The Art of Pacing

Well, I don’t like being exhausted, but that goes away if I sit down.  Dizzy isn’t good, either, but that goes away if I sit down.  Shortness of breath, a very bad sign, but that goes away if I sit down.  If you have problems in your life and they all go away when you sit down, you’ve got a pretty good life, especially if you like sitting down because that’s where the books and the computers and the TV are.  I think of Terry Pratchett’s Leonard of Quirm, locked up by the Patrician and not noticing because the Patrician gives him all the books and tools and supplies he needs and a great place to work.  As Pratchett says, “There’s a certain type of person it is very hard to imprison.”  I keep thinking of that as I quit in the middle of doing the dishes to sit down.   What a shame my heart won’t let me stand here for another fifteen minutes scrubbing pots.  Darn.  I’ll have to read something.

This has also led to me considering things instead of rushing by them.  I want a big whiteboard but I have not yet ordered a big whiteboard because I am considering the ramifications of my fairly small living room.  Instead I ordered a Post-It easel and that’s getting me through the I-must-see-the-entire-book-on-the-wall portion of this novel.  I’ve been considering trying a pasta salad recipe for a couple of days; usually I grab the ingredients and then forget to make it before everything goes toes up.  Today I made pasta salad, or I will have made it once I hardboil some eggs.  (Why are there eggs in this pasta salad?  Weird.)   And I’m cleaning out my kitchen a section at a time–the heart thing again–and finding that if I go slower, I’m a lot more likely to look at whatever widget I’m holding and think, I do not need this, or even more often, Why do I have three of these?  

And then there’s the fact that I’m considering my health at all.   Suddenly I’m taking care of myself, taking my meds, paying attention to the signals my body’s sending me, talking to doctors.  I even bought an Apple watch because Mollie was worried.  She said, “What if you collapse from a heart attack and nobody finds you?” I said, “I’ll die and the dogs will eat me.” For some reason, this did not reassure her.  So now if I fall down, the Watch notices and asks me if I’m okay, and if I don’t hit “Yes, I’m great, and you?” on the screen, it calls 911 and the EMTs will come before the dogs figure out it’s time for the Last Supper. Also, it has a heart rate monitor so I can see what my resting heart rate is (73, which isn’t terrible) and what my walking heart rate is (or would if I walked more).  I never had time for this kind of thing before.  Now I make time.  I pace myself.

Of course it’s a shame my heart had to implode to get me to slow down, but hey, there really is an upside here: I feel better now than I ever have before.  I’d even go so far as to say I’m healthy.

Pace yourself, people.  Also your novels, but that’s another post.

64 thoughts on “The Art of Pacing

  1. I’m working on making a few changes, healthwise. I’ve had wicked reflux for a while, but my GP has managed to get me on meds that have got it under control (so why did it take me so long to get that seen to??). And I’ve been tinkering with beginners tai chi on YouTube to help me with my flexibility a little, but mostly to help me calm my breathing down. And, good lord, it’s fabulous for my breathing. Also, I find that if I start stressing out, just visualising the movements helps me slow my breathing and calm down, even if I’m not actually doing them. Tiny steps forward.

      1. I started out with just a search for “tai chi beginners”, and tried a few different ones to see what works for me. The one that worked for me as a starting point is Taiflow with Leia Cohen. She has six beginners videos up, and she gives good, clear instructions that build up slowly enough that I could keep up.

          1. Jenny, I started doing Tai Chi when I had chronic fatigue syndrome and could barely walk a block before needing to sit down. I was lucky and had a great teacher locally, but if you can find a video that works for you, I highly recommend it. Even if you can only do 5 minutes at a time. There are also seated yoga videos. (I wonder if there is seated Chi Gong…)

    1. I wore an alpha wave monitor that is supposed to help you become calmer by moving a ball on a grid. I couldn’t make it work except by visualising knitting 🙂

    2. Regarding whiteboards… There is whiteboard paint. Turns any wall into a erasable whiteboard. Lovely.

  2. This post made me laugh aloud repeatedly. “I’ll die and the dogs will eat me.” 😂🤣😀🤣 And “the EMTs will come before the dogs figure out it’s time for the Last Supper.”

    I used to love to actually pace and study back in high school years when it’s all about learning facts verbatim. I’d walk up and down with my book, just rereading until I knew the section.

    As for actually using energy gradually so it lasts over a day? Not so good. I like to finish things quickly. So I push harder in the morning and then require a nap. Which messes with my bedtime, which means I wake up tired which gives me less energy for the day. And then I have to reset by sleeping at 19.30 one night!

    Must get a handle on my impulse control!

    1. Bless you, Sure Thing. I was picturing feeling awful because I was going to post that I laughed for the exact same reasons you did. I feel better about giggling maniacally now.

      Jenny, now I have to Google the Apple Watch. I also need to order medic alert jewelry to inform responders of my ICD and diabetes.

      I think my heart lets me do a bit more than yours. Shopping Therapy Sunday let me navigate Walmart and Target, both, around the entire stores and many aisles. I even managed to do some cooking (Johnsonville Jalapeno Cheddar Brats, sliced bite-size and wrapped in bacon, then broiled. Not for me, for the grandkinder. Too much sodium for me, dangit!)

      Other than that, your limits are similar to mine. Be well, Jenny Crusie.

      1. Oh, I can SHOP. It’s lifting heavy things and moving them. So I don’t buy heavy things. (That’s a lie, I buy them through the mail and let somebody else carry them in.)

    1. Krissie sent me that, too, so now I really have to look into it (or procrastinate until the third suggestion hits). Fingers crossed.

      1. The world? Hell I’m selfish, I need Jenny Crusie to keep breathing and making this a better place and increasing my own courage.

        That said, the world does need Jenny Crusie.

          1. Not this world right here. We may not be all of it, but damned if we’re not an interesting cross section of it.

  3. I have a fitbit. It vibrates at me to remind me to go to bed. I ignore it. And then I’m tired. So this is good advice for me…if only I could follow it.

    On the bright side, I’ve stayed up late tonight booking accommodation in Sri Lanka. We’re going to Sri Lanka! Not until April, but oooh, exciting.

    1. I ignore my helpful go-to-sleep reminders, my sweetie ignores his, woe ensues. When woeful enough, we put the router on a timer so there is !! no internet during the sleeping time!! It is embarassing how well this works, despite a houseful of paper books.

      And then there is a deadline and late work nights and the timer is put aside and woe creeps back in.

  4. I definitely suffered from wanting to do all the things constantly. It’s just hard to decide what to cut one there so many wonderful things in life!

    The thing that has helped me so far is having a toddler and a newborn… That has slowed me down significantly.

    Of course, the bigger they get, the more wonderful things in life I will want to show them, so…

    … this is probably a temporary respite at best.

    1. I’m amazed that you can see any part of having a toddler and a newborn as a respite; most people in that position call it exhaustion.

    2. I’m amazed that you can see any part of having a toddler and a newborn as a respite; most people in that position call it exhaustion.

  5. My metabolic bone/muscle disorder forced me to pace myself a long time ago. Not just for physical things, but also for mental things. I only have so much functional brain time in a day. It’s also made me an obsessive long-term planner, because I know if I want to do something that will take 40 hours to accomplish, I need to start work on it at least 40 days ahead of the deadline, because I won’t be able to do more than an hour a day on it.

    I’m totally okay with the advance planning (I think that’s always been part of my psyche), but it can be hard to make other people understand that for a 40-hour project, 40 days out is actually the “last minute” for me to get started. I can’t simply do 40 hours in the last week before it’s due. At least not without giving up everything else I need/want to do and probably exhausting myself for weeks afterward.

  6. So I’ve been feeling like I’m behind on everything, so I wrote the working title of each of my writing projects on a sticky note, and put all the sticky notes in a row down the back of a door. And suddenly it was like “oh. No wonder I’m making incremental progress finishing these. I’m trying to do ten things at once.”

    I’ve realized I get impatient with pacing myself, unless I do something external to track what I’m actually accomplishing.

  7. I read the title of the post and thought that you would give me pointers on how to pace up and down the room with more style and aplomb. Alas, not, as I am pacing today and would like to look good while I do it.

  8. I’m working on the slowing down/pacing. Doing everything full throttle is a hard habit to break but a saner, happier way to live. Also I second the tai chi rec, we’ve been going to a local class. Unfortunately the teacher is about to leave until June to avoid the rainy season.

  9. I used to power into the day until a ligament thing hit my legs. Gradually abating, but what I’ve discovered is the dinner dishes can wait the washing in the morning (wash in the morning because wine the night before). So in the morning I drink coffee, read the headlines, and then dishes get sparkling pain free.

    Who knew? Pacing, that’s the answer.

  10. I was ambushed by exhaustion again today. I decided to take a belated weekend, going to Powis today and Lake Vyrnwy for a photography project tomorrow. But I crashed when I got to Powis; luckily the sun came out, so it was warm enough to nap. I may end up vegging in the flat tomorrow. I do need a change of scene, but I need to get some energy back most of all. Really don’t know how to solve this. Perhaps I should take a break from the day job, once I’ve finished what I’m working on (the edit’s going to be a nightmare to finish – I’ve just had a horrendous email from the author). But, of course, I need to earn money.

    Wish they hadn’t added six years to my retirement age.

    1. And maybe pacing’s the answer: take tomorrow to veg, and then cut my hours down to 3 a day (should still make my deadlines, just won’t earn as much).

    2. Jane, have you had a check up lately? When I had extreme fatigue issues, first the doctor checked my heart,which was okay. Then she checked my diet and suggested I cut back on the carbs and increase the protein. Which seemed to be part of the problem. My asthma was part of it too. I am still not as lively as I would like but I am no as young as I need to be either.

      1. Thanks, Bethany; but I’m pretty sure it’s accumulated stress. It’s three years since Mum got really ill, and then I had to organize the funeral, deal with all the legal and financial stuff, sort out the house and then sell it while looking for somewhere for myself. I feel I’ve been in limbo while staring, depressed, at the prospect of growing old alone and poor (no pension apart from the state one, since I’ve not had a paying profession).

        I did have a regular heart health check six months ago. And I definitely need to once more cut back on fat and sugar (comfort eating) and increase my exercise.

        What I’d prescribe for myself is a win on the premium bonds and a long holiday, followed by early retirement so I can focus on writing and photography.

        1. Pretty sure it’s stress? Hummmm. Of course stress is also a player in a lot of things going wrong physically, like heart issues, asthma (for some people), ulcers. There is an index whose name I have forgotten that correlates stress to the likelihood of developing illness and disease and you have had a lot of stress. If you have had a physical in the last year, I should keep my mouth shut. But if you haven’t, you really should have one.

          1. I think the heart-health thing sort of counts as a physical. It checks blood pressure and cholesterol (and weight) only, though. The NHS doesn’t really do check-ups: you only go to the doctor if you have a specific problem.

            And I’m as hypochondriacal as the next person: I’m definitely concerned that this long period of stress could have repercussions. Which is why I’m trying to think how best to get over it. All ideas welcome; best I’ve come up with is to cut back the day job as far as I dare, and let go as much as possible of my need to be productive. Fill in the gaps with as much relaxation and fun and connecting with nature and friends as I can conjure up.

        2. The limbo thing makes everything so much worse. I hate the three months I spent in a rental; the cottage has many, many problems, but it’s mine and I’m nestled in and secure, that changes everything.

  11. For anyone interested in Yoga, I really like “Yoga for Beginners” and “Yoga for your back” by Yoga Vidya. They have some great basic tutorials.

    Gary – I had to explain the laughter to those near me and added “If my favourite author dies anytime soon, I’m going to be very, very, very sad.”

    I come from a family where we joke like this all the time. I guess we laugh instead of cry.

  12. I’m not sure who said it, but there’s a saying that goes something like, “If you don’t make time for your health, you’ll have to make time for your illness.”

    True. Except sometimes you can overdo the exercise and get injured while training for your first marathon (at 45 years old) and then be forced to take time off from running and lose all that hard work and mileage you put into it and end up right back where you started with no finishers medal to show for it. *sigh*

  13. I got sick when I was 24 (although it took them 7 years to diagnose me, so I didn’t pace myself, and made things a lot worse). Eventually it got so bad I spent 10 years on disability, and most of my time sitting on the couch and drooling on myself. (Okay, I might have drooled on the cats, too.) There is nothing like a chronic illness with serious limitations on energy and brain power to teach you to pace yourself and prioritize.

    I’m much better these days (although still nothing like most people in energy and stamina, although I fake it reasonably well for short periods of time), but I still have to pick where to put my limited resources. Whenever possible, I stay away from things and people who drain my energy and give me nothing in return. Although the current state of the country makes that one damned difficult.

  14. Okay, all you people promoting tai chi are convincing me to stick with it. After four sessions of beginner class, plus doing it at home, I’m not a fan. But I’ll keep trying and also check the videos.

    Jenny, glad you’re still breathing!

    1. The advantage I found to tai chi via YouTube was that I could try out different ones until I found a teacher who worked for me – there was lots of nope, nope, oh Heck no! until I found a couple of videos I liked. And there are lots of five and ten minute tutorials, which suits me.

    2. I tried classes in June, but dropped out after half a dozen. They turned out to be mixed ability, and went far too fast for me – especially since it was the first exercise class of any kind I’d been to. I suspect it’s about finding a teacher that suits you (which is what my teacher suggested when I told him I was leaving).

    3. I hated my 1st class(1.5h class/week for six weeks), it hurt and I often knew I didn’t really understand what I was meant to be doing. By the end I started noticing how much less my body hurt even when not in class.

      The most helpful thing I did was pay for an hour of private instruction. Stuff that I’d completely missed in class became obvious.

      Going more than once a week and finding a teacher that explained the right amount for me is also good.

      Getting good enough to practice in my backyard without having look up every move was worth the trouble.

      And then I stopped. These comments are reminding me how much better I felt then, must get back to it.

    4. I think a lot depends on the teacher, says someone who had a TERRIBLE teacher some ten years ago and hasn’t tried again. I do have a highly recommended video, but I always have an excuse — no speakers on my computer in the room where there’s room to move and the room with the DVD player (and speakers) has no room to move. I’m sure there’s a solution that I just haven’t been sufficiently motivated to find. Getting it worked out is at the top of my list for 2019’s gap year (focusing on myself, both fun and healthy things).

  15. A few months ago I watched a you tube video on Yoga for Seniors, initially to learn how to get up in case of falling (you have to have a kitchen chair handy). So I thought I would use my new skill to take a bath because I’ve had to use showers and could no longer get gracefully out of the tub. The night I tried it I put a scant bit of bath oil in the tub (I know) and got in and enjoyed the best bath in forever until I tried to get out. Instead of calling my husband for help I put one leg over the edge of the tub and rolled out onto the mat on the floor. Well that was another lesson learned but my skin was so soft.

  16. One more suggestion for the white board issue: a computer projector. As long as you have your keyboard+mouse/laptop with you at the couch, it can still be hooked up to the projector and you can get the “whole book on the wall” effect.

    You just lose some of the tactile element, since you’re using mouse-keyboard to move things around, but wall-sized Curio. There may also be some learning curve to looking at the wall instead of at a screen.
    Actually, you don’t even need to replace your existing monitor (if you’re not using a laptop), because you can set things to “extended screen” rather than duplicate screen, so you can keep outlining stuff on the projector-space while keeping the writing program on the local screen. Ditto for laptops.

    Also, you can still put post-its on the wall over the projection.

  17. My daughter has suffered from pain and fatigue for many years; it took, finally, my willingness to quit my job to take her to a specialist in another state to discover that she has a chronic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (she’d been diagnosed for other things along the way, but doctors kept saying she should be better, so a dozen visits to a as many neurologists came up with a dozen diagnoses of conversion disorder (read: it’s all in her head)).

    Since then she has had surgery and, after other events, a chemical combo that allows her to sleep and function. She was eventually granted disability (refused twice because she had too much education and was too young).

    My point in all this is that I’ve learned a lot about myself and the pressure I put on my brilliant daugher — yes, brilliant, but in constant pain that I didn’t acknowledge — over the years.

    When an orthopedist recently offered to give me a cortisone shot — xrays showed that I have so much arthritis in my knee that I need a complete knee replacement — I said “No.” I figured I wasn’t in enough pain — I was merely in constant discomfort. Six weeks later I broke down and accepted the shot. Now I’m amazed at what life is like when my knee doesn’t hurt all the time.

    The point of all this is convoluted. Jane, you need to take care of yourself. Your health is number one. I can’t tell you how to reach beyond all the reasons that cloud your ability to put yourself first. But, please, set that goal first.

    By the way, my daughter has been clear headed and wonderful throughout all my stuff.

    1. I’ve actually heard of that! Rare disease patient advocates tend to hang out together. Are you familiar with NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders)? They’re helping rare disorder groups to create patient registries and national history studies, and I’m pretty sure there’s one for Ehlers-Danlos. I can’t find a link right now, but I think if you dig around, you’ll find it. I remember seeing the landing page at some point!


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