Chunky salsa, or the agony of planning

Planning, or scheduling — the two sort of blur into one another in my mind — they’re both some of the most difficult things for me to do. There’s a physiological reason for this, but before I knew about that, I made enemies with these concepts in other ways.

As a kid, I resented these external demands on my time. I know I’m certainly not alone, but this sense that outside forces were always obligating me to do things at certain times for certain durations became a real sticking point, and that perceived childhood injustice has carried through over the years; childhood injustices often do.

Because of this resentment — people imposing their rules on my  time — I never learned how to build my own plans, or how to schedule my own time. Again, there are physiological issues making the process even harder, but because I refused to learn the procedures that others used to seemingly shove their priorities down my throat, I ended up completely unmoored when it comes to a very basic aspect of human life. Seriously, I’m like the Underpants Gnomes. There’s a void where procedure should be. A question mark. Nothing.

Seriously, no Phase 2 AT ALL.

Seriously, no Phase 2 AT ALL.

As I got older, I began to see the need for plans and procedures and schedules. But because I didn’t have the skillset (since I rejected it out of hand years before), I had to cobble a process or twelve out of thin air. For many people, that wouldn’t have been much of a problem. Maybe a bit of a learning curve, but nothing more serious. For me? It was hell. Absolute hell. The vaguely planlike things I made had no anchors, no links to the functions of the real world, so even when I was able to follow them they failed miserably.

And that made me more resentful. It took a lot of hard work to make even the most tenuous of schedules, and when they failed, I ended up hating the world — feeling like the universe was actively trying to kick me in the solar plexus.

Cut to now. Again I am made painfully aware of the need for planning, but I am now painfully aware of the short-circuits in my brain that make it impossible to do like most other people do it. Sounds awful, yeah? Well, most of me agrees. But there’s a small part of me that feels like this time I have a chance to build a process that will actually work for me. I’ll be working out some process ideas on a project I’ve been putting off for a while: making a padded vest/jacket for swordplay. I have a gambeson that almost sort kinda fits, but because I’m a fat woman I don’t fit in fat man things. Chest + hips. Always. So, time to make something that’s built for me.

Never mind that I’ve only made an article of clothing for myself once, back in high school, and if we’re being completely honest, my mom did most of the work.

So, here are my initial thoughts around making this vest.

  1. Let things happen in non-contiguous chunks. If I think about anything involved as a single contiguous process my brain static howls and I get overwhelmed and it’s pretty much over for whatever it was I wanted to do. I used to do this all the time, because I worried that if I didn’t push through and get most or all of something done in a continuous process, I’d lose the plot and not be able to competently pick up from where I left off. This worry has, on some occasions, borne itself out. So, it’s okay if a day or two, or even a week, passes by between chunks. That said, I need to find ways to keep the project present enough in my mind so I don’t just forget about it entirely. Not entirely sure how this will work, but I may designate certain times of certain days for getting things done that are related to this vest. That simple procedure has failed in the past, so I need to bolster it somehow.
  2. Look for good places to delineate chunks. For the vest, one part might be buying the things I need. Later, I can take measurements, then maybe plan them out on paper to build a pattern. However, it’s perfectly all right if drawing out the pattern becomes its own chunk later. And it’s all right if each chunk has its own chunks — concatenation. I find that if I have end states in mind, it’s easier for me to reach back and know what I need to do and in what order to achieve that end state, so for me, I look for ways to delineate chunks that offer up a clear and concise end state that I can put in a list or an outline. Even if I never write that list down, those sub-end states lead to a final end state, so I stand a better chance of remembering the process without having to resort to lists or documents that I will either lose or never look at again.
  3. Don’t hate yourself for having to chunk. I have no real idea how non-staticky people accomplish their organization. Maybe they do exactly what I’m doing — chunking, delineating, flexibly allotting time — just without constantly getting mentally derailed and spending a ton of energy to get thoughts back on track. So by going through this process of chunking, I’m not babying myself, I’m not catering to my own uselessness — I’m doing what most other people do and reducing the amount of extra effort I need to expend to simply linking up the chunks, like train cars. It still takes extra work, but at least I’m not spinning my wheels to keep my chunk train from turning into chunky salsa.

So, that’s what I have so far. I’ll keep you posted on progress with the vest (components bought, but that’s it), and throw up a blog post if I detail out my processes a bit more.



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