I’m becoming an overnight success

Today I ordered some gravel, compost, decking and a hosepipe. I shaved my body. I went out into the sunshine. I’m wearing a top that matches my trainers and I’m writing. I arranged to meet up with Lowri soon who, like most of my friends, I haven’t seen in far too bloody long.

I read once that the secret to becoming an overnight success is to work like hell for years until you get good enough for people to suddenly notice one morning. Some days it can look from the outside like I’m doing naff-all to improve my mental health, and from the inside it often feels like I’m making naff-all progress even though I’m well aware that there’s paddling like hell going on under the water. I joked with Lowri that it’s all go around here today, but I realised in the shower earlier that the effect of all these little everyday things I’m doing is really stacking up now.

I asked my psychologist some weeks ago how I’m supposed to find the motivation to do anything when I feel like there’s no point in anything. (That’s not how I feel all the time, but it’s a thought that suddenly rears up without warning, for minutes or an hour at a time, and sabotages my plans on a daily basis.) With his usual straightforward wisdom he made me realise I was beating myself up about not being able to find an answer to an impossible question. I needed to learn how to do things without motivation. Since then I’ve been practising following a rule that when I feel like it’s not worth bothering with anything, that I do what I was going to do anyway. Because frankly, even though I feel like the world is ending and nothing will ever get better and there’s no point in trying and I don’t care anyway and… That actually I was about to do something when all was well ten minutes ago. So even though there’s no point, I’m to do that thing I was about to do anyway. Because it’s the rules. No judgement. No weighing up whether it will be worth it or not. No trying to fathom out if I’ll enjoy it when I get into it. It’s just the rules, innit. That’s the kind of straightforward self-talk you need when you’re feeling like crap, because if I try to persuade myself to do something I’ll give myself space to persuade myself to do nothing at all. I’ve been keeping track of how many times it hasn’t worked: how many times that afterwards, when I’m feeling better, I wish I hadn’t done the thing I’d planned to do but then didn’t want to do because there was no point.

It works.

It works every sodding time.

It works if the thing was to go out and travel for an hour to see a friend. It works if the thing was to get up and fetch a glass of water. And it works for everything in between. It hasn’t failed. Ever.

Of course, there’s some tricking of my own mind going on here. Deep down I must have motivation to follow The Rule, knowing that there’s a future, and that there will feel like a point to it all again sometime in the next few minutes, hours or day. So I suppose it lets me act on that buried motivation rather than acting out how I’m feeling in the moment. Because — it turns out — feelings work best when you let them inform what you do, but don’t let them run the show all the time. Especially when they’re telling you to sit there and do fuck all.

So here’s to becoming an overnight success. One little step at a time.

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