Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Feeling the feelings. Which is not as easy as it sounds.

I’ve been thinking lately about feeling feelings. I know this sounds madly hippy-ish and New Age, with a dash of Chicken Soup for the Soul on the side, but I think it is an important and rather difficult life skill.

It’s horrid tax time, and I have to do all the things I am really crap at. I have to chase up figures, and look through financial statements, and rummage for tragically lost pieces of paper, which are not in nicely available files, but hidden in tottering piles on the floor, and often turn out to have been eaten by mice.

This makes me feel: tense, stupid, inadequate and embarrassed.

I contemplate, as I always do, the shining, organised people, for whom tax returns hold no fears. I think how lovely it must be to be able to write to the accountant without fear. I rather despise myself for not being able to turn myself into one of those people. How hard can it be, after all? If only I would make a little more effort, and put my shoulder to the wheel.

I do not like any of these feelings. I really only like doing things I am reasonably good at. I am not a brilliant rider, but I am good enough to enjoy getting on my beautiful mare. As I took her out this morning, she had a bit of a twinkle in her toes and set me some challenges, and I had the delightful feeling of being good enough to meet them. It does not bother me that I shall never scale the heights, do perfect dressage or turn myself into a barrel racer (although that is my latest crazed dream; I think the duchess would love it). In that sphere, I am happy to be good enough. As long as my red girl and I can mooch along in harmony, the joy flies upward.

I like writing because even though I shall never be quite as good as my dizzy aspirations, I have practised long enough to be able to carry a tune. Just as I have a natural feeling for horses, which must have been born in me, I have a natural feeling for words. It is like those people who have an ear for languages, or an innate sense of musicality. You still have to graft and strive, but you have a ready advantage: it is in your wheelhouse.

I have no natural feeling for organisation, or money, or figures. I must go against the grain, in those dark areas. I am faced with the brutally blank spaces of my own inadequacy. So I procrastinate wildly, and then curse myself for that particular weakness.

Yesterday, I sat down and made a start. There was no way I could avoid the horrid feelings, and I felt them all.

It wasn’t so bad.

I said to myself: what is the worst that can happen? The worst is: I shall feel uncomfortable. I will have to feel feelings which are not a carnival.

All these things come true. I shift in my seat and feel a pressure on my head as if someone is pressing there. I berate myself a little and put on my dunce’s cap. But that really is not the most terrible thing in the world. It sounds a bit bald, but as I get older I increasingly say to myself, for perspective: nobody died. If nobody died, then it all may be managed.

Of course this is the logical, adult brain. Sadly, I cannot always call on this. The irrational, instant gratification side of the brain wants everything to be bluebirds and bloody butterflies. It does not like feeling scratchy and stupid and will pull all kinds of wily stunts to avoid it. But, obvious as it may sound, feelings must be felt. Otherwise they mug you later, and then there is hell to pay.


Three pictures today.

The woody ones make me feel happy and calm:

21 Jan 1

21 Jan 2

Usually, I put up Herself looking ravishing. Her beauty makes me feel delighted and proud. But she also has a fine line in comedy, and she makes me laugh daily, sometimes by doing a good old donkey face:

21 Jan 3

Ha. The reserved Briton in me is shouting: DON’T POST A WHOLE BLOG ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS, YOU FOOL. But I damn well am going to share with the group. I have this odd idea that revealing one’s follies and frailties is as important as talking of one’s triumphs. Probably more important. Then the Dear Readers can chime in, and we can have a good old share-up and after that, nothing seems so bad.

I’m risking it, anyway, despite my residual stiff upper lip.


  1. Numbers? Ugh. Give me words any day. I spent the entire day thinking I should do something more productive (similar story last week) and just could not bring myself to start the tasks. It is a mental block akin to your tax worry. We can't all do everything; we must be glad that we have the thing that we can do. And your thing is writing. Which is lucky for all of us! Lou x

  2. I am a bookkeeper. Organising receipts is like breathing for me. I WISH I could share my skill to help you the way you share your writing here on the interwebs.

  3. I agree so much with Helen. When I read of somebody's pain in dealing with something that, to me, is an untroubling part of my life, I so much want to find a way to convey the ease of it in order to make it better for you. However, I then remind myself of the tasks that send me screaming for the hills - usually matters of marketing and promotion - and recall how 'easy' they are for some of my local business colleagues who have fifty fits when faced with the dreaded tax return.

    If there is any way that an anal retentive such as me, who actually admits to enjoying figures and organisation, can in a practical sense make life easier for you - consider it done. But meantime, keep doing the beautiful things that you do best. It means so much to us all.

  4. Once upon a time in a land very far away (from you) my new friend and I went out for dinner. When the bill was placed on the table we were, as struggling students, going to just pay for what we'd eaten. We sat there in silence as we both appeared to be adding and subtracting and dividing and taxing and …. well, nothing really. We were both just waiting for the other to brightly announce what we'd each pay. Eventually we both looked up and started laughing. Needless to say we were NOT maths/business/commerce students. And she's still one of dearest friends. :)

  5. So sorry, I seem to have written a book. But I'm supposed to be doing something else… and I'm ever so slightly procrastinating.

  6. What we resist, persists. And yes, mugs us later! I write as someone who will receive pitiful royaties, the first ever though, this year and is already dreading next year's tax return. For a 2 figure sum I fully anticipate paperwork mayhem; let's hope I don't end up down the tax office on Euston Rd as I did during the last self employed debacle. Thank you for sharing :)

  7. Missing a bloody long there. If I can't spell the word I probably shouldn't get paid the word....

  8. L - not long! Argh. Feeling the frustration of predictive text :)

  9. Don't even mention about pieces of paper. You make me come out in hives! all the pieces I should have filed and haven't and which will definitely come to bite me in the ass come 31st March. Nice to see the letting go of the stiff upper lip and all that and I think Her photograph is marvellous.

  10. Nothing to add about tax returns as it's a long time since I was private tutor and had to do mine myself in or before January, but just spotted this and thought of you. It seems that if one wasn't born with thumbs, or in fact any digits at all, it's still possible to be highly dextrous and creative, given the right attitude and upbringing. Remarkable lady....


  11. I've long felt like this but some recent career counselling/ coaching has taught me it's actually just my personality type that is bored by things like forms and the mundane- I know it must be done and do complete the job but it pains me. Apparently it means you have a very enquiring mind if that helps.

    In 2014 I'm embracing things like this and not beating myself up about them- and good for you for saying I think! not saying enough is what leads to sad unhappy people who blow up and break down seemingly out of nowhere

  12. For me, it just comes down to creating a habit. For example, I have a small drawer in my desk just next to my right elbow that holds an envelope. Any time I spend money on something that can be written off on my taxes, I jam the receipt in that envelope and slam the drawer. Every time. I've made it a habit. Come tax time, I don't have to do anything but drag that envelope out and hand it to my CPA, along with the forms sent by my bank, my employer, and my mortgage company. Easy peasy!


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