A jar of stress, angst and cats
Recently I’ve been under the writing spell. Ever since I was a kid I’ve found that sometimes the words flow, slipping and sliding around the subject, little crests of humour, langorous descriptions my English teacher would’ve been proud of, and other times I can barely eek out a sentence. I like writing because, in part, it’s therapeutic. My usual pattern is to write, leave it for an indeterminate amount of time (hours, days, months, years…) then go back, re-read, edit and publish. So when I write about stuff that I’m processing in my head, the process of writing helps organise my thoughts as much as that of editing helps organise the words. This is one of those times (probably the first of several). Hopefully it isn’t too self-indulgent and is something that you can relate to too.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I deal with difficult and stressful things. Would I not be depressed if I was better at it? Are there ways to improve how I deal with them? How can I make that happen? How do I even deal with them now? What does it all mean?! (Joke – if there is one thing that I don’t suffer from it’s existential crises).
Since leaving conventional office-based work (eight years ago!), I’ve realised that simple is best – I neither attract nor get involved in drama, my relationships with my friends, family and partners are healthy. I’m lucky enough in my career that I don’t have to work for people I don’t like (this may not always be the most financially astute decision, but some people are just not very nice and I’d rather eat supermarket value vegetables than do great work for someone who’s a bitch). I even keep my training and food simple – if you were to analyse my meals over the week I think you’d find that about 65% of them were identical.
Someone recently asked when I was going to stop biting my nails and I explained, very logically and clearly, that I just didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with doing that right now. That there was only a finite amount of room in my head for handling what life throws at me, and that not chewing my fingers wasn’t very high up the list of priorities. I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) make it fit at this moment.
Life is… not like a box of chocolates – I mean, who the hell can find a photo of a box of chocolates with a cat near it, let alone in it? It’d have eaten the damn things! So a jar it is. I have the bits of my life in a jar, and they all fit nicely together. When it’s good, I’m chilling, like the kitty above, napping in the sunshine.
Shit got a bit harder as I got older, collecting all kinds of crap that I never needed nor wanted, but after big events had died down – getting a new job or a relationship breakdown, say – I’d have an organise, chuck them out and make room for the next thing to come along.
Recently, though, however much of a control freak I’d been about guarding my precious jar, life threw a bunch of things at me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. So the cosy little nest of nice house, good job and all the rest of it suddenly found itself coexisting with a bunch of other stuff that really doesn’t play well with others. Getting the flat and living in a building site, ending a relationship with someone I care about deeply, living on my own for the first time in nearly a decade, not having enough work and not having any money to do anything fun, and being stuck alone with all the crazy thoughts in my head.
And each of those things came with other things, like a bunch of Gremlins and an imp with a water pistol. Living out of boxes, no heating, having to use the push-button showers, not having work and stressing about whether I could pay my mortgage, having to be careful about electricity usage, getting more work then suddenly not having time to put into finding a bathroom. Feeling anxious about dating but not seeing enough of my friends to get the sanity check and support that I needed. Plus when I’m stressed I’m just not a great person to be around – I have no positivity to give others, something which is really a priority for me, no conversational skills and pretty much want to be left alone. Then all of a sudden I was so miserable that even the thought of going out in rush hours freaked me out and all I wanted to do is sit under a duvet, watching Netflix.
So what’s a girl to do? Smashing the jar isn’t a good idea, that’s for sure. So I guess I’m on the journey of having a careful and thorough examination of what’s in my jar, ejecting some of it and, with the help of CBT and effort, remoulding things to tesselate more effectively.
Of course the actual jar is only part of the story – how I handle what’s in it, my control-freakery towards it, and my treatment of myself is another chapter entirely. So whilst I usually like to finish up with a paragraph or two of something positive, affirmative and, well, fluffy like this cat, I can’t. That’s for another time.