My husband has a sore knee. That sounds like a pretty minor ailment in the grand scheme of things, but he actually wrenched it and bent it backwards and it’s a little swollen and (by all accounts) extremely painful. I know how it feels to do something to your body, or have something happen to it, and you just feel a little broken and a whole lot mortal. I mean, the pain is bad, but the constant reminder that you’re just a meat-machine subject to malfunction and breakdown is kind of terrifying.
Anyway, he’s in a whole bunch of pain and it’s fucking with my plans for the day. I know, being married to me must be a riot of empathy and caring, right? I do care, but I also realise that my ability to be kind and caring is predicated on my keeping my stress levels below a manageable line.
So this morning, rather than getting straight into writing these words, I took a few minutes to plan out my priorities for the day. When all the tasks and to-dos are buzzing around inside my brain like flies, then I feel overwhelmed and stressed. If I can get them to behave and line up like good little priorities, then things start to feel a little bit more manageable.
Like, it’s really important to me to get my run in today. Last week was nearly completely run-free and I missed it in my life. G.’s knee pain was no better this morning and so we made the sensible decision to take him to the walk-in clinic about 5 minutes drive from our house. Once that decision was made, there was a little bit of a pressure to get going on that straight away as the number one priority for the day and to drop everything else. But, although it’s important to get that knee seen to today, it’s probably no more urgent to get it seen at 11 am than at 12:30. And kids and adults all need to eat and get dressed, and if I look at it rationally, my taking an extra 30 minutes to be gone running is not actually going to have that severe of an impact on when we get out of here.
But it’s hard to remember that. It feels like I’m prioritising my run over G.’s injury.
And then guilt sets in and with guilt comes snappishness, because even though I am the one placing blame and guilt on myself, I still don’t like the feeling of being blamed, and I still do want to go and have my run, but I don’t like feeling selfish about it.
Anyway, listing out the priorities for the day put things in a little bit of perspective. G.’s injury and attending to it will fuck up his day far more than mine, on which it will have relatively little impact to be honest. And even if it was going to take over the whole day, I think the exercise of seeing what could be done during the day would have helped me accept that, I think.
So basically, the tool of writing down broad strokes of the days priorities has made me a lot calmer. It hasn’t reduced the amount of stuff I need to get done – in fact, it reminded me of a number of things I’d forgotten that I wanted to get done (in the infinity of time that I often expect the weekend to have!). But – like I already said – they’re no longer scattered all through my head draining my energy levels with a constant forgetting-remembering cycle that leaves me standing, shaking and anxious but overwhelmed and actually unable to do anything.
I often find it useful to just write down the first three things I need to do in the day (e.g. feed children, shower and get dressed) just to get myself moving. Otherwise I’m stuck in “What was I meant to do today? Oh yeah. Everything. But I can’t possibly do everything!!! How about I do nothing instead. Yeah. That sounds good. How about nothing.”
In other news, I made contact with my therapist to pre-schedule a check-in appointment after Christmas. I kept putting that off and putting that off, so it feels good to have put something in motion there.
It’s a good reminder that a lot of those “hanging over my head” tasks are actually easier to do than to keep thinking about. Probably time to treat myself more like the programmable meat-robot that I am.