How was your weekend? Despite the accumulation of snow and one of my dogs sliding on the icy porch to scrape a strip of skin from her chin, mine was pretty good. We made tasty, toasty food, watched a ton of Buzzfeed Unsolved, braved the frigid air to walk the doggies, and even got in some gaming. We did a fair job of keeping up on the dishes in that there are less waiting now than before we started two days of cooking. And I started folding laundry again while my bed linens were in the wash. So both a relaxing and productive weekend for me.

And yet, Sunday night I was once again frustrated with the state of my house. I blame the snow.

This weekend’s snow was thick and wet, the kind of heavy snow that brings down branches. Which brought back memories of the tree falling on our storage shed last year. Our neighbors were able to get a message to me via a coworker, and I was so grateful they found a way to reach us because it allowed me to schedule repairs before the weekend. Since it was snowing and we only have electric heating, it was vital we get the electricity back on. I looked at the heavy snow this weekend and considered a reversed situation. What if something happened to our neighbors’ house?

If there was a disaster in the middle of the night, I would let my neighbors stay in my house. I’m not going to turn away a neighbor who has nowhere else to (easily) go in the middle of winter. And they would see the state of my house. Now maybe they also keep a messy house and wouldn’t be too judgmental. I’d feel a little defensive if they were, but I’d also expect someone accepting free shelter to be grateful they were even let in the door. You can sleep in clutter or you can sleep in snow. Your choice. But when I try to get past my defensiveness, there’s a layer of frustration and – my constant companion – anxiety.

When I let myself feel that deeper layer, I start to become overwhelmed. My chest tightens, I feel dizzy, and I have to control my breathing. I’m not sure people without chronic anxiety realize there’s a strong physical reaction generated by just thinking about a situation. Not detachedly thinking about a theoretical, but imagining actually opening the door to see my neighbors standing there and having the full weight of it hit me right in the chest. My mind quickly backs away from the situation and tries to think about something else. You successfully make an Avoidance roll!

Sometimes when I feel that sense of being overwhelmed, I want to just take everything in my house that hasn’t been sorted through or found a home and throw it away. Just put it at the curb and let someone else deal with it. (Okay, I know that wouldn’t work.) The physical action of moving that much stuff along with my attachment to items would prevent this from ever happening, but I get the urge to just throw my hands up and cut my losses. It’s another method of avoiding the issue. It’s too much to deal with, so I just want it to go away.

It’s the same way I deal with interpersonal issues. Some person is a cause of anxiety. So I will remove said person from my life. I don’t deal with the mental health part of the equation; I just remove whatever triggers my reaction. And that’s not the healthy way to deal with things. I’m not saying I need to stay in contact with people who make me uncomfortable. That’s ridiculous. But if I avoid someone I do like because I feel like I’ll be a Bad Person if I tell them “No” when they ask for a ride, leaving me to either resent them or feel guilty… Well, that’s not really on them. I need to learn how to set boundaries without feeling guilty about those boundaries. I’m not there yet. Not even close. But I suppose recognizing the issue is Step 1, right? Hmm.

What makes you want to go ostrich and hide your head in the sand instead of facing the issue? Have you managed to tackle anything you’d been avoiding?

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