Living on the Edge

One of the advantages of schooling over home schooling is that after the children go to school I can do outrageously BAD things without them knowing. Like balancing my breakfast and the laptop on the balustrade above the stairs while huddling over the heater. So this is what living on the edge is like..

Tell me, is daily life a constant struggle for you, or is it only me? Things that make me panic on the inside: making telephone calls, organising pieces of paper such as bills and hockey rosters, needing to buy essential items of sporting equipment or shoes, or book covers, or indeed any of the paraphernalia of daily life for the children. Organising ballet costumes. Aaargh. Following up tradies, or having them traipse around my house, however nice and useful they are. Shopping. Getting in the car again to go and fetch a child or pick one up. Going out, anywhere, ever. Making appointments. Yes, I am a disorganised hermit. Yes, I would happily never leave the house. Yes, I really do want to be Ma in Little House on the Prairie, because even though she had to hand-sew every stitch of her family's clothing and take the insides out of animals before cooking them over an open fire, she only went shopping once a year, and never had to drive the children to hockey.

Life is just way too complicated for me to get my head around most days, and I am continually tempted just to go back to bed. However, I have discovered that I do play a beneficial role in the community. Last week, instead of having my usual nap in the car, I actually went into ballet (because I absolutely HAD to, due to tedious but essential ballet business) and was earnestly telling one of my fellow ballet mums how amazing she is, as she sat there sewing an armful of diaphanous ballet costume, because if I had to sew any ballet-related costume, I would actually DIE, and then I told her why I was there, which was because I was shamefully disorganised and had messed up big in Balletland, and had to confess this to the ballet teacher. And she said to me, 'Oh, I have missed you. I always feel so efficient and talented when you are here.' See, I improve other people's self-esteem by my uselessness, thus rendering it useful. If I became super-efficient and good at things, it would make other people feel bad by comparison, and that would be mean.

I have also made another discovery. I often find myself doing these same things: suddenly and desperately needing a nap, a hot shower, cake or an Agatha Christie novel that I have read twenty five times already. I only just realised this week (because I am a bit slow), that these are all things I find intensely comforting, and that maybe, just maybe, I am using them as a substitute for dealing with whatever very uncomfortable thing I might be avoiding. So these last few days I have found myself gently asking why it is that I feel I need a nap, or to read The 4.50 From Paddington AGAIN. And the answer is usually that I don't want to write an important email, or ring the builder, or deal with an actual emotion. But then, I ask, well, what to do, now that I have admitted I don't want to ring the builder? I still don't want to do it.

And here is another revelation. People talk to each other about all this stuff. And IT MAKES THEM FEEL BETTER. I am rather an introvert, obviously, otherwise I wouldn't wish I was a hermit. But I generally don't act like one around other people. I am deceptively sociable and jolly. I listen well. People like to tell me things, and I love to listen and sympathise, and enter into their difficulties, and it often feels like I am connecting on a deep level, but it is mostly a one way street, because I don't tend to share back, or if I do, not about current difficulties, just past, resolved ones. My current problems I keep close, and ever so usefully, pretend they don't exist. And if I can eat enough cake and take enough naps, the comfort blanket works so well that I can say, 'Fine!' when anyone asks, and actually mean it. Clearly though, not fine. Daily panic. So I am resolving to discuss some actual problems with actual people. Even telling my fellow ballet mum about my stupidity helped. All those old cliches turn out to be true. A problem shared really is a problem halved. And often, the problems I seem to have.. make other people laugh. So, therapy for everyone really..


Heather said…
It's not just you. I am often in the throws of overwhelmedness (I don't think that is a real word). Just the other day my daughter graduated high school and hours later all the stress came to a head and I had a breakdown in front of my poor husband who didn't understand what was going on with his crazy wife. I'm like you. I don't talk about my problems either. Not to my friends or family. Naps and books are such a sweet escape sometimes, but those things often end up making me feel guilty or lazy-especially the naps. I ended up telling my husband that sometimes I needed him to be there to listen to me and all I wanted in return was a hug and for him to agree with me that x,y & z sucked right now. You see, in the past if I told him about my problems he would try to be "helpful" and tell me how to fix them. That drove me so crazy that I pretty much stopped talking to him about anything that was bothering me ever. I'll see if he sticks to my request...It's not just you. We all need sounding boards to keep our sanity.

My eyebrows raised when I read what the ballet teacher said to you. I hope it was all in good humor.
Jo said…
Hey Heather, yes, sometimes it is hard to convince those nearest and dearest that we don't need a solution, just sympathy. But they love us, and they want to make everything better.. I find it very difficult not to jump in with a solution myself when the children come to me because they are miserable about something.
Dear one, feeling for you on your daughter's graduation. I do know how hard it is to begin letting go, and being so fearful for their precious lives away from us..
And my fellow ballet mum's comment - she was laughing with relief as she said it. We women can be so competitive, I think it is sometimes such a relief to hear how other people are messing up. I am always glad to provide that service:)
Anonymous said…
I've missed you too. Not because you make me feel more organised, efficient or talented - would you believe you you make me feel less efficient and less talented? I compare less favourably to your gardening skills, and ability to keep gardening. And your minimalism. I am hopeless in these regards. And I admire your ability to raise your four kids, now much on your own. You are such a better mother than me!

I am secretly jealous of your life!

I hibernate, or is it hide? - and re-read Little House. Until recently I hated speaking to tradies and left it to Mr Sans. Don't know what I was scared of?

I've missed you because you make me laugh - you have a way with words. And describe little vignettes in your life that make me smile.

I hope you have some friends to whom you can weep and wail and unload your sadness.

And I trust you removed your empty mug and laptop from the ledge before the girls came home so you can admonish them with a straight-faced when they plonked their mugs on there?
Anonymous said…
Oh and as to daily life being a constant struggle, I haven't folded away washing for weeks. I have neighbours asking/telling us to cut back the shrubs taking over the footpath (and they're right - it is impossible to walk on the footpath!). I started hemming a dress months ago and got half way. (If I had girls who did ballet, they would never get a costume. And they wouldn't want one made by me.)

And biggest disclosure of not coping with or even admitting I am part of modern life: I haven't done my tax for a gazillion years.
Beznarf27 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
SO with you on the hermit front...why does "everyone else" need such constant attention eh? Don't they know that we are hermits who just want to live a simple cloistered life with our lappies and our cups of tea and our warm house? I just spent yesterday raking our next door neighbours oak leaves. Part community building and predominately selfish, all of those leaves! I get that twitching feeling whenever I have to go to the shops. A simple task that really shouldn't take much effort but yesterday I set out at 5.30am and was back by 10am after doing a fortnights worth of shopping and trying to rack my brain to work out why on EARTH I had written some of the items on the shopping list that I did...

Driving over to Beaconsfield for a forgotten loaf of bread or milk has its hassles as well. Got to throw the dogs into the car, remember how to drive, drive, get there, lock the car so that the dogs don't get out and even more importantly, the natives don't get in to pinch said dogs...then try to find what I want from a severely limited selection, get back to the car to be greeted by dogs who think you were going away FOREVER and have to slobber and jump on you and lick your ear all the way home (REMEMBER HOW TO DRIVE)...sigh...I just want to sit, and crochet in front of the lovely warm fire (with someone else delivering the logs into the wood basket) and sip endless cups of tea. Everything...EVERYTHING else makes me twitch.

It's great to be able to share with us fellow hermits out in blogging land. We all have our insecurities. I talk nineteen to the dozen to cover up that I am actually a very awkward shy person who doesn't really think that what I do/know is all that important in the scheme of things. It's amazing what we do in order to sooth those inner voices isn't it? I feel your panic and am sending out warm tea scented wafting’s from Brunhilda. I guess all I can say is that once you do connect with that tradie they tend to go away. That phone call is a beginning and an many little loose ends that you can tie up and you could even pretend that you were knitting a wonderful task jumper that when knitted would fit you perfectly and would keep you warm and bolstered away from the next series of task knitting that you had to do. Hugs from frigid Sidmouth where I am contemplating another day of raking my elderly neighbours oak leaves and trying ever so hard to suck it up and take one for the gipper even though my hands hurt, my back hurts, my legs hurt but most importantly that little inner hermit is SCREAMING at me to hide under the bed... maybe it helps to know that we are all just hermits living in a bigger world of more hermits and that there are only some people, let’s call them "extreme extroverts" for want of a better word, who actually enjoy all of that attention. The rest of us deliver and run. Consider me delivered... and now I must run :)
jo darling, could you please email me at pleeeeease?!
apologies for leaving this as a comment - i can't find another way of contacting you.
thank you!
now to comment :-)
i am sure the darkening days of winter do not help. cold dark mornings, and night-time starting at 4.30pm - makes me want to hibernate and sunggle into bed too. i know there is an official term for it (seasonal affrectove disorder - yes, SAD!). i give myself up to that some days.
but sometimes i would do anythign to acoide dealign with tradies, no matter how nice they are.
PS i stand over my hall panel heater to eat my breakfast before i go to work, because it is the warmest place in the house at that time of the day!
Jen's Busy Days said…
Hey Jo,

I do the same in some ways. I can do the necessary chores of outside contact easily enough but I don't make friends easily. We have lived here over 7 years and I am just now able to say I know 2 people well enough to ask them to visit. Even after 18 mths of the boys at piblic school I really only know about 6-8 mums but only well enough to wave and chat about the weather. It isn't easy to share the bad bits. A blog is a nice outlet for that some days. And you have good friends here of a like mind, you are not alone!

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Ah Jo, whatever did we do pre-internet? So good to hear your rambles and also a nod or three of agreement from me. I think we are all much the same really, it's nice to be at home until its not - and that's the time to go out. Its horrible to have deadlines and timeframes to work around. Good luck with everything. The mental image of the duck looking serene while it's legs are paddling furiously comes to mind. You have a lot on your plate, so make sure to take some time out for you. Naps/crafts/reading are perfectly fine I think! Have to agree with Heather's comment about her husband wanting to solve everything. Mine's the same - are they all like this? I stop communicating on a personal issues at times and that's just not a good thing in a relationship. Hoping your hubby is a good sounding board for you over the phone when he's away. All the best. cheers Wendy
Jo said…
Dear lovies, it is very good to have you all as sounding boards and the confessional. I love it that we can all come out of the closet about not feeling so on top of things.
I was talking to a friend the other day about this, and she said,'But you always seem so confident..'
Huh. I'm pretty sure we are all still 13 on the inside..
GretchenJoanna said…
I think about these things constantly, because my feelings fit your description too well. Even "ringing the builder," something I can do from home, sometimes seems to be the most daunting task that I will do anything else to avoid. Besides comforting myself with food and writing, I comfort myself with the fact that I eventually do make truly necessary phone calls, so my faintheartedness - a word I have recently adopted as fitting - doesn't seem to be completely debilitating.
As you point out, other people don't realize what's really underneath this friendly and competent exterior, which makes it easy to get overcommitted in proportion to my true mental and emotional resources. Everyone talks about how good it is to stray from one's comfort zone, but that concept is a little too broad for me to accept it without the aid of a couple more cookies.
GretchenJoanna said…
Do you ever go back years later and read your blog posts, and wonder that it was you who wrote them? I just read this one of yours, evidently not for the first time, because there is a comment from me right here, a few lines I have no recollection of.... Well, I wanted to say that you made me laugh out loud this time through. :-)

And reading my own comment from back then was strangely helpful. Writing is a way for us to get a handle on things, and to instruct ourselves, in a way that cookie-eating can never do.

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