When completing a tiny task makes you feel totally victorious

In October, I had such a rough bout with migraine. In fact, it’s been a tough fall*, and I’m looking forward to a respite from this bad health. I can’t help but hope this setback is temporary. Having at least a week in between really bad back-to-back migraine attacks the last few months has given me hope. When I’m feeling not so hopeful, I’m thankful my neurologist is working with me on this and that my sweet husband has also been by my side to take care of me.

My typical, not-feeling-sick task list is usually pretty long. In fact, I’m well used to not finishing everything and having to roll a lot of things over to the next day’s list. I’m learning to be okay with this.

Know what else I’m learning to be okay with? Having a minuscule or even nonexistent to-do list when I’m really not up for much.

Back to October. This one day I was facing my fifth day in a row with a persistent migraine, one that wasn’t responding well to medication at all. I had the day off from Avid Bookshop work, luckily, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have other things I wanted to do.  The house needed some tidying, I had some migraine.com articles I’d been wanting to work on, and there were groceries to buy and prescriptions to fetch.  I wasn’t having any of it.

The next day was just as bad, and I decided to scrap the idea of a to-do list completely.  Right when I pushed back all my commitments another day, a little alert on my phone popped up: “Reminder: take out compost!”

You see, we separate our waste into three receptacles: trash, recycling, and compost.  The county takes the former each week, and a private company some friends own takes the third. (Jim and I tried composting ourselves for about a week but didn’t have the energy or inspiration to actually do what you need to do to keep it turned and raccoon- and possum-free.) So now we pay a nominal fee for a company to pick up our food waste each week, and we get free or discount compost when we need it (which, so far, has been rare).

This day I saw the alert and knew something had to be done with the food waste that was festering in a little rolling can outside. We’d forgotten to take it to the curb the week before, and it was smelling rank whenever we opened it.  You have to put your food waste into bags that are themselves compostable, meaning the bags themselves break down over time. This means that you can’t let old food waste sit for a long time when it’s warm out and it’s in biodegradable bags.

Y’all, I somehow summoned the energy to put on sneakers.  This mean I was wearing my pajamas, a robe sorely in need of laundering, and running shoes as I exited the house and walked down the porch steps to retrieve the compost bin.  I half-waved to neighbors who are definitely used to seeing me clothed by mid-morning, let alone functional and running a neighborhood business.  I rolled the small compost cart to the curb, walked back up the stairs, entered the house, took off my sneakers, and lay on the couch.


I was tempted to text Jim in feverish excitement and pride: “I took the compost out!” I would tell him, and he’d either ignore my text or write something like, “OK…?”  I was so danged proud of myself, you guys.  I was wiped out and tired and felt immediately like I had to take a nap, but still! I did a thing! I adulted!

Today I’m feeling mostly good, and I’ve gotten a ton of work done despite this morning’s migraine. But I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to feel awful and take that first step back into the world of the living, even if that first step is the only step you can muster in days.

Have you ever had a victorious moment over some task that might seem minuscule on a healthy, migraine-free day? Share your experience in the comments! 

*written November 2015

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