Post-Birthday Thoughts

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Yesterday I celebrated my birthday. I was nervous about the whole affair since my wife had plans for me that she wasn’t telling me about. Throughout the week I was guessing little details here and there – what we were having for dinner and dessert, what we were going to be doing – the only thing that I didn’t know was who was going to be at the apartment to celebrate.

We have a small two-bedroom apartment. Our dining room table usually seats two, but can expand to seat six in a pinch. Trick is, we only have four chairs, the two that come with the dining room table and the two office chairs, so sitting six around the table is a little tricky. We also have the two mobile desks and a footstool that could be used as a chair in a pinch.

Visitors started arriving at around 7:00 pm. My first visitor stopped by for just a few minutes as she had a prior engagement during the evening, but it was great to see her. After she arrived, we had two more join us (they arrived at the same time), then two more (a married couple), and finally a friend who moved into the apartment complex a few months ago. So between the five visitors and the two of us, we had seven people in the apartment.

We extended the table and I was sat at the head of the table. One of our guests took my usual spot on the couch with my desk, and we had three more at the table in chairs and one who sat on the end of the chaise. My wife took the footstool and her desk, as it was closest to the kitchen.

It was pretty close quarters trying to maneuver around the table and chairs to do much of anything, but we managed to get everyone served. My wife made lasagna, her family recipe straight from southern Italy, and one of our guests brought a warm German potato salad. The married couple brought an expansive veggie tray and our friend and neighbor came down with a fruit tray and dip that we noshed on once we were done with dinner. Everyone was quite satisfied with the meal, I thought.

We settled for a little while and then had dessert, strawberries and bananas Romanoff served over angel food cake cups – one of my favorite desserts. My wife did her best Marilyn Monroe impression as she sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Everyone cheered and she was surprised to find her performance posted to Facebook not long afterward.

Once dessert was done, the two that arrived at the same time also left at the same time, and so the five of us that were left cleared the table, had a round of coffee, and settled in to play a game of Munchkin Legends.

Munchkin is a card game from Steve Jackson Games that initially poked fun at the fantasy/Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying genre. With monster and treasure cards that are full of fantastic puns, it’s a great game for most ages (younger kids may not get the puns, but they will appreciate the cartoony pictures on each card). There are now almost two dozen core games dealing with genres ranging from superheroes to zombies to westerns to sci-fi to steampunk, including several branded versions (Adventure Time, Axe Cop, Marvel, the Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.) and a half-dozen deluxe editions that include game boards and player tokens to track each player’s progress through the game. (Munchkin Legends, the version we were playing, deals with world mythology.) If this sounds interesting to you, you can learn more about Munchkin at its website.

Our neighbor had never played any version of Munchkin before, so we got to explain the game as we went along (something that’s easy to do, as many of the cards have their own rules that apply to them). At the end of the game – it was our neighbor who was victorious in her first game, continuing a long-standing household tradition that the rookie player somehow manages to win the game.

We put up the cards and conversations turned towards the mutual hobby that we all share, and finally at around 1:00 am the party broke up.

It’s the most socializing that I had done since my friend’s baby shower about three weeks ago. I had a great time and I handled the small crowd very well.

While I thanked my guests on Facebook by name, I also want to thank them again here for stopping by. It meant the world to me and it helped me to boot. I’d love to do more of these sorts of game nights in the future, since they help me to socialize where I wouldn’t otherwise do so.

I went to bed tired, but satisfied. It was a good birthday.

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All Good Things …

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… must come to an end, and so it was for the Great Checklist Streak of 2015.

For those who are new to my blog or my social media accounts that I notify of each post, I am on disability for PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder, and suffer from a handful of other physical afflictions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. I find it difficult to remember from day to day the various things that I have to take or do or log in order to maintain my health, and so I’ve devised a system where I keep track of my day with a series of alarms and with the help of two Moleskine notebooks, one squared and the other ruled. In the squared notebook, I keep track of my various required regular daily activities, like medications and taking vitals, in a checklist format, along with a few added activities such as writing and socialization (important to develop in someone suffering from an anxiety disorder). In that same notebook, I also track the results of my vitals – my daily weight, and my blood glucose and pressure readings throughout the day – so I can share them with my doctor. In the ruled notebook, I keep track of my master to-do list (when my list is done for the day, I can then go to the squared notebook and check off “to-do”) as well as basic notes to help me remember the three good things that I write about at the end of my day (also a separate check box).

It’s not a complicated list, to be honest, but completing it is a measure more often of energy level rather than productivity, and I had completed all the items on my list for twelve straight days prior to yesterday, a streak that I had not achieved before in the eleven and a half months that I’ve been working with the checklist system.

Yesterday, however, I had a perfect storm of distractions that kept me from completing my list. I took a series of naps in the morning, in preparation for some in-person socialization last night. My wife and I welcomed two friends of ours into our home for an evening of “chili and shenanigans.” We chatted animatedly, we joked, we played three separate card games (Exploding Kittens, the game that took Kickstarter by storm earlier this year; Munchkin, the runaway hit from Steve Jackson Games that pokes fun at fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons; and finally Cards Against Humanity, which is very simply put a game for horrible people – if you’ve never heard of it, feel free to Google it, but be prepared … this is NOT a children’s game in any way, shape, or form). What I thought would be an evening lasting until around 10:00 or 10:30 finally wound down well past 1:00 am. We all had a great time and, as an added bonus, the (new) chili recipe was a big hit, with just enough heat to give a nice slow burn as you ate and plenty of good smoky flavor.

The trick is, I was anticipating the earlier time when I planned out my day, so I left some things until after the party broke up, and by that time, all I wanted to do was go to bed. So rather than stay up and exhaust myself for the sake of trying to keep the streak alive, I made the conscious decision to listen to my body, end the streak, and pick it up again either today or tomorrow.

Earlier this morning, I was having regrets. I was getting anxious about a perceived expectation that I was having about my friends and followers that were cheering me on with each passing day of perfection on my checklist, that not only had I let them down with the failure to continue the streak, but that I had to pick the streak back up immediately or I would disappoint everyone. (For those that don’t know, generalization and black-and-white thinking are extremely common in people with both BPD and bipolar disorder, and it’s something I struggle with during my rough periods, times that I can best describe my thinking as “irrational.”) I managed to stop and calm myself down fairly early in this process and for most of the rest of the day I’ve been saying “I’ll get to it if I get to it.” It won’t kill me to just take a day today to really de-stress and reset my energy level for a fresh start tomorrow, and besides, there’s no possible way that I could have continued the streak for much longer anyway. This week I have two days that I’m going to be socializing the whole day, and concentrating on a perfect checklist is going to likely go by the wayside in favor of the more spartan necessities version of my checklist, which consists of medications, vitals, and meals. Regular followers of my blog will know about one of these days; it’s the day that I’ve been preparing to recite a poem publicly, something that I used to do frequently in my historical re-enactment organization and haven’t done at all for over a year. The other is a very special day with even more importance for me than Poetry Day. My daughter will be in town for a few days visiting friends and we’ve scheduled a day to spend time together, and well, everything else that day is just going to have to take a back seat to that.

So all in all, it’s not a bad thing that the streak came to an end yesterday. I was doing something that I was enjoying for a good portion of the day and it was good preparation for the comparatively huge amount of socialization that I have in store this Saturday. It’s also not a bad thing that I take today off from stressing about getting everything done. Mentally, I could use a break from the pressure that I put on myself to DO ALL THE THINGS, to paraphrase Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half. (If you haven’t read her blog, treat yourself to a few minutes of indulgence. Her writing is as funny as I’d like to be and just as poignant as it is hilarious. She’s one of my heroes for dealing with her own demons with grace and levity.)

And besides, the end of the streak just means I have an opportunity to prove that I can break it in the future.