24 March 2014

Home invasion! Part Deux

‘So, the new boiler will be delivered the day before installation,’ the British Gas sales’ rep blithely announced. I’d taken him for a nice man at our previous meeting; he was obviously, in fact, a torturer. 

Now I would have to brace myself for yet another person to invade my flat and tolerate a huge box in my kitchen. Only for a day, admittedly, but new objects in my home always make me uncomfortable. I need time to adjust to them, even those I want or bring in myself – and I definitely didn’t want this one.

As it turned out it was more than just one box: it was one massive box, two small cartons, a large, plastic bag of random materials and a 12-15ft long piece of narrow, plastic pipe. 

Photos: Helen Barbour
‘They’ll only use a bit of that,’ the delivery man told me. Why, then, did I have to accommodate this monstrous length? The pipe was so long that I could only fit it in the kitchen if I leaned it diagonally across the cupboards. Instead, I wiped it down with a damp cloth and lay it behind the sofa in the living room, where it was neither out of sight nor out of mind.

I’d booked the engineer for a Friday, so that I had the following day free to devote to tidying up and reclaiming my territory. That Friday happened to be St Valentine’s Day. I asked the sales’ rep if the engineer would bring me chocolates; I think he thought I was serious.

In the end, I was the one handing over chocolates; or, at least, chocolate biscuits, to accompany the tea and coffee I’d left out. This hospitable gesture was really a silent bribe for him not to mess up my flat any more than he had to.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to stay during the installation; I wouldn’t have been able to bear seeing what was going on. As soon as the engineer was settled, I escaped to work, where I spent the day thinking about what I’d find when I got home.

It was pretty much as I’d feared: bare plaster was now visible around the new, much smaller boiler, and, underneath it, a mess of piping that the old boxing no longer covered. The floor was gritty and there were scuffs in the paintwork on a number of walls and a couple of door frames. And, of course, everything I’d packed away, to make space, was still in boxes. 

In spite of my worst fears being realised, I learnt one key thing from this experience: there’s no point in rehearsing this sort of difficult event in my mind. 

I’d spent 12 days picturing the boiler installation. By visualising it over and over again, I'd experienced it - virtually - dozens of times, when I could have just waited to go through it once. Yes, it proved to be every bit as horrible as I'd imagined, but why torment myself before it had even happened? 

That's a lesson I should apply to managing my anxiety in all kinds of situations.


71º & Sunny said...

Ugh. I so feel your pain on this. Why oh why do they have to damage something every time they do work? I just don't get it.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I feel the same way when work has to be done in my house. I hate all the mess left behind. I love the lesson learned--that rehearsing/worrying beforehand only makes us suffer the more.

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Sunny, I tried to console myself with the thought that, at least, I hadn't just had my flat painted! Unfortunately, workmen's idea of 'tidy' and 'careful' are a bit different to mine...

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Tina. I have had to remind myself of it several times already this week.

Wilfred Andrews said...

Your blog's interesting because my mother also suffers from anxiety when any major work needs to be done in her home. As you say, you can't rehearse these things and not every tradesman has the same high clean-up standards when the job's finished. I hope all's well now in your home with the mess now tidied and the boiler working.

Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating

Helen Barbour said...

Wilfred, thanks for your comment. Yes, thanks, my boiler has been functioning nicely since it was installed...though the washing machine broke down four months later and had to be replaced, too! More upheaval...

Paul_B said...

Interested to know if you were able to apply the 'Lesson Learnt'. I find that in the immediate aftermath of the big event (such as a boiler installation, which I had two years ago), a sense of calm is restored when I realise that nothing bad has actually happened. In that moment, it feels as if I've learned the lesson. Yet when the 'next time' comes around, off I go again with worrying and anxiety, even though I know I've been here before.

Helen Barbour said...

Paul B, thanks for your comment...and you are absolutely right, the lesson learnt only lasts a short time! Currently I find myself dealing with ill/ageing parents and realise that all my previous anxieties were nothing in comparison to what I'm going through now - yet I'm sure life will have worse in store for me in future (I'm afraid I'm very much a 'glass half empty' person) and one day even these troubles will seem less significant.

Paul_B said...

I've just discovered your blog Helen, and I find it almost autobiographical - almost as if I've commissioned you to write the story of my life! The boiler blogs for example (Part 1 and 2) - I lived through the same experience two years ago.

I add another couple of aspects to the worry list when dealing with these matters: firstly I go to extreme lengths to try to ensure the workmen keep the external doors closed due to a fear of rodent incursion (long story that goes back to my youth, and requires me to take time off work to be the doorman!), and secondly I spend an inordinate amount of time checking the pipes afterwards for leaks. So much so that my main source of OCD anxiety nowadays is pipes and the threat of leaks - to the extent that I have actually caused leaks.

I gain temporary relief when I read good quality insights on such matters (such as your blog, or from Mindfulness books, or from CBT literature for example), yet cometh the hour, cometh the threat of a leak and off I go again. Winter time, with the prospect of frozen pipes etc, tends to compound it even more.

I need to read all of your blogs! I need to read about how you cope. Or can you tell me here and now and save me all the reading!! :)

Thanks again for your online work - fabulous resource.