One of the commitments I am following this month is to write down positive things I have done in a little purple notebook. Yesterday was a day I struggled to recall clearly, so I was having trouble finding things to write down. It is on these days that I resort to the little things that I have ticked off. Stuff like rebalancing the offset mortgage or dealing with an email that has been sitting there for a few days “taunting” me. I write taunting because I know what I want to write but seem to find it really hard to type the words and press send. There is something I am avoiding obviously but I am not quite sure what.
Take the case of the pet accommodation. I got up the courage the asked a friend is they would look after my dog whilst I went to the transplant games. They have offered before but turned me down the last time I asked because they were away with other family members. However after much angst filled avoidance, I asked again and found that this time it was fine. My dog and I went around the house to visit for a few hours and everything seemed to go well. Tick, one less thing to worry about. Except that then I found out my partner and daughter weren’t away for as long as I thought so the accommodation wasn’t needed for so long. I made a mental note to reduce the dog’s say with the friends. Then I found out that I would probably need to leave early in the morning to catch a 9am train out of Glasgow, so I want to leave the dog the night before.
Have I told my friends yet? Well no, I haven’t. Why not? Because I am frightened. They are my friends. They are nice people. They are laid back. I am not aware of them even getting slightly heated under the collar. What is there to be afraid of? I suspect it is my past haunting my present. Change at home when I was a child was a potentially explosive affair. Sometimes a piece of information would be taken in and hardly acknowledged. Other times it caused an illogical argument our of all proportion to the change. I couldn’t take the uncertainty of the reaction. Eventually I avoid interacting at all if I could. When necessary, I would issue a quick statement and clear the area as soon as possible to avoid any blast damage.
I didn’t know then what I do now. I didn’t know that my words probably had very little to do with the emotional explosion. They were just the last feather that broke the mental fragility of my parent. I understand because it can happen to me nowadays. It can happen really easily and unpredictably, and I find that rather difficult to deal with. Sometimes though I can feel what is about to happen and communicate my difficulty.
Yesterday my wife commented on how much she enjoyed the clear space beside my bedside table. It was nice that she had noticed my tiding up, and doubly nice that she thought to mention it to me. What was my response? I was annoyed with her for mentioning it and responded in an angry clipped tone. She pointed out the contradiction to me of wanting to be appreciated but not being able to hear it. Thankfully I was able to acknowledge that the issue was with me. It was my inability to hear appreciation in a positive way, not the way she put the statement.
I don’t like being the centre of attention but I do want to be noticed. I feel bad if someone says something nice about me. I get annoyed if people don’t understand my motives or don’t see what I have done. People want me to celebrate my achievements but to me that feels wrong. I am boasting and thinking too much of myself. I am being bad.
It seems to me that my own narrative says that I am an unworthy bad person, and that anything that contradicts the assumption must be wrong. I can be very creative about how I interpret the world to fit that narrative. I think this is a common human trait. Writing this blog is an attempt to contradict that story. My Positive Experience project is a concentrated effort to turn around my narrative. Is it succeeding? A third of the way through and I think the parameters of the project are changing. I am finding that I am less needing to write about positive experiences but more about positive appreciation of myself. There is no stand out issue yesterday that I can call a positive experience but the mere fact that I got through it and still found something to write about is something. Something I can appreciate. Something I did myself.