Your Neurosis or Mine? Meditations on the Mental Fringe
Everyone has their point of weakness, their kryptonite, their Achilles’s heel. Mine is email.
I enjoy email. It’s fun to feel loved. I love getting messages, because don’t we all? The trouble is that most email isn’t a lovely hello from a friend. Most of it is work. Can you write this blog? Will you do this one thing? How about this other thing? Did you forget about X? I need you to fill out Y. And tomorrow Sue will ask for Z. Four people in one chat group want you to vote for them. Others want you to visit their blog. Would you forward this message? Do you want a coupon for cat food? How about some new Aveda products? On, and on, and on, until my shoulders are brushing my ears and my breathing is so short and tight I sound like a wheezing accordion.
I shut the email and I try to write, but I’m still tense, and instead of characters all I can think of are the four million things I need to do, the ten million I have to do, and tangled in there are the twenty zillion I will never do but got asked of me anyway and so they are there.
By the way, “a lot” of email for me is 25 messages. I start melting down at that point if I can’t delete ninety percent of them; go beyond 25 and I likely will start crying, and that’s not some cute figure of speech. I don’t know why email breaks me, but it does. It is where my hell dimension lies: endless things to do, usually from fifty directions, all designed to suck out my brain cells until I am a quivering, sobbing mess.
Marie, bless her heart, has learned how to navigate the Heidi Email Freakout. “Read them to me. What are your emails? What do they say? How many can you delete?” She makes me face the dreaded inbox and withdraw the beasts individually until they are conquered. She also reminds me of the word “no.” “No, I can’t do that for you. No, I can’t help you. No, I can’t give that to you. No, while I do love you, I don’t have time right now.”
That’s where I get into trouble, though. One at a time, each task isn’t so bad, but collectively they can suck away my day. Clearing out six this morning too the entire morning, because they involved doing things, like finding envelopes, addressing things, writing posts, moving stuff around, looking stuff up. They were not “yes/no” emails. They were tasks. I have more left. More will come in tomorrow.
I have no idea why I have such a psychotic reaction to my email, and this is in no means a plea for people to stop mailing me. Not a single email I did today wasn’t 1)promotion I needed 2)for friends I care about or 3)business that simply had to be done. I have been saying no. I have a setting on my gchat that says “no.” I use it. Often. I’m tempted to put a sticky on my monitor. NO.
The issue isn’t email so much as email is the place where my actual issue has so much fodder for going out of control. What I can’t stand is having things I need to do or want to do but not the energy/mental capacity/time to do them. What I don’t like, even fear, is that my mental capacity for carrying too many of those things (twenty is the high end of my ceiling) is pretty low, much lower than most people would consider reasonable. I think I fear being called out, told I am lazy or slow or just weird for not balancing enough things properly. This is my weak point because behind it is the fear that here is where it will be revealed, at last, that I am less.
The truth is that I’m not less. I know I’m weird, and my sanity is definitely iffy, but I’m pretty damn good at a lot of things. Even multitasking. But I’m not good at a crowd of people standing around me and wanting things of me, because the truth is, my love for people greatly, greatly outpaces my ability to love them at once. I am not good with multiple friends. Groups of friends try me. Sorely. Fill a room with people and I’m likely to pull two or three aside to chat, and if I can I’ll take them out of the filled room. If I have a party at my house, I stay in the kitchen. And with every year I age, I grow more and more introverted, meaning that no matter how I act, how well I play the part, groups and crowds suck out my soul in increasingly greater margins with every second I stay inside them.
Today I did not fare well against my email. Today it destroyed my brain and left me tense, angry, and fearful. So I didn’t write and ran away and read a great book (Kate McMurray, The Boy Next Door. Go read it right now!) and rested. And then I went back and finished my email. And tomorrow I’m not answering any. ANY. Not one, not unless it’s something that pleases me and makes me want to do it.
The thing I am worst about in my life is taking care of me. I am bad at saying, “No, I can’t do this because it hurts me,” because in my head it always seems like I am being selfish or rude or unreasonable. I have decided that I would rather be selfish and rude and unreasonable than miserable. And that probably most of my yens aren’t quite as bad as the screaming tower of warped small town Lutheranism is making me feel.
So here’s to insanity and selfishness and saying no. I invite you to state your own independence from your neurosis, reasonable or not, in the comments. (Doing so will leave me a notification. That’s okay. I can
take it. ignore it until I have the proper mental space to respond.)