Relearning the obvious

I am going around in circles having to relearn the same basic things again and again. This is about as tiring as constantly reminding my kids to face the table when eating or any of the other things I have to remind them about 17 times a day.

Longer ago than I care to count, I got all inspired by the idea of a 100 day challenge to deal with a small manageable chunk of the stuff that I need to do each day, in my case piles of paperwork taking over the house and a full inbox of emails, and to keep it up for 100 days and see how much I have achieved. Getting on top of these things should stop me overlooking a bill that needs paying and then not opening the envelope because the pile of envelopes to open is too big and makes me feel anxious, which then causes a real problem when I still haven’t faced up to opening the pile and thereby don’t respond to the red reminder. (I am aware how utterly pathetic this sounds by the way, but I also need to admit it has happened 2 or 3 times in the past year.)

So, the 100 days started well. I cleared some emails and reduced both my number of unread emails and my inbox in general. I started sorting out my filing cabinet so that I had somewhere to sort my piles of paperwork into (a bit of a roundabout way of dealing with the piles of post around the house maybe, but past attempts have just resulted in the piles getting moved about so I needed a new strategy). I shredded some phone bills from 7 years ago! And it helped, I started waking up in the morning and getting out of bed instead of hiding there until the last possible minute. I have been answering the phone, even when I don’t recognise the number. (My attitude to answering the phone is going to be the first thing to go on my traffic light list when I get around to it. The red entry will be running to the bottom of the garden and hiding behind the compost heap in tears because the phone rang when my husband was in so I couldn’t just ignore it and I was convinced it was someone I’d let down ringing up to find out why I hadn’t done something and he would answer it and tell them I was in and pass the phone to me and I would have to talk to them. No, this doesn’t make sense. But it felt so real at the time.)

And then life got in the way again. I was busy getting ready for my daughters birthday. And I did a couple of days volunteering. And I was getting ready for her birthday party. And having a stomach bug. And getting ready for my husbands birthday. And helping on a school trip. And having a cheasty coldy cough thing that required 12 -18 hours sleep a day for a couple of days.

Not that it’s all been bad. I haven’t improved my inbox any further but I have been keeping on top of the new stuff thats coming in. And I’m still answering the phone. Plus I ran around and sorted out an admin job I needed to do for someone else – it took a couple of days (partly as my filing was in such a mess because this particular thing has got mixed up with a big amount of feeling anxious in my mind so I have been using my rubbish avoid-it-and-feel-stressed strategy) but I got there and I kept the other person up to date whilst I was getting on top of it rather than avoiding all contact with them. In fact I felt so pleased that I had done this that I planned a big bout of sewing as a reward. (I’m noticing a tendency for post anxiety event sewing frenzy which I think is both rewarding and a displacement that stops me continuing to deal with things in more manageable chunks once the disaster is over).

Then I woke this morning with a small sinking feeling in my stomach. Only a little one, but I was surprised, what could be causing that?After all I’d dealt with the admin thing. And then I realised that the admin thing was one small corner of my life, I hadn’t really been checking that I was on top of the rest of my life, let alone catching up with all the stuff that never got sorted as I wasn’t up to it. In particular I’d remembered that there was a big pile of unopened post inside my front door that I moved yesterday before my mum came round and noticed it and then done nothing more about it.

So today, I did something right for once. I’d dropped the kids to school and had half an hour at home before an appointment. Not enough time to deal with the post, let alone the two letters in the pile that I didn’t know what they were that were surely something I should have already dealt with. But I didn’t just do the washing up and leave the post “for later when I have time”, I MADE MYSELF OPEN ALL THAT PILE. I told myself that I didn’t have to do anything, just find out what was there, so I knew what I had to deal with later. And guess what, IT WASN’T THAT BAD. And the two scary lurking letters were THANK YOU LETTERS. Two were identical letters from my bank explaining its restructure. And one was a water bill – the first copy of it in plenty of time for me to sort it out.

And so today, I rediscovered that it’s ok to open post. No demons jump out and eat your brain. You just get to find out what is in the post. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. And if there is something for you to do, then you don’t fall screaming into a fire pit when you find out that there’s a bill to pay or whatever. You just know it needs doing so you have time to do it before it’s too late (I am in the lucky situation that we can afford to pay the bills, which makes it even more stupid/galling/guilt inducing when I don’t.)

The anxious part of my mind was quite surprised at this amazing revelation. The logical part of my mind was quite exasperated. Now I just have to remember to keep doing this often enough that it is not an amazing revelation, it’s just what I do, like the rest of the universe, and then maybe with enough practice I can get my brain back and resume normal service.

That’s going to take a bit more practice. Maybe I’ll make it before my kids can eat something without covering the half the floor in crumbs though.


Oh and I almost forgot. I felt like writing a blog post because of the smile I got when I realised that Fi had started her latest Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers blog post with a quote from a comment I left her this morning. Not that I’m smiling at her situation, which sounds pretty rubbish right now. But it can mean so much to have someone on your wavelength show you they have some idea of what you’re going through. Its a fine like between empathy and supportive comments and thinking you understand and giving advice, that may not be right or can turn into pressure. So the smile was because I think I got the right side of that line and hopefully helped her accept a decision that was clearly difficult to make.

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