Just call me Little Miss Inflexible

My editor sent me a card the other day in which she described me as ‘flexible’. This made my mum laugh, as there’s a bit of a running joke in my family – if someone asks me to do something while I’m in the middle of another task, the response is unlikely to be all sweetness and light. ‘HANG ON. I’M LITERALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING,’ I cry, with panic in my voice. It doesn’t really matter what that thing is; it could be checking my bank account, answering an email, writing a pitch or an article, reading something, or trying to get my head around a recipe. Taxing or not, if I’ve got it in my head that I’m going to do a task, I find it difficult – almost painful – to switch my attention to something else or adapt to a new situation. Some might call it driven or goal-oriented, others might say I’m inflexible (and annoying).

I was reminded of a variation of this personality flaw(?) when I went away with a couple of friends last week (two were in the same bubble and we kept our distance before you @ me). I had an amazing time, featuring lots of sun, sea and suspiciously empty bottles of wine, but changing up my usual routine and being in a different environment also caused me some stress. As a group, we all work well together, especially on holiday. We actually became friends after one of us invited the other three to Barcelona despite us not really knowing each other. But, we are all very different in many ways, which means we challenge and bounce off each others’ personalities.

Looking back to that fateful first trip together, I arrived in Barcelona a day later than the others to find that they hadn’t planned anything. ‘What? You mean there isn’t an hour by hour itinerary???’ Obviously, I took charge and we had a full schedule within a few hours, but that was really just to appease me. Some people are more than happy to go with the flow on holiday, just mooching around and doing what they fancy, when they fancy. We found a balance, with a few options each day rather than a strict plan, which wouldn’t have been relaxing or fun for anyone.

When we went away this time, we also didn’t plan anything in advance. It was only three nights and we knew most of the time would just be spent at the beach, so it seemed a bit excessive to draw up a spreadsheet. But not having a plan also means that things can change very easily. We might decide we’re going to do one thing, but then someone suggests something else and the other thing goes out the window. Fine. This isn’t really a stressful situation in a holiday context. I might go quiet for a bit, but I get over myself and enjoy whatever activity we’ve chosen to do.

But I suppose in other areas of my life, this isn’t very helpful. I can get irritable, snappy and unnecessarily stressed about seemingly small things. According to my boss, I’m flexible at work, so I’m not really sure what’s going on there. Perhaps I’m very good at hiding how I really feel – who knows? I think the most significant point of friction is in my interactions with the people I’m close to. If you’re a member of my family, you may well get your head snapped off for suggesting I do something differently, or for asking me to stop and do something else. I really don’t mean to be selfish, and afterwards I always realise how I should have responded.

In many ways, once I got used to it, lockdown/furlough played into my inflexibility. I had days, weeks, months to fill with tasks and projects, and it was unlikely that anything else would get in the way. But now, as restrictions are lifted and life starts picking up again, I need to learn to adapt to new situations without becoming stressed.

I have also found out that although I am not being made redundant (yay), I am moving to another magazine within the same company. It’s a relief to finally know what’s going on, as the last few months have been pretty stressful career-wise. Obviously, though, this means change. And not just normal change, but change while working from home, at least to start with. And also change after not having worked a 9-5 for 7 months. In spite of my (now ex-) editor’s kind words, I think this will be a real test of my flexibility.

Is there a point to this post? I hear you asking. Or has your blog just devolved into an online diary? Perhaps. (Sorry.) I’m just trying to point out that most of us are usually painfully aware of our flaws, or of the personality traits that can sometimes be taken to detrimental extremes. But that doesn’t make it any easier to change. I would absolutely LOVE to be flexible, easy going, and so laid back that I’m practically horizontal. But that’s just not me. We just have to learn to manage our ‘flaws’ and reduce their impact on us and the people we interact with.

On the one hand, I’m making progress in some areas of my life. For example, I try not to make too many fixed plans at the weekend so that I can be f le x i b l e with minimal stress. On the other hand, my boyfriend and I are going on holiday tomorrow and we have a spreadsheet, 7 activities planned, 4 check lists, a booked food delivery slot, 4 meals already decided, and a printed out step-by-step journey plan. You win some, you lose some, right?

 

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1 Comment

  1. Trisha
    August 13, 2020 / 9:16 pm

    Harriet you do brighten my life with your posts 😍 I’m a prime example of learning flexibility and adaptability through life experiences. Still love a list though! My current fave saying is ‘it is well with my soul even when it’s not well with my circumstances’. Keep on writing and making me smile 😀

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