Diehards

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Akrasia

I've just had a horrible experience. Not sure if it could be called a nightmare but it was grim. To get to it, though, some background is needed:

About fifteen years ago my husband's job meant he was never at home. Because he didn't want me to ever be stuck for money, small child and everything, he started having his salary paid into my bank account. So all the bills, being paid out of my account, were in my name. This throwback to an earlier age is still, in part, going on. All the bills still come out of my account, and are in my name, though the money doesn't automatically go into it anymore. This isn't normally a problem, he just transfers the money for the bills when he gets paid.

The conflict arises when something has to be dealt with. The companies have my name and it's me they want to speak to and it's me they send letters to. And I am not a person who either regularly opens her mail (read never) or likes to phone people up. Hell I only ever phoned my mother about three times a year. It's not that I don't want to do these things, it seems I just can't. Anyway, a little while ago some bastard in Leeds emptied my bank account the day after pay day. I went into a shop in Glasgow and tried to buy a belt, it cost about twenty quid but my card was rejected. There began a round of ghastly dealings with the bank: my account had to be closed, a new one set up, an overdraft awarded. An enquiry eventually resulted in the bank giving us the money back but what a palaver. Then there were all the direct debits to be sorted: companies needed to be notified and new forms filled out. Payments had been bounced all over the place so there were extra fees to be paid. We ended up with a bit of a backlog. We missed one or two companies and ended up being ambushed by a few enormous bills. We thought, by now, everything had been sorted. And that leads me back to today.

To put you in the picture, I work until about three or four in the morning and consequently don't wake up until about eleven at the earliest. And I'm not good first thing, not a cheery morning person. This morning I had set my alarm for nine thirty because I'm trying to wean myself back onto 'normal' time. I heard it, pushed the snooze button and dozed back off again. This happened every ten minutes for about an hour until I finally staggered our of bed at about ten thrity. I went to the bathroom, had a pee, washed my face and oxters, went back to the bedroom found some not too stinky clothes to put on, put them on. At last I made it to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Just as it was coming to the boil there was a knock at the door. Fuck! I hovered, do I answer it, tealess and droopy? I hate answering the door and often don't, I hide. But today I did and there, accross the threshold, were two honest working men who had come to remove the gas meter and substiute a 'pre-pay' one. I didn't ask why I just thought Oh my god! And had visions of sordid bedsits; running out of hot water in the middle of a shower and not a fifty pence piece in the house. They had written, the little one said, to warn me of this eventuality. The letters are probably in that pile on the stairs. 'I don't know anything about it' I say 'do you have to do it now?' 'I'm afraid so' he said. Fuck! I felt myself becoming hysterical so phoned my husband: 'Rising damp; fifty-pees, two men here IN MY HOUSE! mess, letters!' I told him. A silence ensued, I think he told me to calm down... He grasped the situation; asked for a phone number, a reference number, said 'Right I'll phone them' 'Now?' 'Now.'

And he did, and then someone phoned the wee man and then they left. Panic over for now. Poor husband had to pay a massive bill because I can't open my mail. Why can't I just do it? Nietzsche calls this state akrasia, it is the inability to act on one's best judgements.

I have a whole list of best judgements I am unable to act on: going out to buy loo paper/milk/toothpaste etc. when we're about to run out is another.

Anyone have any they might share with me to make me feel better?

16 comments:

Carole said...

Your cute as a button?

Sounds like a terrible nightmare and I am glad the panic is over. If I am not careful I will have to read Nietzsche. You make him sound terribly interesting.

Eryl Shields said...

Hello Carole ~ Cute as a button question mark? Mmmm...

Nietzsche is very interesting but beware: he will make you question everything about your life: values, actions, desires etc. You could end up as torutred as me!

Kim Ayres said...

Nietzsche's great for cutting through every value you hold dear. Unfortunately relationships was something he wasn't strong on, so the place where most meaning and happiness in life is to be found tends to be missed by him. However, for almost everything else I think he's great. Certainly one of my favourite philosophers.

As for your Akrasia, it's something probably everyone can relate to at some level or another, especially the addict.

The problem lies in the fact that we don't only have one desire at a time, we are a mass of seething, wriggleing, competing desires, any one of which can be dominant at the point of decision making.

To use food (one of my big problems) as an example. I can know in the long term that having the scone that's sitting in front of me will contribute to weight gain and all the inherent problems that go along with it. But at the same time, my body is craving the fat, sugar and salt. The instant comfort of the scone overpowers the long term benefit of maintaining a healthy weight, so I eat it. Once the scone is gone and I'm stuffed, that desire is no longer dominant. Now the long term desire to be healthy becomes dominant and I beat myself up for being weak willed. Feeling really low and lousy about myself, I seek solace in comfort foods high in sugar and fat...

In your case it's about pain avoidance. Procrastination will cause long term pain, but ease short term pain. Short term pain is real and immediate. Long term pain is distant and vague.

This is to be human (all too human).

The way round this is to consciously shift the dominant narrative - but that's a whole psychological/philosophical system I'm working on that we'll have to chat about when we have a few hours to spare.

Carole said...

KB says, Anyone have any they might share with me to make me feel better?
Carole says, Your cute as a button? The question mark is just me asking if that will help you feel better. An attempt at humor. Sorry.

Eryl Shields said...

Kim ~ You're scaring me! But you're right I've got to be up for procrastinator of the year.

My food problem is the opposite to yours: I comfort starve. Just as unhealthy. But we have an unhealthy attitude to food, and body image, in the West.

Carole ~ Oh, thank you. I like cute as a button. See how uptight I am? Once my project is over hopefully I'll relax.

Mary Witzl said...

I open my mail (chiefly rejection letters), but I am ashamed to say that I leave the financial dealings to my husband, who loves doing that sort of thing. The truth is, I have an embarrassing aversion to math. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. Before I got married, I managed my finances on my own pretty well, balanced my own check-book, saved money, etc. But I now allow my husband to tend to all money- related matters, telling myself that he needs to indulge his financial acumen. In fact, this just gives me a chance to slack off. See? You're not the only one.

When we first came back to the U.K. after years in Japan, we transferred a huge sum of money to Halifax Building Society and they put it in another customer's account. For three months, they insisted that the Japanese bank workers must have made a mistake, and I'll never forget how nervous we were -- three years' worth of savings from two DINKs gone missing! They finally found it, which was good because I was pregnant...

Eryl Shields said...

Hello Mary - I also have an aversion to maths and as all my mail is bills I don't look. I have tried, on occassion, to appreciate numbers but the truth is they just don't do it for me.

Once or twice someone who loves maths has said something about it that makes it sound poetic and fascinating but as soon as they are gone it just sounds boring again.

Kanani said...

Now, the way I see it you have two options.
1. You can use this as your entire thesis.

2. You can be a total capitalist and make a fortune with bumper stickers like this one:
"Nietzche can't help you pay your bills."

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I'm all a-giggle about oxters. I never knew I had any, but I'm going to go about telling anybody who'll listen about them, without actually saying what they are. All they'll know is that mine are shaved. Oxters is a brilliant word.

I have akrasia of the almost everything but the thing that leaps to mind is toilet roll. I hate changing the toilet roll on the holder when a roll is done. I hate it and just don't do it but then I feel bad that I've left it for my husband who also hates to change it. And I look at the toilet roll holder and hate it for aggrieving me in this ridiculous, disproportionate way and then I realize how much time I've spent hating it and hate it even more.

Akrasia is a cool word I didn't know either. It sounds a bit like a fallen arch or something a chiropodist worries about though. I'm going to try and say it to someone tomorrow. Maybe in the same conversation as I drop my oxters.

Eryl Shields said...

Sam, hello! Isn't oxters the best, so much better than 'pits' I use it as often as possible kids just love it. If you say something like 'Mmm... someone in this room hasn't washed their oxters today' they just die.

Still can't seem to leave a comment on your blog.

Eryl Shields said...

Kanani ~ Sorry missed you there for some reason. Bumper stickers or thesis, now there's a conundrum.

I am thinking of writing a book called The housewife's Nietzsche. Seriously, everything he writes I can relate to the problems of being a housewife.

Carole said...

Oxters is the best word ever. I had to look it up yesterday after reading your blog. I had heard it before on Kim Ayres Blog but I limit myself looking up one word a day. I dont' want to get crazy smart. I also liked Akrasia, but I didn't find it in the dictionary. So thanks for explaining it. Good stuff.

Eryl Shields said...

Carole, you're very wise to try to maintain that balance between bonkers and dumb. Nietzsche, poor love, spent the last twelve years of his life in an asylum and completely insane. Too many words I fear.

Kanani said...

Yes, you. You've got a shout out on my blog. Good work on all this. It's swell.

Pendullum said...

I fearyou and I are soul sisters...I am one in the same,I fear...

Eryl Shields said...

Kanani ~ Thank you very much.

Pendullum ~ It is quite scary isn't it. I think I have a lot of work to do in this regard.