What made you stop to read this line of this post? Was it the title? Was it that you spotted a question? Do you like questions? Do questions make you stop to read… or is it that they make you pause to think?
Yesterday afternoon I finally got around to doing something which had been hanging over my head like the mallet stuck in the beam in The Three Sillies (an English Fairy Tale by Anonymous).
It has taken me three years to return an item to the person who gave it to me on loan. I did not ask to borrow this thing. I didn’t want the person to lend the item to me, I told him that repeatedly but he insisted because I had done something for him and this was his way of paying me back, doing me a favour in return.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.– Shakespeare, Act I Scene II, Hamlet.
I do not like borrowing things from people. And if I lend something to someone, I always view it as a given. So I never lend anything I don’t want to give away or lose.
This item was treasured by the person who lent it to me, he explained its importance and sentimental value as he handed it over. Once again I entreated him not to lend it to me, but he refused to accept my refusal, made it seem like I was being rude and difficult, which I was in a way but…
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.– Shakespeare, Act I Scene III, Hamlet
He had his reasons for doing what he did and I had my reasons for not wanting him to do what he did.
Before I go any further, I’m going to share with you the inspiration for this post:
Ashleyleia of Mental Health @ Home posed and posted this question: Is mental illness more of a reason or an excuse?
Her insightful post was in reply to another post by:
Dumberboy of Pointless Overthinking: Psychology behind the Excuses
I found both Ashleyleia’s and Dumberboy’s perspectives interesting to explore, and I hope you’ll read them and perhaps share your perspective too.
Ashleyleia also posed another question in a different post – 20(ish) Questions – which I’ve seen a few bloggers ask and answer in their posts: What’s the most dangerous situation you have ever been in?
In the story of The Three Sillies, an entire family gets into a state of fearful uproar over a mallet stuck in a beam. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:
Once upon a time there was a farmer and his wife who had one daughter, and she was courted by a gentleman.
Every evening he used to come and see her, and stop to supper at the farmhouse, and the daughter used to be sent down into the cellar to draw the beer for supper.
So one evening she had gone down to draw the beer, and she happened to look up at the ceiling while she was drawing, and she saw a mallet stuck in one of the beams.
It must have been there a long, long time, but somehow or other she had never noticed it before, and she began a-thinking.
And she thought it was very dangerous to have that mallet there, for she said to herself: “Suppose him and me was to be married, and we was to have a son, and he was to grow up to be a man, and come down into the cellar to draw the beer, like as I’m doing now, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!”
And she put down the candle and the jug, and sat herself down and began a-crying.– excerpt from The Three Sillies, English Fairy Tales by Anonymous via Project Gutenberg
The daughter then passes on her fear to her parents, and the gentleman who was courting the daughter can’t believe how silly this family is, getting all upset over an imagined horror and spilling lots of beer in the process. So he decides to do the obvious to solve the problem.
I read that story when I was a child, and it always stuck with me. But that doesn’t mean that I never suffered from The Three Sillies syndrome, and always did the obvious to solve problems.
Funnily enough, my memory of this story edited out the part where the gentleman solved the problem quickly and easily. Instead I had him going off on his quest to find three bigger sillies, then coming back and everyone living with that mallet still firmly embedded in the beam.
The mind is a curious place.
And now for the rest of my big silly story.
First off, I have to admit that I made a mistake at the beginning of this post. I said that it had taken me three years to return the item, but I’ve just checked my blog’s archives and the incident which (I related in this post – Ambulance Chasers) lead to someone lending me something happened in November 2016.
I didn’t fix my time error because it shows how long it felt to me. Every day since I’ve had this thing which was so precious to someone else, I’ve felt the weight of it in time and other ways.
So, the question which you might be asking is: Why didn’t I return it sooner?
Good question! You may ask a few more of those kind of questions as I share more of my big silly.
The person who lent me their treasure lives about a couple of miles from where I live.
I could have walked there, although the verges along the very busy road are narrow and cars and trucks (lots of big trucks) thunder along it like it’s a Grand Prix track and they’re Formula One drivers fighting for a World Title.
On either side of that busy road is rural countryside… houses are dotted around, often accessed by dirt tracks, and it’s easy to go wrong and get lost.
I once had a nurse bashing on my door at too early for this type of thing in the morning. She was desperate and desperately late to care for a patient. The address she’d been given was – the white house beside the busy road – which describes pretty much every house in the area. People around here are very genuinely nice, but can be rather vague especially when giving you their address.
In typical local fashion, he didn’t give me his exact address – otherwise I would have mailed the item back ASAP. Or dropped by sooner although mailing it would have been my preferred method.
He only told me the name of his house which while distinctive… my house and my neighbour’s house have very similar names. I get his packages and he gets mine sometimes due to confused couriers, even the postman gets confused between our addresses.
And he said something about it being next to a long hedge… that is also pretty much every house in this area.
I did have his telephone number and I did call several times at first (in spite of my phone-phobia which is now less anxiety-inducing than it used to be), but no one was ever in.
Are those excuses, reasons or explanations?
As I see it, they’re a cocktail of all three, plus some other elements.
I am painfully shy. When I tell people that, for the most part, they don’t understand what I’m talking about. Sometimes they’ll say: You don’t seem shy at all. Or they’ll go where their brain tells them to go which is not always good advice and say: Don’t be shy.
There are certain really simple things which are nigh on impossible to explain because they’re not really simple, they’re incredibly complex.
Painful shyness views interacting with the world around it as a dangerous situation.
My painful shyness is a component of C-PTSD.
My C-PTSD comes courtesy of being born to and growing up with narcissists – they jumbled my mind far more than my dyslexia does.
With a narcissist in your life, the simplest task can turn into an M. C. Escher Relativity nightmare solved only by a Rube Goldberg machine.
With two narcissists in your life as your parents shaping and forming your little sponge mind, your brain ends up looking like silly putty which has been used one time too often on newsprint…
…and there’s no way to clean it, or at least it’s easier to throw it away and get a new one (even though it’s not an environmentally friendly thing to do, but it’s not your fault silly putty was created and advertisers made you buy it, and your friend showed you what fun it is to put silly putty on newsprint).
What to many people is an easy to do task, to me can be an impossipuzzle, something hard and difficult to do (although I’m actually very adept at solving impossipuzzle jigsaws).
However, while I’ve had a lot of practice turning the easy into the hard and difficult, I’ve also had much practice turning the hard and difficult into something easier to understand and deal with.
If someone is having or has had their brain scrambled by a narcissist… I know what that’s like, I’ve spent most of my life unscrambling my brain from the scrambled mess that was made of it by the narcissists in my life, by myself because of them, and by society because it too can be rather narcissistic and can scramble our minds.
Recently I’ve been having more success rather than successfully failing at getting myself to do easy things the easy way.
Which is why suddenly I was able to just return the item to the lender. I was so proud of myself! Yay! Finally! And very relieved that I could give back the treasure to its owner.
One of the tactics which I now use to make life easier for myself is to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate and considerate towards myself. And be less rigidly judgemental of my mental quirks, foibles, problems and complications.
It may seem an obvious thing to do – to be gentle towards yourself – but for someone like me it’s been a long and winding road through treacherous territory to get to the obvious. I’m used to being hard on myself, that was my uncomfortable comfort zone.
Being hard, tough, cruel, ruthless towards myself is both something I learned to do to myself from my parents as that’s how they treated me, and something I did to help me survive their treatment of me.
If I could be harder, tougher, crueler, more ruthless towards myself than they were I would be prepared to deal with their assaults (practice, practice, practice not to be perfect but to deal with perfectionists), wouldn’t get winded and hurt as easily, would be able to take the abuse like a shield against the slash of a sword.
While I couldn’t always rely on myself to prepare and protect myself, as I was the weak link in my chain mail armour. I definitely couldn’t rely on others – you can’t trust anyone when you have narcissists ruling reality around you.
Narcissists have a particular way of turning everything they touch into madness and everyone they affect into lunatics howling at a piece of cheese in a trap.
If people had bought into my parents’ version of reality, then I was the enemy and therefore trusting them would bring about my ruin (I found that out the hard way repeatedly, especially when I was a child). Those who hadn’t bought into my parents’ reality were either hounded out of town by a pitchfork wielding mob (those people who had bought into my parents’ worldview) or left because it was the wise and good thing to do for them.
Others often viewed me as someone who could take care of herself even when I was a child. I’ve had people say that to me at regular intervals, that’s how I know they viewed me that way.
Occasionally they said it as though it was fault, a flaw (my mother found my self-reliance to be an intensely irritating character flaw from the get go – how dare I embarrass her by not learning to talk and instead learning to walk so I could get things for myself instead of asking her for help).
Sometimes I think people viewed me that way because they couldn’t do anything for me and it eased whatever pain they felt about that.
We all have our reasons, our excuses, our stories which may be hard to explain.
One of the things about excuses is – sometimes they hold a story within them which they don’t know how to explain to us or which we don’t understand because we’re listening to the noise our judgement of ourselves is making such as shaming us for manufacturing one of those terrible things known as an excuse.
An excuse may be telling you that what you don’t want to do is not good for you to do. Sometimes that excuse may save your life, prevent you from getting into a dangerous situation.
“A woman is waiting for an elevator, and when the doors open she sees a man inside who causes her apprehension.
Since she is not usually afraid, it may be the late hour, his size, the way he looks at her, the rate of attacks in the neighborhood, an article she read a year ago—it doesn’t matter why.
The point is, she gets a feeling of fear.
How does she respond to nature’s strongest survival signal?
She suppresses it, telling herself: “I’m not going to live like that, I’m not going to insult this guy by letting the door close in his face.”
When the fear doesn’t go away, she tells herself not to be so silly, and she gets into the elevator.
Now, which is sillier: waiting a moment for the next elevator, or getting into a soundproofed steel chamber with a stranger she is afraid of?
The inner voice is wise, and part of my purpose in writing this book is to give people permission to listen to it.”― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
But what if you decide to ignore the excuse because you have allowed yourself to fear making an excuse, and thus you ignore the reason which exists within the excuse.
Perhaps others have made you feel ashamed, have shamed you for excusing yourself, perhaps you’ve shamed others for excusing themselves, and that shame now makes it hard and difficult for you to hear what’s going on inside.
What is the excuse really saying?
“No” is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you.
― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
What are you really trying to tell yourself about yourself? About your situation? About your life?
If you don’t want to do something… maybe, just maybe, you should not do it, but you won’t take your own “No” as an answer. You bully, badger, and shame yourself into doing it… and then what?
If all goes well, then all is well. You were justified and right to push yourself, even though you may have hurt yourself in the process. No pain, no gain…?
But what if it all goes wrong? Were you right and justified in pushing yourself then?
It’s a case by case scenario… there is no one-size fits all solution. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t… sometimes all goes well and sometimes it all falls apart.
Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go and fix something by dismantling one thing, assembling another, crawling under and squeezing behind a big something and trying to not get stuck, have a panic attack, get even more stuck and wish I’d called someone else to do it… a someone else who would probably tell me I should have called them in the first place, but had I called them in the first place they’d have told me I could easily do it myself.
Because that’s life human style!
That’s it from me…
Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow… it can wait and so can I. I’ve found that if I wait until I’m ready to do something, doing it becomes a lot easier and things work out more smoothly, sometimes as though by magic.
Over to you!
Featured image is Edwin Booth as Hamlet