Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping

First of all, are you okay?! I know a lotta people drink to excess on New Year’s Eve, although of course ole Bummed Out Bailey isn’t condoning boozin’. ;) If you’re horizontal or, like, sort of propped up somewhere on a mountain of pillows like a limp, bleary-eyed Raggedy Ann* reading this on your phone or laptop, welcome. You belong here. Hello.

It’s strange to think it’s 2020 and, while I have no recollection of so many people being hype about the decade changing to 2010, wooo! New decade! Who are you? Why are you the way you are? What are you doing on this earth? Is this too deep for New Year’s Day?

Okay.

Let me dial it back a bit.

While we should be checking in with ourselves regularly throughout the year, the New Year is a common time to take stock of health, relationships, and quality of life. I don’t want to be prescriptive – the self check-ins can be on whatever you find to be a pillar in your life.

As 2019 came to a close I was racing to create a sustainable, yet maximally productive work calendar for January. Because I’m a writer and work from home (aside from Tidy B Organizing), there’s a lot of space for workflow to go awry, veer off course, and then wreck into a wall of general life admin and minutiae, AKA unpaid domestic labor and it’s invisible friend, emotional labor, among other things. I’ve found that, if you’re not disciplined with your time, it disappears and you have no idea where it went. I start some laundry and cook breakfast and answer emails and buy birthday cards and order flowers for a friend and go to my psychiatrist and call health insurance to sort out a bill and coordinate how to pay tuition online and do some yoga and file papers and order toilet paper and q-tips on Amazon, and, and, and… the day is over. “The day got away from me,” as they say. I’ve also found that, like a gas disseminates throughout a room and its particles expand to fill any size space, days are the same: If you’re not almost militant about your time, even a small list can fill your day the same way a big list would’ve with its necessitated, more tightly managed time. I hope that analogy makes sense. Science. I do not know how to science.

When I was active in Junior League, I was lucky to work with and get to know young people who’d rolled out of the NYC foster care system. We worked on all kinds of life skills like resumés, writing thank you notes, and how to (proverbially) balance a checkbook. There’s one session that stuck with me and taught me something, too: goal mapping. If you don’t know, goal mapping is essentially figuring out how to get from where you are, currently, to where you want to be, using short term goals (chewable bites) that propel you toward your end game. This can apply to any goals: professional, emotional, physical, personal, anything.

For instance, I want to publish a book about my family, centered around my brother, Alex, right? So, my goal starting place would be an unpublished writer, and goal finish line is to be a published book author. That’s a huge goal, and can feel insurmountable. However, if it’s broken up into real time action items, you can see and track your progress.

To publish a book I must structure my time in a way that prioritizes prolific writing. Then, I must be a diligent time keeper, and crank out, say, 500 words of quality writing on each “writing day.” Once I reach 100 pages, I can begin searching for an agent to represent me. I research agents, identify who I might work well with and who might be interested in my subject matter, then I begin shaping a proposal. I write and triple edit query letters to agents and attach the strongest 50 pages of my book (so far). I then create a spreadsheet to track every agent I’ve queried and when, so I know when is an appropriate time to follow up, and also track which queries have been rejected or unanswered. Supposing I get an agent, the first round of edits begins while I continue writing the rest of the book. The agent gives me feedback, and I edit accordingly. We go back and forth until we’re both satisfied with the content. Then, the agent begins shopping my book to editors at publishing houses. Once they’ve found a good match and I’m on board, the second round of edits begins, this time with the editor at the publishing house. Like the agent and I will have, the editor and I will go back and forth, too, again until all are satisfied. Then, the jacket design occurs, followed by printing and marketing. There is then perhaps a book tour, if applicable, and privately hosted book parties. Bam. PULITZER.

I’m not going to crank out my magnum opus prioritizing cleaning over writing over and over with the mindset of “Oh, I’ll get to writing [XY date].” I went to a writer’s conference in early December and one of the panelists said something in regards to writing that really resonated with me: don’t fetishize large chunks of time. If you have ten, fifteen minutes here and there, snag them and put them toward your goal, whatever it may be. While it’d be a blast if all goals could be accomplished in a cozy cabin in Vermont with nothing but solitude and time, it’s likely not gonna happen that way. I’ve been a huge perp of this and continue to be so, thinking “oh, well, the day got away from me so I guess I’ll just [something that’s not goal-oriented] now.”

I know that this is all dramatically compounded for parents, especially those of young children, and even more so for those who both parent and work a 9-5. For you, I recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert or listening to her podcast “Magic Lessons.” She’s got a Delilah vibe while dishing out actionable inspiration items. I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert to anyone, but most especially those who feel trapped in a vicious cycle financially, professionally, emotionally, etc. She will pry and pop you right out of that rock and hard place.

Goal mapping is fairly turnkey in practice. One of the young people I worked with wanted to be an EMT. Now, go easy on me because I’m not as learned on EMTs as I am about writers, but take this process, for example: you are not an EMT, but you’d like to be one. In order to be one, you have to take courses, but in order to take courses, you have to test in to qualify. In order to test, you have to study. How long do you need to study? How many hours a day/week can you contribute to studying? Do you have to buy materials to study? Do you have money to study? Once these questions are answered, the mapping begins.

  1. Save money to buy materials to study for test
  2. Buy needed materials
  3. Draft achievable schedule for study hours
  4. Be diligent and stick to study schedule
  5. Take test until test is passed
  6. Begin courses

That’s not where becoming an EMT ends, of course, but do you see how I broke that part into chewable pieces? If you can check off one of those small items at a time, you’ll be making progress that you’ll actually be able to see. The steps can be as minuscule as you like. You know yourself best and what will or won’t overwhelm you, and the goal is success, right? If your map takes longer than another’s, it doesn’t matter. Progress is progress.

The same approach can work toward things like running a marathon, saving for a vacation, going to grad school, paying off a debt, even building a friendship. Although, if you’re using methodology to build a friendship maybe don’t tell that person, because then that person may think you’re a robot and ditch you. And if you get pegged as a robot, I don’t know how to goal map your way out of that. If you gave me some time to think about it, though…

Anyway.

We all have things that we want in life. Sometimes, when I’m walking around with my headphones on, I find myself visualizing personal ideals over and over. It’s inspiring to be able to see how to get there quite literally written out step by step. It makes something seemingly insurmountable seem achievable.

As the New Year begins, and resolutions have perhaps been milling about your brain, consider goal mapping. It not only might help you get to where you want to go, it also might alleviate the sense of failure regarding resolutions that’ve gone off the rails. If you blow whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, you know where to start again. You’ve got a literal map!

In 2020 I’m going to finish my book manuscript. I graduate in May and will be getting a typical job after that, making it harder to focus on writing, so I plan to use the privilege of my writing-focused spring semester to crank out as much as possible with fiercely protected writing blocks of time and, as I mentioned before, stolen moments. I’m fashioning the schedule now, and look forward to following my map to completion.

Happy New Year to you, and happy goal mapping. I’d love to hear about what you’re mapping for 2020.

*Honestly, Raggedy Ann is the rudest name ever. Really, Edwardian guy? You couldn’t have come up with a nicer name? What was wrong with just Ann? Why you gotta make her raggedy?


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Becoming You (This is Not a Maxi Pad Commercial)
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Productivity


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Ho Ho HELP

It’s no secret that the holidays incite a wealth of emotions. While some people recall happy memories to the tune of Bing Crosby and anticipate this time of year, there are others who’ve lost someone in the last 12 months and this is their first holiday season without them. Some lost a loved one around this time of year, so the season’s warmth and glitter feels irrevocably tarnished every year after. Some have negative relationships with family that have led to stressful, heartbreaking reunions or estrangement. Some families suffer financial stress so crippling that the holidays become a huge stressor opposed to a joyful time. Some have a homeless family member and wonder where they are. Are they alone? Are they warm? Do they know what day it is? Do they care? Are they using?

Of course, I’m thinking of my brother today as my family celebrates Christmas. My brothers and I were fortunate to have magical Christmases growing up. My parents struggled to make ends meet but, somehow, Santa’s sack always mobbed deep. I remember the three of us all sleeping in one room, me on my twin, Alex on my trundle, and Duncan on the floor (poor Duncan), waking up too early, and then running out to rip into the carefully arranged spread. Our tired parents would snap photos and capture us on the camcorder.

that’s Keith in the corner (REM voice)

This was long after we’d grown out of Santa, by the way. (Alex and Duncan blew that for me in first grade.) We just liked hanging out and sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve. Any other day of the year, no. Hell no. Christmas Eve, yes. After all, no one knows you as well or as long as your siblings do so, when we’re honest with ourselves, they’re who you want to share the special, formative childhood/adolescent moments with.

stuntin’ on these dorks

One by one, we aged out of adolescence, and year by year, things became increasingly difficult around the holidays. A couple days before Christmas in 2007 Alex announced that he and his partner were having a baby, and that they were moving to Florida. That day. That was the first Christmas after he got his leg amputated and Duncan and I had dropped out of college and spent 54 days in the hospital by Alex’s side. That year had been like taking an emotional bat to the knees. They loaded up and drove away and, as we watched them turn out of the cul-de-sac, I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

a brother’s love is a brother’s love

Five years later, we all visited Alex at his rehab in December, two months after he’d shot himself in the head. With his stitched up head, Alex cranked golfballs into the abyss of a big, dry field with Duncan. At the same visit, Alex told my mom in group therapy that he’s never forgiven her for his repeating first grade. (One of his favorite pastimes has always been vilifying our mom.) On his final day, there was a ceremony performed involving a symbolic bridge-crossing as a graduation from the rehab. He left, and soon went back to using. I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

crackin’ himself up w that terrible stache

But then, there’s now.

The last “normal” memory I have of Alex is Christmas 2015, a chaotic span of a few days in which a dear aunt died, my mom and I were going for the others’ jugular, and Rick proposed to me. That Christmas “break” was inflammatory in its juxtapositions. It was also during this time Alex told me and Duncan in a moment of seriousness he’d been assaulted as a child. Usually he just deflected everything. He offered that information one night while riding in the front of Duncan’s Tahoe in his nice jeans, henley, and cologne. The next time I saw him he was living under the bridge.

A tightly wound pragmatist, I’ve long since ceased believing that things couldn’t be worse. I keep getting proved wrong, like emotional whiplash. My dang neck hurts. So, instead, my whole body remains tense as I steel myself for the worst news all day, every day. That also makes my neck hurt. Plus, I get bonus knots in my shoulders and back. I can’t win! Either way, my neck hurts. Somebody pass the Tito’s.

Alex was there when Rick proposed to me on that Christmas Eve four years ago, giving hugs and congratulations, but he never made it to the wedding. There’s a beautiful photo of me and Alex hugging in celebration of the proposal but I can’t find it anywhere. I’m gonna risk bordering on cringe and say it’s poetic that, at least until I can find those photos, that formative moment lives only in my brain and is fading. My brother and my husband, two people who’ve informed and continue to inform so much of who I am, were like ships passing in the night. They’ve spent maybe a few hours together total, but that pivotal day was part of that tiny overlap.

One thing important to note is that years when sad things happen around the holidays conjure a special appreciation for years that are uneventful (in a good way). High highs, low lows. My family’s got ’em. Maybe yours does, too. Or maybe it’s all good. Or all crap. The point is, life isn’t a Lexus ad. And if it is, I think that’s very neat, and would you give me a ride in your Lexus?

You may have noticed that, like my life, this post has gone off the rails a bit! So, I’ll wrap it up. Like a Christmas gift. It is 3:34am. Help.

Anyway, I wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy fourth night of Hanukkah, and happy holidays to all, whatever you may celebrate. If you’re going through something during this often chaotic season, I’m sending you warmth and a virtual hug. I wish I could give you a real hug. Take care of you.

I’ll leave you with a bonus photo of me in Christmas skants.

Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean on the cover of a magazine

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Communicating Mental Unrest
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Disoriented


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Painting with Words

Hello, good people of the internet! If this is your first time visiting Bummed Out Baker this post will be weird for you, so I suggest you start here and return to this post another time.

I wrote all day, continuing to draft my thesis on my immediate family, primarily Alex, and how the five of us have dealt with mental illness, addiction, and their devastating effects over the years.

In September I was instructed by a successful author to not post things I intend to publish elsewhere on my blog as it invalidates the content to agents and publishers, which is a shame. It means so much to me to connect with people who are going through similar circumstances and/or are seeking emotional intelligence via empathic reading online. Community, grace, and understanding are imperative. I also appreciate that sometimes it’s nice to read about someone else’s life so you don’t have to think about your own. It’s dark, but it’s true.

I’m buried in work for school and am considering a rebrand to Bummed Out Bailey, as traffic indicates you all like these narrative, topical posts much more than my recipes. ;) However, turning out consistent content is important to me, and I have every intention to continue doing so through the rest of school and, frankly, wherever my and Rick’s lives take us.

With all of that being said, I want to alert you to my Bummed Out Baker Patreon, a place where you can access my more intimate (and apparently most publishable) content behind a small paywall, a contribution as low as $1 a month.

I’ve never addressed this front and center on Bummed Out Baker but I had the idea when thinking about what to post today after I emerged from my deep diving day of writing. It’s an awkward topic but an important one. See, writing is my art and passion. I paint with my words. It’s a joy, and I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my strength and dream. However, the emotional excavation required for high-impact pieces does take a toll.

If you feel Bummed Out Baker (soon to be Bummed Out Bailey?) has brought value into your life, I’d be deeply honored if you’d consider contributing to my Patreon. I feel like I sound like a creepy spam email, but every contribution truly helps me to continue dedicating so much time to the site and turning out content while also ensuring I still have a way to connect with those who’d like to read my more intimate pieces. It’s likely those on Patreon will see the first echoes of what will end up in print in a beautifully bound book. I can already visualize it, both in my hands and displayed on Keith and Staci’s mantle with a spotlight on it for all to see. I’m putting that out into the universe!

When you contribute, you validate my art and the stories I have to tell. I cannot explain how much it means to me, and I send you all the warmest thank you for your consideration, and a huge thank you to my three OG contributors. You’re my heroes.

Bummed Out Baker Patreon

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: 31 Birthdays
Mental Health: Mourning the Living
Mental Health: My Lowest Point in Eleven Years

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more than you’ll ever know.

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Productivity

When I’m feeling the way I described last week, essentially disheartened because I’m perpetually at the mercy of the whims of my brain, it’s hard to remember good days.

On Sunday, I absolutely smashed it. I went through all my emails and took care of items in both my digital and physical “action required” folders. I paid several bills online, completed and mailed the required jury duty info update, updated insurance on file in various medical offices, filed or shredded things that needed to be, did yoga, followed up on healthcare claims, made plans w both family and a friend for later in the week (big for me), began preparing for a writer’s conference I’m attending in early December, reconciled something fraudulent with the bank, cooked, cleaned, wrote, and read. Then, on Monday, my writing was workshopped at school and a clear image of how my book is going to take shape began in my mind and on the page. For a long time everything I’ve wanted to put in this book has been floating around in my head like space debris, disconnected, disorganized, and banging into each other without making sense.

These two days were huge. Yuuuge.

Some days, when I can’t get out of bed or my head, when depression is lying to me, productive days are hard to remember. I am so Type A that the stagnation inherent to blue days make me feel helpless, even useless. I’m writing this post because the often erratic appearance of productivity is a part of mental illness. I don’t like being wagged around by my brain, but I’ll take a W where I can, and the past two days were, in general, Ws.

I encourage those living w mental illness to scribble down a good day, experience, or interaction in a small notebook or in the notes on your phone so you can reflect on it later. I try to do the same thing when people write kind things to me – keep it all in one place so I can remind myself that I’m not a human trash can even though I feel like one sometimes. Make that investment in your future self, and pack that extra lifejacket when you’re feeling well. If you know your mind, you know you’re gonna need those words down the road. Mental illness or not, it never hurts to remind yourself that you’re not so bad, after all.

Written on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Disoriented
Mental Health: In Motion
Mental Health: Finding the Glow


Do you love Bummed Out Baker as much as I love creating it? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more than you’ll ever know.

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Disoriented

Last night, following her reading, I saw a writer get interviewed about her process. She said that a challenge of her latest book is that she was living it while she was writing it (menopause). However, she felt that that created an energy in the writing the reader could sense.

When I graduate in May, my thesis will be about mental illness in my family as it pertains to me, my brothers, and our relationships. In regards to my experience with one of my brothers, Alex, I am living it in real time. This means I have little time to digest what’s happened before I’ve got to get it on paper, effective, meaningful, and perhaps resolved in some way. The process itself is dizzying and disorients me, but the idea of energy coming off the prose is something I hope readers can feel, at least. I gotta get somethin’ outta this gig! Lol.

I’ve still got to find the right balance between revelation, contemplation, and privacy, though, as I don’t ever want my writing itself to deter any progress, especially regarding Alex. I talked with him a few days ago, the first time in a month, and all of the poetic sadness I’d painted around him the last three and a half years evaporated in one conversation.

I don’t know what conclusion I imagined after all of this with Alex. Maybe death? Just enough time has passed that I’ve lost sight of who my brother is when not using heroin, but I got a taste a few days ago. Detox is supposed to be rapturous, epiphany-inducing! Instead he seems to have returned to the same flighty, obstinate person I’ve always known. What’s worse? Going through something horrific and coming out, unchanged? Or, just never changing while living a fairly event-less life? I’d argue the former since there is so much hope wrapped up and hidden inside of horrific circumstance.

I’m exhausted.

It’s as if everything I’ve written about Alex the past three years has lost all soul. What happens when there is no hope at the core, after all? That when the terrible things peel off and the center is revealed, there’s just nothing there? It’s like I’ve been carrying around an enormous owl pellet, disgusting and crawling with things I don’t want to think about, because I know there’s a ruby at the center of it that will reveal itself with time. Instead all there is inside is exactly what’s on the outside.

It seems I’ve been carrying around something repulsive and heavy for no reason at all.

Written on Thursday, October 24, 2019.

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
The Aftermath of the Birthday Hullabaloo
The Uncertainty of Mental Illness
Mental Health: A Regular Ole Tuesday


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me here.

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.