When Being Good at Life Tetris Isn’t Always a Good Thing.

One of my intentions this year is to be more mindful of where I spend my time and energy. When I started this, I assumed that I’d have to give up most forms of social media, because maybe I was mindlessly surfing and wasting time.

But after about a week of tracking where I spend a lot of my energy, I’m realizing that it’s not really the social media that I have trouble with. It’s not mindlessness that I struggle with.

It’s the opposite, actually.

I spend most of my time in my head, planning out the flow of my day.

I’ve mentioned before the fact that I’m pretty damn accomplished at Life Tetris. The thing is, I LIKE it, too. It’s wildly satisfying to finish a day having accomplished getting everything done when I didn’t know how it would all work. It’s a puzzle which requires creativity and thinking… giving my mind something to DO.

Except it’s also physically and mentally stressful and exhausting and completely inflexible. And hard on others, too.

Because if I miss or forget something, or am given new information on something I wasn’t expecting… I make it really hard.

I’ll give you an example: this very morning’s issue.

So work is incredibly busy for both Jeff and I right now. I am trying to close the books for the year so that the Treasurer can have some useful reports which show our results for the year. He’s trying to send this report to the board this weekend, and though he’s saying that these are “preliminary” results, he basically wants the numbers to be the final numbers. Jeff has been running into configuration issues on his project and, instead of his client being willing to rework the timeframe for the project, he’s being forced into more status meetings, which requires him to work after hours if he actually wants to get work done. Jeff worked last night until about 9, and I was in bed before he got home.

(As an aside? This client reminds me of everything that’s wrong with corporate America and makes me so damn grateful I am the non-profit world)

So this morning I went downstairs to make coffee. In the dark kitchen, while doing a few dishes and some other things, I started planning the flow of my day. Friday. Work, run, Owen gets off the bus, library, some chores, dinner. I’ll make the Moroccan fish stew today, take the fish and shrimp out of the freezer. Okay, coffee. Owen will buy lunch today, so I don’t have to do anything there…

Jeff comes downstairs, and I tell him his coffee and lunch is ready to go, and I tell him what my plans for making dinner are.

He responds, Um, aren’t we going out tonght? Remember, Celtics game?

My first reaction: blame.

What? You didn’t write “Karen and Jeff out” on the weekly menu. How am I supposed to remember if you don’t do that?

My second reaction: grumpy.

It’s Friday night after a long stressful week. I don’t even WANT to go out.

My third reaction: annoyance.

Now I have to go back and plan the whole day over!

My mood changed instantly. I gave Jeff a hard time about dinner plans, telling him I needed him to tell me where we were going for dinner ahead of time because I needed to make sure they had something I could eat. (You know, because the whole no-grains thing.)

That was the moment where I heard the niggling voice inside me.

Usually I can drown it out.

But today, I stopped for a moment.

Wait. STOP IT RIGHT NOW, KAREN. Jeff and you never go out. You have been looking forward to spending time with friends at the Celtics game tonight. Do not make this a problem. THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM.

*Deep breath*

*Another deep breath*

This is not the person I want to be.

And holy shit, I spend a lot of time in my head.






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3 Responses to When Being Good at Life Tetris Isn’t Always a Good Thing.

  1. Jeff Aalto says:


  2. Ana says:

    I could’ve written this. I also have the day planned in my head, and get in a tizzy when things are thrown off—even by something GOOD. I am working on “going with the flow” more, and taking a deep breath and reminding myself that my plans are not set in stone, and being able to bend makes me less likely to break.

  3. Turia says:

    I read this post when you first published it but it was on my phone and I didn’t have a chance to comment. I had to come back to it because honestly I could have written SO MUCH of it. I am also terrible for living inside my head. My inner voice is constantly chirping at me (often negatively). My worst habit is getting cranky at Q. in my head about something that I think he’s about to do (but hasn’t yet done), like come home late without telling me. And then when he doesn’t do it, I’m STILL grumpy because I was all set to be grumpy. It is ridiculous.

    Your posts are really helping me be more conscious of that monologue. Thank you!

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