How do I manage my dream project when I'm sad and anxious?
September 24, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I am faced with a hugely exciting, complex, challenging project of my own devising. It's a chance for me to build my dream and ... I'm sitting here crying instead of working.

This time of year is always tough for me. This year my father is gone and my SO is talking about going. I know I will survive, but I'm overcome with grief. My SO is angry and confused about life in general. She tells me she's going to leave me, then changes her mind and apologizes. I know where she's coming from, and I sympathize with her confusion, but it's really hard to hear. My father had a long life and a good death last fall, but he's not here and I miss him more than I ever thought possible. On top of that I'm somewhere between anxious and terrified at the scale/complexity of the task ahead of me. I believe I can make it work, but it will take time and energy and focus and determination (and luck and grace and friends etc etc). I'm OK for money for now, but probably only for a few more months. I'm working on finding some therapy/coaching, I've started to put feelers out about jobs, and I've eaten (well breakfast at least) but right now I need to get outside and fire up the chainsaw and/or sit down and work on a spreadsheet. I would also like to achieve the transcendent joy and clarity of purpose of 1001 bodhisattvas if you have anything for that. Thoughts? Strategies? Recipes? Mantras? War stories? Approaches? Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Your grief and marital instability add to the inherent vulnerability of the kind of project I think you're describing, which I think would be best served by starting from a position of strength, and , as you've noted, support (i.e., your wife). Conflict and uncertainty will continue to drain you, especially against the loss you've suffered. I think that it would be good to try to resolve issues between you and your wife, perhaps with support from a counsellor. It also sounds like your own self-care is a little wobbly. I hope you find good individual help soon, as well.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:59 AM on September 24, 2014

I have found that if I have 8 hours in which to accomplish a task and I am physically unwell or emotionally overwrought, spending the first 2 hours engaging in self care is much more likely to let me meet the deadline than trying to spend all 8 of it determinedly focused on the work.

For emotional stuff, some things that has helped me: write in a journal, call a friend to talk to them about my problem, talk to myself in a mirror or in the shower.

As for your SO, you might want to sit yourself down and decide for yourself whether or not you really want to make that work. Staying together is not a unilateral decision that is totally up to her, but leaving can be a unilateral decision made by either party. If you think it really will not work long term, it might make more sense to end it now and get that out of the way so you have fewer distractions from your project.

One thing you might want to think about: Is your SO possibly engaging in passive-aggressive sabotage of your project? One of the moments in my marriage that made me decide that I wanted to eventually leave was when I realized my husband routinely undermined my attempts to go to college or pursue any goals of mine related to getting a career or having more of a life. I didn't think he did it consciously, but he sure as hell did it consistently.

I was extremely supportive of his dream career, yet he was nothing but an albatross around my neck when it came to any aspirations I had beyond being a wife and mom. So your short description has me wondering if that might not be an element at play here -- you have a shot at a dream project and now the SO is having this crisis. Why now? Is that really mere coincidence?

I am very clear that if I ever have an SO again, they need to be supportive of my career aspirations or, as a minimum, at least not an obstacle to them. I am old and cranky and cynical and was pretty badly burned over this by my marriage, so perhaps take this with a grain of salt, but I would seriously consider dumping an SO on principle who started interpersonal drama just as I had a shot at a dream project.
posted by Michele in California at 12:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I wonder if taking your work to a more neutral location, like a library, coffee shop, or a shared-space office, would help you focus when you want to actively work on the project?
posted by harrietthespy at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2014

This is a decision your SO has to make on her own, and it's actually very unfair of her to swing you back and forth in her indecision. Do you live together? Because this may be the ideal time to suggest you take some time apart and go no-contact while she sorts herself out.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the first thing you need to do is get stable so you can start building. You need a steady source of income so you don't need to worry about where you food is coming from or whether you will have a roof, and you need to kick your SO to the curb so you're not worrying about putting effort into an unstable relationship. Build a foundation of stone instead of sand and all that.
posted by Willie0248 at 1:29 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have trouble with this daily. I am a big proponent of telling myself "I am going to do this "task" for 10 minutes." Usually the 10 minute bit goes by and before I know it a half hour went by and I am knee deep in it. I totally understand the anxiety and sadness, possibly some confusion is present, and concern that you will not do whatever you set out to do "the right way." You want to control what you can, like your work. If that sounds familiar another trick I use, especially when my day is unscheduled, I plan out my day the night before (if it occurs to me). I look at the day in 1 or 2 hour blocks and give myself only 2 options for tasks or things to do. Finally, I have heard more and more about using twitter to help motivate work sprints. If you aren't tied in with a bunch of devoted tweeters, not to worry, neither am I. I just take a look at the clock and say I am going to do "x" for 5 minutes, then if I feel like it i will take a break and go back to "x" or another item on my list. The big key for me is to first and foremost(and I probably should have said this first and foremost) MAKE A LIST of everything that you can think of big and small that you need to accomplish. It can include personal errands, basically anything that would affect your day. There are decent time management apps out there I am sure, but I use a glance at a clock. The last thing I want is to get obsessive about "I-must-be-done-at-this-time" kind of thinking. I definitely can wax and wane in both directions. Hope this helps. MeMail me if you are interested in more tips.
posted by Jewel98 at 9:26 PM on September 24, 2014

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