I’m sitting here on the couch, not drinking my hot tea, and feeling sick. Feeling sick largely because I’ve been sick on and off since about Thanksgiving, but also because today, I’m not handling the adjustment very well. Or maybe I am. I can’t tell.
Everybody has their issues, their quirks, their…things that set them apart from the people around them, their own personal burdens to bear. For each issue, a trigger. Yours might be toe cracks, or navel lint, or the warning label on the bottle of rum that you know perfectly well is not on the FDA’s daily intake food pyramid, or whatever shape they’ve chosen this year. (I’m rooting for the icosohedron.) One of my issues happens to be a problem with change. Sort of.
It’s not that I don’t like change, or don’t understand how necessary it is, or can’t appreciate the way it keeps stagnation at bay. It’s not like I freak out when the grocery store doesn’t have the brand of dish soap I like or I have to get kidney beans instead of pintos. I’m the variety queen, my friends. I never buy the same kind of shampoo twice in a row. I wish I had every type of tea (barring the weird flavored ones – you know what I mean, the ones that smell like a candle from Pier One) in a big cabinet in my kitchen to suit my whims. If I could buy nailpolish in packages only enough for two coats, I would cheerfully do so.
No, I mean big changes. When I went to a tiny private school in junior high (quite a change from being homeschooled), I had such anxiety that I threw up every morning for months. (Heck, it happened for the first few weeks at the beginning of every school year. I don’t think I even have to tell you about college.) My fears weren’t even defined, they were just there, bubbling below the surface. On a conscious level I was excited about the new possibilities the change afforded, eager to begin, eager to learn the best and most efficient way of handling everything, eager to get things settled into a sustainable routine. Subconciously, I was a terrified mess. Sometimes it got the better of me, but I always managed to work through it and face my fears. I discovered tactics that worked for me, and as I grew up I added more strategies to my arsenal. Most of them involved bribery, and rewards, for me, have always involved food.
So when I was at the store today, I swung through the bakery section, even though we make our own bread and didn’t need anything there, and I picked up a box of doughnuts and tossed them in the cart. I ignored the rational voice in my head that reminded me that there are a lot of things in doughnuts that I don’t want to put in my body, that eating them would make me feel worse physically and emotionally than I already did, that I would try to hide them from my husband in shame, and that I would be overcome with guilt and shame that I was hiding something from him, and even worse, that I was hoarding food.
I didn’t want the doughnuts. I needed them. I even tried to tell myself that these weren’t even good doughnuts, just store-made ones that were probably a day or two old by this point, and did I really want to go through all that for something that wasn’t even worth it? Apparently I did, because I draped a bag of tortillas over the package and continued shopping, latte in hand, Podling grumbling in the seat in front of me.
You see, I had already rewarded myself for getting the groceries by buying a latte at the little Starbucks stand inside the grocery store. Furthermore, I had gotten a regular milk latte on the rationalization that they use vanilla-flavored soymilk, which is too sweet, and I didn’t need that much soy or sugar. You see how I get myself in trouble?
Of course, the icky tummy could be related to the three shots of espresso in the coffee, and the plain drip cup I had when I woke up this morning, and the fact that technically, I am kinda sorta maybe a wee little bit allergic to the whole coffee/tea/chocolate family. But if you think that means I’m going to give up any one of them, you’re suh-huh-<I>horely</I> mistaken. They are my psychological crutch. Much like deep-fried, sugar-coated baked goods.
So here I sit, knowing that the doughnuts are in the kitchen, mildly nauseated and already wallowing in shame. Despite all this, I can’t honestly say that it has been that bad a day.
I don’t know how you define productivity in your day, but a big one for me is being showered and properly dressed, which I am. Another is doing something I really don’t want to do, like dishes or laundry, which are both in process. Another hallmark of productivity for me is having to leave the house, which I have done. Furthermore, if I have to clean up a disgusting mess and I do it right away, without rationalizing, bribing or procrastinating, I feel more in control, more adult, more responsible. So far today, I have had to do that twice; once when the Podling poured his water into his lunch of rice & beans and made a fun soup that he splattered all over himself, and once when I caught the cat, Fezzik, marking the wall in the corner of the Podling’s bedroom. By all accounts, I should be in fine form today. I’m even posting, which I haven’t done since I started packing for the move in earnest.
But what do I focus on? What can’t I get out of my mind? Those damned doughnuts. Imperfection. A moment of weakness. A shameful expression of my difficulty transitioning. An example of how selfish and spoiled I am, wasting money and food and harming my body because I’m not strong enough to get through a normal day without some sort of reward.
This is a familiar, if ugly, circle. Shame, anger, disappointment, weakness, and around again. Each stage ensures the next, and without a strategy to knock me out of this destructive circle, I’ll just spin my wheels like a car doing doughnuts in the snow.
My old strategies to knock me out of the circle involved a lot of distraction and avoidance, but they have since become an added part of the circle. I moved to trying to numb myself, so that I could quiet those critical voices and start over again with a fresh viewpoint, but the side effects of emotional numbness are as bad as the disease it’s meant to treat, and I’m not a doctor, Jim!
So here I am, doing doughnuts in the snow, wondering how I got here (AGAIN) and how I’m going to straighten myself out (AGAIN), and getting awfully dizzy while I work it out. It’s not like I meant to spin the car; I was just trying to go someplace new.