Despite our best efforts and well-laid plans (and contingency plans of contingency plans if you’re Type-A), shit happens.
You know it. This month, it was reaffirmed for me, too.
While I deeply and rationally understand the long-term value of extracting the character-building lessons from setbacks, in the short-term, the situation can feel like trying to eat a bowl of nails for breakfast while whacking yourself on the head with a hammer.
Here’s the short(ish) version of what happened:
Before Craig and I moved back the NYC-area, I tasked him with opening a new Post Office box for us. Admittedly, it was a somewhat hasty move in October - one that created a ton of resistance for me personally. (I didn't want to move back to NYC.) Considering I had recently started working very publicly on my audacious goal of collecting 33,000 handwritten task lists from women by mail, a working Post Office box was integral.
Earlier this month, a caring friend, who is a mega-supporter of the 33k Task List Project, reached out to tell me her task list got returned to her…twice. (Thank you!) In my gut, I knew something was wrong and asked Craig (as the principal box holder) to figure out what’s going on.
For several months, I had been asking most women I encounter to mail me their handwritten task list - on social media, in interviews, at events, in-person, etc. I’ve been passing out handmade, self-addressed envelopes to women and leaving them in local small businesses. I’ve been watching women curiously pick them up and stash them in their bag.
It turns out that any mail I had received was mistakenly delivered. No one at the Post Office had correctly added my name nor vital corps to the handwritten sticker on the actual PO box. The mail sorter was returning most of my mail.
This is the bowl of nails part. Despite 1 online application, 3 in-person do-overs of said application, months of phone calls (positively) confirming my status as a PO box holder (in the computer), approximately 20+ points of state & federal identification presented, double-digit hours in line and interfacing with the most caustic, gum-smacking, finger-wagging, negative souls we Snyders have ever encountered, I wasn’t getting any mail.
For 5 months of sustained effort, I collected exactly 1 task list in the month of January. I was devastated (in that First World problem kinda way).
While time (and some more journaling) will most assuredly bubble more lessons to the surface, I want to share some of my takeaways so far:
- My resistance, a.k.a. not wanting to move, at the same time the PO box was initially opened makes me wonder if this wasn’t a cosmic reminder that I cannot control everything, or anything really, in the universe. Ever. Like never ever. Going forward: I’m going to go ‘head and trust that I control nothing, except my reaction. Speaking of which…
- When my no mail status was confirmed, my initial reaction was to sob for about 10 minutes straight to the point that I almost threw up. There’s some major room for improvement here. Pity-partying with the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee isn’t fun or useful. Going forward: If I can’t stop what I’m feeling so acutely in the moment, I’m going to try naming what I’m feeling as the emotions rip through me. Look, there’s shame! Oh, hi, rage! Where’s anxiety? Oh, right over there with guilt. It's a real party in here!
- My 162-day meditation streak (and counting!) needed a test. For 30+ minutes, I stood in line at the Post Office focusing my attention on my breath, the pattern of the coat on the gent in front of me, and compassion towards folks who have to commute to a part of the city called Hell’s Kitchen to work behind bulletproof glass all day. I’m no psychology scholar, but those working conditions must warp a person over time. Was I spent after the terrible interaction? Yes. Did I keep my cool? Yes. Going forward: Meditate daily! My 20-year-old self looked at my 39-year-old self like I was a mothertrucking Jedi walking out of the Post Office that day.
Feel free to cringe, laugh or admit you also have learned a lesson or two (or 42,438) the hard way. Hope it helps!
If you identify as a woman and keep a handwritten task list, don't hold out on me. Please mail it to me. The answers to the most commonly asked questions and my current (now working) address live right here. Join hundreds of women in 12 states and 5 countries (and counting)!