As a child I sometimes watched Laurel and Hardy, a well known comedic duo. I never entirely knew which ones were which, but a famous catchphrase was one saying to the other “that’s another fine mess you’e got me in to!” Sometimes I think of that phrase, but realise that I don’t have anyone else to blame, I am quite capable of getting myself into situations!!! I can do it all by myself! Today, has been another of those times that I’ve remembered the catch phrase.
I am on half term holiday from school. Last half term was very tiring and stressful for me. I have needed this holiday. And like lots of things that I need, I have to protect that need- as for some reason I find it very easy to negate my needs in favour of others.
A few weeks previously a family from school had asked me to attend an appointment with a psychologist with them. I really wanted to attend. I have wanted this child to have an assessment for months, and then it goes and falls in my half term. I know it was only 3 hours I was needed, but I also know that those 3 hours could potentially disrupt my entire week. I was so proud of myself, I said no. I can’t quite believe I did it as part of me really wanted to go. But I said no. I asked them to either go ahead without me or to re-arrange. They decided to re-arrange. I feel a little bad that they have had to wait 2 more weeks, but I made that decision. Well done Hepzibah. Good work.
Then absolutely bizarrely, last Friday, close friends asked me to attend a hospital appointment with their son- today (Thursday). My gosh, what a challenge. I was completely torn. I had the opportunity to be away with friends. But this couple are also my friends and in this moment they felt they needed me. (The context is, I am pretty useless when it comes to dealing with Doctors for myself, but I am a pretty good advocate for others who need it!). I knew I should say no. But I just felt unable to say no. All my resolve to protect my holiday had already been used up! My reasons for saying yes, were not only from a place of weakness… I genuinely DID want to be helpful, support my friends, try and help… also, loads of times my medic friends have had to come to hospital for me in a similar bus man holiday type of thing- and maybe I just needed to be nice for a change and sacrifice a bit.
In many ways it was one of those situations where it wasn’t quite as black and white as there being a wrong or right thing to do. The issue once again was, am I free enough to say no. Could I tolerate my guilt, uncomfortableness with not attending the appointment. The answer was no I couldn’t. It was easier to leave my friends a day early and turn up than to sit with myself. I was so tired at the start of the week, it really was just easier to give in!
The consequences to my week: I left my friends 24 hours earlier than I had hoped to. And then today I had to get up at 6.30 as I needed to be there by 8am (earlier than when I am at work!). However, by yesterday evening I was coming to terms that for better of for worse I had made this decision and I needed to get on with it.
Mum, dad, child and myself arrived at the appointment. And then lo and behold, the Doctor asked whether I would stay outside and look after the child!!!!! it was a totally legitimate request- it would allow mum and dad to speak with the team without the child. I got that. But babysitting a 9 year old for ONE HOUR in a waiting room without any thing for either of us to do was really not the best use of my skills!!!! In fairness, I’m not beyond babysitting- but equally that was something Grandma could easily have done.
My reaction? Crossness. With myself. I felt it was a just punishment for me not saying no. Served me right. Good for the humility. Tough shit. The rant at myself went on for ages. The Mum and dad came out, and mum made a comment about it being a shame for me. And of course I said, “no problem, it’s fine…!” We had a 30 min break before mum and dad were needed back with the Doctor and my babysitting would continue. I was desperately trying to redeem this disaster…so I decided to take the child food shopping with me, I had to make something good out of this fiasco!
But I went on saying to the mum and dad it was fine. But it wasn’t fine. I was being completely un-authentic. It was anything BUT fine. It wasn’t there fault at all- they didn’t know how the morning would unfold. But it still wasn’t fine. Then, almost out of nowhere- I told them it wasn’t fine. It wasn’t to do with this situation but it was to do with me not articulating my needs in the first place. It wasn’t fine. I had not been honest with them or myself. They were really supportive. And the amazing thing was I felt so much better for saying it. Nothing changed. But I had managed to bring myself back in to the situation. I existed and that felt so good.
I continued to look after the child- we shopped and it was fine. Mum and dad went into the appointment again and I was really pleased that I could be there for them afterwards, which was when they really needed me.
I did mess up and I feel a pressure to feel better by the time work starts again. But something very beautiful came out of it today. As Penelope would say, I managed to make lemonade out of lemons. I may have got myself in to the mess, but somehow I managed to redeem it a little! The critic in me sighs Hepzibah when will you learn, but I’m trying the self-compassion route- at least I said no to the first family!
Thanks for listening