There are few things scarier to me than not knowing the schedule for the rest of the day. Seriously, it’s up there with Australian Bat Lyssavirus, asking girls out, and being stuck in the zoo’s lion enclosure at night with a steak super-glued to my bum.
I have this intense need to know when important events and tasks will take place, and how long they will last. If someone tells me they’ll arrive at 4 o’clock, and they show up at 5, I get irrationally upset, though I’ll try my best to hide it. If someone tells me a job will take an hour and we’re still going after an hour and fifteen minutes, it’ll be hell between my ears. Because if it isn’t over in the time I was told, how much longer will I be stuck there? Two hours? Three? I feel trapped and helpless. The schedule for the day I had planned out in my head falls to pieces, and I just want to scream.
Springing things on me doesn’t work too well either. For instance, if I’m going to go to out partying, I need to know at least a day in advance so I can mentally prepare myself, cos for me, partying can be a very stressful undertaking.
And if there’s one thing worse than not knowing, it’s plans changing at the last minute, and broken promises.
Planning ahead gives me a sense of comfort and security. It’s like this: if I can see the upcoming hurdles, I’ll be ready for them. On the other hand, imagine a race where the hurdles pop up out of the ground like demonic gophers on speed when you’re a meter away. Or where you use up all your energy by the finish line, and suddenly, “just kidding, the real finish line is somewhere down that road, off you go.”
My Dad used to drive me bonkers as a kid. “Hey Dad, how long til dinner?” (Dad looks from me to the stove) “About two and a half meters.” If I had dollar for every time he cracked that one, I’d be richer than Bruce Wayne and every James Bond villain put together.
Still, Dad did have a very comforting sense of schedule; every Friday was family movie night, every Thursday Star Trek night, every Sunday fish and chips night, every full moon pizza night. These I could look forward to with the confidence that they would happen as promised.
All this said, I do recognize that in the long run, such rigidity is potentially about as healthy as a deep fried cigarette burger with extra plutonium sauce. So I am taking steps to train myself out of it, using the same method I use to combat OCD; gradual, controlled confrontation. For example, I might I make myself wait until after dinner before deciding what to do for the night.
This is a rather new project, mere months old, while my OCD inoculations have been going for years. But given the success of the latter, I have high hopes that my scheduling obsession can be brought under control. Maybe this same approach will help with other fears too, though I admit I’m a little nervous about trying it with the lion pen.
At the same time, though, maybe this particular obsession doesn’t need to be totally eradicated; careful planning can be helpful in moderation. In my experience, a lot of problems are really just positives that have gotten out of control. Moderate consumption of red wine has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, but chugging a bottle every night probably isn’t a great idea. Sugar is incredibly damaging in excess, but without any at all, we couldn’t survive.
I just need to get my timetabling down to the Recommended Daily Intake.