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Balancing - Phil's Rambling Rants
August 14th, 2004
08:41 pm

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Balancing
What follows are some ruminations on my emotional state. They probably won't be very interesting to anyone else, but I want to see if writing something about it might be helpful to me. So if you keep reading, don't say I didn't warn you.

This afternoon, I balanced my checkbook. It's one of the myriad little mundane things that need to be done that together seem to take more energy than I have to devote to them, so I'm always behind. When I actually located the bank statement, it turned out that I hadn't done it last month, so I had two months worth to do -- June as well as July. So I started with June, copying the automatic transactions from the bank statement into the checkbook and noting the checks that were back, then adding up the checks I'd written that hadn't cleared, adding that to my balance, and comparing it with the bank's.

They didn't match. By $2. This is typical, since for some reason I seem to be unable to do arithmetic without making mistakes. I went through the numbers. And I couldn't find the mistake. I know I made a mistake, but I can't find it, and I'm becoming frustrated. I go through the numbers again, and I still can't find a mistake in my arithmetic. By now, I'm genuinely angry. I go back to the May statement -- even though I marked off in the checkbook that I had successfully reconciled the balance in May, I've managed to have it wrong before, so I figured I'd go back a month. And I did it with the calculator program on the computer, rather than by hand. And I mis-keyed a few numbers, and my anger boiled over and I started screaming. I managed to get through the May statement without finding a latent error. Back to June. I calculated each line in the ledger on the computer. Eventually, I found the line where I'd made the mistake, and then not been able to see the error in two passes of checking the arithmetic. I corrected that error, and the June statement balanced.

I did the July statement using the computer -- even though it takes 3 times as long because I have to keep switching between writing numbers in the ledger and keying them in on the computer -- because I was too pissed off at my own arithmetic ability to trust it right then. I still managed to make a stupid error, but at least I found it right away.

I got the checkbook balanced. It took about an hour (if I didn't make any stupid mistakes, it would take less than 10 minutes), and I was still shaking from the stress.

Fortunately, the next thing I did was to take a walk 'around the block', and walking through the peaceful woods helped me to get on a much more even keel. Being outside surrounded by a bit of nature washed the stress away like a cool shower washes away a heavy, sticky sweat.

That's as much as I'll say about what I did today. The real point of writing this is to try to figure out what it means.

I have a terribly low level of tolerance for things going wrong when I'm dealing with mundane day-to-day tasks. When I'm cooking or doing the dishes or cleaning the house or paying the bills, the tiniest thing that goes wrong upsets me like a cutting personal insult. The first time I fumble an object I'm holding or I can't find something I just set down or I walk across the room to do something and walk back without having done it, I can usually shrug it off, but by the third time, I'm fuming, and by the fifth time I'm screaming, assuming I'm alone which I usually am. Intellectually I know that letting myself get angry over these things is counterproductive, but knowing that doesn't help.

This pattern of getting angry over trivial things hurts my life in two ways. It keeps my overall stress level high and leaves me with much lower reserves of calm and rationality to deal with things that it would be rational to be upset about, and it makes dealing with the mundane day to day tasks, which already feel like a waste of time when I do them, acutely unpleasant, and this makes me even less ready to do them than normal, so I keep getting farther behind; the house gets messier, I can't find papers I need, I lose bills and forget to pay them, etc.

How can I teach myself to not let the tiny setbacks that constantly occur in the course of existence affect my emotional state?

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From:msminlr
Date:August 15th, 2004 06:47 am (UTC)
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At least, you are uninhibited in venting your stress, via the screaming etc. Tamping it down silently would be MUCH more damaging, longterm.

Re: this particular stressor; do you use a checkbook-balancer program? {Quicken, MS Money, or some other?) I latched onto these little sanity-savers as soon as they became available, since the computer's arithmetic is MUCH more accurate than mine. I still get errors of keying-in or of misflagging on the Cleared/not cleared toggle, but they don't take NEARLY as long to track down as a cumulative three cent arithmetic error spread over several entries.
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From:tigertoy
Date:August 15th, 2004 07:30 pm (UTC)
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I don't have any kind of money management software. If I found one that actually was a good fit for what I want to do and presented an interface that made sense to me, I'd be willing to use it, and probably even pay something for it, but I'm not willing to pay a bunch of money just to see if a piece of software sucks or not.
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From:msminlr
Date:August 16th, 2004 12:52 am (UTC)
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I've been very happy with Quicken for several years.
Next time you are through here, I can give you a tour if you want. The basic version, ISTR, costs less than $35.
From:mrlogic
Date:August 15th, 2004 08:25 pm (UTC)
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I gave up balancing my checkbook years ago. I look at my online statements and see whether I recognize the checks that are listed...but I write very few checks anyway -- an average of one a month at most.
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From:tigertoy
Date:August 16th, 2004 07:54 am (UTC)
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I have just enough paranoia about financial institutions (as an extension of my paranoia about corporations in general) that I want to be sure the numbers actually add up. (I foresee scams coming up soon, if they don't happen now, where companies just blatantly send out itemized bills where the total is larger than the sum of the items and wait for people to complain.)
From:starstraf
Date:August 16th, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)
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wish I knew a way to relieve the frustration
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