A Strange Journey

I went on a strange, unexpected trip this evening, without leaving my apartment.

Things at the bike shop have picked up dramatically lately, a result of the anniversary sale happening this week and several rare sunshine sightings last weekend. Preparing for the sale meant some longer days last week, and the pattern has continued this week. I’m not complaining, I like the work I’m doing, I’m good at it, and it simply needs to be done. Now I know some of you will smile at this, but working several consecutive 8-hour days is kind of a big deal for me. Not as a major accomplishment, more a cautionary venture.

I got home close to 7:00pm tonight, after working a full day and biking home afterwards on my slow city bike. I was a little drained cognitively, but not enough for me to recognize it as such. Instead, I just felt a low-level anxiety simmering behind the more immediate task of figuring out what to eat, while at the same contemplating the growing number of things on my to-do list (this blog being one of them). With no shortage of things to do, then, I did what I often do in this situation: check Facebook, check email, etc… and tell myself I’ll do what needs to be done tomorrow, when I’ll presumably have more energy. That was my solution – Final Answer.

I zapped some leftover leftovers, not bothered in the least with how pathetic of a meal it made, and took to reading the Vancouver Sun online. Engrossed in the new stories beaming from my laptop, I could almost ignore the growing pile of intimidating mail on the dining table. I get anxious whenever I get real mail, you know, the envelopes with plastic windows so that my bills can see the look on my face when I pull them out of my mailbox. Brown envelopes are especially bad, but at this time of year, with all the tax statements and such, it’s as if every piece of mail is laced with Anthrax. I take them out of my mailbox, as a service to the mailman so he doesn’t have to keep cramming them in my box, cursing the guy in Apt. 317 who doesn’t have the cajones to sort and deal with the bills, but then I leave them on my dining table, and wait for a day where I feel a little more like an organized adult, and less like me.

As I sat there reading about celebrities who blew all their money and declared bankruptcy, I felt a sense of conviction, followed by a call to action, and a surge of will to tear open and file the mail that has haunted me for weeks. The anxiety I’d been feeling staged a rallying cry, telling me I was too tired, that I’d run into problems too big for me to figure out. I hardened my resolve. “I can do this!” I told myself, “I may not eat very well tonight, and I might not accomplish anything else tonight, but I can organize this mess!” I grabbed a new manilla tag folder, labelled it “Various Tax Forms For 2011 Tax Year” and started filling it. I briefly considered the possibility that I had shredded some important papers last month, but I couldn’t dwell on it long – I was on a mission. Envelopes were opened, forms were stapled together and filed, bills were paid and recorded, and the unassailable mound of mail was vanquished.

And I felt lighter. I had attributed my anxiety to other things – lack of sleep, the emotional events of late, personal shortcomings – and I didn’t expect to feel any better in these areas simply by organizing my mail, but I did. Was my stress really about all the envelopes with plastic windows staring up from the dining table? No, I felt anxious because I had subconsciously deemed myself incapable of tending to household tasks after a full day at work, and giving in to that line of thought was giving in to insecurity, fear, and failure. Tackling the issue head-on, dealing with the mail instead of putting it off for yet another day, was my way of taking back some control over my fate.

My handicaps I just have to accept. My cognitive deficits cannot be denied or ignored. My vapid energy levels don’t leave room for negotiation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but defaulting to these facts, no matter how very real they are, robs me of my autonomy and dignity. If I look at what needs to be done and assume defeat, I’m giving those realities too much credit. But if I look at what I can still do, and do it well, that’s when I’m living beyond my limits.

I didn’t expect to learn all that tonight, but then I didn’t expect to overcome the postal pile on my dining table, and I certainly didn’t expect to complete a blog post about it tonight either.


About jaybrandsma

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5 Responses to A Strange Journey

  1. aureol says:

    Your writing is soooo heart-ridden. No one can deny your candour and insightful observations. Oh well, our paths may never meet, but it would be a jammin’ day if they did!!!

  2. jaybrandsma says:

    Thank you, Aureol – and yes, it would be a jammin’ day indeed.

  3. Sandra Veenstra says:

    I can totally relate. My dining room table looks just like yours did and I just shove it all into a reusable shopping bag when I’m hosting company for dinner. Anxiety about opening mail isn’t only your ailment…it plagues many of us. Why? I don’t remember feeling like this 20 years ago. Now, each year of tax time and forms to fill and paperwork to attend to seems more daunting than it ever did. Sorry to not encourage you. You are an inspiration to me… I’m going to tackle my increasing stack. Tomorrow.

  4. Sandra Veenstra says:

    Allowing me the opportunity to wait for energy is very kind of you, Jay. The “taxman” only gives me until April 30th…. I guess I’ll find out whichever comes first.

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