I screwed up again. Nothing new there: it’s a regular occurrence. This time I paid three bills twice, but luckily I’ve got the money in my account to cover it. Finances and me are not a felicitous combination: left to my own devices I will forget to pay bills, lose track of my balance and go overdrawn. Why should this be? I studied math to university level, I was an A student at school and won a Gold Award in a national mathematics competition, I’ve been working as a software developer for most of my adult life: I am completely comfortable with numbers and higher mathematics.
So… it’s not the numerical or arithmetical aspect that gives me trouble. It’s executive function (EF). Or rather executive dysfunction, specifically as it relates to planning and working memory. I’ve tried to manage household finances over the years but I always come unstuck, losing track of what’s paid, what’s due and how much money remains in the account. I’ve tried using written accounts, spreadsheets, internet & mobile banking and still I fail to keep on top of it.
Of course the household budget is not the only area where I suffer these or similar problems, but it is the most serious. I can’t multi-task – I am only able to concentrate on doing one thing at a time, which can be a limitation in the kitchen when I’m trying to toast bread at the same time as frying bacon. I’ve lost count of the number of times it has resulted in burnt toast since I forgot about it being under the grill until I smelled the burning! And at work I have problems with meetings – I sometimes forget about the meeting until after it has finished, or get confused about what day it is scheduled. And this is with a reminder on my PC: without one I am totally at sea.
Grocery shopping is another problem area (even without the associated sensory issues and the severe discomfort caused when they reorganize the shelves, but that’s a whole other subject). I have a routine – no surprise there – where I make a list first, sorted according to the store layout. I pick up the items in list order, and I still miss one or two items as often as not.
It’s a curious, sometimes frustrating state of affairs. I can hold down a full-time job, I can drive, I even run a darts competition in my local pub. But I can’t live independently. There are key areas where I need assistance that center around running a household: finances, laundry, cleaning, maintenance. I know that I have the skills to perform these tasks, which is the most frustrating part. I just lack the organization to do them consistently in a timely manner. I’ve tried, I really have. I’ve lived on my own for periods when I was a student as well as when I first moved away from home permanently to take up a new job. And every time it has been the same end result: things fall apart after only a few weeks.
It’s a benefit of being married that I have somebody else in the home whom I can rely on to do the organizing, to balance the books, and to remind me when jobs need doing. As I said to my wife only this morning, I don’t know what I’d do without her.