The other day my husband told me I need to be more flexible. This isn't the first time someone has told me this, but it's the first time in a long time. This is not because it ceases to be true. Rather, the people who know me and love me well have accepted that flexibility is not my forte and understand that telling me to be more flexible isn't going to help. My husband, on the other hand, has not yet come to this realization. On the occasion I mentioned earlier, he attempted to persuade me to completely abandon my during-the-work-week routine (for an entire week!) by making a rational argument for why doing this made sense. I grew frustrated and walked away. It's not that I'm unreasonable or that I cannot be persuaded to do something if a rational argument is made in favor of it. In fact, my husband's argument was very rational and he made a lot of good poitns. Heck, I even agreed with him. The problem is that my somewhat compulsive desire for structure does not come from my rational mind. My lack of flexibility is purely emotional in origin; reason and rationality have very little to do with it.
Now I will not go so far as to say that my structured lifestyle is irrational or unreasonable. There are, in fact, a lot of good reasons for structure, routine, and organization in life. It enables me to accomplish the things I need to do in a timely manner. It allows me to make time for all of the important people in my life and still have time to do things that are important to me (like exercising). It helps me to be reliable and responsible. People can depend on me to do what I say I'm going to do; it will never "slip my mind" and I won't "run out of time" for it. These are all great things that would not be possible without structure, organization, and routine.
The problem is that it is very difficult for me to deviate from my routine. When I say difficult I mean anxiety provoking. Now I'm not one to back away from something just because it makes me anxious. In fact, I've developed a number of ways to cope and as a result have become a lot more flexible than I used to be. For example, I give myself permission ot take vacations from my routines and when events arise that are important for me to attend (like a family gathering to celebrate a birthday or something for one of my nieces). If I know something is happening on a Wednesday at 6 pm I start mentally preparing myself on Sunday by reminding myself that I won't have time for the gym after work and that I'll probably get to bed later than usual. I might feel a little guilty on Thursday morning for missing Wednesday's workout but it's nothing I can't handle.
So here's what happened recently. My parents have a time share they go to for a week in June every year. I always try to take at least part of the week off to join them. Because I just had a week off in May to go to New York I only had enough vacation time to take one day off. My stepdaughter just arrived last weekend and will be here for five weeks. On Monday night before I left the time share my husband and I let my stepdaughter decide whether she wanted to stay there for the rest of the week (my two young nieces were also staying the week) or come home with us; she wanted to stay (it wasn't a difficult choice). My husband works about fifteen minutes away from the time share and doesn't go in until around 930 am. He decided to stay the week at the time share too and just drive to work each day. My work is about 45 minutes from the time share (and about 45 minutes from my house). I have to be there at 8 am. My husband wanted me to come to the time share after work each day and leave for work from there in the morning. He had lots of good arguments about spending time with family; as I said before, I agreed with him about this. Yet the stress of driving back and forth during rush hour traffic, of not getting to bed until late (ever tried to go to bed in a room full of people on vacation?), and waking up at the crack of dawn, of trying to get ready for work from a suitcase and without waking everyone else up, and of trying to function at work while being sleep deprived and stressed out -- it just seemed too overwhelming for me.
But how could I explain this to my husband? He is my opposite: relaxed, never in a hurry, very flexible, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He just can't understand the anxiety provoked by that kind of departure from routine. I'd probably be so anxious it would be difficult for me to enjoy myself. I'd be on edge and irritable.
It's frustrating when my husband tells me to be more flexible. I DO try to be more flexible. The fact is, I'm NEVER going to be laid back and easy going; it's just not me. The world needs all types of people. So when my husband says to be more flexible I wonder, "Why can't I just be me?"