2016: The Year of Taking Control

On my blog at Echo’s Gardens, you may have been reading about 2015 – The Year of Renovation and Renewal. I obtained a home equity line of credit and set out to renovate my gardens and improve my home. I made a lot of mistakes but had a lot of successes as well.

I Need to Take Control!

One thing the mistakes – and other events – taught me is that I need to take control of many aspects of my life. For example, in spite of being determined not to buy new plants until I had corrected the problems in the existing gardens surrounding my house, I purchased at least 200 – most of which were never planted, and now sit in my garage waiting for spring.

I Need to Control Spending

A far worse problem is that one key to making the whole project work was to pay back as much of the principal as possible on the home equity line over the winter. Instead, I have continued to spend, often impulsively, and my credit card bill continues to be in the thousands of dollars each month. I’m furious with myself – and yet I can’t stop. I want this. I need that. Oh, that would be SO helpful to have. And believe it or not, I have about 8 Amazon wish lists where I save items I want but am not ready to buy for one reason or another.

It’s like a drug.

I have bipolar disorder, and heedless spending is a symptom generally associated with mania (which I’ve never experienced) and hypomania, the two “up” phases of the illness. But I haven’t had consistent hypomanic symptoms during the last three months. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve had any other signs of hypomania. Yet I spend, and spend, and even while I’m telling myself to STOP it, I’m trying to find reasons to justify yet another purchase. All too often, I find those reasons.

I Need to Take Care of Myself

My health is another area of concern. I am still 70 pounds overweight. I don’t exercise: “Oh, I can’t, my back hurts too much, walking makes my hip ache in 5 minutes, I don’t have the energy, I hate exercising…” Bullshit. Yes, I have back problems, and yes, walking (formerly my favorite form of exercise) now hurts like hell. But there are other things I could be doing – piriformis muscle stretches (help with sciatica) and pushups (a superb full-body exercise).

As for my diet – it’s not just absurd, it’s obscene. I have type 2 diabetes, and I live on sugar. “I hate to cook!” Girl, that is just not a good excuse.

I Need to Control My Mail

And though I moan and groan about the mess my house is in, I let the mail pile up and wind up paying bills late – something I never did until the last few years.

My Life Is Out of Control

I have no self-discipline. That has to change. So 2016 is going to be the Year of Taking Control.

It may sound like I’m making a dozen New Year’s Resolutions and setting myself up to fail. All the experts say that you shouldn’t resolve to lose weight, for example. They also say make just one resolution, and make it something that’s reasonable and doable. With all the problem issues I’ve identified, maybe trying to correct them all sounds ridiculous.

But I don’t see it that way. I’m not resolving to lose weight: I’m planning to take control of my health, and hoping that weight loss will result. In fact, almost everything I’m planning to do in The Year of Taking Control is a matter of self-discipline. So if anything, I am resolving to apply self-discipline to my daily life.

The one part of taking control that isn’t primarily self-discipline is the gardens. Yes, I have to keep myself from buying plants, but what the gardens need is a good cleanup. I expected to do that in 2015, but although progress was made, when the season ended it fell far short of what I’d hoped to accomplish.

Both renovation and renewal took place in the gardens, but they are not in control. I am not even sure that I can achieve what I think of as being complete control by the end of garden season in 2016. What I will do is focus on tasks that contribute to the goal of control.

I Don’t Have False Expectations

I don’t expect The Year of Taking Control to be easy. In fact, I expect some of it will be extremely difficult, frustrating, even depressing. But I also expect it to be rewarding. I already know the feeling of delight that comes when I get up in the morning and look down onto a clean living room below, or when I come home from buying groceries and see a clean and tidy kitchen. The goal now is to get the house the way I want it, then keep it that way.

When I clicked on a Facebook ad yesterday morning and found absolutely gorgeous wall art that would be perfect for my bedroom – three pieces totaling $166 plus shipping – the hunger, the lust, was almost overpowering. But I didn’t buy them. I put them on one of my Amazon wish lists.

After that, I went looking for how to turn my internet OFF without having to disconnect my modem each time. I found a nifty little piece of freeware that disconnects from and reconnects to the internet with just two clicks.

And so I spent most of yesterday offline. At the computer, I’m playing games, but I’ve taken frequent breaks to WORK. All my dishes are washed (including the ones that were up here in the office), the sinks have been scrubbed twice with Barkeeper’s Friend, the dish drainer mat is clean. My desk has been cleared of spilled ashes and polished with Pledge. My monitor stand is clean, as is my keyboard tray. All the cat food I bought four days ago has been put away, and all the grocery bags collected for recycling.

It’s more than a drop in the bucket, but now I have to keep the bucket from getting punctured and starting to leak while I keep filling it with more finished jobs.

I Must Design a Good Reward System

And all those things I want to buy – besides cutting myself off from the internet, my only other thought is to make them rewards for finishing projects, or for keeping whole rooms clean for an entire week – things like that. Lose ten pounds – reward. Do my stretching exercises for sciatica every day for a week – reward. Eat real home-cooked food every day for a week – reward. These rewards are not going to be easy to win.

There’s just one thing I’ve given myself permission to buy – a new mouse pad. Mine is ancient and disgusting. But when I started looking at them today, I realized searching through fifty pages of mouse pads would take hours, so I asked friends to take a look for me. If anyone actually does that, I’ll be surprised, but also intensely grateful.

One step at a time.

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