I wrote yesterday about how uncomfortable I am with change and how I crave stability and routine. Yesterday evening and this morning has really brought this home to me.
I was coming home from having been in town all day and had planned on reading and watching some TV before I starting to cooking dinner. I was looking forward to this time and had specifically allocated it as being between 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Instead, I was stuck in terrible traffic and the 25 minute journey took 3 hours.
I looked at the clock in the car and watched the significant time points go by.
5pm: I would have been home reading now.
6pm: I’d be getting a shower and Mum will text me to let me know she’s on her way home.
6.30pm: I’ll start preparing dinner.
As each time point passed I felt anxious and was starting to panic. This wasn’t how I had planned my day.
Lying in bed this morning I was already considering how I was going to fill my day; which activity would be allocated to each time slot. This gives me a sense of purpose. I cling on to this routine for security. It gives me a sense of being safe.
Of course, that is provided that I’m in control of the routine. As soon as something knocks it off course, I panic and feel as if I’m spinning out of control. I look for something to grab hold of. I quickly try to reconfigure my routine to accommodate this interruption, but I’m not comfortable because the ‘new’ routine then feels like a fraud because I haven’t planned it. At this point the gremlin’s voice pipes up and starts to tempt me with its crutches.
This morning I’m trying not to follow my routine. It feels utterly ridiculous to say that already I am feeling anxious, queasy and guilty. It’s 11am and I’m writing my blog. I don’t do that. My blog writing is only ever done in the afternoon.
Today, I also want to bake, do some yoga, go for a walk, read, watch some more West Wing (!), do some housework and clear the ironing pile. That is my ‘To Do’ list and I know where each activity slots in my normal routine. I can feel the sense of calm wash through me when I think about it. I know exactly how my day will pan out.
But, if yesterday’s post highlighted anything, it was that life doesn’t work like that! On Monday morning my brother was a contracts manager for a local firm. He’s now a junior project manager for a large organisation in Aberdeen.
Life, my life, anybody’s life, really can turn on a penny. I can’t control that. Of course, I can have a say in its direction via the choices I make, but there are countless variables and external forces that will steer my life in so many different directions.
This January I was working full time as a commercial property solicitor. Then, one morning, I crumbled. The next day I was sat in the GP’s office alongside my Mum and was being told that I was suffering from depression and perhaps an eating disorder. I’ve been signed off work since then.
I never, ever imagined my life would take this course.
Ultimately, my intense desire to be in control put me totally out of control.
I know there are feelings and issues I need to let go of but it seems that first and foremost I need to let go of my need to control.
That’s going to be hard given that my days are all my own so I am totally in control of them and have been for the last nine months!
However, I need to find a way so here is what I’m going to try today:
1. I won’t look at the clock. I can’t tell you how many times whilst writing this post my eyes have wanted to dart to the clock at the bottom of the screen; but I’ve resisted.
2. I will do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it. This scares me. What if I miss an allocated time slot for doing something? What if I haven’t got my brother’s lunch prepared for him and his cup of tea waiting for when he arrives for lunch? Answer: NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!
3. I will ride out the anxiety. I will feel it and acknowledge it and I will learn to manage it. Yesterday, sat in the traffic jam and feeling anxious all I could think of was my crutch. I was becoming consumed by it and the more I thought about and knew I couldn’t have it in the car, the more anxious I became. I recognised this and tried to distract myself from the gremlin. I took out my notebook and started copying down some poems that I’d saved on my phone. I very very slowly calmed down and could rationalise the situation. Arriving home later than the norm didn’t matter. It wouldn’t change anything.
As I let go of my eating disorder it is natural that I’ll crave other sources of control and security. But I need to develop healthy coping mechanisms and recognise that, perhaps, allowing myself to flow with the current might be more exciting and offer more opportunities than fighting against it.
Finally, thank you to Fiona Robyn , the author of the blog, ‘Writing Our Way Home’ and to Laura, the author of the blog, ‘A Little Bit of What you Fancy Does You Good’ for their timely posts, which prompted my thoughts.
The links to both posts:
Laura’s post entitled ‘Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock’
Fiona’s post entitled, ‘What Do You Worship (my answer is embarrassing)?’