I look after my physical health, so why not my emotional wellbeing, too?
My temperature has been running high of late, so I duly hauled my ass off for a check-up and my first therapy session in a couple of years. I’d forgotten how useful a different perspective can be. We all get stuck at certain points in our lives and sometimes we need a little oil to get the wheels turning smoothly again.
As much as I adore my friends, their role in my life is to comfort, not challenge me. Bless them. They listen to me bleat on and on, offer a hug, some consolation, a cup of tea. The problem starts when my bleats become more and more circular until I’m not simply boring other people anymore, I’m boring myself.
So, time to take action. Therapeutically, even the action of taking action is helpful. It’s the first step to getting unstuck. I used to work for somebody who had a (metaphorical) sign stuck above his head. ‘The editor’s indecision is final.’ It drove his staff bonkers because, despite running around like headless chickens, nothing ever got done. By the end of the day, we were back at the beginning.
So there I was, sitting in a chair, listening to myself bleat. It was fascinating. Not the bleating, but the realisation of quite how circular and indecisive my mind had become. By the time I’d got to the end of one thought, I was back at the beginning. When the session finished, we came to the conclusion that what I needed was a set of rules, a new way of doing things in order to unstick my stuck-ness.
Except I don’t do rules; give me a rule and I’ll break it. That, of course, is my inner adolescent. Guidelines, I can manage. Suggestions are even better. After the session, I remembered an interview I’d read with Margaret Atwood. She said she started every book with the question ‘What if?’ Genius!
So now my own self-imposed set of guidelines is to pre-empt every decision with that question, as in, ‘What if I looked at this differently? What if I did that in a different way?’ So far today, I’ve managed to drink my morning cup of tea sitting on the sofa rather than in bed, opened the post as it arrived rather than just shoving it to one side, asked myself why I was considering a problem that couldn’t possibly be resolved until next week, and challenged every set of rules (yup, I do follow them after all) I impose on my daily routine. Such small details, but it was like doing a headstand and seeing things in an entirely different way.
I’m not suggesting that we all turn our lives upside down, simply that it’s a useful way of negotiating that feeling of being stuck. You know how you sometimes see people doing something that is, to the untrained eye, baffling? You ask them why they’re doing it that way. They give you a puzzled look, then: ‘Because we’ve always done it that way’. It’s never occurred to them to change, because that’s just the way it is. Well, perhaps that’s not the way it has to be. Change is invigorating, enlivening, enlightening even.
So, from now on, you’ll find me drinking my morning tea on the sofa and when that gets too familiar, perhaps I’ll be sitting on top of the kitchen table. Anywhere, rather than stuck in the same old place.
Come and meet Sally at on Thursday 3 May 2012 at 6.30pm where she’ll be in conversation with editor Louise Chunn, discussing life, love and how to survive it all. More information here.