At work, impatience is translated into literal clock-watching. I check the time every 10 minutes, willing the period to end. I’m a work-shy little bastard, but I don’t lack commitment, exactly. I’m just appalled by the idea of being stuck in the same activity or place for a whole hour. Even outside work, as I embark on any task, I immediately hanker for it to end. My aim in doing it is to enjoy the relief and release of completing it. Or shelving it for a while. Evenings, when I down tools, are luxurious.
At Ascot house, I sometimes had to prepare my lunch under supervision, just before our music group. I loved music group, but it was exhausting for the anorexic brain. I found I’d deliberately linger in the kitchen, doing other people’s washing up, so that I’d shorten the time I had to be in class.
Yet despite, or possibly because of, this, I am driven by a need to be constantly busy, constantly occupied: writing, or running, or cooking or doing the tedious housework. I’m trying to resist or manage my laziness.
The strange chemistry of these two states means I can’t stick at tasks. I get desperately fidgety. Even when I’m writing, I have to get up and pace around. I’ll write for 10 minutes, then spring up and half empty the dishwasher, then I’ll be driven back to the table because I really must get on, and I’ll look at my computer screen for 10 more minutes, then, thinking “I’m not getting anywhere”, I’ll lurch up and run on the spot for 100 paces…
Even if I can keep myself in my chair, I’ll jump between jobs all the time. I’ll have 3 separate documents open, perhaps my diary, this blog and, say, a poem or a page of ideas, and I’ll skip between one and the next, writing as little as one or two sentences on each, sometimes just reading over what I’ve written, stopping to read a couple of paragraphs of a newspaper article or a book, or try to complete a crossword clue, before returning to my work. No wonder my writing style is so fragmentary!
And it’s not just work. I am simultaneously watching 10 documentaries and three films on Netflix, 4 films on Amazon, and Mrs America and A Suitable Boy on BBC iplayer. Again, I’ll watch a few minutes, then worry it’s not the best use of my time and will jump to something else.
This must be linked to how I interact with other people. I can’t maintain conversations, especially if they are going well. I can’t concentrate on them, or on my interlocutor, for very long, which will understandably offend them, so I always abruptly terminate our talks before they can go wrong and people start to hate me.
I used to be a terrible foot-jiggler, but anorexia scoured that out of me. When I went into Ascot House and they fed me up, I started again. Jo came to see me, distressed by the whole situation and wanting to talk about it. She told me off for jiggling my foot. “It makes it seem like you don’t want to talk to me, like you’re eager to be off”, she said.
I said, “No, no, of course not!” but I was thinking,
“Yes. Yes, it’s true. It’s always been true…”