Anxiety. For most of my life, I didn’t think it had anything to do with me. I’d occasionally read a list of symptoms to see if anxiety was at the root of my psychic distress, but it never seemed to fit. The list would say things like, “Do you worry?”, or “Are you plagued by thoughts of doom?” And I would think, “No, not really.”
What I didn’t realize that whole time was that what I thought of as perfectly normal, everyday thoughts, other people (psychologists, for example) consider worrying. Who knew?
So, I’ve come up with a variety of coping mechanisms for what turns out to be my anxiety. Most notably, I make lists. Some make sense, like grocery lists, because when you’re in the moment in the grocery store, it’s easy to lose track of what you went there to buy. Then there are to-do lists, which can help by listing out a bunch of things that need to get done, while possibly suggesting a logical or more efficient order to do them in. And some, well it’s not that they don’t make sense so much as they aren’t as helpful as they seem.
See, like many people I know, I am allergic to housework. As a result, I am commonly tempted into writing out chore rotas or schedules for what gets done when. The trouble with this strategy is that while the schedule tries to make life predictable, my brain likes to shake things up. So on any given day, I can feel pressured into doing this thing on this day. And that pressure can result in inaction – a kind of mental paralysis that manifests as physical paralysis. Then nothing gets done. Then there’s guilt about not doing, feeds the paralysis.
Kind of defeats the purpose of the schedule.
A thought came to mind as I was cleaning the floor, a chore I’ve been putting off for the better part of a month. I’ve tried to get myself to clean the floor regularly: specifying a day of the week, or a frequency. But what ended up working was just leaving it until the whim to clean it aligned with an opportunity to do so. It became clear that what I actually need is trust; trust in my ability to know what chores need to get done, and trust that I’ll do what needs doing.
There are going to be days when I just can’t. One of the things that keeps me going is curiosity. Today might suck, but who knows what tomorrow will be like? To that, I will try to add trust – kind of conditioning my response. Instead of wallowing in guilt at not getting things done, I’ll take a breath and reassure myself that I can get those things done another time.