I was on painting duties in the bedroom today, as our enforced home improvement programme continued. Fionnuala had chosen a lovely shade of dark blue and my job was to paint an awkward high section of the wall behind our wardrobes. My DIY skills are ‘limited’ to say the least so I approached the task with a degree of trepidation. My objective? To get more paint on the wall than on my face. The Papa Smurf look was not one I sought to emulate.
Balancing from a chair on one foot while brandishing a dripping paint brush in one hand, I took to the job with some relish. Before long I had established a steady rhythm and was slapping on the paint like there was no tomorrow. And, without blowing my own trumpet too loudly, I think I did a reasonably good job; even the awkward little bit connecting the wall and ceiling. Fionnuala, performing a supervisory role, concurred. Job done.
I had been anxious beforehand, worried about botching the job and undoing all the good work Fionnuala had carried out on the other walls over the weekend. Anxiety is a standing order, a staple dish in my mental diet. It’s the thought of doing something, the period immediately before I start. That’s when the voice starts whispering in my ear, telling me I’m no good, I’ll make a mess of it, why am I even bothering to try? The voice is used to getting its own way.
I’m going for a run later. The Belfast Marathon should have taken place two days ago. It would have been my tenth. In its place the organisers have announced a virtual version which you can run, at a time of your choosing, in May or June. One of my favourite local routes is a lap of the village which measures exactly 2.6 miles. I’ve always wanted to run it ten times, it’s a challenge that has been on my bucket list for several years now.
I’ve decided, therefore, to accept the challenge and plan to run ten laps of the village before the end of May. I know I can do it plus I get a medal and t-shirt for doing so. I pass the house at the end of each circuit so can stop for drinks and gels, even change my top if need be. I’ll take my time and the plan is to complete the challenge, rather than break any records. Everything will be stacked in my favour. Yet, still I can feel the anxiety unfurling within me.
Anxiety is a rich breeding ground for the voice. It sniffs out the thread of worry that I’m gnawing on and lunges for the jugular. It whips up a vague unease, pops it in the oven for an hour or so et voila…dishes up a horror show of wicked doubt and prevarication. The voice doesn’t want you to fail. No, it desires much, much more. Failure requires at least trying. It doesn’t even want you to cross the start line. Do not pass go, do not collect £200.
If you do manage to ignore it’s seductive tones and take the first step, then you have won. For one step leads to another and before you know it you’ve clocked up the first mile, the hardest mile. Mile 26 is a piece of cake compared to Mile 1. And as for the 24 in between, well they will take care of themselves. Just get that first mile under your belt and kick the voice to the kerbside. Watch it wither and die and you stride up the hill away from it.
I want to win. So I cross the starting line, I turn my back on the anxiety and strike out in the opposite direction from it. Be it painting walls or running the roads, it holds no sway over me, it is a toothless tiger, a powerless mogul. I choose to live my life how I want to, not weighed down by the twin terrors of anxiety and OCD. I will not yield, I cannot back down to this nemesis which haunts my world. I will prevail.