It was a part-time gig working at McDonald’s. And I loved it. My gateway to teen financial independence, it also provided a social life (there were boys!) and (at the time) free food. I am grateful for the start that McDonald’s gave me, because say what you will about McDonald’s, it has one of the BEST employee training programmes I have experienced. And in the ensuing thirty something years I have experienced many.
Beyond the mandatory “Would You Like Fries With That?”, it tought me about systems, structures and teamwork and all at a tender age when knowing these skills made a huge difference to a young life.
One of our mantras at Maccas (the Australian version of the term, Mickey D’s) was:
Clean As You Go
The concept was that if you make a mess, you deal with it then and there or as soon as the situation practically allows.
Now, I would love to tell you that I have religiously applied that philosophy to every physical mess I have ever created. But sadly, that’s not the case as the pile of notes, articles and clothes lying around my house will attest.
However, I believe that I have made up for this physical deficiency by applying this mantra to my metaphorical piles. I clean my messes as I go, meaning I DEAL.
Avoidance is the opposite of dealing. The problem with avoidance is that it’s a chancy strategy. Whilst the possibly of the mess disappearing all of its own volition or by having someone else deal with it is there, it’s by no means a certainty. The possibility of the mess compounding into something larger and more permenant whilst we wait for others to deal or for a miracle is much more likely. What could have been dealt with at the start with a small amount of pain, effort or unpleasantness now requires way more pain, effort or unpleasantness because mess tends to attract mess. The avoidance strategy also means that you give the mess time to creep and ooze into other aspects of your life, making the dealing all that much harder when the time to deal actually comes. And in my experience, the time always comes.
The consequence of not dealing was sheeted home to me at the age of 23. Like most people, I hated going to the dentist. Really, really hated it… as in anxiety, the whole nine yards and so much so there was a period where I avoided going to the dentist for five years. I paid for my avoidance however, when I finally went to the dentist. Instead of an hour of unpleasantness every 6 months if I had dealt, I was rewarded with 6 hour long sessions in the chair at the hands of the torture master. NEVER will I repeat that experience, it was a lesson of a lifetime.
Dealing with emotional pain is no different. Avoidance of emotional pain will come home to roost. At some point you have to do the hard yards and deal. And to deal, you want mole hills, not mountains.
It has been said that Carl Jung once observed that more people enter therapy at the age of forty-nine than at any other age. This is because this is often a time of life and death struggle between the old and new. It’s time to decide on your new way of being, it’s time to deal.
Today I give myself permission to deal.