Daily Archives: March 27, 2012

Mental Preparations; how much is too much?

I live in Seattle.

It is grey for a pretty large portion of the year. There are periods where days are dark and seem to blend together, or where a smattering of grey skies can last for weeks giving the inhabitants here no indication that time is in fact changing.

If you aren’t careful, this weather can suck you into a black hole where time and space seem to stand still.

Some years are better than others, but the theme is usually the same. Grey light that never changes.

Ever since being a child, I’ve created routines to mentally prepare myself for whatever event was up next for the day. Some have suggested that these mental preparations are the mark of obsessive compulsive disorder, but I have another idea.

It didn’t occur to me until I was on my way to work the other day and I ordered a green jasmine tea. Green jasmine tea has been my flavor lately, as far as caffenated beverages as I don’t like the flavor of coffee.

Blasphemy, I know. A Seattleite who doesn’t drink coffee? Unheard of!

Well I got to the shop like I do every pre-work day to get my tea, but they were out of green jasmine tea.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I suddenly realized each place I have worked in the last few years has had my “preparing for work” drink -and the drink has been different for each job.

Chai tea
Hot chocolate
Black tea
Earl Grey
Green tea
and now green jasmine tea.

A new flavor for a new routine, helping remind me of the time (since our grey skies don’t reflect what time it is) and maneuver myself into the head-space I need to be in for work.

I think to some degree, that is why the coffee culture is so big in Seattle. Getting coffee is usually a reminder that, I have work to do. I know folks here get a lot of flack for the meticulously customized coffee drinks they order, but I think, like me, people have drinks that mean certain things to them. Drinks that remind them they’re working, or drinks that remind them they can relax.

Of course, I wont downplay the role that caffeine has for most, for me it was the absolute worst when I was working in fashion design. Every day when 3 o’clock rolled around it was time to re-inject oneself with caffeine to reach the end of the day. The break was almost something sacred that went without saying. One person would stand, and everyone knew to drop what they were doing and follow to the nearest Starbucks, never more than the width of a quick 2 lane street away.

Just a teensy bit like zombies.

This sort of methodical mind preparation has its hands on other portions of my life as well though. Maybe it is the fact that my mental state can be on the more fragile end from time to time, but I practically find myself preparing myself mentally for everything. 

To some extent, it is definitely a positive thing. I can get myself ready to be in social situations, adjust my attitude a little bit if I need to, or prepare for work and being friendly with strangers. I prepare myself for unpleasant situations that might cause anxiety (when I know they are on the horizon) and I pump myself up with strength when I can see that I’ll need it right away.

It isn’t a flawless system, but for day to day situations, it is helpful and a way to prepare for just one thing at a time.

The catch, of course there is one, is that preparing myself for something in particular can go a little too far in putting all of my eggs in one basket. Preparing for singular situations means if something I didn’t prepare for comes up suddenly, the effects can be devastating. It can be something akin to dropping my guard at my back to put up a bigger guard in the front… only to be stabbed in the back without the energy or ability there to stop it.

I lose my flexibility.

And that is where I really tend to get in trouble.

When I get blind-sided like that, all bets are off. I can turn into the incredible hulk or I can turn into a butterfly. My mind has a nuclear meltdown because we didn’t prepare for this!

I have already made some big changes to this process since I was a child, because I  was constantly planning for such minute details in a larger picture that things almost always went haywire. I know I can’t go so far in preparing myself in the particulars of things, like what I am going to say or how I am going to react to others, because it is truly impossible to try to stage the situation in my head the way it will play out in real life.

It helps me to look at the bigger picture. Prepare for a time period rather than particulars, because trying to prepare for particulars gives me ulcers.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t still happen from time to time, and my boyfriend has said to me at least once, wow, you really don’t handle disappointment well. Since then I try to spread my mental preparations out over a spectrum that covers the possibility of being disappointed.

My plans to go skydiving, for example, were rescheduled because of the weather (heh). I considered that to be a potential possibility, so I made a backup plan of something fun to do if it didn’t work out. Lo and behold, that backup plan was necessary… and things were fine.

It is a learning process, I guess. I know that mentally preparing myself for things is great, as long as I don’t prepare myself into a hole.