mean for my friends and family? I want them to understand that my energy levels are unpredictable … and the way I ration my energy is inconsistent at best. I know sometimes I disappoint others by either agreeing to go somewhere and then acting tired and disinterested, or not showing up at all. I want them to know that I don’t intentionally forget, or wear myself out, or choose other activities than they would choose just to be obstinate or stubborn. I want them to believe that I’m doing my best to be a good friend, but my best often won’t measure up to higher expectations.
In this holiday season, many opportunities to join with friends or family will arise. I don’t have the luxury of attending them all … I don’t actually know which will fall on a ‘good’ day, and which will fall on a day that will be lost to sleep. I don’t like to make promises that I can’t keep, and so I’ve learned not to make promises.
But I will wish each and everyone of my true friends and family the happiest of holidays ~ Happy Hanukkah is next week, and Merry Christmas soon after. And then there will be the New Year, preceded by the festivities of New Year’s Eve. Please remember – if I’m not in the midst of you, you are still in my thoughts. Enjoy it all, and share your stories and pictures with me.