It's been abundantly clear to me all along that I'm not really going to get any better until I have a job again.
And yet of course you can hardly find a thing I've done less, since I got back from my parents' almost a month ago now. I was just about managing before that, getting myself that one interview and signing up for job agencies and dealing with calls from recruiters, but I distinctly remember on the plane from Amsterdam back to Manchester contemplating the tasks now before me and just finding job-hunting an insurmountable task. I dreaded the life I was going back to, with this looming so large in it.
The calls from recruiters had dried up, now that I could say yes to the short-term work I'd had to turn down when it had been offered. I've heard nothing from the agency, nice as they were, who wanted me to come in and get registered with them, or the others I've talked to online. And I have done far too little job-hunting.
I know exactly why: probably the most common reason for procrastination. I'm scared.
I'm scared I won't get a job as good for me as the one I just had, which was flexible to a fault sometimes but that was still best for my mental health; which asked a lot of me and exposed me to lots of interesting things; which meant I hardly ever had to work on Thursdays so I could see magister
(how that will work if I end up with a less forgiving job is one of the huge concerns I'm not even letting myself think about now, because the normal thing would be to see him at the weekends but Andrew already frets that I spend too little time with him...).
I'm scared I'll end up with a job that will make me miserable or even more ill. Because, statistically, most of them have. And the ones that haven't, I don't know why they haven't
. Or I don't know how to get another one like them.
Also, Andrew's been really, really unwell lately and it's been really nice for me that I can be around to look after him, and to pick up the slack in the errands and chores he can't cope with. To have to do this while working I could just about manage, but to do it while I have to look
for work sets off all my Petulant Alarms for the seeming unfairness of it all.
I read an interesting article
the other day (from andrewducker
, I think?) about the role of self-compassion in overcoming procrastination.
Most procrastination-fighting techniques focus on ways to change a person’s behavior: just get started, take action, any kind of action. But a recent study suggests a different approach: being kind to yourself.
I was intrigued by this because the regular "just fucking do it" type of advice wasn't working very well for me right now.
Sirois found that people prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress. Further analysis revealed that procrastination might increase levels of stress—particularly among people low in self-compassion.
Yep, that sounds like me!
In fact, her results suggest that self-compassion may play an important role in explaining why procrastination can generate so much stress for people: “Negative self-judgments and feeling isolated by one’s procrastinating can be a stressful experience,” she writes, “that compromises the well-being of those who chronically procrastinate.”
Sirois suggests that interventions that focus on increasing self-compassion may be particularly beneficial for reducing the stress associated with procrastination because self-compassion allows a person to recognize the downsides of procrastination without entangling themselves in negative emotions, negative ruminations, and a negative relationship to themselves.
certainly sounds good!
And then there's this:
“Self-compassion is an adaptive practice that may…provide a buffer against negative reactions to self-relevant events,” writes Sirois. The implication is that by interrupting the loop between negative self-talk and procrastination, self-compassion may help us avoid the stress associated with procrastination, extricate ourselves from that downward spiral, and help us change our behavior for the better.
Interestingly, her study found that students tend to procrastinate more than adults, possibly because they seem less able to regulate their negative emotions and negative self-evaluations.
Obviously I'm not a student nor even a particularly young person now, but for other reasons I even more obviously have trouble regulating my negative emotions and negative self-evaluations.
All of which makes it look like I'm doomed to procrastinate, especially when it's particularly bad (i.e. stress-inducing) for me to do so...which would be depressing, but since that's already happened
, it's oddly a relief to see somewhere outside my own head articulating what might be happening, and that it might not be happening only to me. Something that I hadn't previously thought of might help me, and that means I can try it. Being nicer to myself can't hurt, anyway. Right?
When I read this last week I was particularly dubious of my ability to suddenly develop more compassion toward myself -- something I've always
struggled with isn't going to be fixed by a few days' worth of vaguely meaning well -- but luckily this coincided with a time when I was feeling particularly confident that I could outsource that compassion.
One of the upsides to a lot of my close friends being in difficult situations at the moment is that we're all trying to get out of difficult situations, and we can lean on each other and be there to be leaned on with empathy and sympathy that come easily to us right now. If diffrentcolours
tells me it helps him if I come round and keep him company while he does stuff on the computer, and then drives me to Ikea so he can help me get a dining room table, we both can end the day feeling better than we did when it started, both because we got done something that we needed to do and because we helped someone else.
I've been helping haggis
sort her house out a bit lately. Tasks she avoids I'm quite happy to do, and her happiness when I've done them is very cheering. Cleaning and painting, the things I've done so far, are wonderfully obvious as well; it's really easy to see tangible results to what you've done, which is satisfying. Plus it means we've had time for a ton of tea and chatting, which has been useful because there are similarities in our lives that it's good to talk about (and I think the familiarity this breeds, as well as how much of it is house-related stuff, is one reason new people at the bi pub meet thought we were a couple, which as always when people believe I'm dating my friends made me smile), but also we're different enough that things that are impossible for one of us might well be easy for the other.
And often the things that I've been asked to do or helped to do by my friends motivate me to do my own things myself. If I don't think about it too much, good habits are starting to form. Talking about things like forming habits means I'm thinking more consciously about them, which means I'm remembering to empty the dehumidifier and water the plants and all that stuff. It means I don't always clean the kitchen but I'm aware the next time I want it of how much nicer it is not to have to clean it before I can cook. The simple cause-and-effect relationships are soothing in a world where everything else seems complicated or entirely out of my control, or both.
So while in some ways September has been a grim and awful month in an entirely different way than August was -- August being The Month of Mom Being Sick (and me technically getting paid at the end of it) means that The Month of Me Being Unemployed was pushed back to September -- it's been positive in some ways, too. After a few weeks of just sitting around, losing days to misery and listlessness, thinking that the waited-for external help and motivation would never arrive, it did, actually. And I'm very grateful for that.