I wouldn’t say I’m a messy person. You’ll never hear me make that claim.
But there are some weeks – like this one – where, if you poked your head into my room, you would wrinkle your nose. It’s definitely a mess. A mind-numbingly annoying mess.
I like things to be organized and absolutely routine, and my room does not look anything like what I would like it to. I hate the fact that I’ve let so many history class readings sit out that they just form a stack on my table, and never make it to history class.
Any time I read a magazine or book, it’ll be left under the bed, or on the dresser, or by the bathtub. And all these little details out of place infuriate me.
To the point to which I leave the room, just to avoid looking at it.
You might ask, why wouldn’t you just clean your own damn room? But I can’t.
When there’s a task that involves a lot of pressure about the outcome, it’s next to impossible for me to complete. I walk by my room, look in, and sigh maddeningly. I open the document to That Big Thing, bite my lip, and binge-watch Dr. Phil.
In short, I sprint away from my responsibilities.
This doesn’t really make sense, because I am a responsible person. I’m an annoying over-achiever type, and I’m good with deadlines. But if there’s too much buildup to a task, I get anxious and back away. The doable thing – cleaning my room, writing an essay, task X – becomes undoable.
People who don’t experience things undoable? They think you’re just lethargic. It’s not exactly laziness, and other people who experience this can tell you that too. There is a sluggish sort of feel that lingers around these things undoable. It’s a heaviness that sits with you, and it carries me to the couch where I can Netflix in peace.
I beat myself up a lot about not being able to complete huge tasks without that unrelenting burden. But this past week, I tried to trace the idea of things undoable to its roots. I wanted to know why I stare at my messy bed, feel a great sense of panic, and then walk right out of the room.
The answer’s in that first sentence of the last paragraph.
I beat myself up.
With every task, there are a thousand questions running through my head? Most of the time, these questions motivate me to work harder, push higher quality products out. But for some reason, every so often, there’s a Big Task that gives me major anxiety.
Things undoable are a great source of stress, but I know what doing them would mean. It would mean a whole lot of energy and the possibility that, after I’m done, my room might not look exactly how I want it to. What if I let the mess build up again, and my efforts are wasted? It sounds stupid, but the thought of cleaning scares me because it’s most definitely followed by the room getting messy again.
I literally cannot do it.
It’s just so much easier to back away than risk a whole other anxiety-ridden situation, right? Better do nothing, than do it wrong.
This is quite obviously not true. My room getting messy again is not going to be the end of the world. If I could push myself hard enough, I could maintain a certain level of tidiness, if not the neatest room ever.
So where does the answer lie, for us who experience things undoable?
Consistency. Turn that word over in your mouth. The hard c’s softened by the s’s. It’s a soothing word, right? No anxiety involved.
Consistency is just about doing a little each day, adding a routine to the chaotic roar in your head. Even if it takes a lot of energy, just cleaning that one drawer one day, and then treating yourself to Dr. Phil or other guilty pleasures, adds structure to your life. And if you’re goal-oriented like me – which you probably are if you relate to this piece – getting things done, seeing change happen, day by day, might just ease some tension off your shoulders.
Don’t pressure yourself. Allow yourself to curl up under your blanket and stare at the blank document, but don’t yell at yourself.
You always pull through. You’re going to pull through. Just breathe, breathe, breathe, and type.