After therapy this afternoon (and more of that later), I got sidetracked by doing nothing – sort of. I hung out some Christmas lights at the back of the house, after finally disentangling what turned out to be three sets rather than the two I thought there were. And then I walked most of the way to the station with A (we were silent a lot, which we both like, and spoke occasionally of this, that, and the other, and it was good). I then just strolled round the shops, not buying much, except a couple of books – that’s me, the inveterate book buyer. I wouldn;t even call what I did browsing – I was just giving myself some time away from the house, away from the work in that house, away from everything in the house, just time to be myself.
When I was young, free, and single (and actually probably after M and I first got married), I left all my Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve morning, and then did it all in about ninety minutes. I remember on one particular occasion, I caught the train from London up to Doncaster on Christmas Eve morning, and just sprinted straight into the shops, bought the 5 or 6 gifts I needed and took them to my parents’ house where I then had to put myself through my least favourite Christmas activity – wrapping presents. That’s the only thing I dread every year – the wrapping. It takes me about half an hour even to wrap the most straightforward shape, the rectangle of a book (and bearing in mind I always give everyone in the family at least one book, that’s two and a half hours of wrapping right there, in one fell swoop. And anything round or irregular-shaped that I may or may not have got to give as a gift, well I think me wrapping such shapes is probably the definition of infinity.
When I was still a boss and had 10 employees, I always bought them a book each for Christmas. What better gift to give at Christmas than a book a) that you think they’ll like whilst being educated at the same time and b) that you want to read yourself. I should definitely have kept lists of all the books I’ve bought for people over the years, but I fear I haven’t.
The therapy thing – I ended up in a fit of giggles for the last 10 minutes or so. We’d been talking (yet again) about my compulsion to constantly be doing things, and I said to her that she knows what I’m like – if I do something I want to do it 100%. And as the words were coming out of my mouth, I knew she would pick up on that and split the hairs that percentages are. “So is that 100% of yourself that you’ll give to work so there’s nothing left for you, or just 100% of what you can give to work?’ she said. “What I mean is that if I, say, give 50% of my whole self to work, and 50% to myself, then I give 100% of that 50% to work. Or, if you asked M, she’d probably say that I give 100% of the 75% of myself I give to work, and 100% of the 20% I give to the family, and 100% of the 5% I give to myself. And I suppose I should accept the judgement of my pragmatic wife.” And it was at that point I cracked up laughing at the irony of it all. Here’s a man who has hated maths since he was a youth, who was never very good at maths, and at work he’s dealing with significant numbers, and now he’s dissecting his private life and thoughts into percentages. I think I even made her laugh at the madness of it all. And it is funny. And it is noticeable, this time round, in therapy, that I’m a much more smiley person. The government should pay for everyone to have at least a 12-session course of therapy, as well as giving all the NHS staff a 15% pay rise.
There endeth the lesson.