The past couple of weeks I have mostly been feeling overwhelmed. Not overwhelmed in a good way (A surprise party! You guys are amazing! I don’t know what to say!) but in a suffocating, life-can-be-quite-hard-work-and-also-a-bit-shitty-sometimes sort of a way.
It feels like all the points on my many and various to do lists have merged together and risen up in one giant wave threatening to totally engulf me in a metaphorical wipe out. This isn’t just a single parent rant, I am well aware that there are many happy couples out there who are feeling the stress just as keenly, but having to shoulder the responsibility of everything on my own is almost certainly a contributing factor.
The worst part about it is that, no matter how much I achieve there is always more to be done waiting around the corner; work, house, children, blog, self, there is never the opportunity to sit and reflect on tasks completed or problems conquered before gearing up to fight the next battle.
Teen 1 gets frequently exasperated and points out that I am, in fact, my own worst enemy. There are many things that I struggle to fit in to a day that she views as unnecessary and, while our benchmarks of necessity are vastly different (when you are 16 years old cleaning the bathroom and running the hoover round do not feature highly on a priority list), I do know that I tend to fill every minute with activity in a slightly manic way. Any self-help junkie worth her salt knows that occupation is the enemy of depression, time spent re-organising a kitchen cupboard is time that could otherwise be lost to dark thoughts and naval gazing.
The trick to getting a better balance whilst still keeping busy would be to master the art of filling vacant time pockets with things that benefit your mental state. Swap weeding the garden for a yoga session, replace cleaning the oven with a twenty minute coffee break and a couple of chapters of a good book. All very good in theory, and some people I know manage this very well – I am nothing but envious. I have tried to emulate the method but the hairy guilt monster lurks so fiercely over me for the duration of the yoga/coffee/reading whatever session that any benefit is outweighed by the thoughts of all the other things I really should be doing.
So, in an effort to try and release some of the pressure I think the answer for someone like me is to try and ‘re-brand’ a few of the things that are on life’s to-do list. Scrubbing the loo is always going to be a rotten chore so no point trying to alter those kind of duties, but there are other activities that have become a burden that need not to be. Walking the dog always feels like a pain in the neck that eats into every day when, in fact, it is a fantastic opportunity to breathe fresh air, stretch muscles, and chew over thoughts and ideas uninterrupted. Writing this blog should not be a task that hangs over me demanding attention but a brilliant hobby to be savoured and enjoyed.
I put this theory to the test this weekend. Teens 1 and 2 are away and the prospect of two whole days with no meals to make or taxi duties to perform made me concoct a massive list of tasks that I wanted to get done. Everything was on there from tidy and re-organise the garage to cleaning all the windows to spring cleaning the goldfish bowl. I screwed my courage to the sticking post and chose one thing – shorten the pair of curtains I got on Ebay so that they actually fit the window. I fired up the Iplayer and found a couple of engrossing plays on Radio 4 and got to work. The job took longer than expected (don’t they always) and actually took all day but, do you know what? It didn’t matter. I had a happy and relaxing time pinning and sewing, lost myself in some radio drama and at the end of the day had completed a task that has been bugging me for months.
The re-branding experiment was a success. It remains to be seen whether I can roll out the pilot scheme into everyday life, I suspect it might be a work in progress, but for now at least I have built a temporary dam in the fast flowing river of pressure that was threatening to sweep me away.