I was doomscrolling Twitter this morning, a practice that I simply must stop, although in all fairness, it’s been a tough 48 hours here in the USA. The vast majority of the people I follow on Twitter are smart, compassionate, and creative, and many of their messages in these days after the January 6th coup attempt are focused on positive action and justice. So, doomscrolling might not be the correct term, but still, I’ve been struggling to write and connect with artistic endeavors as I process my fears about the impending transition of power in America.
I follow author E.H. Hau on Twitter, and saw his retweet of a post about calendars. The original poster, Tim Stringer, is a coach and consultant who supports people and organizations in using technology in productive ways via Technically Simple. He’s also connected to the yoga and meditation communities so he had my attention. Mr. Stringer noted the words of David Allen and his “Getting Things Done” (#GTD) method, which encourages people to move planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking these tasks into actionable work items. Tim Stringer’s tweet stated he reviews his calendar about twice a day, which allows for less stress and more creativity.
I absolutely believe in the value of the GTD method, yet the concept of external calendars launched an anxious flashback to a time years ago when I was gifted a beautiful leather DayTimer. In the late 1980’s, I was preparing to start my first semester at UC Berkeley as a Spring term transfer. One of my Christmas gifts from my college sweetheart was a beautiful, embossed DayTimer, divided into calendar, contacts, and planning sections. He hoped this organizing tool would make my transition from community college to university as smooth as possible. It was a thoughtful gift, and I tried my best to use it. But, while I occasionally wrote assignments, due dates, and other info into the DayTimer, I constantly forgot to use it as a resource. Instead, I resorted to the calendar I’ve always used, the one that exists as bright patches of color surrounding my body.
I have at least 17 different forms of blended senses, and two of them intersect to form the most gorgeously detailed and beautifully hued personal calendar. I have time units->color synesthesia, which means just that; every second, minute, and hour of the day have specific shades. I also have spatial->sequential synesthesia, which places sequenced information into a spatial relationship with my body. It can be challenging to describe how this works so, here’s a quickly drawn example:
Monday January 11th 2021 is going to be a big and pale blue day for me. As a healthcare provider and essential worker, I am getting my first dose of the vaccine against SARS-COV-2. I don’t have that appointment written down on paper or in an electronic calendar, yet I know precisely what time my appointment is scheduled, because a simple sketch of it looks like the example above.
As a key, today is Friday, which is always yellow, and I am writing a blog entry that should be completed and posted around 3PM. When I think about this day and the approaching time and activity, it appears as somewhat diffuse clouds of color, true grass green for 3PM, a ruby red for the blog post, and I see those colors above my head, because it’s only 1:30PM and the completion of this blog entry is yet to come. Later tonight sometime around 10 or 11 PM I will drift off to sleep, which is also very diffuse, as I’m not certain what time I will go lights out, but typically 10 or 11 PM.
Tomorrow is Saturday, a seafoam green color that appears directly to my left. I have a strict deadline which is to see my friend George, and I need to leave the house at 9AM. That obligation is boxed in by the pink boundary for 9AM and the green for George’s name. It’s a firm deadline, and quite certain, unlike my bedtime the night before which is a little iffy. Thus, the boxiness of that obligation. Sunday is almost midnight blue, and sits to the left of Saturday. I only have one firm obligation, which is a socially distanced mini-concert at 4PM.
It’s important for me to note that I don’t see the names of the days in black in a ground-level spatial orientation. I am trying to illustrate my spatial-sequential synesthesia in ways that non-synethetes can easily grok, thus the day names. I am also limiting my activities each day; I have far more planned, but I think it would be messy to try to convey all of the shapes and colors that are part of my mind calendar. And, in regard to Monday. I do have a fixed time for my appointment to get vaccinated, yet it’s still a few days away, and I have such a sense of hope and anticipation, my perception of that appointment is colorful and large, hovers in the middle of the day, and hasn’t gotten the box around it yet that denotes an activity that is unlikely to change.
This color coded spatial relationship with time is exactly why I never really used that beautiful DayTimer. It didn’t make sense to me to write my day on to paper, when I can remember almost any activity by its hue and proximity to my body. When I did try to write things down, I would forget to look at what I had written. BUT, and this is a big caveat, I do exactly what Tim Stringer mentioned above regarding his day. He looks at his calendar a few times each day to keep on track and focused on productivity. I look at my calendar too, focusing on what I’d like to accomplish, then moving on to the process of GTD, i.e. Getting It Done. The only difference is that my calendar is synesthetic and exists solely in my mind’s eye, hovering in lovely colors and patterns around my body.