[Instructions to self]
I replied to a Facebook Friend’s post where she described getting stuck into a new quilting project with this:
“It would be so lovely to feel “free” enough to embark on a much-anticipated project, to enjoy doing it and [eventually] completing it! My mental state these past few months just will not allow me to have a decent series of days where I feel happy engaging in my hobbies. If I could keep other things from getting on my “list” I would be fine but I have no power to say “NO” to the other activities and they always end up winning. If I do the nice hobby things I feel guilty about not doing the boring things, it clouds my enjoyment and I stop. Grrrr! what is your secret? I think I need more pills- my mind is not responding to instruction! I’m going to put this post in a blog!”
If you’ve read my blog before, you will realise I have reached another “stuck” time. I HATE being stuck! I feel competent enough to do a heap of tasks related to my interests yet I cannot get myself to do them or complete them. Part of it must be procrastination with a touch of “fear of failure” but some of my interests like writing tunes on my Korg nanoPad are not classifiable into success vs failure. I merely like to noodle away and enjoy myself.
Things I could do at the moment include sowing salad seeds and looking after them, finishing a top I was sewing for myself before Christmas, making a colourful quilt to my own design, knitting something from some of the wonderful yarns I have, embarking on a new photo project or writing some tunes with cumbia rhythms. This site is a great source of rhythms.
To me it’s obvious that something is going on with my inner reward system. I seem to make my hobby activities contingent on having first done things that are useful but which don’t give me any pleasure, like doing the washing or fertilising the pot plants. Am I not worthy of these pleasurable activities? Admittedly my self-esteem is very much tied up in what I do with my time as it was when I worked in paid employment.
I always needed a job that I found interesting or I would slack off and/or become crippled by depression. When people made my pleasurable job less enjoyable by imposing irrelevant conditions on it- like having to write down what I was engaged in every 15 minutes – I became rebellious, angry, then depressed. It took me a long time to get back to my old level of performance; the exact opposite of what the bosses were trying to achieve. Mind you, how was a researcher supposed to improve by interrupting their train of thought to report on it? Admittedly, a lot of entries on my log said things like “spent 15 minutes wondering how I would analyse the data from X, Y and Z”. When quizzed about what I had “produced” in an hour, all I could say was that I had consumed a certain amount glucose processing thoughts in my brain! Not what they wanted.
So why can’t I just barrel along with my train of thought and enjoy my hobbies now? I don’t need to work for an income now I am retired as my superannuation has cut in. There are no other humans to care for except whatever I can contribute to household maintenance and there are the two healthy little cats who spend far more time having fun than I ever will!
Yummy fresh basil for tearing over pasta or making pesto.
OK, so maybe I need to get more mindful of my hobbies. But how can I impose this when the actual imposition will destroy the pleasure of the activity? Sure I could meditate and practise etc but I’m not getting anything useful from this.
Fluffy, juicy parsley to eat straight from the bush!
What about looking at the products of my activities already achieved? There is lovely water-well pot full of basil and parsley in the backyard that I regenerated after it was attacked by looper caterpillars and snails! I enjoy going out in the courtyard and pinching off some basil leaves and parsley to eat, right then and there and that is rewarding. However most of my interests involve doing something which I enjoy in the moment, even the music. I don’t get anything from re-listening to music I have “finished” or abandoned. It was the creation I enjoyed.
So where to now, baby blue? I’m leaning towards a temporary hike in pills. Will go see the doc.
I would like to make this quilt.
References on reward systems and depression:
Pleasure systems in the brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425246/
The neurochemicals of happiness. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness