Avoidance vs apathy

Thursday, July 12, 2018 Permalink

I often comment on my apathy.

The fact I haven’t booked accommodation for my overseas holiday; talking endlessly about replacing my broken dishwasher but still hand washing dishes 2mths later; regularly bemoaning the fact I should be writing book reviews on weekends, when really I just want to sleep.

It’s been about 18mths since I started thinking I needed to do something about my verandah bannisters which are either rotting or just need sanding.

And then there’s the oft-mention draft novels. I’ve had a couple of drafts ‘open’ on my laptop/s since March. I’ve been carrying around print-outs of two first drafts for at least 2mths: taking them in my overnight bag to my mother’s. To work in case I take a lunch break. Back home. They’re particularly well-travelled documents.

I could go on. And on.

I’m conscious though – and have talked before – about the fact that sometimes apathy can be about something else: anxiety or depression, or just a sense of temporary overwhelm. In my ‘broken windows‘ piece I talked about leaving dishes in the sink and not opening mail – as a sign (for me) that I was feeling like I wasn’t on top of things and needed to: step back and take some time out; or just ask for help.

For me it can be about self-care. Or self-preservation. I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with something so I leave it for a while, until I’m ready to pull the bandaid off and go for it. Or it’s about headspace and I don’t feel I can make a decision or even THINK about something until…. later. Either way I think of both as being short of the ‘whitespace’ I need to get shit done.

I know I’ve got a stake in my own proclamation of sanity but I actually think it’s quite mentally healthy to procrastinate from time to time. Or to shrug one’s shoulders and let crap fall by the wayside. Indeed, I’m constantly seeing memes nowadays about letting go of toxic thoughts, friends and habits.

I’ve been thinking lately though about avoidance vs apathy. Mainly because I unearthed this on the weekend while looking for winter jumpers.

avoidance or apathy

It’s the backpack I took to work daily for several years before accepting a redundancy and leaving my old world in September 2012.

And I’ve not used it since. Indeed – worse still, perhaps – I’ve not emptied it since.

I ‘could’ claim that it was because I’d left that old world behind and wanted to cleanse myself of the stressful life I’d been living. Kinda like a snake sheds its skin. Or something. But I actually hold no animosity towards the backpack. However… somewhere buried in the bottom – near the ‘inners’ (gloves worn under boxing gloves), gym toiletries and random pieces of paper, is the correspondence I received about my redundancy. The one with the sums in it: years of service, holidays and so forth – that calculated my final payout figure.

I’d been working elsewhere (for 21-22mths) when my old work unit was ditched. So I had to negotiate with the HR people from afar. And I felt there were anomalies. Our arguments went around in circles until I realised I was getting too stressed about it all and I let it go.

So when the final letter came in the mail, it – along with my calculations – stayed in my backpack. After my move I didn’t want to look at it or think about it any more. The stress of any money I might have otherwise had outweighed the money itself. And perhaps I was wr-wr-wrong anyway.

Seeing this bag made me ponder my apathy. Or what I label apathy… and when it becomes something more.

avoidance vs apathy

Pic by @greystorm via Unsplash

My vast research (ie. googling) indicates that apathy is a feeling that manifests itself via inaction and an attitude of indifference. And really, this piece in Psychology Today suggests we are apathetic because we just don’t care enough. (Although the article goes on to say it only becomes a problem when we no longer care that we don’t care, and has some useful tips for overcoming apathy for those who do care that they don’t care. If you know what I mean! Or, you know…. care.)

Avoidance, however is usually centred around ignoring or avoiding situations that cause discomfort or stress.

Which entirely makes sense. The list of things I’m apathetic about – buying my new dishwasher, doing something about the balustrades on my verandah and so forth… aren’t particularly stressful.

The other things I guess are less about time or headspace (whitespace), rather they’ve tipped beyond the point of lazy into the realm of discomfort.

So what does all of this mean?

Who the fuck knows?

Joking…. kinda.

In reality, for me it means that I don’t need to stress too much about my occasional apathy. It also means there’s usually something at play when apathy progresses to a more purposeful avoidance.

My holiday planning I suspect is somewhere on the apathy / avoidance spectrum. It may well be my last hurrah in terms of overseas travel and my one chance to get to Italy so I guess I’m nervous about making mistakes – worrying that I ‘should’ have booked different accommodation or done different things. I’ll remind myself however that we can only make choices on the information we have at hand and sometimes A decision is better than none.

As for my writing, I’m not sure. It’s certainly more than apathy. I’ve managed to continue blogging (to some extent) and get book reviews done. It’s just the novels that seem to scare me off.

The extensive research I mentioned earlier indicates that everyone is apathetic from time to time. Do you struggle with apathy? Is it because your care factor is low? What about avoidance? 

PS. If you’re wondering about the fate of my backpack, I realise I’m over the stress of the financial payout so I’m planning to empty the frigging thing out this weekend.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

  • Jo
    July 12, 2018

    I tend to do the opposite – jump right in. I’m a rip the bandaid off quickly type of girl. Every so often I get the whole emotional overwhelm thing and it’s all too much and I dissolve. Then I do the same all over again.

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      You are a very motivated person Jo – which is great. It’s interesting that you don’t struggle with avoidance and I wonder why…. (or why I do!!!!)

  • Natalie
    July 12, 2018

    If it’s something on a fixed schedule and may cost more if I procrastinate (e.g. holiday planning in peak season), I tend to get it done so I don’t have to think about it any more. If it’s nice to get done but not urgent, I do it when I feel like doing it.

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      I tend to procrastinate in general and am better with a deadline, but my holiday is less than 2mths away now so…. but yes, I’ve realised I can be more zen about my apathy when it’s not something that’s important. (Although I tend to get the ‘guilts’ over stuff I think I SHOULD do, even if I’m the only one setting the tasks!)

  • Jan Wild
    July 12, 2018

    It sounds to me like there is fear underlying your procrastination on booking your accommodation; what if I get it wrong? Particularly if you think this might be your last hurrah do you think you might be overloading your expectation of it needing to be perfect? Just a thought, I know fear often holds me back but once I recognise it it can be exploded pretty quickly.

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      True Jan… I need to stop worrying about NOT booking the ideal trip and worrying that I’ve sold myself short in terms of plans. A friend’s friend is a travel agent and I’d asked about accommodation and she was great and sent an itinerary but then I realised I didn’t really want to be THAT locked in to everything (train times etc…)

  • Vanessa
    July 12, 2018

    I think avoidance and apathy when it comes to writing is very different when it comes to life stuff like redundancies and bannisters. Writing can need time to marinate! The creative process is not one to be ticked off on a productivity app.

    And I think that sometimes avoidance and apathy is us reacting to stresses we haven’t consciously admitted yet.

    Basically I think we need to work however we work. If this is how you work, then go with it.

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      Oh yes, I think procrastination until I have no choice is my way of working. I need to be under some pressure to lose the perfectionist thing and just bloody DO it!

  • Denyse Whelan
    July 12, 2018

    What a read this was and how I identified with aspects of it. Mostly the avoidance.

    I wrote two posts about what my “avoidance” cost me in terms of what I really wanted to do and be but l let it win. I guess from my read of you, apathy seems to cover up some of which you have not yet said goodbye to…eg the bag and the job. I am not a counsellor…derrr but I would be quite tied up in some knots about what was yet to be done, and will I have a job when I come back…and should I…blah blah.

    I think writing it out and pressing publish for you may have helped. But whatever helps long run is whatever you decide.

    Tough one…really tough. But by perhaps ‘exposing’ yourself to some of the things you are ‘avoiding’ …over time and with a safety net it might work for you. I do hope you get to chat more to someone about this when you can.

    Sending love and hugs

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      Thanks Denyse and writing about stuff – from this post to many of my other personal posts DO really help me. Sometimes they just help organise my thoughts. Other times I reverse my thinking on something as I’m writing it, which is interesting. Or as I read comments I become more certain of my position (which is often the case I mention in the ‘ignoring advice’ posts!). xx

  • leannelc
    July 12, 2018

    I wonder how much avoidance/apathy comes into play when you don’t have someone to bounce stuff off? When you’re single, the buck always stops with you and I imagine there is some second (and third) guessing that comes into play. I think putting things in the Too Hard basket for a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you’ll get them done when you’re ready – or when necessity dictates (ie: the verandah falls down 🙂 ) and I think it’s okay to give yourself space to focus on a certain amount of things and leave others to simmer – headspace can only hold so much. Keep being kind to yourself and it will all just fall gradually into place (a bit like chucking out the backpack).

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      That’s a good point Leanne. I suspect I wouldn’t share as much on my blog (or social media) if I talked stuff over with someone. As it is stuff usually rolls around in my head until I can’t stand it any longer and I vomit it onto the screen. Thankfully – for readers – a lot of those posts never see the light of day!!!

      (And I like the simmering idea!) x

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    July 12, 2018

    Interesting discussion, Deb. I can apply what you’ve described to areas of my life too. I like Leanne’s thought about how it can be a good thing to put something in the ‘too hard’ basket for a bit. Once it’s there, it’s compartmentalised and you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      Yes, that’s very true. I like that as well. In reading I’ve done about creativity they usually talk about switching to doing something else and you’ll usually find yourself inspired again!

  • fabulousandfunlife
    July 12, 2018

    This post has definitely given me food for thought. I think a lot of my avoidance is due to fear of failure.


    • Debbish
      July 12, 2018

      Same Ingrid. Or similar… Fear of not being good enough / unworthy.

  • Kathy Marris
    July 12, 2018

    Apathy, avoidance? Maybe it’s just lack of motivation? I sometimes feel unmotivated to get to certain tasks that I find a little tedious. However when it comes to holidays I’m all over it!!

    • Debbish
      July 13, 2018

      Ha yes Kathy. I’ve realised the staff that has a low care factor are those I’m apathetic about. Jo Tracey has often said the same thing about my holiday booking. I should have crowd-sourced the arrangements! (Not funded, just had others plan it all for me!)

  • Jodie
    July 12, 2018

    I’m kinda the opposite. In fact, my husband says I don’t know how to procrastinate. Which isn’t true…I procrastinate about cleaning the house and such. But most things I’d just rather get done and over with, so I can play. It’s interesting how we are all wired so differently.

    • Debbish
      July 13, 2018

      Once I start something I don’t want to do I usually ‘get it done’. If I tell myself I’ll vacuum ‘just’ the kitchen I’ll usually do the whole house because I get impatient and it makes sense to keep going!

  • Kate W
    July 12, 2018

    I’m a ‘get-it-over-and-done-with-so-I-don’t-have-to-think-about-it-anymore’ person but that in itself can be a kind of avoidance. That said, I tend not to dwell on decisions and I’m not an anxious person by nature, however, I have a litmus test – if something is replaying in my mind or if I’m anxious about something, I remind myself that the anxiety is there because X is important to me. When you recognise something as important, as opposed to purely anxiety-inducing, it puts it in a more positive light, I slow down, and I find it easier to think it over and then make a decision.

    • Debbish
      July 15, 2018

      I’m probably also better at decision making in those circumstances Kate – when I can ask myself why I’m prevaricating for eg… translating all of that into action causes me some problems unfortunately! *gulp*

  • Natalie Peck McNamara
    July 13, 2018

    I will procrastinate when it comes to my creative side. I think the underlying part is what if I don’t achieve what I need to achieve. But once I start – I inspire myself as I know what I create works. It’s just backing myself.

    • Debbish
      July 15, 2018

      I love that notion of ‘backing yourself’ Natalie…. very very important.

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