A Good Excuse

It’s sad, but true…we are winging past the time of good intentions and New Year’s resolutions to the time of excuses.

Those of us working through the challenges of mental illness are very familiar with excuses. We use them often; sometimes every day. Oh, we beat ourselves up for using them, but we don’t hesitate to whip one up when we are feeling cornered. They are frequently protection against a world that is unsympathetic to the truth of our situation. We use them to avoid hearing another person tell us to “snap out of it”; that going out and doing X, Y or Z will cure what ails us. Pick a cliché. We have all heard them and excuses have become our sword of choice to fend them off.

The Flip-side

But, excuses only work for so long before we become known for them. We become “that person” who always has some reason to not do something. While that label hurts, I know, it’s the excuses that we tell ourselves that hurt the most. It’s the ones that we use on ourselves; that tell us that we can’t do something because we are worthless, unlovable, lazy, untalented, etc. It’s the excuse we use to exhaust ourselves into finishing a project because we believe that someone will think less of us if we don’t…or worse, that we will complete it less than perfectly. How about the excuse to not try something at all because we would be useless at it anyway? Anyone ever leverage their mental illness as an internal excuse? I have. I am bi-polar and depressed; therefore I can’t.

We need to see what these excuses really are behind the words we use to frame them. They are nothing more than lies.

The Windup

I ran headlong into the excuse train this holiday season. My excuse could be considered a “good” excuse by many. I have been pretty sick for the past four months and I decided to cut back on a lot of what I normally do over the holidays. Sounds like a smart idea, right? A good lesson in self-care? I thought so…but my logical wizard brain couldn’t seem to convince my flighty lizard brain not to feel guilty about it.

Then something relatively small happened that completely changed my perspective.

(Before I begin my little tale, I have a disclaimer to make. Some of you, maybe a lot of you, will get a good eye roll out of this story; I am a recovering Type ‘A’ over-doer and compulsive perfectionist so bear with me.)

The Pitch

Every Christmas season I go into a frenzy of baking and jam making. My gift baskets to teachers and friends are piled with a considerable assortment of goodies. I take a lot of enjoyment and pride in this. But somewhere along the way it also became a towering self-imposed obligation to do bigger and better each year. I didn’t really realize this until I couldn’t meet that expectation this year.

Now…here’s where the eye-rolls may come in. I only made two different types of jam, streusel topped banana bread and chocolate caramel smurtle cookies for the gift bags this year. (Even now, that seems anemic to me when it’s typed out like that. Baby steps.) I took my time, made a bit at a time over the course of a couple of weeks and only made enough for my kids’ teachers. Eight bags of goodies. I patted myself on the back for being so restrained this year.

But, I felt guilty and disappointed inside, no matter how much logic I threw at it. I had used the excuse of my illness to do less than I could. It didn’t matter that each batch of jam, with my daughter’s help, left me worn out with fatigue that took a day to recover from. It didn’t matter that it took me hours to make cookies that would normally take me an hour or less to make. I had made an excuse to do less and I was disappointing those who would receive these gifts. I vowed that, next year, I would be feeling better and I would redouble my efforts. I would make up for this year.

The Epiphany

Then, a few days after my daughter’s last day of school before break, I got an email. It was from one of my daughter’s teachers. She told me that, at first, she thought that she had mistakenly gotten a bag of gifts that was meant for more than one of my daughter’s teachers. When she realized that it was all for her, she just had to send an email to thank us for all of the “amazing goodies”.

And, right there, the universe smacked me upside the head and said, “See?! I told you! It was more than enough!”

The New Year

I won’t be making any resolutions this year to eliminate excuses from my life in twelve months. That’s a lifetime work in progress. I also can’t promise you that I won’t berate myself over said excuses; good, bad or otherwise. But, I did like the fact that I wasn’t frantically packing bags at midnight before the last day of school. I liked the stretches of time between baking and making. I will be using this slow and mindful approach next year.

I also think I will revise my definition of a “good” excuse. I want to look for a good excuse to laugh during my life. I’ll try finding a good excuse to have fun and slow down and spend more time with those I love. I will try finding a good excuse to create and be creative.

I am hoping this New Year I will find a lot of good excuses to do things I enjoy. I hope you do, too!

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While the articles are written to inform, entertain and support those who visit the site, the Anxious Artist is not a licensed medical professional and the information on these pages is not intended to replace regular medical care. Research and testimonials may show promising results with alternative treatments for mental illness, but these should always be discussed with a qualified medical practitioner before being implemented.

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