Okay, so here’s what happened. Around 8.20 Friday morning, my buzzer goes. I answer it and this guy says in a singsong voice, ‘Postman!’ Now, the postman does usually buzz me, but he never sings, and he’s never usually this early. I was suspicious but I let him in anyway because what if the postman was just feeling super jovial this morning?
Watching through my spyhole, I see three people enter the building. One, a woman who I think lives here, goes upstairs, while two guys wait downstairs. Right outside my flat, which is the only one on the ground floor.
This would be a good time to mention that there’s a snooker table top resting against the wall in the stairwell, presumably because some fucker was too lazy to get rid of it. One of the guys spots this, investigates, and looks delighted. He glances at my door. I assume he is going to steal it (I do live in Leith — where Trainspotting is set — after all), which is fine by me. By this point, I really need the toilet, so I leave my spyhole, assuming the table top will be gone by the time I return.
When I get back, I go to look out my spyhole. I can’t see anything. Like, actually nothing. Blackness. ‘Those fuckers! They’ve put the damn thing over my door!’ Now I’m wondering if they’ve done it to stop me from seeing them doing something dodgy in the stairwell, or because they’re just fucking idiots. I guess the latter, because I’m pretty sure I heard them leave while I was in the toilet, and also because they seemed like fucking idiots.
I debate what to do. I know they’ve covered my front door with the snooker table. But did I want to wait until later to sort it out, when I’m dressed and ready to go to the gym, or do I do it now? I didn’t want to forget about it and be like WTF when I opened my door later, and, besides, what if the actual postman came and needed to deliver something to me? I decide to open the door just to confirm my suspicions. Yup. There’s a snooker table resting against my door. ‘Well, might as well move it out the way while I’m here.’ I shuffle it back across the stairwell, fuming about how I could have been a little old lady or a disabled person or just somebody who gets really anxious or scares easily. I hear my door click shut behind me.
‘FUCK! THOSE FUCKING CUNTS!’ The swearing continues like this for about ten seconds. My keys are hanging on the other side of the door, mocking me. I am locked out of my flat in my pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers. My phone is also on the other side of the door, so I can’t call my landlady or my mother to bring my spare keys. My wallet is inside the flat too; I have no money, not even £1.50 to get a bus.
I go over my options. Phone my landlady? No phone. Phone her from someone else’s phone? I don’t know her number. I don’t know my mum’s number either. Go to my friend’s, who lives about a 20 minute walk away? Right, and do what when I get there? Still be unable to phone my landlady or my mum? Borrow money for a bus to my mum’s? Borrow some clothes? I’d still have to walk 20 minutes in my pyjamas during rush hour to get there, and I bet I could get a kind stranger to give me bus money.
So that’s what I decide to do. I ask a man who looks like he’s on his way to work. I ask a group of girls who don’t speak very good English. I ask a woman on her way to the shops. I ask a bunch of people. I tell one woman, ‘I’m not a crazy person!’ which I don’t think helped; she took a step away from me, told me she didn’t think I was crazy, and carried on walking. After a few minutes, a young, rough-looking lad stops and instantly pulls everything out of his pockets. Amongst the bits of tobacco, the pennies and the lighters, he has £1.50. He gives it to me with a smile and a ‘good luck’. He looked the poorest out of everyone I asked.
Problem one solved. I cross the road to the bus stop (mercifully close) and tell the two women waiting there what happened. One of them had just refused me money. They you-poor-thing me and get on their bus. Mine’s due in 15 minutes. I sit on the bench and wait. People build up at the bus stop. Nobody sits on the bench with me; everyone standing a good few paces away. Barely anybody looks at me. Or if they do, I don’t see them. Fleeting glances that leave me before I have chance to make eye contact with them.
As my bus pulls up, one woman does talk to me. ‘These buses, eh? Always running late!’ she says with a kind smile. Clearly she thinks I have escaped from a home.
I get on the bus. The driver doesn’t bat an eye. People wearing pyjamas on buses is probably a pretty commonplace thing in Leith, I think. I try to explain myself before realising he doesn’t give a shit. I sit near the back of the bus. Nobody says anything. Nobody sits next to me. Nobody actually gives a fuck that I am sat on a bus wearing my pyjamas.
While I’m on the bus, I’m desperately hoping my mum is at home. I couldn’t check beforehand or give her any warning, but I remember that last night she was planning to stay at home today. Fuck, I hope she hasn’t changed her mind! But she doesn’t normally go out till around 10 anyway, so I should be okay. I don’t know what time it is — can’t check that either. I could ask somebody, but I really don’t want to talk to any more strangers. I ignore everybody.
Forty-five minutes later, I get off the bus, with just a short 10 minute walk to my mum’s. Turns out, short 10 minute walks are surprisingly fucking difficult when you’re wearing slippers. They keep falling off. They get stones in them. And my legs ache from trying to keep them on. On the bright side, I see the solar eclipse and hey, at least it’s not raining.
I arrive at my mum’s and open the door. She stares at me, presumably trying to figure out why the fuck I am standing on her doorstep in my pyjamas at 10am.
And that’s how my day began last Friday. A day I had pegged for writing this week’s blog posts and scheduling my newsletter, and generally wrapping things up so I could relax a little this week — my first week sans students for over three months. Weirdly, getting locked out of your home in your pyjamas almost as soon as you’ve gotten out of bed throws your whole day off.
And things like that happen sometimes. They happen to me. They’ll happen to you. Sometimes things will happen that will completely throw you off, and you won’t be able to do anything to stop them. You can’t plan for that kind of shit either. Those days will happen, and they will not pan out as you intend.
It’s easy to feel like your entire business depends on every day going swimmingly, and that it’s of vital importance that every day play out exactly as you plan it. But it isn’t. What’s far more important is learning how best to deal with the shit that happens.
The best thing you can do is expect that you will have days like this on occasion, and learn to pull yourself back on track as soon as you can — which may not be immediately, by the way. You’re human, after all, and emotions are a thing we humanfolks have. Even though my whole pyjama saga is obviously hilarious, that didn’t stop me from feeling kind of weird for the rest of the day, and instead of doing all the work I had planned to do, I just did the essentials, and gave myself a break for the rest of the day.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a licence to only do work when you feel like it. I wholeheartedly believe that if you sit your arse down and just start, inspiration will come. But it is a gentle reminder that it’s okay if not everything goes according to plan all the time. If you can become the sort of person who does things in advance and builds buffers into your working life, these fuckups won’t completely derail you. But equally, if you don’t put huge amounts of pressure on yourself to always be doing something, you won’t be derailed either.
Your buffers don’t have to be in the form of doing things in advance. They could just be you deciding that you will only work for four hours a day — that way, if the four hours you were planning to spend on work disappear into the abyss of life, you can use a different four hours.
There are ebbs and flows in life, and they will creep into and affect your business. Acknowledge this, accept it, try to keep just a little bit ahead of yourself and build breathing space into your working life, and you’ll be much better equipped to deal with shit when it goes down. And it will go down.
Though hopefully you won’t be out on the streets in your pyjamas when it happens.