I have said this before, but I’m going to say it again: at least from a goal-setting standpoint, sobriety is actually easier than a lot of other life-enhancing goals. There is almost a wistfulness to looking back to the first few months sober (alright, not the first month, that was just plain awful): I had one goal for my day: stay sober. I had a simple 4-point “to do” list that I believed would allow me to achieve this goal, and each night I went to bed satisfied that I achieved my goal. And as it got easier, and things started getting done on top of staying sober, it felt like a heavenly chorus was playing, I felt so accomplished.
Other goals are not so simple. We’ll take the obvious one: diet and exercise. Each day I wake up determined to make progress in the goal, but the bottom line is that the goal seems to be a fluid one. Some days I think I just want to get to a certain weight, other days I want to stay within a caloric range, still others I want to eat healthfully. With exercise, do I want to increase the overall number of steps each day, do I want to increase the amount of miles logged on the treadmill, or do I want to complete the regimen best for my overall health? And God help us all if it is that last one, because the how’s and why’s to accomplish that makes my head spin.
Then there’s this little blog I’ve got going on. Sometimes, when the monkey mind is working in overdrive, I will whine (to myself or to anyone who will listen) that I feel like I’ve said all there is to say. Worse still, I will compare myself to other blogs and find mine wanting. To which complaints my husband calmly replies, “What specifically are you looking to achieve?” So is my goal to reach a certain pinnacle in terms of metrics? Is it to win some kind of accolade? Is it to provide a service to others? If so, exactly who are the others: the newly sober, my blogging friends who “grew up” with me, lurkers who are considering getting sober, or my family and friends who are actually my longest and most loyal readers?
So I read back and I think, “Welcome to the human race!” And of course I realize this is mundane “life gets life-y” stuff that is, in fact, a blessing of sobriety. In active addiction most of these things would take a back seat, if not a dark corner of the trunk, as I pursued my real goal: altering myself chemically so I did not have to deal with anything at all. But now that that party is over, I would like to come to a peaceful conclusion with some of these issues, and I am realizing that the solution lies in creating clarity in terms of my end game.
A recent example: the first marking period just closed, and the biggest academic issue in our household was forgetfulness, the consequences of which were “0” scores that caused the overall grades to plummet from an “A” to an “F” within 24 hours several different times (there is a definite downside to having instant access to your children’s grades). This would drive me wild, and no resulting conversation (yelling) seemed to correct the problem. For the most part, the situations worked themselves out, but the internal angst I experienced as a parent was wildly disproportionate to the urgency I attempted to convey.
My husband and I are at cross-purposes on the solution. He believes the answer is to micromanage: she has proven she does not have the proper skills to manage her time, and therefore she needs someone to do it for her. I say poppycock! She is in high school, I have given copious tutorials on how best to get homework done, she is at a point in her life where if she needs me standing over her as she does homework, then I have failed as a parent (you should be reading that last bit in a Beverly Goldberg tone of voice. If you have not yet watched the sitcom The Goldberg’s, stop reading this, head to your television, and hit the On Demand button. It will be worth it).
So today is Day One of the new marking period, and I had one more “discussion” on this subject with my daughter. I explained the problem as I saw it (for what feels like the millionth time), but this time I defined the goals in a more specific way: grades are to be no lower than a certain number, there are to be no more “missing” or “late icons” found on the website that gives grades. The first time any of these objectives are missed, life outside of academic and athletic will come to a grinding halt (and, believe me, this threat is a big one for a high school freshman).
I’m not sure how effective this goal-setting clarification will play out for my daughter, but I’m telling you, it has played out wonderfully for me so far. I feel lighter when it comes to this issue, because I have defined the goal, I have set the expectations, and I can manage the consequences. I am genuinely hopeful that the first time one of these things appear (because I am, if nothing else, a realist with regard to my daughter’s academics), I will calmly employ the consequence without going ballistic.
I guess I just need to get some clarity in the other areas of my life where I’m feeling unsettled, and peace will once again reign all over my personal kingdom.
In my FedEx-imposed house arrest that lasted more than 6 hours (but only half of their preposterous 12-hour window), I managed to make a challenging to-do list, and get every bit of it done. Thank you, FedEx (but not really).
Did you ever go on the WebMD site to research a condition? I would doubt that I would be able to find my particular ailment easily, but if I could, it would look something like this:
Symptoms, Early Stage:
- Initial success with accomplishment of a goal leads to an increased momentum of goal setting (as in, now that I’ve stopped smoking and have lost a few pounds, let’s keep the health train going and start an official diet by counting points, buy a fitbit and count steps, train for a 5K and log miles, and of course there’s always the scale)
- Distracted thought processes (wait, which goal should I be working on right now… oh wait, I have children who need their dinner!)
Symptoms, Middle Stage:
- Irritability (leave me alone, can’t you see I’m trying to calculate all I’ve eaten today/steps I’ve taken today/average minutes per mile today?)
- Confusion (what exactly am I supposed to be doing right now?)
Symptoms, Advanced Stage:
- Deal making (if I get on the scale and the number is the same or less than yesterday, then I am doing well and should continue, if not, then I will… give up/throw the scale out the window/throw myself out the window)
- Negative self-talk reaches new heights (no matter what good is achieved on a given day, the negative voice can combat with all the goals that were not achieved)
- You are certifiable, go out and get fitted with a straitjacket
Diagnosis #2 (because life actually does have to move on):
- You are suffering from a condition called “Overshooting The Goal-Setting Mark.” Fortunately, this condition can be arrested and corrected with a few simple steps.
Treatment and Care:
- Acknowledgment of condition. Say to yourself, “you are heading in too many directions, and as a result, you are getting nowhere fast”
- Next, take some deep breaths, and remember all for which you are grateful (this step, by the way, helps with a lot of mental conditions)
- Once in a calm state, take quiet time, pick one goal, and Let. The. Rest. Go.
- Give voice to the confusion and negativity in your head with a trusted friend (or the entire blogging world, or both)
- Repeat these steps each time the condition flares up
Today is a day of rest… no accounting of anything today, and I am going to enjoy it!