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.