Enough for today

Good day yesterday, bad day today.

What’s the difference between them? Only my head, that’s all. It’s that simple to understand and yet it’s that hard at the same time, as most things tend to be.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, or where I’ll end up, but I’m just going to write, because I have to.

I like things to be as near perfect as I can get them. At times this verges on the manic. I like to start a job and then finish it in the same day. I don’t like messy edges. I don’t like saying I will do something and not being able to finish it to my satisfaction.

At the moment that isn’t possible. It’s probably a good thing that it isn’t possible. Life is messy. There are many things in life that don’t start in the morning and finish the same evening (life itself for a start – thank Fuck). There are many things that are better for the wait, or revisiting. Bolognese sauce is a prime example here. There are many things you just have to learn to live with because as soon as you’ve done them, they need doing again.  How many times can a kitchen floor be swept is a question I like to tease myself with regularly. There is no such thing as a finished to do list, and I learned long ago that being competent at stuff only leaves time for people to give you more jobs to do.

I’m having to let go of more things than I’m comfortable with at the moment, and that’s hard. I’ve got self imposed deadlines I’m not meeting. I’ve got things I’d like to do that I’m not doing. I’ve got things I don’t like to do that I’m not doing. I’m hating that I’m having to take baby steps with this stuff or even no steps at all. I thought today, as I gave up something because I just couldn’t concentrate anymore on what it was I was trying to do. I thought that this must be a bit like what someone who has had a stroke feels like when they have to try and relearn walking and talking. A massive sense of frustration and the annoying, ever present knowledge that they used to be able to do this stuff without even thinking about it. It probably isn’t, let’s face it, but I am in the business of melodrama at the moment, so that’s as coherent as I’m getting.

I learned a long time ago that it’s ok to let go of things other people think are important and I used to think were important. Things like ironing, having clean windows, using wrapping paper, sending Christmas cards, having neatly mown lawns. All this stuff I’ve given up really doesn’t bother me any more. It’s liberating in the main. I don’t miss those sticks I used to beat myself with. And I am here to tell you that my life is much richer for having put them down and walked away from them.

But there are other things I’m still learning to let go of. My weight (although I do not regret for one moment throwing out the scales), my body image, my fear of failure, my need to be right, my anger both at myself and others, my guilt. My shame, my feeling that I need to be ‘doing’ things to justify my existence. My fear. The worry of being/feeling stupid.

Those are tougher. Particularly at the moment. I pick those things up and put them down about a thousand times a day right now. I spend a lot of time telling myself that ‘I can’t.’ and then telling myself that ‘I can.’ All the things I talked about in my last post are helping. Some days they help more than others.

Today I couldn’t bear myself for a while. I paced around the house. I cried. I did domestic jobs. I read my book. Nothing helped.

In the end I went out into the garden. I didn’t want to walk today, but I knew I probably needed a change of scene and some fresh air. The garden is a wreck after the winter. The deck is slick with mulchy leaves. The sycamore saplings are pushing up through the stones. There are tree branches kicking around from storm Doris. All the pots are full of dead things and the raised beds are full of weeds. A badger has dug holes in the lawn and the bark chipping. If my garden were a house, you’d say it had been ransacked by burglars.

I looked at it, like I’ve looked at it for the last few weeks, and felt the same overwhelming inability to do anything. Everything was too big. Everything was too complicated. And when I’ve done it, it will need doing again, and again. Forever.

And then I thought about it like I think about things like the poverty that gets me donating to food banks, and the inequality that gets me campaigning for WEP and the endless meetings and work I do around the NHS. I know I can’t solve world hunger, or legislate for equality for all, or save the NHS, but I can do my bit, and doing my bit is better than doing no bit at all. And doing my bit might tip the balance, might spark bigger change, might mean someone else does their bit, and I do that stuff in the full knowledge of how hopeless it seems and yet I am optimistic and I do it anyway.

And I don’t have to enter my garden for Chelsea, and I don’t have to make it perfect. I just have to do my bit, and today, my bit was to weed out a few hundred sycamore seedlings, and pick up some branches, and sweep up some leaves and I spent about an hour and a half out there, and you can barely tell where I’ve made changes, but I have made them. I might do some more tomorrow, and I might not, but I will do it again, and again, until it is done, and then when it needs doing again, I’ll do it again, imperfectly, from time to time, in my own way, and it will be change enough.

And I don’t have to be mentally well all at once, and I don’t have to do it anyone else’s way and I don’t have to do it perfectly and I can take a break and be as mad as a hat for a while, but I know I am doing my bit, and my bit is enough because I am turning up and I am doing it, even when it’s overwhelming and it feels like nothing will ever be different. It already is. And that’s what I keep telling myself and that’s enough for today.

29 responses to “Enough for today

  1. Yes. I know how that is too. If you weren’t already depressed it’s enough to make you depressed. It’s all very Marvin.
    But if your garden is a wreck but has attracted badgers you’re a lucky bugger. Most of us would give our eye teeth to have badgers at the bottom of the garden!

  2. i know how you feel in a small way… 16 weeks on crutches and in a boot. i couldn’t do most things… even take out the garbage, because i’m on the 4th floor walkup… taking the laundry to the laundry mat even to be dropped off and done for me. the struggle to get to work every day on public transport. i was starting to get very discouraged and blue… i love to walk, and couldn’t, couldn’t do stairs like a normal person… this week, i’ll finally be free of them. i’m still blue… i look around the apartment i’ve been in for 7 months with nary a thing done… piles of boxes not unpacked, painting that hasn’t been done and it makes me want to lie down and stay there. nowhere near as dire as you feel but i do sympathize and empathize. wish i could come and cook for you and bake you yummy things and read to you when your eyes hurt…help you dig around outside. put those useless parasites (the kids) to work in the garden! 😉

  3. Maryam Mirghavameddin

    👊🏻 (because that sums up all the words I can’t come up with)

  4. Jacqueline Reilly

    Fantastic! Yes, a day at a time; a minute at a time even. Tiny steps. Concentrate on getting through to evening. It doesn’t matter that the ironing doesn’t get done and the windows need cleaning. The children won’t come to any harm having a few instant meals. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sendng warm wishes for today.

  5. Sarah Thompson

    Can really relate to all this 🙂

  6. Sally Griffiths

    My current mantra at the moment: Sometimes good enough is good enough.
    All that I can do is all that I can do and I have to respect that. I am trying to be kind to myself and teach myself that beating myself up over what I can’t do is just ridiculous. Some days sitting on the sofa watching the telly (because I’m tired, my brain is mush and my body hurts) is enough and blow the housework.
    Thank you Katy. I thought you were amazing when you were a crusading powerhouse.
    Now, you are my hero.
    I hope that you find yourself again as, even if you don’t feel it, you are still so strong and brave.

  7. John Ravenscroft

    Your writing touches me. Thank you.
    The Black Dog has paid me a few visits over the years. He’s a heavy beast, but he can be tamed.

  8. Sorry, I meant to comment on your earlier mental health posts as well, in a spirit of general “been there” support and in case it helps to hear from strangers. Can relate to so much of this, especially the need to justify one’s existence which still regularly and pointlessly dogs me! (I suspect we would feel more confident about the point of our existence if we thought rationally about what life would be like for our nearest and dearest without us.) When I was in mental hospital in my twenties, we had various classes to help us, and I still remember the “problem chunking” one; break up all the big overwhelming issues into smaller, manageable issues, and sort out one or two of them at a time. It sounds like you are doing this, and I’m glad it’s helping. I wish you well.

  9. “Make the task smaller” usually helps.

  10. Well done you, with you all the way.Go girl.

  11. Just imagine me sending you a huge high-five, Kate! 🙂
    Hubby and I have had to go through those same processes over the last few years, and I think you’ve made a fantastic start with your decision 🙂
    We are both totally OCD with things that have to be completed if we start them, and letting go of that so-stong compultion has been the hardest thing either of us has had to face, but we’re doing it, one step at a time and, like you, my personal compulsions have been the hardest to begin relieving myself of (I’m still not totally there, but I take things one day at a time, and don’t beat myself up if things don’t go to plan anymore).
    Whatever happens, and however long it takes you, I’m so sure that you will manage it too, Kate 🙂

  12. Katy, your day was just like mine. We keep on going because it’s the only thing to do. X

  13. frenchbrandywine

    I forwarded this piece to my daughter who is going through a similar rough patch following the sudden early death of her life-long close friend, I thought she would find inspiration in it and want to tell you that she has read it and found it comforting, has even managed to make a small start in her own garden, Small steps, .Thank you.

  14. I can really relate to this.
    Our house looks like something out of a documentary on hoarders. Birthday presents for family and friends (unless it’s for someone in the same house) tend to run six months late or more. Just yesterday I realised that there’s a three foot sapling (also sycamore, coincidentally) growing out of the patio, the garden is covered in rampant brambles and nettles and we haven’t done anything about the huge, fallen apple tree that took down the washing line a few years ago.
    But recently I’ve been managing to clean and tidy bits here and there (often at the prompting of my daughter). A kitchen cupboard. The stack of books beside my bed (147 of them). My bedside table. The piles next to my daughter’s bed. Getting the gunk out of the washing machine seal.
    Some days I can’t manage more than sitting on my bed in my pyjamas reading fic on the internet all day. But I’m doing a bit. And it’s gradually looking a little better.
    Every time you manage to overcome that overwhelmed feeling and get something done, it’s a victory.

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