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All-Or-Nothing: Not ALWAYS Good

Friday, April 11, 2014

I've described myself in interviews and to groups as a woman with an "all-or-nothing" mindset. It's generally perceived as a positive: "if she commits, she's there all the way!" Great, right? But what about the NOTHING?
Here is where the NOTHING comes into play in my daily life. My house. It's. A. Mess. At one time it was immaculate. Why is it a mess now? Why am I too embarrassed to invite people here?
When it was completely clean, Matthew, now 9, was 1. We had moved here when he was 9 months old. I set his toys on shelves, cleaned them up several times daily, and it was easy! I was the one selecting them, and could put them right back. The DVD's and CD's were all in alphabetical order. The dishes were clean, floors were vacuumed/mopped, beds were made.
Then, Matthew became a toddler. Not a "typical" toddler; we could no longer ignore his differences. He has autism (not diagnosed at that point, but I was pushing his pediatrician for a referral). When we played as he directed, all was great. If we (I) pushed him, MELTDOWN CITY! Toys thrown, discs broken...and I was working full time! I straightened some, but fell behind.
Then, I was pregnant with his sister, Lizzie. Similar pregnancy, but with the added volitile toddler. Late pre-eclampsia, bed rest, another C-section. Disarray. I cleaned so that we could host Lizzie's 1st birthday.
Then, working full time after Lizzie's 1st birthday, in 2007, Matthew was diagnosed with autism (later clarified to PDD-NOS, but at the time expecting him to never talk and to be institutionalized). I kept it together, cleaning-wise, until then. I started to falter.
Early 2008, both my husband and I lost our jobs within a month of each other, him first. We (I) had to get Matthew to early-intervention therapies, and I took a part time job. The house fell apart. Lizzie was behind...thankfully she just had tight muscles and physical therapies and some speech helped! (She's brilliant now...top student in her 1st grade class).
Eventually, we found that I had to stay home. Matthew was kicked out of 3 day care centers, though Lizzie was welcome to stay (as if!!). Matthew needed more attention than a child care center could provide. He needed me.
Soon after leaving day care, even though he was fine in preschool, Matthew had a major meltdown. He tore the playroom apart, spewing toys everywhere. A few days later he did the same in his bedroom. I couldn't take it. I closed the door to the playroom, though Daddy continued to toss toys in for months. . When he tore his bedroom apart. I couldn't take it. I made a path from the door to his bed. Lizzie tore her room apart, with Matthew's help. Imitation. I did the same.
The kids could no longer go into the playroom, or play comfortably in their bedrooms. They played in the living room. When it got too cluttered, DH threw MORE toys into the playroom, making it worse.
We still have baby toys in the playroom, and those I've cleared out of the kiddos' bedrooms have mysteriously made their ways back upstairs.
So. It's THEIR faults, right? DH and the kids' faults?
Yes, they all hold some responsibility, but it comes to me. I was home. I gave up. Was I lazy? Maybe a bit. But I was. And AM. Depressed. It is what puts me in this "all-or-nothing" position.
You see, if I start cleaning the living room, I find some toys belong in each of their rooms. Some need to be donated, sold, or tossed. Some should go into the playroom. So, when I start cleaning the living room, I also have to clean the playroom, which contains toys that need to be put on shelves, taken to their rooms, donated, sold, or tossed. I have to go into each of their rooms, with the same...stuff that belongs on shelves, in each others' rooms, the playroom, donated, sold, or tossed. THEN, I find clothes...do they need to be put away, washed, donated, or tossed?? That takes me to the basement...not only clothes and toys, but also stuff that we don't, or maybe have NEVER, needed or used!
BUT wait! Where did these dishes and glasses and kitchen gadgets come from? Now I'm in the kitchen, needing to make space, needing to declutter, needing to wash dishes, scrub floors, clean counters, get rid of expired foods....etc....
So. For ME. There is no single job. Everything leads into another. I don't know where I can stop. When I can take a break.
All of this happens in my food plan! Not a smooth segue, but there it is. I'm "all-or-nothing"! I'm supposedly bright...I can add...I can look up calories for foods and successfully measure those foods to ensure proper serving sizes. But. I. Don't. Why?? All-or-nothing.
The first day I tracked food was Tuesday. In short, disaster. I didn't eat until 5 PM, then only ended up eating 600-700 calories. No. Not anorexic. JUST COULDN'T DECIDE WHICH FOODS WERE WORTHY OF COUNTING, so I went without. Dumb? Yep. But there it is. Wednesday was not much better. I ended up eating 2 servings of chips after 9 PM to get close to my low-end calorie goal. Thursday, better, I actually ate breakfast, but had fast food to get within my limits....
Not an auspicious start, but it's getting better, I think?
YES. It is! Why?
I think after 40 decrepit years on this planet, I'M FINALLY STARTING TO SEE THE LIGHT!!!
I'm not dumb. I'm not lazy (ok...I'm a bit lazy, but not a sloth). I'm not OCD (well...a bit, but this can be overcome)....Yes, I am depressed, and should be on meds...but I'll get there...
The MAJOR reason for my "troubles"...my messy home, my crappy eating (all or nothing)...aren't anything more than poor organization and a lack of planning mini-goals!
Yikes! Mini-goals??
I need to plan ahead. I need to come up with major, long-term goals, and break them down into attainable short-term goals. I need to plan meals. Snacks. Food really shouldn't be so hard...in elementary-junior high school, I ate the same lunch EVERY day; when I worked and could eat out, it was the same meal in the same restaurant EVERY day....I can DO this!!
I just need to take the time to PLAN.
I'm finally realizing this. In the spirit of "easing into" changes, I'm giving myself this weekend. For food planning. Prioritizing food consumption, only because I (miraculously) seem to have inadvertently developed an exercise schedule, and my health overall is priority #1. Cleaning will be next.
Shut up! It will!! Lol!!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MARYBETH4884
    Find a box, fill it with donatible stuff and donate it. do the same thing next week! Don't try to fix it all. I know how you feel but each box will make a difference. Less clutter will make things easier to get around.

    Try figuring out food the night before and it might help, 15-30 minutes to get tomorrow straight.

    Think small changes, they really do make a big difference!!
    2182 days ago
    Thanks so much for sharing. I know many of us who get into the all or nothing way of thinking. I know if you set small goals it is easier. You get the good feeling of accomplishing them and can move onto the next.

    Planning is the key for me and I know will help you since you have so much going on.
    2183 days ago
    You brought back memories. I have 4 children (the oldest was 6 when I had the 4th). One was full on ADHD and another borderline ADHD. My husband moved out (by my request) when the youngest was 2. I have dealt with depression all my life. I've done the meds thing, it wasn't great for me.

    The good news is..... everything changes.... and that change can be GREAT!

    It took me until about a year ago to figure out what was really the problem. Curious?

    The problem wasn't the clutter. It wasn't the kids. It wasn't the bills. It wasn't the ex. It wasn't being lonely. It wasn't the messy house or the messy yard. It wasn't the fact that I had to be a stay home mom. It wasn't the fact that I was obese. It wasn't the fact that I had no energy.

    The problem was that I was only paying attention to all that negative stuff.

    Last year my Dad passed after a long bout with cancer. The same week, I had a final end to a long term relationship with a man. Talk about being depressed, sad, nobody to talk to, nowhere to turn...

    Through the grace of God I found my way out. I was in prayer, pleading with Him for mercy. I just couldn't take anymore of the bad stuff. What I heard were two words.

    Forty Days.

    What it meant for me, went back to the Bible. When God didn't like what was happening in his world, he took 40 days to wash away all the negative stuff. Then there was a whole new start.

    What I did was to start a journal. For forty days I promised myself that I would keep my focus on the positives. I was honest with myself and knew that negative situations would arise, but I promised to quickly deal with whatever I could and then move back into positive thoughts. I actually made a list of things that made me feel good. Whenever the negativity started up, I would read that list. It would help.

    You can get through this. You can focus on the positives. It is definitely life changing -- for the good.

    Be good to yourself!

    2183 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13961612
    Oh yes, I understand. It is wonderful however that you put so much of you, your 'all' into taking care of the kids. You simply gave that priority.
    Great idea to make tidying a goal for the kids. I assume you can find tips for that here at SP.
    Good luck!
    2183 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13471094
    Ok. Exhale. Don't be so hard on yourself. You have had challenges to overcome.

    I think you are dead on in seeing the need for a plan and mini-goals. You have made some positive small changes already - tracking your food, exercising. Way to go!

    If you are overwhelmed, enlist some help. You've found help here at SP. How about in your home? Can you find an older neighborhood kid to help? I am SO much better at decluttering when someone is pushing me. Set a timer for 15 minutes and work whole-heartedly. You can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes.

    emoticon Baby steps. Rome wasn't built in a day. And you won't become perfect in a day. ;)
    2183 days ago
  • MAZZIE973
    My "all" has been toward my kids. Taking them to activities. Finding therapies for my son that were not provided in school. Working with them at home to reteach concepts "taught" at school that were not taught in a way accessible to my kiddos.
    I'm really trying to learn to organize in order to more effectively spread my energy, but when our local public schools are so lacking, private school is so expensive, and my potential to home school without hindering social development is subpar, I have had to put my energy into my kids' tests and homework.
    I'm trying to stretch that energy to improving myself; to improving my health.
    My goal this summer is to make tidying a goal for the kids...this would help immensely!!
    2183 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13961612
    Good blog! Being an all-or-nothing person myself, I want to remind you that planning ahead is not 'all'!
    I think it's a bit of different things. Planning is very important, indeed. But it's also a matter of finding and applying strategies that work for you, of being consistent, of kicking your behind frequently, etc. etc.

    My own experience tells me that I am 'nothing' in some areas because I try to be (give) 'all' in other areas. So if cleaning and tidying, and food and weight are your 'nothing' areas now, what are you giving your 'all' to? Could you may spread your energy more evenly?
    (Just wondering).
    2184 days ago
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