Essential Goals

It’s a new month which means it GOAL TIME again. I’m stymied. I write S.M.A.R.T. goals. And I’ve been very good about writing a set of goals that cover EVERYTHING I have an interest in. I write my goals with the same maxim my Mom used for selling mobile homes: If you throw enough crap on the wall, eventually something will stick. And, I guess in a purely numbers game, it’s not a bad practice. My goals aren’t numbers and the purpose of them is to propel me towards the ultimate goals in my life. Instead, I’ve filled my life with busy work so I can avoid the one thing I’ve always wanted since I was 11: To Be a Published Author!

Ellen suggested I read (listen) to a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. So, I started listening on my way into work. I’m generally to tired and/or brain dead to listen to anything other than fluff on the way home otherwise I’d be done by now. He coaches leaders and management teams in the reality most management staff enthusiastically ignores: Everything is NOT important. Companies and people try to do everything for everyone and fail in providing anything of true value to anyone. His example was we try to go a millimeter in every direction instead of marshalling our energies to go in one direction where we can truly make a difference in our lives, our families and the world. That description summed up my goals perfectly. I was trying to achieve a little bit in financial goals, in spiritual goals, work goals, writing goals, family goals, health goals…..and on and on and on and on….and never really getting anywhere.

This book has come into my life at a very important time. I am no longer trying to dig myself out of the crap-hole I was in before and directly after the apocalypse. I am actively looking for a template, a concept or a philosophy to destroy the stumbling blocks of my past so I can build a strong foundation for my new life. The one blessing to be had beyond surviving the abuse and major depression is to to design and write my life the way I want it to be. I’m replacing the old psychological tapes with bright shiny CD’s of brave self-talk and I’m making the choices instead of letting the choices make me. I am scared witless, (honestly, when am I not?), but Mr. McKeown is helping me see through the fog of fear right now.

My journal entry on Saturday narrowed down the top goal, the only real goal I’ve had my whole life: To be a published author. All of my goals before had a writing component to it, but it also had spirituality, financial, educational, work, health and Misc. section where I was pushing through the whole year to mark off boxes on an annual To Do list instead of moving forward in one purposeful direction. I’m not saying spirituality, financial stability, health and education aren’t important I’m saying they are no longer on par with the ONE goal. There is a component of each of those ancillary goals in the larger one but time is finite and my share of it not committed to work and commute is even smaller.

I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m hoping he tells me there is an app that opens up when I try to enter a task or appointment and asks “Is this going to help you to be where you want to be in 5 years?” (The current goal is to be published in 5 years) so I don’t just willy-nilly say yes to someone/something that really won’t push me along the path I want to be on. I’ve made some decisions though. I’m not going to do my Christmas project like I did last year. I wanted to do hats and scarves for the homeless, or send them off to the refugees of Ukraine but I need to be writing. I will still crochet because it helps me when I need to work through a knot in a plot or I just need quiet time to let things ferment before I write. If I get some hats and scarves together before Christmas I will find homes for them but the “project” part has been abandoned. I feel bad, like I’m a bad person for choosing my goals over charity, and honestly, as I’m writing this I’m still questioning it. Another example McKeon made was a quote of a friend of his. “If it’s not a Hell Ya! it’s a no.” The project isn’t a Hell ya! Then again, exercise isn’t a Hell Ya! either but I have to do it anyway, both for health and to grow my stamina to write. I wonder how Mr. McKeown would advise me on that?

More to follow…..

Now, off to the goals…….

One Ball Juggler

A statement I made in my last blog Competent Confidence has been bothering me since I published it. “…I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time.” There was a time when I was actively involved in church, working more than full time, volunteering for The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, and chaired and coordinated the Wish Children’s Holiday party for several years. Not to mention writing with abandon. I was an avid Franklin Day Planner enthusiast, which is how I kept my life straight….mostly. I hoped the plasticity of my life would come back to me over time but it hasn’t. I’m not really expecting my life to spring back to my pre-caregiver days because 1) A lot of the frenzied activity I participated in was to prove to myself and other people I was a good person and 2) I’m older and a little wiser now.

I want to write. I want to re-engage in the world. I want to get my “gig” going to supplement my income to help me reach my financial goals. I keep having false starts on all of it. I am proud of the fact my website is up, pamelagartner.com, but I’ve not gone any further on that. I want to write everyday either my current novels, my journal or my blogs. So far, blogging here is the only consistent writing I’ve been doing and honestly, this is just opening a vein and letting it flow. To be a single, self-employed writer, by necessity, you have to be able to keep two balls in the air at one time. When you have your body breaking down and betraying you, you need to work-out, plan meals and eat right. (ball three) To be a member of any sub-set of the whole of society you have to be willing to go out, engage in activities, make friends and be a part of it all. (ball four) I am blessed with a truck-load of friends and family so, maybe a cadre of acquaintances and new experiences will be sufficient. However, I still need to do the basics for that.

My writing has always been the most important thing to me since I was eleven. I’ve always wanted to be a published author. I used to write (pen and paper) every chance I got. I used to carry a 5 subject notebook around with my school books and I wrote instead of taking notes in class or studying in the library. Later, I carried 5.5″x8.5″ paper in my Franklin to write when I was bored in meetings or on a long lunch. I loved the freedom. I’ve gotten so keyboard-bound the idea of handwriting now seems laborious and a waste of time so I’ve abandoned the practice. My imagination and desire to write has come back to me now the stressors in life are receding, and like a petulant child, the muse wants my undivided attention…NOW! This unrelenting presence in my head makes me frustrated with everything I do because I’m not writing. I try not to let my projects distract me while I work because I can’t stop in the middle of a blood draw or accessioning someone into the system to write down an idea, line of dialogue, or plot twist before it’s gone. This makes it doubly hard for when I get home because it takes time to get the muse to answer your calls when you’ve ignored her all day.

As I’ve been writing this I realize I’m expecting too much of myself, again. It’ll be five years this December since the apocalypse happened. When that life consuming, ginormous snow-ball of a task was finally taken out of the juggling rotation and I started to rebuild my life I expected things to spring back to what was my normal. It hasn’t. At times in the past half-decade I was gifted with time to re-write my last novel twice during the 18 weeks of convalescence of breaking my foot and then the three months of pandemic confinement. It was the only ball I had to keep in the air. During those times I was living my authentic self, and I LOVED IT.

My broken brain has conflated the idea I did all the writing while working full-time; successfully keeping both balls in the air, and berating me for not doing it now. I need to be happy I am able to keep the working-full-time-ball in the air without losing it. Putting pressure on me to get all the balls up in the air again and gracefully moving in artistic patterns and mesmerizing circles is only going to distract me from the one ball I have successfully flying now. Juggling is all about timing and stamina. As much as I need it, as much as the little demanding muse wants it, the timing just isn’t right for more than one ball until I am stronger to handle a second. Dangit.

Competent Confidence

A hundred years ago I used to (try to) sell mobile homes, or the proper term is Manufactured Houses. These weren’t trailers and none of them could be hooked up to the back of a truck and moved in the dead of night to skip out on space rent. When I started in the business the licensure was a step above used-car salesman. I worked at a now defunct firm in Santa Clara called Roney and Associates where the broker was ga-ga over a real estate sales guru called Tommy Hopkins. He was big in the business at the time and he did seminars, boot camps in Scottsdale AZ and sold all sorts of books and cassette taped lectures. Though he was an accomplished real estate salesperson, he made his hard core money selling his classes, books, boot camps and cassette tapes. My mother internalized a lot of it as a professional way to manipulate the family. Her mistake was to let my sister C and I listen to the tapes and we could hear the “close” coming and realize we were being played. I bring him up because one portion of a lesson has always stuck with me…

The Stages of Competence

Stage 1: Unconscious INCOMPETENCE

This is a euphoric state when you realize everyone around you is floundering and you’re sailing through. All the square blocks are effortlessly falling into the really large round holes but you’re too pleased with yourself to notice. You keep plugging along because it’s working and you aren’t sweating it.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

Suddenly the euphoria erupts into chaos. The round holes are smaller and the square blocks were actually pyramid shaped and they HAVE to go sideways into the only visible hole in front of you. You throw your hands up and scream to the heavens but you don’t quit because you know you can and will get it…..maybe……someday…..if they don’t fire you first. I will have to say, at this stage it never occured to me I could go back to my old job. Like I said before, the benefits are just too good to leave. So, the only thing to do is remember all the kind encouragement, barked instructions and training and keep pushing toward stage 3.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

I think I hit this stage today. Our float to help out didn’t make it, probably had to cover for someone who didn’t make it to their site. It was steady and I wasn’t overwhelmed by a throng of patients. Luckily. I found myself pausing when stressed and taking a deep breath and (I hate to admit it but…) the trainer from Training Is Fun-Da-Mental‘s advise of highlighting everything (even though it eats into the wait time) is helping me catch things like stool samples that also read as blood, duplicate orders and other things I’M SUPPOSED TO BE CATCHING but generally don’t. We’ll see how well this works when it’s busy tomorrow, especially if I’m alone at the desk but it was nice to evaluate myself today as not drowning at the front desk for the first time EVER.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

The hithertofore yet to be obtained stage for my work at the front desk and in the lab.

This is the goal.

This is the ultimate of ultimates.

I know once I subdue the beasty known as the front desk my next battle royale will be the lab. I’m doing okay, I have help if I have any questions, but I need to go faster. But I’m not beating myself up about it because I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time. It stymies me into inaction which doesn’t help anyone…..especially me. So, for the front desk, I’m hoping by the end of this month or the middle of next I will have a handle on it and the aforementioned trainer won’t have too much of a need to bark instructions at me from over my shoulder. The lab is just a matter of accurate speed. Speed is a matter of muscle memory. Muscle memory in a body which feels like it’s wrapped in dementia most of the time is the hurdle I need to clear. But that, my dear reader, is a blog for another day…..soon.