Friday, February 13, 2009

I don't know how to break a slump.

A good friend and former boss told me back in the 1980s that life is a string of streaks and slumps, and that baseball is merely the most obvious illustration of this. I've clung to this piece of wisdom through the years, and read several works of popular psychology that support this.

The "streaks and slumps" theory has several corollaries, which I offer here so you don't have to spend the time or money on those books yourself:

1. The vast majority of the time, you get what you expect. If you expect to be disappointed, you will be.

2. You see what you notice, and what you keep track of is what gives your life shape. If you keep a running tally of your disappointments, what you have is a life story about being disappointed. Don't sit next to me on a train, please.

3. The minute you stop paying attention to your life as it is happening, things start to spiral out of control. Everything is manageable as long as you're here now.

To illustrate, from my own life: I hate February. I've always hated February, ever since Papa (my Grandfather McLaughlin) died in February 1977. February has always been a month where I make bad decisions, get sick, and come in for my full share of consequences. The February Curse is part of my personal mythology, and I'm deep in it right now.

This week has been a string of screwups, frustrations, dropped balls, and projects that have taken two or three times as long as they ordinarily would -- to be clear, my screwups, my frustrations, my dropped balls and my delays. It's been one of those weeks where nothing's gone right, exacerbated by the persistence of this cold/ear infection/strep throat/tuberculosis and by the fact that my front door is so badly warped by weather that I have to yank it open with a scarf tied to the doorknob. I'm going to the doctor today (finally) and getting a new door this weekend, and am resolved that this whole week is just going to be a write-off. Next week starts fresh, and it will all be better. I'm putting it on notice.

In missing yesterday's post, I missed the chance to wish a happy birthday to my lifelong friend, Adrienne Lakadat, and to the redoubtable Sarah Weinman, who is now finally in her fourth decade. Today is the birthday of my brother, James, who will always be the baby of the family. Happy birthday, everybody.

What I Read This Week

I didn't finish anything. Not just books. I didn't finish anything. It's been that kind of week.


Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Dude, you are one of the smartest, nicest, most generous, best-est people I have the privilege knowing. You have the most valuable thing in the world, which is an amazing circle of friends.

Slumps pass. Sometimes you just can't "break" them. You can't break a storm, right? But they pass. You can get the levies in shape, however.

So, just hang in there. Don't be too tough on yourself. Next week probably won't compensate for this week--things don't work that way. Next week is just gonna be next week. Give it a chance by letting this one go.

Spend a few bucks on some new music (I would recommend some Belle & Sebastian which is about all I listen to these days--you can get a great live version of If You're Feeling Sinister from start to finish on iTunes), take a day to go to the movies if you can, just create a tiny little window to get away from everything, pause, refresh, and when you get back it will be fine. Really. Don't lose faith.

And be sure to get sunlight! Stay out of the crappy light...


Ed Lamb said...

Your management books say anything about just getting all the mistakes out the way? I know that my best sucesses tend to follow my biggest bungles.

There's quite a bit to be said for a bad streak if it's vieweed as being the time when all the mistakes are made.

Hope that's what you've just experienced.

Peggy & Scott said...

Take 10 minutes of this twice a day as needed until symptoms disappear.

At least February is the shortest month. Hang in there....did you get my package? Peggy

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling exactly. Give Dizzy a big snuggle and hang in there.


Jen Jordan said...

I didn't even finish a cup of coffee this week. I am hoping finish this comme

Moira said...

Also see the wheel of fortune in the Tarot deck. Sometimes you are on the wheel going downward. Then you must hang on until you are going back up. But, the goal is to be so totally evolved that you are actually the center of the wheel, where life is calm. (and maybe a little boring)

So hang on. At least February is the shortest month and it's almost over. And break a leg with the play!