Today I spent a good portion of the day doing something I absolutely hate doing. The rest of the day I spent avoiding doing it.
With some curiosity injected into the avoidance I decided to look for what other people hate doing and I found a couple of lists of things though, for the most part, I found them a little shallow.
Things I hate doing is not to be confused with things I hate. The later is an extensive list which includes everything from tyrants and crooked politicians to black licorice and having to wear shoes instead of sandals.
Things I hate doing is a very different thing and looking at other people’s lists I realize my own list has changed and mellowed a bit over the years.
The two blogs I discovered with “hate doing” lists were much about the everyday things like dishes, getting out of bed, work, school, taking out trash and doing laundry. One talked about taking off wet clothes and it occurred to me that much of the list was about things that were an inconvenience rather than things that brought terror to someone’s heart.
For me, putting on wet clothes is something much more horrible than taking them off, because it is reminiscent of days when I didn’t have many clothes to wear and had to put on the ones that were slightly damp because I had rinsed them out the night before so I could wear them again. Often it was a uniform and there was no choice because I could only afford one and there was no dryer to put them in.
When I talk about the things I hate doing I’m talking about the things that absolutely paralyze my brain and my body. The things which the very thought of taking on, cause a lapse into depression and make my head ache. Things I hate doing are things which turn my stomach and make me an emotional mess. I become someone I don’t like. My temper runs hot and my patience runs thin. The only escape is sleep or chocolate – or both.
When I was a kid in school, memory work and speeches were high on the list of “hated things to do”. Memory work when your teacher has a 3/4 inch yard stick you are struck with when you didn’t have it perfect was a thing of true terror in Grade 5. Speeches would have been fine if I didn’t have to stand up and deliver them. I loved researching and writing them but to stand in front of the class was unbearable.
In my child rearing years, I could relate a little to detesting laundry. I didn’t really hate laundry but I did hate ironing shirts. I suppose I didn’t really even hate ironing because I was quite skilled at it and knew how to do it so there was no crease in the sleeve. What I hated was there were about 50 shirts to iron. With three kids running around, a couple of jobs, housework, bedtimes, cooking meals and trying to squeeze nickles into quarters, that mountain of ironing was just way too much. The un-ironed shirts were representative of everything that was wrong in my life It was an unrealistic demand which I did not understand and they weren’t even my shirts.
When I looked at those shirts I cried. I didn’t even have to look at them to have panic well up in my throat. It was insurmountable, impossible and struck terror into my heart. It was something I just could not seem to see my way through.
I’m sure other people have similar mountains. These are the things that set us off into crying jags and tantrums. They are the things which, when they are finally done, leave us feeling drained but also, curiously, feeling stupid for having allowed them to take so much of our nervous energy.
When people live with depression they often have many of these mountains. The things of the everyday, become Herculean tasks which for mere mortals are impossible. In my work in mental health I have often had to help someone trudge through housework which most people could never imagine. I’ve seen dishes from not days, but months. I’ve seen recycling piled high because someone was afraid to leave their apartment. I’ve seen ashtrays flowing over onto tables. I’ve had to coax people out of bed and into showers because they could not figure their way through those tasks without help.
This is not about being lazy. It is about things just being too big…way too big to handle and work your brain around.
When it came to my ironing dilemma, it wasn’t until a friend suggested I set a timer and only do ten minutes of ironing a day that the task became bearable. Having a limit or “end in sight” made it easier to do the job and it wasn’t long until all I had to do was the few shirts which were in the laundry from the day at hand. I had found a way to cope and before long I even figured out that if I grabbed those permanent pressed shirts when they were coming out of the dryer, put them on a hanger and then later touched up the collar, the person who wore them was none the wiser.
As the years go by there are moments when some of the daily chores seem to be way too difficult to manage. Getting out of bed and going to work are hard on the down days but most of the time I can force myself through the tasks and even find some joy in them.
It is always easier to find joy when you can find reasons for doing things. A woman I heard speak once told about how she prayed over the beds, meals, dishes and the laundry. She made it her blessing to pray for those who would eat the food, use the plates, wear the clothes and sleep in the beds. That made it easier for her to do the things which don’t get much reward or even thanks. It was good advice.
Developing an attitude of gratitude is a helpful tool in making your way through the tough things. If I can be thankful I have food to make meals with and a home to clean it makes it easier. Sometimes that attitude isn’t easy to muster but it gets easier with practice.
I don’t hate doing things nearly as much as used to and there aren’t too many things that cause mental paralysis any more. I’ll even happily get up in front of a thousand people and talk, but anything to do with Income Tax I can safely say I still hate.