13 Minutes Wednesday

Habits are tricky. At one point starting in May 2018, I was waking up early, doing yoga, short meditation and then write and draw 15 minutes later in the day, at times also doing a daily comic. Of course I couldn’t sustain that.

I now have a habit tracker for my planner, mostly because it is fun to pick out things to try doing often. So far, as expected, I couldn’t sustain tracking my habits. In December, I tried to track these habits: Meditation/EFT Tapping, Yoga in the morning, eat a healthy meal or snack once per day, draw 15 minutes, write 15 minutes or longer, reading. It all fell off by the 18th, but I did have a vacation so that makes sense. In January, it was 4 habits: Do one thing towards selling art, Write daily, pull Tarot comic and/or do comic strip, yoga in the morning and meditation. I went from 6 daily habits to 4 habits. I fell off each one, ending with the 18th again. Then in February 5 habits: No Refined Sugar/eat healthy, giving myself leeway to not be perfect. I kept that up until the 25th (tracking it and mostly success doing it later in the month, then Journal/Gratitude, which I tracked the first two days, Draw 15 minutes and comic strip. Those did not work in terms of consistency and keeping it up.

This month I’m down to 3: Write 13 minutes/day which I do in the blog to keep track of when I do it and to post often. Eat healthy which has surpisingly been easy, and do one thing towards selling art, which I have to track better or give up on. It can include just a Facebook post or message about a price, just a small thing.

I’ve been tracking yoga for about 5 years, so I’m just continuing with that and not using the planner thing.

I am now following advice I tell my clients, which is, lower your expectations and aim for reasonable goals so that you can track your success and improvement, or not even track it but do it. I developped the 15 minute thing in 2018, timing the drawing and writing and then meditation. It helps to have a timer so the success is based on time spent on a self-care or goal oriented activity, as there is always success in putting in the time, and 15 minutes is actually a very long time.

Test yourself. Put on a stopwatch and then when you think a minute has gone by, look and see if it was only 30 seconds or if you got it, etc. No counting allowed.

The hand washing for 20 seconds for the Coronavirus is quite interesting as another topic. Can New Yorkers actually do it? 20 Seconds is a very long time. How do you count your 20 seconds… For tomorrow.

The Grand Graphic Novel of 17 years

I am now starting another 30 days of no sugar/low natural sugar, after a successful 30 days that ended last Wednesday. The next day I had an ice cream and then Friday began the next 30 Days.

This new eating “plan” is working on a much grander level. Yesterday at a party I met someone who just started something similar and we shared how this is much more than about dealing with sugar addiction and eating healthy, how this can help you focus on doing the important things you want to do that you neglect. It’s the secondary side effect, being more able to follow through with goals and projects and why food is such a big factor with ADHD for me.

I started writing a graphic novel “fantasy/memoir” 17 years ago in 2000. I took a class at the Open Center with a comics expert friend about writing graphic novels. It was taught by a woman who wrote a graphic novel about having a baby as a teenager. She got us to figure out what was important for us and what we wanted to write about and to get going with the nuts and bolts of layout and drawing and speech bubbles. I got started and got the first 10 pages done and got a lot of great feedback. People who read it thought it was funny and well, good, worth continuing.

There is nothing like immediate “success” to stop me in my tracks. I kept working on it and then at some point put it aside and left it to collect dust. It was too hard and I reached a place where I didn’t know what was supposed to be on the next page. Since then at various points in the last 17 years, I have taken it off the shelf and worked on it. For a while in 2006-2007 I was meeting up regularly with my friend I took the class with to work on our graphic novels and encourage each other. Then life got in the way and I put it back in the black hole of writer’s block until the next spurt of inspiration hit. In 2013 I got very revved up to get it done by my 50th birthday and figured out how to get 100 pages done by doing a page every 16 or 17 days and posting some of it on Facebook. That went on for a few weeks, then I lost several pages of the book and gave up again. I picked it up and did a few more pages and even found the lost pages, after putting the loss of the pages in the book. By then, the book had  developed a life of its own and was also about my inabilities to keep going and doing it. Fast forward to a few weeks into this new “food plan”. About 4 weeks ago, I decided to get one page done per week and use therapy to make me keep it up, so I had to do a page by Friday and send a photo of it to my current therapist. I am now working on the 4th page (page 44 of the book). If I keep it up, I will have about 31 pages done by my 50th birthday and be on page 71. It won’t be finished but it will be more finished than it’s ever been.

Getting back into it and forcing myself to do it each week has been enlightening. One question that I won’t be able to answer until I finish is what is this project getting in the way of in terms of other things to accomplish with my creativity? I always thought in terms of all the things I manufactured as reasons to not be working on the book and what are all those things I put in its way, but I hadn’t thought in terms of what this unfinished big block of a project might be obstructing. What if this book is an obstacle itself? I won’t know until I do it and finish it.

When you force yourself to work on something like this that has been 17 years in the making, you learn things for sure. It is just at the point of shit or get off the pot, put your money where your mouth is, etc. So I have decided while getting back in the process that I have to get this done and finished and then get it published so I can continue with whatever else I am doing with my artistic and writing career. I definitely have another book, not graphic, just writing, that I started last year and am working on which I have put aside lately while doing the graphic novel. I posted a few things from that book on this blog, but for sure, I will have to write it at the same time or get the graphic novel done so I can do the book.

The book is going to be called The Art Box and is a book of essays/reflections, mostly about doing art therapy with adults, especially my work at my old job at FEGS Rockwell Continuing Day Treatment Center that I left in early 2003 to start my private practice.

The graphic novel process is extremely challenging as each page takes a really long time to conceive and complete. It’s much more frustrating than pure writing as the images are a big deal and take a long time. Sometimes I forget how fun it can be. I started it in black and white, drawing in pencil first and then covering in black sharpie. Now it is in color as well and I am trying to vary the layout and composition. The one benefit of taking forever to get it done is that now the internet is so great for research, whether to look at examples of fight scenes in comics or look up things  that relate to the content. I also just organized my sketchbook journals that I started doing in 1987, so there are 30 years of them, minus a few that I took apart. I’m going to have to look in them more for more info and ideas. I have been using old drawings from my journals to get image ideas for the pages in the past few weeks. Today I used a scribble drawing from 2012.

The second week I noticed how it is difficult to deal with the inner critic saying this isn’t good enough, your drawing is bad, there isn’t enough variety, maybe you won’t get it published. You have to just keep going and keep in mind that you are going to keep going and not stop. Stopping is the deadly thing, so having this idea of having to do a page a week at least is great for momentum and also keeps me motivated to stay with this eating plan, as the fear is, going back to eating badly will remove my motivation and I will give up. Each goal feeds the other.

I hope this continues to work as it’s reached the point where 17 years is enough and I have to get it done in the next year-year and a half!

ADHD and Food

I just had two breakouts for non mistakes, which hasn’t happened in quite a while. I called my credit card to remove a late fee and found out I had just paid ahead for July and had paid for June a few weeks ago. Then I found a webinar and made sure I could take it on the day and time of it; I looked at this Thursday in my calendar where I noted the seminar for the week after, to remind myself. I missed that it was just a reminder and tried to change a session time as well as ask the Seminar people how to transfer a paid for class. The client answered and I realized I had not double booked and could keep the appointment.

Is this just the usual ADHD, where, because you’re using the skills to get things done on time, especially the mountain of monthly bills, and now that I’ve mastered it, where the “H” in ADHD rears its head and starts creating anxiety and impulsivity over things that I did right, convinced I did them wrong? Or something else.

I started the post with the title: “Deadlines Big and Small” but just remembered the ADHD, which, true to form, I tend to forget it exists until it suddenly gets in the way of something. It sounds crazy but it’s kind of like PMS. If you don’t remind yourself the week is there, you forget that there’s a reason the PMS symptoms are there!

I try to look at the funny side of ADHD, now that I know I have all of the letters (some people, especially adults, have ADD, where criteria for “Attention deficit” are met but not “Hyperactivity”).

As I went across the street to mail a check that I know I mailed a week ago but didn’t get to the company, I wondered if my new “food plan” could be blamed for all this generating what DBT calls “extra emotions”. Anxiety about things that are not real. Anxiety about paying bills on time, real when you haven’t paid them and its challenging, but not real when you have and think you haven’t.

Now there is no way to tell for sure what’s going on. I have a new reason for being grumpy, over anxious, generating extra emotions, having ADHD symptoms that were under control before. It’s a great reason, so there is a goal.

I again stopped eating refined sugar. In terms of deadlines, the death line of “No more!” came Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Day 1. Suffice it to say, my eating habits had deteriorated badly and my sweet tooth has been acting up since last summer, so I put on the brakes and decided to try again cold turkey. I had tried moderation but it didn’t work; I “forgot” when and with what to do the moderating, so, giving in to my ADHD and extremes, I am doing the extreme and on Day 7 of eliminating refined sugar from my diet or “food plan”.

Those of you who have sugar addictions know what this is about. Some rats or mice prefer sugar to cocaine, in case you don’t believe it’s an addiction. I realized I had the problem back in high school when I read “Sugar Blues”, probably one of few books about the topic in the early to mid 80s, and tried to do the diet then but failed.

I did this in a similar way back in 2015, probably in March, and lasted into the summer and then lost it all in late August. My new plan is slightly different and I’m hoping to have success this go round if I don’t kill someone in the process.

There are many “withdrawal” symptoms of going off sugar. Headaches, yes, luckily I only had 1 on Friday. Grumpy and irritable, yes, hoping that’s getting under control. Now I can add jumpiness and anxiety of the impulsive kind to what’s going on.

This time round, I will eat a lot less raisins and dried mangoes to try to really lower all sugar consumption, which means looking more carefully to learn where the sneaky “other” sugar shows up, the grams of sugar still there when you get rid of refined sugar. This seems like extreme as a food plan, but actually, it means I will eat more like all the healthy vegetarians out there: fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen fruit, yogurt, eggs, beans etc. because the sugar problem for me is that sweets take the place of healthy food, so when I remove sweets, it’s like magic. Suddenly it’s easier to eat healthy, especially the vegetables and other things like chik peas, black beans, avocados, spinach and other foods.

The diet works at the beginning because it’s suddenly easy to eat much healthier, probably as healthy as the average person, because when you eliminate bad stuff, you just do the good stuff. It’s like the sweets build a wall between myself and healthy eating. It can be very rewarding to do this. In 2015, I ate pasta and pizza. The other day I had the choice of pasta a few times and pizza and got myself to eat a great salad with hard boiled eggs, etc. instead. The good thing is that you still eat plenty of fats and the goal has nothing to do with lowering calories even though it may happen a little because of the new foods.

Habits change and healthier ones suddenly arrive. I see the pineapple sitting in the kitchen that I’ve been procrastinating dealing with. One recent morning I just cut the damn thing and realized again how lazy I get with food. The next challenge is to figure out what to do with dry lentils. At the moment I eat a lot of French Lentil Hummus from Whole Foods but the goal this week is to make the lentils. For most of you, this is just normal healthy stuff you do, but for me, the bar is very low because food is one of those ADHD things, either too overwhelming or extreme; The ADHD causes me to forget to eat and forget to prepare food at home; the thinking ahead has to be learned, and so does the awareness of eating at regular times, as well as not having extremes of getting too full or forgetting to eat for too long. Most of all “cooking” can no longer just be avoided much of the time.

It sounds nuts that I’m almost 50 and haven’t figured it out, but that is ADHD for you. Becoming a vegetarian 21 years ago was great for many reasons, and one ADHD reason was that it eliminated a ton of food that is now off limits, so I won’t get distracted by it. Eliminating sugar as totally as possible also deletes a long list of foods and suddenly there are clear choices of healthy foods, with no toxic foods distracting me. I used to wonder why I was so all or nothing with a lot of this, but the ADHD explains it. The environment is always too overstimulating and distracting, especially when it comes to eating.

Like with clearing clutter, there are and will be great side benefits! Instead of trying to eat mindfully by doing my daily yoga and cultivating mindfulness with other things and DBT mindfulness skills which are great, I will focus on the mindful eating above all, and then the mindfulness in other aspects of life follow. Going at it the other way didn’t work for me, because once I’m not eating healthy, awareness in general just goes down the drain. I have already noticed that it is easier to be mindful of everything else by doing this food plan.

The other day I saw a re dramatization of a British man dying of carrot and VITamin A overdose in a great TV show called Weird and Unusual Deaths, that’s close enough as the title. The man had orthorexia which the medical people pointed out. He was sandwiched into an episode with Isadora Duncan choking to death on her silk scarf and some poor guy dying in his closet.

Anyway, orthorexia is a real issue and should be listed with other eating disorders. It involves getting addicted to eating in an extreme “healthy” way to the point of obsession and other extreme symptoms similar to other eating disorders. Yes, that person you know who does an extreme amount of exercise and won’t eat at restaurants because of their extreme healthy diet could be in the territory of orthorexia. A small dose of it usually helps with getting rid of sugar and is more part of the ADHD, but as one of my goals is to be more present and productive in the rest of the hours a day not spent dealing with food, I’m not worried about carrot juice overdose. To be honest, I haven’t eaten a single carrot in the last 7 days, only because I was having other healthy options.

Anyway the extras also include having more energy and I hope, will also help with some long range goals and my writing. More than art making, writing seems related to getting rid of clutter and eating better, the bad food also being clutter; when I get rid of stuff that is not good, the writing benefits, so maybe I will write my book of essays now!

 

Everyday Inspiration Day 1

This is a topic, “I write because”, where I am excited to say that today, I wrote because my 9 year old daughter was writing; I have a love hate relationship with writing, but when we write at the same time, I enjoy writing and don’t feel all the usual crazy stuff and insecurity and everything else that comes with torturing yourself writing and in between writing.

The prompt was a great 4th grade prompt: Cake or Cupcakes, which do you prefer? A very important question that I have pondered quite a bit.

It just so happened that we went to get cupcakes today with her friends and friend’s babysitter Heidi. I already knew my daughter was writing in favor of cake.

So here is my writing that I did in the 20 minutes that she did her piece. I’d also like to say that writing for 20 minutes is great because you enjoy it and have fun but don’t go too much into it and get caught up. For the ADHD writer, it’s great. No time to get bored or distracted except within the topic.

Ok, here it is. I have to add that my daughter asked me to put it in this blog!

Actually it is probably more fun to read as a post on its own, so I will make a separate post right now, write now!