Start Now. Get Perfect Later. This is such an effective book that the title alone is its own philosophy. The cover could be posted on the wall above a lot of desks. While the rest of us are contemplating our personal struggles with productivity, Rob Moore has probably already submitted the outline for his next book.
What differentiates SNGPL from other books on procrastination is that it focuses a great deal on how to become more decisive and how to think strategically. This is a very intriguing take. Procrastination research in the academic world right now is revolving around mood repair and recognizing the emotional roots of resistance. Moore is sharing his approach, what worked for him, and I think it would also be an improvement for many of us fellow procrastinators.
Rethink what you are doing and why you are doing it. Teach yourself to be more confident in your decisions.
I’m with him on this, and I think I have a similar mindset. There is a stripe of person, the natural entrepreneur, who is full of ideas and drive but needs a certain amount of structure in order to get anything done. Not just building systems, but learning what is involved in creating an effective system in the first place, that’s the missing piece.
This book has the ring of truth. Bias toward action is the premise behind the exhortation to Start Now, Get Perfect Later. I can attest to much of this material from experience, which is motivating me to pay close attention and try the rest. Peek into the mind of someone who is doing things a bit differently, and ask yourself, wouldn’t it be better just to start now?
Delaying general admin and jobs with no financial or residual benefit, in favour of the most important or highest-value task, is just plain smart.
Even procrastinating is a step into the unknown, as you don’t know what will happen when you put off a decision.
As you make faster, better and harder decisions, you get better at making faster, better and harder decisions.
Problem solvers rule the world.
Friends first. Why is this such a mystery?
I know all sorts of fun, smart, successful, attractive people who can’t figure out why they are single, and neither can I... except that I can. I know why.
For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that dating exists under completely different rules than all their other friendships. It’s some mystical exception, alone among every other aspect of their social life.
It isn’t! That’s the secret!
Everything you know about making friends is true about dating, too.
I’ve been in the same relationship for long enough now that other women are like, “You’re so lucky! You’re so lucky you found someone like him!”
This is true. It’s also a fundamental misunderstanding of how this stuff works.
I didn’t find out until recently - like, THIS YEAR recently - that my hubby made a formal decision to be “friends first” in his next relationship. He didn’t feel like he and his ex were really friends. They sort of jumped into a relationship and got on with the business of parenting and making financial decisions together. After they split, he thought it out and realized that the lack of friendship was most likely the missing piece.
Me? I only ever dated guys if I could have a real conversation with them. What else could I possibly have been attracted to in a person?
I always saw dating as a shortcut to learning tons of new things. I counted on my boyfriends to introduce me to their favorite books and movies, their favorite bands, and all their hobbies. I also liked meeting their friends, especially their female friends, and I made an effort to befriend their roommates, too.
I can thank the various gentlemen of my past for introducing me to entire new cuisines and musical genres, teaching me to play games, taking me to their favorite campsites, and so much else. What fun!
As I got older, all of this accumulated culture exchange started to make me more attractive as a date and a partner, too. Whatever else you can say about me, I am incomparably good at restaurant recommendations. If I take someone out, they’ll still be going to that place ten years later. If I take the time to teach someone a card game, they’ll go out and teach it to all their friends the next weekend. Fun spreads quickly.
My hubby, divorced single dad, put it out there that he wanted to date someone who felt like his friend. I had no idea! I just showed up, being my same old self.
Ask his ex if you don’t believe me, but he wasn’t a turnkey solution. He wasn’t “perfect husband, just add water.” You can’t order these guys up out of a catalog.
What made him perfect for me was a process of time and communication. I customized him, just as he was customizing me. We built a little world for ourselves out of inside jokes and catchphrases, out of tens of thousands of conversations and references.
This is why he believes that our marriage can never be replaced to a mathematical certainty. You can’t just go out and get another fifteen-year friendship. With every year that goes by, you are less and less likely to be able to rebuild something similar with someone else.
If our entire civilization were to go through some sort of wormhole, and on the other end a bunch of people had been swapped around, it would never work. I can’t be this type of wife to some random dude, and my husband would only be perfect for me, personally.
True, we do sweet things for each other all the time. We make each other special breakfasts and lunches. We plan surprises for each other. We have enviably cute traditions in our marriage. They aren’t one-size-fits-all, though. What’s cute and sweet is that we made it all up. We imagined ourselves into reality.
I married my husband because he’s the most interesting man I’ve ever met. Interesting to *me* though. Another woman wouldn’t be all that interested in marrying someone who is on business travel half the time, especially because he goes to some of the world’s most unglamorous locations. It’s not as fabulous as it sounds. If I went with him, I’d be stuck hanging around some mediocre hotel all day while he sat in a conference room for ten hours. Woo, right?
People always want to cherry-pick. We think we can imagine small pieces of someone else’s life for ourselves. We want just the juicy parts.
It’s easy to envy someone else’s ten-year marriage and think, “Ooh, I wish I had that.” You have to put in years of conversation first, though.
The thing is, I thought my husband was interesting and funny even when he was at a low point in his life. When I first met him, basically the only thing he could talk about was his ongoing custody battle. I was able to look past that because I had been divorced, too, and I could listen patiently. I could return the favor that my friends had returned to me, when I needed someone, and be present for him.
That’s another part of the friendship that supports the best marriages, the enviable ones. We’re such good friends because we’ve been there for each other. We’ve been to funerals together. We’ve cried on each other when our pets died. We’ve taken each other to the hospital. Quite a lot of our relationship has been stressful and cruddy, in fact, because a lot of life is that way. We’re friends because we have reason to trust each other, and we’re reliable because we owe each other a hundred ways.
I’m not sure, because I haven’t tried it, but I think other people may be expecting something different when they date. Maybe they’re going for someone who looks hot in their photos? Or someone with a great resume who can impress their friends? Maybe they have a long checklist because they basically want a personal butler/massage therapist? Maybe they have a romantic fantasy where the other person acts out a role similar to their favorite movie? I have no idea how I would go about a date-finding project like that.
All I can say is that I have a lot of platonic friends, and every now and then, one would cross the line into something more. The one I married was the one who was the most interesting to talk to and the one who made me laugh the hardest. As far as I can tell, those are the traits that will still interest me even when we’re eighty years old.
“I can tell the difference already,” he said. “You’re back up to a seven.”
I’m six weeks into my post-surgery recovery plan, long enough to notice some changes. He’s been out of town just long enough to see that things have changed since he left.
These aren’t physical changes in *me* - it’s everything else. The ripple effect.
I spent four days rearranging our apartment, including the contents of all our closets and cabinets. The place is gleaming from stem to stern. It’s the sort of thing I like to do as a surprise, or at least the sort of thing I like to do when I’m feeling energetic and upbeat.
On the opposite end, one of the first ways I can tell that I’m coming down with something is when I somehow don’t feel like I have enough energy to make the bed. It takes 45 seconds. I’m usually done before I’m even awake enough to realize I’ve done it. If this is disrupted for some reason, it’s a telltale sign that something is off.
I rate my mood and energy level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 on the low end and 10 on the “someone I like is planning a wedding” end.
After I took up distance running, I started to realize that it had worked some impressive changes in me. Not in my physique per se, but in my general attitude toward life.
“It’s like my baseline mood when I was chronically ill was a 5, or a 4 when I had a migraine. Then when I got better, it was more like a 7. When I’m running it’s like... a 9!”
It’s true. When I’m running twenty or thirty miles a week, I feel like I’m getting ready to go to a parade or something. Everything seems simple or easy and I’m brimming over with fun ideas. I used to say I had so much energy, I felt like I could kick down a fence. Sometimes I would be running, and around the 45-minute mark I would just jog along with my arms over my head in victory. Sometimes I would burst into song.
Then I blew it. I overtrained and borked my ankle.
I had to quit running because I was in so much pain. I would wake up in the middle of the night because it would feel like someone was kicking me in the ankle with a cowboy boot. I had to wear a brace. I had two MRIs and I spent six months in physical therapy. I spent a truly stupid amount of time with my foot in a bucket full of ice cubes.
I was mad at myself and mad at my ankle and mad at asphalt and mad that we had to move away from the regional park where I used to train. I used to see other runners pass by and I felt like a dog on a leash, watching other dogs chase a frisbee.
I changed sports and started getting quite fit doing martial arts. There were physical changes, yes, a different type than the changes that happened when I took up running. It seems that if you dedicate yourself to any one type of training, you can tap into a certain variety of super powers.
Running gave me mood powers and endless energy.
Martial arts permanently removed my needle phobia and the white-knuckled anxiety I used to feel on airplanes. It helped me eliminate my stage fright. Martial arts gave me an extra dimension of executive presence. I finally learned to really use command tone, and my dog suddenly started paying a lot more attention when I spoke. I learned to make a convincing war face, a crazy expression than can quickly cause people to back up a step with little more than a widening of my eyes. My arms and shoulders bulked up. I found that I could suddenly intimidate big dudes twice my size. For superpowers, these are pretty excellent!
I missed the mood effects that I got from running, though.
Then I went through a rough patch. I had minor surgery that resulted in an incision right in the middle of my torso. I couldn’t twist, bend, sit up straight, or even move my arms much. After a month of doing hot compresses every two hours, I had to start a routine of changing bandages. This was all very tiresome, but it did provide a massive surge of motivation to start working out again as soon as I legitimately could.
I got back on the elliptical. We had to sell ours when we downsized, but there is one in our dinky apartment gym. Nobody is ever down there and I get the whole room to myself. I call it the “news machine.”
An hour a night.
The first few nights were rough. Not only had I not been working out, I had barely gotten off the couch in two months. I was out of breath and I wanted to quit after twenty minutes.
I know how to distract myself, though. I had a long news queue to work through. I focused on how much I wanted to “catch up on reading.” I only let myself do this type of reading during my workout. It felt like a reward. After the first week, it was more like playing a game than exercise.
I started getting a taste of the old post-workout glow. If I work out long enough at a high enough level of intensity, I can get an endorphin rush that lasts for two hours or more. It feels awesome, wipes out soreness and fatigue, and helps me sleep better.
I didn’t really notice the change as it happened, but over the next several weeks, my baseline mood and energy level started to improve too.
A couple of months ago, I was at a real low point. I couldn’t do much of anything, three courses of antibiotics made me sick and headachy, and my incision hurt. I would definitely have agreed that my mood hovered around a five most of the time.
Now I’m heading back in the direction where I like to be. I’m starting to feel like the person I think of as the “real me” - upbeat and cheerful. I’m ready to head into Phase Two, where I start running outdoors and enjoying the scenery, hunting for the payoff that keeps all distance runners inspired and motivated. A few months from now, I could be feeling like a nine every day again.
Nobody seems to know how to cook anymore, and that makes meal planning even more complicated when people’s schedules and requirements don’t line up. What if you’re eating different things, at different times, for different reasons, and you have different needs?
The second reason for a trashed, messy kitchen is when there are multiple people sharing it who eat meals at different times. It means the kitchen is almost continually in use, and that means nobody thinks that wiping down counters or scouring the sink is “their job.” (The first reason is that the home is ruled by Not Me).
Bulk cooking is one way around this. People can take turns being the bulk cook, or trading off between shopping, cleanup, and meal prep.
The other way is something that I just figured out.
A lot of families are out of sync because there are multiple adults (or teenagers) working various shifts, going to classes, or fitting in sports and other events. There can also be an issue with people fixing meals and then carrying them off to other parts of the house, leaving dirty dishes, smears, napkins, food packaging, and crumbs all over the place.
Fortunately for us, we don’t have this problem!
We have two problems: one, when his business travel and evening gym classes either do or don’t line up with nights when I have meetings; two, when one of us is cutting calories and the other is trying to bulk up.
Why are our fitness routines always out of sync? Who knows? It just seems to happen that way.
He’s on a diet; I’m training for a marathon.
He’s training for his blue belt; I’m trying to drop fifteen pounds.
One of us is recovering from a sports injury and the other has a full plate in one hand and a smoothie in the other.
We have a deal set up where we take turns cooking throughout the week. My nights are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because those are his gym nights, especially on Friday when he does sparring and class back to back. Then he does Tuesday, Thursday, and whichever weekend night we don’t go to the movies.
The main complicating factor is that I often have a meeting on Wednesday nights, and also a teleconference on Mondays right in the middle of the cooking window.
The other is that I’m in a two-month window of cutting calories.
We have a set of six meal prep containers. Last year, we were bulk cooking and keeping these full. We would plan what we wanted in them, and we would each cook part of it. Maybe he would make five gallons of mashed potatoes and I would chop the vegetables, or he’d chop and I’d make a pan of cornbread. Even with both of us taking turns in our miniature kitchen, because we couldn’t both fit in there at the same time, we could turn it around in under an hour. That means one evening of cooking for four nights’ meals: that night plus the six servings that went into the freezer.
This only works if we’re eating the same things.
Or so I thought.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I could continue to hold my end up, cooking on the nights that are my turn, even if the meal that I’m cooking for someone who just did a two-hour workout is not the meal that I plan to eat.
It goes like this:
Cook two servings of ordinary dinner. Serve one steaming hot. Put the other into the meal prep container with its three neat divisions. Put the lid on it, label it, and put it in the freezer. Eat whatever is on the alternate plan.
The next night, he can make whatever he wants, with the option of freezing half.
Within six to twelve nights, all the meal prep containers are full, labeled, and stacked up in the freezer.
There are huge advantages to this method. On busy nights, you can grab a meal prep box and microwave it, or even bring it with you. If one of you is out of town, the other can enjoy a nice home-cooked meal without having to cook or clean up.
An under-appreciated aspect of rotating meal prep is that the containers are almost always either in the dishwasher or the freezer. That means you don’t need to set aside as much space in the kitchen cabinets to store them.
Another under-appreciated factor is that this method generates much less trash than buying packaged meals. The busier the household, the less likely anyone is to feel like they “have the time” to take out the garbage or sort recycling. Less trash, less squabbling.
Any system that makes sense will reduce chaos. Each system that a household puts into place eliminates a persistent problem, and usually a bunch of them. For instance, an evening routine makes an easier morning routine, and giving each person a get-ready chair makes it easier to find the most important objects. Having a meal prep routine simplifies the one thing that is most likely to happen when people are hangry and tired, which is trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. Last-minute hangry, tired meal planning has about a 99.9% chance of leading to unintended consequences, such as me trying to eat in a car and getting ketchup all over myself.
The single greatest question to ask when you are trying to Get Organized is, will this make life easier for Future Me or harder for Future Me? Often the thing that you do now to make life easier for yourself tomorrow only takes two minutes. Bulk cooking and meal prep take a little bit more planning than that, but they can support the utmost in complicated and busy lives. It’s possible to use this method even for a household of multiple adults who are constantly traveling, taking night classes, working overtime, and doing body transformation - even all at the same time.
My husband and I just found the ten-year financial plan we made together shortly before we decided to get married. I wrote about how that plan worked out (spoiler: we were 0.4% ahead of projection), and I wrote about how making a ten-year plan helped us make the decision to get married.
What I haven’t really shared is how we did it. How do we have that kind of talk (which we do regularly) and how do we do it without fighting?
This is where even a five-minute conversation can go well or badly, based on the entire structure of your relationship.
Whether you respect each other
Whether you’re willing to humor each other and listen to an unusual pitch
Whether you actually know what a “pitch” is
What emotional pitfalls either of you are likely to fall into
Note that this is the same whether you’re having a financial conversation with a roommate, travel buddy, business partner, sibling, parent, child, best friend, random stranger, or talking squirrel. The only real reason that it would be different when talking about money with your romantic partner is that you’re more likely to be sharing accounts.
Think that through. As far as the *duration* of your relationships, you may have a roommate, colleague, or bestie in your life far longer than you’ll have a husband or wife. (Or talking squirrel, for that matter. Regular squirrels only have a lifespan of about… sixteen years?? What the…???)
The very most important part of a strategic discussion is to choose your moment.
It’s the context and the situation and the timing.
Where most people go wrong when they start learning how to pitch or negotiate is here, in the timing and choosing the optimal context. When we act out of panic, desperation, or pessimism, when we’re anxious, we tend to blurt things out at the worst possible time.
This is because
We are thinking about OURSELVES and our feelings and our guesses and our projections
The OTHER PERSON and their perspective and their needs and their likely reaction.
It’s the same with public speaking. When I am anxious, it’s because I’m thinking about myself. What will people think of me?? (who cares) I can relax when I refocus on my audience. I can crush it when I focus on… my message. Not how I look, or who’s watching, but what I am saying and how important that is.
When I believe that my message is valuable, then I increase my motivation to share it.
LOOK OUT! .. is a very important message, as is FIRE! Obviously people need to know if they’re in the path of chaos or if something is on fire. We should never hesitate to call out if we have that information and other people don’t.
Honestly, talking about money with people who are close to us can often be much more important to their long-term survival than open flames or a runaway shopping cart.
We avoid these conversations when we are afraid of conflict, and we are afraid of conflict in a lot of avoidable situations. We’re afraid when we don’t know how the other person will react… yet the only way to get to know this person’s reactions is to get to know them better. That happens through open communication.
We’re also afraid when we’re insecure in our position or when we have something to hide. Yet open and honest communication destroys the reason to hide anything.
We can only find that security in our position by thinking strategically about it, figuring out many approaches to solve our problems and create our desired results.
What we are trying to accomplish when we talk about money is a mutually satisfactory result.
In the case of bad roommates, the result might be “how do we both move out without owing extra money?” In the case of siblings, the result might be “how do we take care of our parents without them having to move in with any of us?” In the case of romantic partners, it should start with “how do we have rational discussions about this so we don’t have to give all our money to a divorce lawyer?”
I’m not even kidding about that. I’m a divorced woman married to a divorced man. Our entire friendship started over lunchtime conversations about our divorces and the cannonball-sized holes they blew through our finances.
The first thing a strategic thinker asks is, How do I mitigate my risk?
That means, what are the obvious pitfalls? Where am I going to get myself into trouble? What do I need to avoid in order for this to work out?
When we’re first reaching out and entering negotiations with someone, about anything but most especially about money, we want to avoid alienating our discussion partner. If we’re going to trust each other in any kind of contractual situation (marriage, lease, mortgage, creation of entire new human), then we have to have a basis for ongoing communication.
That’s also true after a painful, explosive divorce, by the way. Just because you hate each other and never want to see each other again does not excuse either of you from having to fill out financial forms together. If you have kids, then you’re involved in each other’s tax planning for years.
It’s a lot easier to talk about money with someone we like and want to spend time with!
Remember that and try to keep it that way. Give what you wish to receive. Listen attentively and with courtesy and consideration. That is literally the only way that you can earn reciprocal respect.
One little trick that I use is to avoid the word “you” as much as possible when speaking to someone. I try to only use the word “you” when followed by a complimentary observation, such as “you got Exceeds Expectations on your performance review.” There is something inherently accusatory about saying “you” to someone that tends to make people tense up.
What you want to do is to choose your moment carefully. You want to make it low-stakes. Make it easy to agree with you. Start with an easy win.
Be willing to go first. Start with an offer. If you don’t know the person very well, engage with curiosity about something that they would like. What’s important to them? What are their values? Hopefully you already know at least a few things about the values of your spouse, if you’ve already married this person.
As an example, I had some roommates in a big, drafty house. Someone gave them a smart thermostat after upgrading theirs, and none of us really knew how to install it, so it sat on a table for a few months. I knew it would save us money to hook it up. As the child of an airplane mechanic, I believed I could either figure it out, or make a phone call and get some guidance. My pitch was basically, Do you want to try to install that thermostat together? Low stakes, non-accusatory, mutually beneficial outcome. As it turned out, it took five minutes, worked right away, we all cried out in joy and threw our arms in the air, and it saved us hundreds of dollars over the next few months.
Every time you pitch something that is a mutual win, you build trust and rapport. This can quickly build to outright enthusiasm, such that when you say, I have an idea, everyone’s head swivels in your direction. Yes please! More ideas please!
Another important aspect of negotiation is to think through your position before you start talking. You have to know what you want. If your position is, I wish to abdicate and convince someone else to shoulder my responsibilities, then I sincerely hope you’ve spent some time choosing your target.
My starting position was, I am on track and I am a total accountability person. I will share my financial statements and the fundamentals of my strategy. We can make plans together as long as you are willing to be as open as I am.
This is part of how we opened our first major financial planning meeting together. We had started talking *before* we started sharing accounts, before we moved in together, before our money started to mingle. We didn’t blame each other for anything, we didn’t try to throw down ultimatums about each other’s spending, and we didn’t ask each other for anything we weren’t willing to do ourselves.
We succeeded at talking out a ten-year plan, and succeeded at staying on track over those ten years, because we saw each other as equal partners. We also did it without fighting because we had no reason to be angry, hurt, or upset. We reached out to each other in friendship, in an invitation to combine forces, us against the world.
Hey honey, let’s pay off our debts together and save enough to retire, and go on vacation too!
* copy and paste that and send it to your money buddy *
I love this book! I loved Denise Duffield-Thomas’s prior book, Lucky Bitch!, and I think I love this one even more. Yet I have a confession to make.
I read the first third of Get Rich, Lucky Bitch!, marking all sorts of passages and knowing I wanted to review it. Then I put it aside for nearly a year.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, my delight in it, or anything intrinsic to the book itself. It’s really a big, bright, blinking neon arrow pointing to my own money blocks. Gosh, how embarrassing.
I will say, though, that since I began the book a lot has changed in my life. My husband and I were living in a tiny, dark studio apartment. We were saving tons of money and crushing our financial goals, but living there was genuinely sucking the life out of me. I was sick all the time. Finally, my husband, who is a million times better at putting positive energy toward money than I am, put his foot down. We had to get out of there. We paid double rent for two months.
It’s more interesting than that. He saw a listing for his dream apartment, and I had to admit that it was pretty darn fabulous. (Much too fabulous for the likes of me…) We went on vacation, made the decision, came back, and called about the apartment. Even though it had been nearly two months since we saw the listing, it was still available, and we got it!
I was feeling ill about spending the extra money. The rent was higher and that double rent didn’t help.
Ah, but my hubby was dialed in. He got a raise at work a few months later. When I told him I still felt bad about the double rent, he shrugged and told me he had already earned it back in overtime.
The new place has everything we wanted: Hardwood floors, lots of light, a dishwasher, no upstairs neighbors… and, what is crazy for a small apartment, no adjoining walls with anyone else! It feels like we’re on vacation all the time.
It basically feels like we were living in a cruddy little cave, until my husband snapped his fingers and got, not just the perfect apartment, but the higher income to pay for it. I was able to get us moved out of the old place and into the new place between when he left for work and when he came home the same day.
This is all to say that IT WORKS. I have a long and storied history with poverty and struggle and darning the same pair of socks three times. Little by little, I’ve been able to reeducate myself and understand how abundance works. Which it darn well does.
I agree with everything in this book, and much of it I can validate through personal experience, such as finding money and winning raffles and contests. We get free upgrades and comps all the time. I almost feel like I could write an appendix filled with testimonials. Anyway, what are you waiting for? It’s time to Get Rich, Lucky Bitch!
Money doesn’t solve money blocks.
If your behavior stays the same, it doesn’t matter how much money you make.
For some reason, I used to think I’d have to change everything about myself to be “worthy” of success.
I’m having a freak magnet kind of a day. I can call it that only after long experience. When I was younger, this kind of thing might have made me feel special. I might have mistaken other people’s poor boundaries, or other serious red flags, for instant intimacy.
I’m sitting in a busy cafe. Within an hour, three total strangers have interrupted me and physically touched me. One of them also touched my purse.
This is highly unusual. Let’s acknowledge that. If I were Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s unlikely that other people would walk up and lay their hands on me, even if the song “Lay Your Hands On Me” were playing in the background.
I have to ask myself, is there something in this situation or in my physical presence that is drawing this odd behavior from others?
First assumption: I’m in the way.
If I were standing in a crowd, like at a parade or festival, I could assume that I would be pressed against. I’ve ridden mass transit for many years and I don’t necessarily mind being squished together.
Being touched by a series of strangers could also be a sign of low situational awareness on my part. Maybe I’m blocking a doorway or I keep wandering into other people’s paths.
Second assumption: Something is visibly wrong with me and people are checking on me.
If I were having some kind of dizzy spell, if I had just been hit by a car or knocked over, if I was bleeding from a head injury and didn’t realize it yet, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone to physically steady me or try to help me sit down. I assume that if I were going into shock or having some kind of episode, I might not realize what was going on.
Third assumption: I am the victim of a prank.
Maybe someone stuck a sign on my back. Maybe I’ve unintentionally walked out of the house looking like some kind of meme, and I’m too out of the loop to know it. In this scenario, people might be interacting with me because they can hardly keep from laughing, and making eye contact or sneaking photos of me is prolonging the fun.
Lord help me, I wish I could rule out that third option forever, but I’m still haunted by this kind of thing...
Fourth assumption: I’m in the kind of neighborhood where the cultural norm is more physical than other places.
It is true that I live in a beach community with very relaxed norms. Seeing people walk down the sidewalk barefoot, or wearing only a skimpy swimsuit, is everyday and unremarkable here. Maybe the locals are also huggers and I just haven’t noticed yet.
Fifth assumption: I look approachable and people are drawn to me.
This is likely, and also hilarious to me, because it’s both true and untrue.
I happen to be wearing a set of enormous noise-cancelling headphones. My husband bought them for me specifically because they are an ostentatious signal that I am WORKING and unavailable for casual chatter. This is because he knows about my freak magnet problem. I also happen to be wearing a Warrior Dash t-shirt, a garment I’ve worn to Krav Maga lessons, and the only accessory that would make me feel more intimidating would be my kali stick.
When I left my apartment, my sartorial messages were STAY AWAY and BUSY and I MIGHT FIGHT YOU.
At least three other people looked at me in this guise and thought, I should touch this woman.
Who were they?
One, an older woman, possibly old enough to be my mom. She grabbed both of my arms from behind. What?? She wanted to joke with me about another man a few feet away who was playing air drums. Okay cool.
Two, a young man, possibly young enough to be my son. He touched my arm and started talking to me until I took my headphones off. Then he asked if I would pull down the blinds. As I did, he put his hand on my purse and held it out of the way.
Three, a young girl, probably middle school age. She tapped my arm and kept waving at me until I took my headphones off. “Hi.” She wanted to know what I was doing (“trying to get some work done”) and tell me that she and her two friends had the day off from school.
When people physically grab my arms, they have my attention. I figure they’re telling me that the building is being evacuated, or someone is trying to steal from me, or my headphones aren’t plugged in and I’m blasting everyone with a wave of sound, or I’m foaming at the mouth and having a seizure. It’s never been that.
For some mysterious reason, random people just feel impelled to do anything to get my attention.
My family has had a joke for many years. Every time we go somewhere together, someone picks me out and asks me to take their picture. The joke is that I could have a very large stolen camera collection by now! Obviously consensus opinion is that I look trustworthy, approachable, and kind. Another way to put that is: small, female, and harmless. Never mind that I’m belted in two martial arts and I have special training in how to fight with hammer, screwdriver, pen, knife, and staff. I look nice enough, don’t I?
The thing about instant intimacy is that it’s superficial. Just because someone is ready to drop their boundaries on sight doesn’t mean there is any good reason for it. Someone who becomes emotionally open and vulnerable right away may have motives hidden even from themselves.
The truth is that I’ve had this “instant intimacy” issue since I was a baby. Or so I’ve been told. It was part of my socialization as a tiny child to listen closely and with sympathy when people start spilling their life stories. They may do this with literally anyone who crosses their path; I’m just the type to regard it with compassion instead of annoyance, shock, or dread. Oh wow, someone with serious boundary issues, tell me more!
People are right when they see me as someone who is safe to approach, to interrupt, or even to grope. Apparently. I’m never going to haul off and start beating someone up or shouting at them, although I am trained in these arts and I certainly know what to do. I’m also a Free Hugs person, experienced in social services and crisis management. These are empath problems.
There are probably people who come across as seriously intimidating everywhere they go. I imagine there are people who wish they had more friends and can’t figure out what unintentional signals they are sending out. I’m not scary! Come back! I wish I knew their secrets, just like they probably wish they knew mine.
It’s incumbent on us to figure out what to do with these surface impressions. I’ve had to learn to protect my mental and emotional bandwidth. I’ve had to learn to slow that roll and set up more limits and speedbumps and tests and boundaries with all the random strangers who are drawn to me. I’ve had to learn not to mistake every approach as friendship or romance. Instant intimacy is a red flag, a signal to slow down and ask more questions. Real friendship needs more time to develop. Real, ordinary friendliness and cordial behavior is plenty.
I snapped awake. It was still dark outside. 4:11 AM. I had been asleep for four hours.
Why does this happen?
It’s a mystery why a tired person who isn’t sleeping well will still wake up in the middle of the night, wake up too early, or struggle to fall asleep. I know it’s a mystery because I’ve been reading everything I can find on the topic for twenty years.
Another mystery is what I would have done with my life by now if I hadn’t had so many disrupted nights.
I had plans for the day. Doesn’t everyone? I lay awake until 6:30 AM, turning off my alarm, since I wouldn’t be needing it. I was finally feeling sleepy again just as I had planned to be waking up and getting ready.
Decision point. Do I:
Get up and struggle through a long day on four hours of sleep;
Fall back to Plan B, see if I can sleep another two hours, and rearrange my schedule;
I went to Plan B. Again, I snapped awake before the alarm. I was so groggy and I felt so terrible that the will to launch simply snuffed itself out.
The worst part about this is that I structure my own schedule. I have no real reason for struggling with sleep, no caretaking responsibilities, no duty to unlock a door or turn the lights on. My income does not depend on a requirement that I get out of bed at a specific time. This was, of course, fallout from my parasomnia disorder.
Why some people voluntarily deprive themselves of sleep is beyond me. Staying up late to play games, surf the internet, or binge-watch anything, only to get up early the next day and be exhausted, is a pattern I don’t really understand. You mean you would be able to sleep, you just don’t feel like it? What must that be like?
The last couple of years that I worked a traditional day job, I had some very rough days. If I only slept for two or three hours, I would still have to get up and get dressed and commute and drag myself through my workday. I used to go into the ladies’ room every 90 minutes or so to splash cold water on myself or slap myself in the face a couple of times. I used to pinch my upper thigh between my fingernails until the pain jolted me briefly into alertness.
There were times when I barely made thirty hours of sleep for the week.
It was the same in college, when at least I could take naps between classes. I trained myself to sleep in 45-minute increments, folded onto one sofa cushion in the student lounge.
During that era, most of my work occurred outside the time dimension. I could read my assignments and write papers at any time of day or night. While I was a Dean’s List student, this was somewhat of a disaster, because it shattered my circadian rhythms.
It was probably inevitable that I would cut the cord of the traditional day job schedule as soon as I was able. I’m worthless when sleep deprived. Can’t concentrate, lose objects, get physically lost, speak slowly, read the same paragraph over and over. Probably there are high-functioning alcoholics and addicts who get more done at work than I did after a week of poor sleep.
What I didn’t expect was that I would have some of the same problems when I had nobody to report to but myself.
Over the years, I’ve figured out a lot of inputs that affect my sleep and allow me to get enough rest 80-90% of the time. I haven’t figured out how to deal with external noise past a certain decibel level. I’m struggling right now because the apartment beneath ours is being remodeled, and there are saws, drills, hammers, and who knows what else going on ten or eleven hours a day, six or seven days a week. Naps are off the menu. Until when? How would I know? How long does it take to completely overhaul a 650-square-foot apartment?
This is a difficult world for parasomnia. If I knew of a quiet place, I would already be living there, but the countryside isn’t much better. My sleep has been disrupted by anything and everything including garbage trucks, loud motorcycles, helicopters, slamming doors, domestic arguments, barking dogs, ice cream trucks, roosters, other people’s phones, crying children, jackhammers, drunken singing, and even misdelivered packages. Some of these happen between the hours of midnight and 4 AM, because why would the world ever quit being loud?
What I’m trying to learn to do is to fit in an acceptable level of productivity around all of it, somehow. I have to accept that there will never be anywhere in the world, or any time in the day, when I can go off somewhere and never experience disruption. It’s built into the system. If I check into a hotel room, people will persist in talking and laughing loudly in the hallway outside my room every single hour of the day and night. If I move somewhere, the adjacent space will almost immediately undergo renovations.
As I write this, a car alarm is going off in the parking lot next door.
I don’t even own a car, much less a car alarm.
I’ve tried white noise generators and high-end noise canceling headphones and fans and double-glazed windows. I’ve tried every sleeping pill on the market, both prescription and OTC. I’ve tried massage and hot baths and essential oils and meditation. I’ve spoken with doctors and even a psychiatrist. I’m an edge case. I’ll never stop trying things, because I’m curious and because I’ll never give up hope that I can beat this dumb problem, one way or another.
In the meantime, most of the stuff I do that happens on a schedule happens in the afternoon.
I always wanted a chauffeur. That used to be something high on my outrageous dreams list. I’ve always hated driving, I’m a terrible navigator, I’m definitely the kind of person who forgets where she parked, and I saw the whole thing as a chore.
That’s why going car-free has been so great for me.
Honestly I feel like I’m getting away with something by not driving. Most of what I do in my neighborhood, I do on foot, and it feels like I’m on vacation. A little outing most days of the week gets me out in the fresh air. Sometimes I take the bus, something we also do on vacation. It’s when I get a rideshare driver that I really feel like I’m living the dream and having a chauffeur - except that I didn’t have to become a millionaire before it happened.
Why do other people drive so much? I’m not totally sure, since driving was only a regular part of my life for a few years, but I think it’s almost entirely 1. work commute and 2. errands.
Oh, and driving kids around, for those who have them, but we can get to that later.
When I talk about not having a car, especially in Southern California, people get very fidgety. It’s one of those topics that falls under the category of “preachy” for some reason, like eating enough dietary fiber or voting in midterm elections. Ugh, stop pressuring me, I don’t want to spend my social time talking about this!
It’s like people have a conversational filter, and a huge number of topics gets caught in that filter, because we make automatic assumptions about WHY someone would do something.
The only reason someone like me would quit driving - well, I can’t understand it - but surely it absolutely must be something preachy. Saving the environment or something. Ugh. *eye roll*
On the contrary, I don’t drive because I’m spoiled!
Why any middle-class person would do their own errands is beyond me. I for one am way too busy! There is no way I’m going to give up any time on my evenings or weekends to drive around in circles, looking for parking, and wander from place to place doing a bunch of unpaid labor.
That’s what errands are. Unpaid productivity.
Let’s go through the errands point by point.
(If you have kids, hear me out, because my mom did all these things with three small children *by bus* all the time when we either had only one vehicle, or our car was broken down. Riding herd on small kids is even more reason to want to avoid doing your own errands!)
Again, I see errands as an annoying chore that disrupts my precious free time.
Groceries. There is a grocery store across the street from my apartment that is open from 5 AM to midnight, every day. We’re also a ten-minute walk from a Trader Joe’s and a ten-minute bus ride from two different Whole Foods locations. We almost always walk to pick up groceries, or grab a bag as part of another trip. I’ve also paid to have groceries delivered, and for $6-7 plus tip it’s definitely worth saving 1-2 hours of my time.
When would I have groceries delivered? When I’m prepping for a dinner party, once when I was wearing an ankle brace, and another time when I had the flu and my hubby was out of town. If I had little kids, I’m telling you, I wouldn’t do my own grocery shopping again until the littlest one went off to college.
Pharmacy. Every pharmacy I have seen encourages mail delivery. I switched to this because they obviously prefer it, and also because I’ve picked up a cold at least twice when I went to the pharmacy in person.
Dry cleaning. Um, we don’t use a dry cleaner… Maybe once every year or two. I learned how to use those dry cleaner kits you can put in the dryer at home. To me, this would not rate as a good enough reason to own and operate a car. I can walk to a dry cleaner five minutes from my apartment.
Doctor/dentist/veterinary appointments. To me, these aren’t errands, they are appointments. I usually ride the bus, but this is one category where we both tend to use rideshare. We’ve never had a problem bringing our dog or our parrot with us; in fact, often the driver asks to take a photo with my bird.
Beauty treatments. I get my hair done across the street. My hubby goes to a place across the street from our favorite cafe. I’m not interested in stuff like nail art, and I have no idea how many other types of beauty treatments there are, but I imagine most of them could be combined in one full-service location? Again, this wouldn’t be a good enough reason for me to make myself drive anywhere.
Random stuff. Shoe repair - I had to take my hubby’s dress shoes in when my parrot climbed into the closet and chewed on them. It was on the bus route to one of my clubs. I have no idea what type of random things other people are doing, but how many of them involve car-related things like oil changes?
“Shopping.” What do we mean when we say “shopping”? I mean groceries, because personally I hate shopping for clothes almost as much as I hate driving. My hubby and I don’t shop for entertainment. We usually tie in something like buying new shoes or pants along with a trip to the movie theater, and we go there by city bus. I do one major clothes shopping trip a year, usually on vacation, when I make my hubby help me pick out all my stuff.
Outings. I think a lot of people come up with “reasons” to do errands because they include outings, like getting ice cream, going through the drive-thru because they secretly love it and despise cooking, or stopping at the craft store or other favorite shop. Just admit that you are in the mood for an outing and go on the outing. You don’t need to tack a chore onto it because you don’t need to justify your desire to have fun.
Here is where I might add that we used to spend $700 a month owning a car. We got rid of it three years ago. My hubby’s bus fare is paid for by his employer, and he’s learned to prefer playing games and saving money to fighting freeway traffic for 40 minutes every night.
I realize that many people don’t live in a walkable neighborhood. Neither did I during the first five years of my marriage. We sat down and consciously strategized about how we could relocate to a walkable neighborhood. It meant downsizing and being willing to fit into a smaller house… and that in turn meant way less housekeeping and zero yard work!
Since we started living the way we do, we’ve been able to live off half our income. We never fight about money. We also never fight about chores because there’s almost nothing to do, and we’ve automated most of it. When other people are out fighting rush hour traffic to do their own errands, we’re lounging around our living room, talking about stuff like what we would do with our time during the rocket trip to Mars, or why the students at Hogwarts still walked to the candy store even though they had magic.
Well, obviously it’s because walking around town is fun! Stop driving around doing errands all the time and start feeling more leisure in your life.
Interesting things always happen when you clear clutter, and this was no exception. My husband was going through a bag of papers, the last thing left from our move six months ago. Yes, a bag, a reusable shopping bag. Aha, he said, here it is! We’d been looking for this. The first financial plan we ever put in writing together.
In 2009, we made a ten-year financial plan. It turned up just as we were getting ready to do our taxes for the tenth year.
How’d we do?
Before I answer that, I should explain what is so significant about this ten-year plan and why anyone other than us would care about it.
What I didn’t know that winter was that my boyfriend at the time had already decided he wanted to marry me. We had been dating for nearly three years, living in separate cities the whole time, and I was perfectly fine with this arrangement. We had both been divorced, mine five years before his, and I didn’t see any reason to disrupt what we had.
I also felt like it was his decision if he ever wanted to get married again, because his divorce was much fresher and he had a kid. There was nothing to be gained from exerting any pressure on my end, especially because I value my independence and I need a lot of alone time. I had steadily been doing better for myself and I was proud of my progress.
Keep in mind that when we met, I was sleeping on an air mattress in a rented room, working as a temp, with no benefits. After I paid my student loan every month, I had about $30 of wiggle room in my budget. This boyfriend of mine, the one who was secretly contemplating marriage, had watched me as I consolidated my position:
The first raise. The permanent job offer, with benefits and another raise. The first promotion. Moving to an apartment of my own, with no roommates. Paying off two credit cards. Paying off a student loan six years early. Applying for, and getting, two promotional opportunities. Going on a proper beach vacation (without him) and paying for it in cash. Moving to a small rental house of my own.
I didn’t necessarily see myself on a clear trajectory at the time. I felt I was constantly pushing away from a very rough period in my life and recovering from the disaster that was my divorce. I still thought of myself as… temporarily non-broke. I knew I wouldn’t feel any kind of peace of mind until some later point, not one that I could imagine, but probably something like a hundred thousand dollars of savings, that or annual income. Why would I ever stop what I was doing when I felt the dark alternative in my bones?
When my boyfriend of nearly three years called and suggested that we have a financial planning meeting together, I was intrigued and excited. Sure, sounds great!
He came over to my mini-house. I loved that place! It was the first time in my life that I felt really proud of where I lived, the tiniest house in a safe, quiet, and upscale neighborhood. (It was really more like a servant’s quarters, to be honest, a granny unit on the same lot as a house that was 4x larger). I had built all my IKEA furniture myself, bought and paid for it all in cash, and although I was renting, my place was nicer than my boyfriend’s.
The financial planning meeting wasn’t too different from the New Year’s planning I had invited him to do with me for the last three years. I think that process opened the door for this. We had already had some practice being open and honest with each other, we’d already seen some of our plans work out, and we had been talking about money since before we started dating.
He worked the calculator and I wrote everything down on ordinary lined notebook paper.
Most of our discussion was setting the parameters for what would go into the plan.
We started with the assumption that neither of us would ever get a raise, a promotion, a bonus, or a windfall of any kind. That way, any successes of this nature would come as pleasant surprises, not baseline requirements.
We each have our own page. Our names are right at the top. We’re set up slightly differently, because at the time our retirement savings were structured differently and we had different expenses. I supposedly had a pension and a deferred savings account, while he had a traditional 401(k). He was still paying child support, alimony, and a note on his truck. (I had already gone car-free by then).
It took me a while to reinterpret the math, because almost everything I had written out for both of us was arithmetic, not notes or dictation. We were estimating our retirement contributions and savings. In his case, we were forecasting how much more he could save after he paid off his truck and no longer owed alimony or child support.
What we failed to anticipate was a couple of layoffs, major moves, and surprise expenses. *gulp* We also didn’t include consumer debt or my last student loan.
Oh, and, um, we didn’t include me quitting my day job a year later. *nervous laughter*
Or the wedding, since the entire topic of marriage had not come up yet...
Ten years is a pretty long time for anyone. It’s quite a long time indeed in the life of a love relationship. My first marriage was over and done in a three-year span. It was a little nuts for us to be forecasting this far, and we knew it at the time. WHO KNEW what the future would bring???
Trust, love, and optimism, that’s what it brought, along with the usual share of disruption, dread, and calamity.
When both of our ten-year financial forecasts were finished, a full page for each of us, we sat back and looked at each other. Wow! That was actually fun!
Just a couple of months later, he proposed, his decision already made. He chose the one who likes to crunch numbers and talk about money, the one who is a careful saver, who reads personal finance manuals and manages her own investments. The one who beat the market in 2008. He chose me.
I chose him right back. I could choose freely because I didn’t need him, I wanted him. I was doing fine on my own. It just so happened that we liked it better when we were together.
How did it turn out?
After ten years: roughly two thousand dollars ahead of forecast. That’s a 0.4% win, pretty much as close as one could get.
How about that? Not only do we still like each other and find each other attractive, we just found vindication of our decisions from a decade ago buried in a stack of papers. Our methods apparently worked.
Now it’s probably time to put together a new ten-year plan, since the old one just expired. We can add in the perspective we’ve gained over the past decade, with the assumption that the next ten years will probably include a long recession and the firm knowledge that we can’t expect a single thing in our lives to stay the same. Well, except for our ability to have rational discussions together about our plans. That part we get to keep.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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