Important Drawer until the utility company threatens fines, or to shut off something like electricity, phone or water? Then, under threat of disruption in life, finally paying it? With interest or fines? That's me.You know, one of those people who waits until the red line appears on the envelope of a bill before they open it? Then puts it in the
I don't know where the expression "red lining it" came from - I always presumed it had to do with that red zone on speedometers - but we all know what it means. Pushing things to the limit, taking things right up to the edge of the cliff, not over it, but almost.
There is more to it for me, though, than simply a tendency to procrastinate. I think on some passive-aggressive and chronically bored plane of my psyche, I feel a need to test limits. Even over mundane, daily stuff. I've described it as being a "chaos junkie". Only now I no longer flirt with chaos in the form of alcohol and all the insanity of addiction. But the urge to mess up my life a little hasn't left me. Yet.
So as I settled in for the long wait on a bench at the cheerless DMV office, drenched and shivering from the long run across the parking lot in the rain, clutching my little paper number like my life depended on it, I did some thinking.
What is it? I thought. Why do I do this? Is it some quiet rebellion? Some need I have to feel that the rules just don't apply to me? I was briefly distracted from my reverie by the loud conversation happening between two strangers behind me. "Those f-ers think they can just fine you for anything," said one husky voice, the gender of which was impossible to determine. "I'm gonna give them a piece of my mind."
I totally deserve this, I thought. I deserve this hellish wait in this overly bright office on this hard bench in my wet clothes. I deserve this for not just paying the freaking tickets when I got them.
And then it hit me: it isn't some quiet rebellion. It isn't that I think the rules don't apply to me, like Husky Voice.
It is that I still set myself up for failure. I remembered carefully filing the parking ticket in the Important Drawer, making a note on the calendar to pay it, and then simply not doing it. I stared at the deadline on the calendar as it came and went, and I did nothing.
I'm going to change this, I thought. This is part of not putting myself first. This is part of not caring for myself. This is part of that damn disease of addiction: Self-sabotage? Check. Denial? Check. Hiding from responsibility? Check. Good intentions and lousy follow through? Check. Having a negative or disruptive impact on my life? Check.
This is one of the gifts of recovery: the gentle observer who can take a step back, see things for what they are, help me understand that my problems are of my own creation, most of the time. Most importantly, though, the gentle observer can nudge me towards change, not self-hatred.
When my number was finally called, I stood up to approach the counter, and Husky Voice said, "Go get 'em!"
My gentle observer quietly flicked him the bird.
It is a work in progress.