Crisis Mode

packingOne of my talents – perhaps my best one – is that I respond well to crises. Faced with an emergency situation, I know instinctively what things must be done and which ones can be postponed or jettisoned.

I do the same thing with deadlines. I rarely finish something early, but I also rarely blow a deadline. If something is due by 5 pm, it will be filed on time. Other things will be put aside because they can be done at another time.

Under pressure, I know what is important and what isn’t. And I act on it.

Unfortunately, when I’m not under pressure, that skill disappears. Faced with my three-page, single-spaced, probably incomplete list of things to do for my move, I find myself meandering around, doing the tasks that don’t drive me crazy or the ones that are pushed to the top by outside forces.

And I’m afraid that’s going to continue until the move hits the crisis point.

I’d rather that didn’t happen. Even though I’m good at them, crises and deadlines cause stress, and I don’t like what stress does to me. I eat badly (because I need a reward for dealing with all this and sugar is a quick and easy reward), don’t exercise (no time), get too little sleep (no time), and get very grouchy.

There are several reasons I’m not good at structuring my time.

  • One is that some of the tasks on any to-do lists are things I don’t want to do, so I tend to put those off.
  • Secondly, some of the things on the list – writing projects, for example – are likely to take a lot of time and energy, which might mean that I don’t get to other things that must get done. So I put those off.
  • Third, when I do finish one of the more stressful items on the list, I’m very proud of myself and don’t get the other things done.
  • Fourth – and most essentially – I am a random thinker, not a linear one. I’m almost off the charts on this one. I can think linearly, but I find it unpleasant.

I always think understanding why something happens will show me the way to fix it, but the truth is more complicated. I’m not sure it’s possible for me to force my brain into logical planning unless I feel that sense of crisis.

This is not a plea for advice. In fact, please hold the advice.

I do not want to be told I need to skip reading my email and the news and do my key work when I get up in the morning. (I do that when I’m in crisis mode or on deadline, but otherwise I prefer to putter.)

Nor do I want to be told about dealing with each piece of paper as it comes in. Or not buying new clothes without throwing out old ones. Or how some people go through their houses once a week and get rid of all the unnecessary stuff.

It’s too late for that now – I have a house full of stuff that needs sorting – and anyway the odds are that it ain’t gonna happen. I make those resolutions, but I never keep them.

I’m just venting and sharing. Or whining.

It is said that women talk about their problems not to get solutions, but just to share, while men supposedly seek – and offer – practical advice. I don’t think this breaks down so neatly on gender lines.

I went to lunch the other day with a male friend who had a tale of woe to share. I kept trying to think of solutions to his problems, but the truth was, he just wanted to tell someone else about them. He wasn’t looking for help, just sympathy.

So am I. I don’t want help. I don’t even want someone else to take over my things to do list. I know that if I let someone else sort and pack for me, they’ll throw out the wrong stuff.

But sympathy. Yeah, I’ll take all the sympathy you’ve got.

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Crisis Mode — 20 Comments

  1. My sympathy you can have. I’m the same way and gave up an actual to do list. It was too hard looking at it and then laughing until I cried. Me follow a plan? You’ve got to be kidding. But put me in crisis mode and I do it all instinctively, plan or no.

    Good luck on the tossing of stuff.

  2. You have my sympathy, as well as my empathy. I have some of the very same tendencies, skills, and leanings. I also find that I need to talk things out not just for sympathy, but because it helps me sort through and process information and emotions. I can usually come to my own best solutions if I can talk it through with an understanding friend. I’m not usually looking for advice either, but the occasional insight from a trusted source can be very helpful.

    • You make a good point. Talking about the things that stress me out is very helpful, even if I’m not looking for advice. It took me a long time to learn that it was a bad idea to keep those things to myself.

  3. I’m the same way, which is why my house is filled with the 3 C’s — content, clutter, and crap. The last category is the largest, alas. You have my profound sympathy.

  4. Moving is horrible. Even if you have movers helping, the sheer number of choices to make before hand grinds me into a pulp. “These books. Do I need ’em. Do I want them?” “When did I last wear that coat/dress/gorilla suit?” “I’ve carted this file of paperwork around with me through the last four moves. Do I actually need any of it?”

    You have all my sympathy, a hug, and a shot of whatever you’re drinking when next we’re in the same zip code.

    • If you add in the fact that my usual way of dealing with bills and paperwork is to pile them up and then look for the ones I need on the principle of geological stratification (the recent ones are closer to the top of the pile), it’s even worse, because at this point I really need to do actual filing and tossing.

      And I’ll take you up on that drink. In a few weeks, we’ll only be a couple of zip codes (and the Bay Bridge) apart.

  5. I hate packing. I’m good at it (didn’t lose any of Mom’s China or crystal) and it was done on time. I’m also determined to die in the current house so that I never have to face packing or moving again. Here’s hoping your packing crisis goes well. Meanwhile, have lunch again with your friend; it will be time well spent!

    • Oh, Brenda, you do not know how much I want to Get It Right. But my experience with moving suggests that at the last minute I’ll be throwing things at boxes and living with the result.

  6. Something that helped me the last time I packed was to take photos of things I rationally knew I had to get rid of but emotionally wanted to keep. The memories of the thing stayed with me, but the thing itself was gone.

    • That is a really good idea. If I were just a little more organized, I might pull it off.

      I just came across the review of a decluttering book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. Apparently one of the pieces of advice is to only keep items that give you a spark of joy. This makes way more sense to me than the old advice of “toss it if you haven’t used it in a year.” Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get to read the book until after I’ve moved, but I’m going to get it so that my sweetheart and I can apply the principles while sorting our belongings and combining our lives.