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|
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.