So, things have been going really well at work. My new job is shaping up. It’s been rough, in spots, but mostly because my head gets all turned around, and I feel incredibly deficient, some days.
Of course I do. I’ve been exhausted at the end of each day, and that’s a good thing. It means I’m earning a living, and I’m putting everything I have into what I’m doing.
I’ve had a bunch of times where I could not figure out how to put two words together coherently. And I’ve felt like everyone in the room was sitting there staring at me, wondering… WTF dude? But I pulled it together and just kept going.
And just the other day, I noticed that someone else who has been training me also got incredibly tongue-tied, and they could not put two coherent words together, either.
So, it isn’t just me.
We’re all under a lot of pressure. There are four BIG deadlines looming — each 2 weeks after the prior one. It will all be over and done with by mid-October, and then the office is moving to another location that is just down the road from where I live.
That means that if I get exhausted and need to rest, I can go home for lunch and get a quick nap, and no one will be the wiser. It also means I can invite friends from work home for lunch, and we can hang out if we like. Heck, we can work at my place, if we can’t find any conference rooms available.
That would be a hoot. Or maybe not. It all depends on the context, I suppose.
Long story short, in a few months, the hell that has been my life will be behind me, and I’ll have a life that I can really be happy with. I mean, seriously. It’s so awesome, and I have been hankerin’ for this kind of a change for so very long. I really like the group I’m working with, my boss said they “love” me and my work today — in a totally professional way, of course. And I’m not far from home. Plus, in the season when the weather turns bad, I’ll be 12 minutes from my house, which is never a bad thing.
I’ve dreamed of this chance for so many years, and I’ve taken a shot at it many, many times. Now it’s happening, and it’s for real, and it is very, very good.
Of course, there’s political crap that goes on. What else is new? But the bottom line is, I have the time and the strength to deal with it all, I’m figuring out how to keep myself safe and healthy, and I actually have time for hobbies.
And now, for the crowning glory of my day, I’m going to eat my big old burrito for dinner, follow it with some ice cream, and call it an early night.
I had a long weekend, with a lot of work of all kinds. I did some work for my day-job, and I also worked with my spouse to help them with a business trip on Saturday. Then I spent most of Sunday with a house guest, who stayed until 5 p.m.
I typically prefer to have time to myself on the weekends – to be alone and undisturbed by others. I had a lot to do, and interacting with other people takes time. It takes a lot of time. And energy. And attention I’d rather put somewhere else.
One of the things that makes interacting with other people difficult for me, is that I really expend a lot of energy when I’m interacting with them. I really make an effort to see their points of view and to just let them be who and what they are. It’s a fair amount of work for me, because most of the things I see and hear and watch people doing, saying, choosing, really conflicts with what I would do, say, or choose.
But it’s their choice and it’s their life. Even if I can see that their deeds, words, and choices are going to lead them down an unfortunate path, I have to stand back and let them do it. It’s not up to me, to save them. Or even to give them a clue about what’s ahead. That’s for them to find out. If I didn’t care so much about the sufferings of others, my life might be considerably easier.
But I do care. And it is extremely hard to watch people do the things they do.
Who am I to take them to task, though? Who am I to step in and draw their attention to things? We all have to walk our own paths, and we all have to make our own mistakes.
I just don’t much care for being pulled into the foolishness that they propagate. When the people doing the ill-advised things are in charge, and they are affecting the lives of countless others on a very large scale, well, that’s a problem. Especially if one of those people is me.
So, in that case, standing by and doing nothing, saying nothing, never speaking out and never raising any questions, is negligent on my part. We all have responsibility for certain things that happen around us. The real puzzle is knowing which of those things we are complicit with, and choosing the right path to take.
For me, the right path is (ultimately) off into the sunset — toward the horizon — and away from the situation where I now am. There is so much more that I can be doing with my skills and abilities, and nobody I work with is actually mature and experienced enough to recognize that. So, I’m limited by their lack of vision and experience.
It really does boil down to experience. And there’s not a damn’ thing I can do about that.
So, in the spirit of picking my battles, I’m working on stepping back and letting things be. I need to observe them and figure out which things I want to dive into, and which things I want to leave alone. A whole lot of drama can be alleviated by just being still and letting it settle down. Then the drama dissipates. The swirling mud sinks to the bottom of the pool, and we can get clear again.
The main thing is to just remain calm and allow it to be. Just be.
And in those times when I let things get the better of me, and all the dust and muck gets kicked up and swirled into a muddy mess, I need to just step back, step away, and let myself settle down… so I can stop stirring the pot, myself.
Half the time, the pot doesn’t need to be stirred, anyway, and all the drama and kerfluffle has nothing to do with what’s actually going on at the moment. It has to do with everything else in the world that people are experiencing — the imaginary past, the elusive present, the anticipated future. And it has nothing to do with reality. At all. Things would be so much simpler, if we could just let them be, but no… people seem to be hard-wired to dive head-first into drama.
Of course, I know exactly how that works. For sure. It’s a mix of biochemistry, neurology, and the combination of fear, anxiety, fatigue, pressure, stress… that whole big mess o’ things that — for some reason — we seem to think life has to be.
It doesn’t. We’re just trained that way. Everything from our media to our interpersonal relationships, are marinated in drama. It wakes us up. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel important, or right, or righteous, or powerful. It makes us feel as though we alone know “what’s what” in the world, and it’s comforting that way.
But ultimately, all that amounts to is drama. Biochemistry. Neurology. Habit.
It’s not real.
And that’s the thing I need to keep in mind and remember. I did an okay job of remembering it this weekend, when I started to get all OCD over my work situation and started to get all worked up over scenarios I was imagining. The imaginary scenarios were both historical (they had happened, and I’d decided what they were about and what they meant) as well as anticipated (they hadn’t yet happened, and I was pretty sure they would). And I was getting really worked up over them, while I was trying to fall asleep last night.
But I got a hold of it and remembered that I was frittering away precious time on what was basically an illusion — something I made up in my mind about what was happening/going to happen, and what it all meant — and there was not much reality to it, other than the sensations that were coursing through my veins and making my heart rate go nuts. It wasn’t serving any purpose and it wasn’t helping me at all.
So, I stopped. I just let it be. I reminded myself that the only thing that was giving any of it any reality, was me and my conviction that I knew what was what.
Once I stopped, and I got myself calmed down, I went right to sleep. Which is what I was needing to begin with.
And that’s progress.
It’s also progress, that I’m seeing more and more clearly each day, just now made-up our world really is. We invent all these interpretations of how things are and what’s happening and what it means, and then we leap into action without checking it out first. We “jump on it” and make a mess of things, and then we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to fix what we screwed up in the first place. It’s all very exciting, and it makes us feel like we’re making progress, but we’re doing the opposite — creating a lot of drama and suffering for ourselves and everyone around us.
So, in that spirit, I’m going to start my day. I’m working at home today, because I’m finally able to get a plumber in to fix a leak that has gotten progressively worse over the past two months. At last, I have the money to pay them, and I have the time for them to come to the house. Those two things have been sorely lacking in the past months.
Speaking of sorely lacking time, I think I’m going to take a day off, pretty soon. All this working, all this pushing, all the interactions with house guests and visitors and new co-workers has kicked the crap out of me, and I need a day to myself. I need some silence. Just silence.
So, I’ll look at my schedule and pick a day that works for me to just check out. Every now and then, I need a break. From everything.
So, this year is off to a roaring start. I’ve already had a few situations of hurting people’s feelings — that escalated from people being super-sensitive to something I said, or how I behaved.
I will admit, I have come on very strong at times, and I have had a little “scorched earth” action, where I felt like I was either being threatened or disrespected.
Yeah, I’m not much for being threatened OR disrespected, and I will react if it seems like that’s happening. I have to watch myself, though, because that can cost me — in damaging existing relationships or nipping new ones in the bud before they get a footing.
The thing is, I need to make sure I don’t over-react, which I can certainly do. Especially if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on inside my head and veins and autonomic nervous system, I can quickly switch into survival mode over some interpretation. In some cases, I need to be in survival mode, but I don’t need to completely scorch the people who I perceive as a threat, like Smaug laying waste to so many Middle Earth towns.
Yeah, gotta watch that. Particularly when I am tired and stretched.
I had a couple of tricky situations this past week, during the conference. Even before I left the airport, I had sent an email to a colleague who is also a good friend, which really hurt their feelings. I was reacting to them running their mouth and getting me in trouble because they don’t know how to be discrete about sharing information with upper management before it’s been fully analyzed. They let a few little factoids slip, and the uber-uber-boss got wind of it and proceeded to tear my boss a new one, over what was really nothing.
Geeze. And this after I’d specifically told this person to NOT share information with the uber-uber-boss. God help us.
Anyway, the email I sent was terse, abrupt, and pretty harsh. The situation called for it — something had to be done to keep them from continuing to run their mouth. But then they got all worked up over it and pitched a little hurt-feelings hissy fit, and then it blew back on me and I had to spend days patching things up. If they’d been able to keep their mouth shut, this never would have happened. But the individual who “over-shared” has impulse control problems. They always have. They get carried away and say and do things that make them extremely difficult to deal with. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s due to them having sustained a severe brain injury when they were younger — they got thrown from a motorcycle and landed on their face and spent the next week in a coma, then had to learn to do everything — walk, talk, function — over the course of several years.
When they get tired and out of sorts, all the standard TBI stuff comes up — impulsiveness, outbursts, emotionality, aggressiveness, confusion, disorganization… and last week, when I sent that email, they were coming out of an extremely long week that was a prime recipe for TBI meltdown — for both of us.
Because I was tired, too. And under pressure. And I wasn’t minding my P’s and Q’s, and I let things get out of hand. I wasn’t the bigger person, and I took matters into my own hands, and the result was not pretty. It’s human, it’s to be expected under the circumstances, but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.
The second experience I had was at the conference, when I met up with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. One of them brought their new love interest with them, because they wanted to introduce them to me and my spouse. After an initial contact at the hotel that was pleasant and friendly, I had to run out and take care of some more things, then I came back, and we spent more time all hanging out together.
That’s when things got dicey. The new Love Interest started telling us about themself, and the more I heard, the less I liked. First of all, they had dredlocks, which is a huge flag for me with white people. Something about white people wearing “dreds” pushes a bunch of buttons with me, partly because every white person with dreds I’ve ever known has come from a privileged background and they live their “alternative” lives scamming off other people. This is only my own limited experience, but every white person with dreds has given me attitude about being part of the “system” and selling out for my full-time job and my house and my regular life.
It makes me insane. Partly because I work in the “system” and have a full-time job and house and regular boring life, because it’s the only way I can function under my circumstances. I need routine. I need predictability. I need a full night’s rest, or I cannot function. At All. This isn’t by choice — it’s by necessity. Certainly, I would love to be able to come and go as I please and be all alternative and what-not and “live my dreams” and “embody my passion” however and whenever I like.
But for me, that’s a recipe for disaster. My brain is such that if I don’t have regular routine and predictability and a whole lot of really boring stuff giving structure to my life, I lose it. It’s not pretty. I become extremely difficult to live with — as the Love Interest found out.
So, there I am, hanging out with people I really love and care about, and here’s this dredlocked person making snarky comments about “white people”. As though they’re not white. And they start talking about their past, moving around here and there. Back and forth all over the world. USA – China – South America – Europe – Asia – back to the US – all over. I guess I got a bit jealous, because that’s the kind of life I would rather be living, but circumstances demanded different choices from me. It’s a little rough to move around the world all the time, when your spouse is disabled and ill, they depend on you to survive, and you can’t keep a thought in your memory for longer than 15 minutes.
According to my spouse, I got pretty aggressive with this Love Interest, firing off questions about where they lived and when. Thinking back, it was definitely an Alpha-situation, with me standing over them, like some interrogator, bombarding them with questions. At the time, I was so caught up in learning more – I actually wanted to hear more about what they did, and when. At the time, I didn’t intend to be aggressive. At least, I don’t think so. I was actually really interested in hearing what they had to say. I wanted to hear more.
But it wasn’t perceive that way, and apparently I made everyone in the room very uncomfortable. I was clueless that people were uncomfortable. I was just focused on hearing more, because my life has been so incredibly uniform and established for the past 20 years.
At the same time, though, there were some alarms that were going off in my head — so maybe I was being aggressive.
The first alarm was the dreds. The second alarm was the Love Interest trying to sell my spouse on their services doing “neurolinguistic programming” — a/k/a hypnosis — to solve some of their mobility issues. My spouse has some serious and long-standing mobility problems due to back and leg pain, and many people have told them it’s because of some emotional block or unresolved issues. Personally, I think it has more to do with them just not moving enough and not strengthening the right muscles to support their frame. They also need to lose about 30 pounds. Most healthcare professionals we talk to, feel exactly the same way. But lo and behold, here’s yet another “alternative healthcare practictioner” trying to sell my spouse on mind control techniques to solve their physical problems.
Of course, it couldn’t be done in just one session. But after an “intake interview” they could continue to work over the phone at any distance. The rate was $100/hour. No insurance coverage available.
So, yeah, here’s this individual who’s living on the margins, pretending to be something they are not, just flitting around doing as they please, subtly slamming people like me, and they’re trying to hard-sell my spouse into signing up for hypnosis, which of course I will be paying for out-of-pocket, if it ever happens. On top of it, they’re talking to my spouse about working together to create some sort of alternative event, and I’m getting a sickly deja-vu in the pit of my stomach about all the other marginal folks my spouse has tried to work with who started out seeming so alternative and progressive, and just turned out to be nutso, flighty, opportunistic users who thought they could take advantage of the “rich” people with the salaried job, the house, and the two cars in the garage.
Come to think, of it, I’m surprised I was as polite as I was, that night. If I had really been aware of how I was feeling at that time, I probably would have 86’ed them, or called it an early night.
But like I said, I was pretty clueless about just how threatened and aggravated and antagonistic I was feeling. I was in the “zone” — or so I thought. And my memories of the evening were totally different from how my spouse describe them to me later.
Anyway, the rest of that evening went slowly downhill. I was actually feeling pretty strong, that night, and I had a good time catching up with my old friends. But the Love Interest became increasingly withdrawn as the evening went on. They wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and when we rode back to the hotel, they made sure to sit far away from me. It was weird. I mean, I tried to reach out and talk to them, but they kept their distance. Maybe because I was a representative of “THE MAN”, and/or I wasn’t playing along with their alternative role-playing game.
In the end, they barely said good night to me, and they were obviously glad to get away.
I feel badly about the situation — mostly for my friends, who were obviously fond of the Love Interest. To them, they were wonderful, from what I could tell, and it seemed like they did really care about each other. But my shields went way up – to 110% – with this person around, and I was NOTgoing to have my spouse snookered into yet another boondoggle that was expensive, time-consuming, far from guaranteed, and happening on the other side of the country.
Yah, not gonna happen on my watch.
Looking back, I realize now that my instincts were pretty accurate. I was “tuned in” to what was going on beneath the surfaced, and I took corrective action without going ballistic. I could have gone ballistic, under the circumstances. The warning signs were written all over the situation. But aside from some pointed questions and uneasiness-provoking directness, I didn’t go all Rambo on the Love Interest. I just made it clear that I was not buying what they were selling, I didn’t just agree with every little thing they said. And I didn’t give a shit if I did piss them off.
My friends were certainly uncomfortable, now that I think about it, and they should be. Because here is someone they ostensibly love and trust, who is probably using them for their own selfish purposes. And I hate seeing that happen to anyone I care about. My friend who is dating them has fallen in with questionable people before, and they are extremely susceptible to users like this. I’ve seen it before, and it appears to be happening again. I think it has to do with some sort of guilt from their parents having money and being community leaders, and them wanting to reach out and help the less fortunate.
In my experience, the “less fortunate” can sometimes get that way because they would rather scam others than take responsibility for their lives. And I hate seeing good-hearted people used by those kinds of scammers. So, to stand by and do/say nothing and act like everything is hunky-dory… that’s not an option for me.
This isn’t a game, folks. This is life. I know that my friends come from money, so they will always have someone to help them, should things go sour for them. They can afford to fritter away their days and years without terrible consequence (like for me and my spouse). Their parents keep them well provided for, even well into adulthood. But can we really afford to squander our lives — our precious, precious lives — on people and experiences that constantly take, and do not give?
There is so muchthat needs to be done in the world, and it makes me absolutely NUTS to see the talented, gifted, intelligent people in my life frittering it all away on people who take advantage of their good hearts. They fritter it away to rebel… for entertainment’s sake… or because they don’t realize just how precious and rare their talents and gifts and intelligence really are.
What a waste.
Unfortunately, I can’t spare my friends from their poor choices in love mates. But at least, in this case, I didn’t allow the User to “attach” themself to my spouse and come home with us. Yes, people got their feelings hurt, and yes, people were really uncomfortable. But I can sleep better at night, knowing that there is no way in hell that predatory parasitic Love Interest is going to come anywhere near my family again.
They tried to work their NLP hypnosis magic on us, and it didn’t work. I saw through it and took corrective action. I wasn’t consciously aware of the details at the time, while it was happening, but I went with my gut and my instinct, and as it turns out, I was — as they say — Right On, Man… Right On!
As a person, our uber-uber-boss is a great individual. They are interesting, caring, personable, and they have everyone’s best interests at heart.
As a boss — especially an uber-uber-boss — they are a train wreck. Seriously, this person is just about the worst boss I’ve had the misfortune of reporting to, however indirectly. They are so intent on “connecting” with us, making sure we feel cared about and supported. But they have no idea what we do, they are about 15 years behind us in proficiency and familiarity with the business we are in and the work we do, and all they do is hold us back and subject us to their profound ignorance.
Holy crap, I can’t wait till they go back. I’m working remotely today, so I don’t have to be around for their last day, and I can actually get something done. I’ve been making great progress on work I have to get done at the office, but I’ve been so swamped with handling collateral damage from the uber-uber-boss’es visit, that I have had no bandwidth at all for doing anything other than work-work.
I’m tired. And when I’m tired, I get really distractable. And then I lose my way and end up wandering around in a fog for days on end, unable to remember what I was supposed to be doing. Oh hell, that’s what this whole job has been like for the past three years — one rush job after another, peppered with distractions out the wazzoo that just drain me. Big time.
I think I’ll update my resume this weekend. That will make me feel so much better. I’m going to finish up this massive deadline, then I am going on vacation for a week, then I am going to finalize my next job details, give notice, and I should be out of there by mid-October at the latest.
In the past, I was in a huge rush to go. Now, I am just moving at my own pace and confident that when the time comes I will have the right opportunity at the right pay level, and I’ll be able to extract myself from this distraction marathon that has been this *)%$(&^job source of pain, activity, and income in my life.
To be fair, this job has taught me a lot, and it’s brought me out of my shell a great deal. I do feel like I’ve become a lot more social, as a result of working here, and I do really like and care for the majority of the people I work with. But the company itself is run by buffoons who have no truly loyal people reporting to them. Everyone just tells everyone else what they want to hear, and the trickle-down results are sad. Very sad.
Oh, well. In a few more months, this will fall into the category of “not my problem”. I’m actually learning a lot about certain disciplines that I can turn into more $$$ along the line. And I’m learning a ton of things that I can apply in my own work and personal projects, as well.
The main thing is keeping myself rested and well-fed. I’m doing well with the nutrition piece of it, I believe. I could do better with it, though – I don’t eat enough vegetables. And I’ve been having some weird skin reactions, so I think there’s something I need to fix. I have cut out wheat from my diet, which was actually easier to do than I expected. And I’ve been doing good about not snacking a lot in the afternoons, when it seems to not metabolize at all. But I need to eat more rounded meals, that’s for sure. I’ve kind of crossed over to the meat and potatoes and a pile of green beans side of things, and that’s not at all balanced. I do feel better, not eating a lot of junk food and keeping away from bread, but something seems to be missing for me.
I’ve heard a lot about people taking pre-natal vitamins for an extra boost — women take them to strengthen their hair and nails, and men take them because they supposedly help keep hair from thinning. As I get older, I notice changes happening in my chemistry — especially my skin and hair — so I need to do something about that. I’m going to try pre-natal vitamins and see how that works.
Changes, changes. Just little minor tweaks to my life, that make all the difference. And now that the uber-uber-boss is going away, I will have more psychological bandwidth to deal with things. One of the nice things about them coming to town, is the huge relief that comes when they leave. Seriously, it’s like a huge block of time and energy gets freed up, and it feels amazing. Expansive. Ah, freedom.
It really is amazing, just what a drain the uber-uber-boss has been, all this week. They started being a drain last week, with the team anticipating their arrival. Chit-chat and drama about what they’re going to do next… woo hoo. Then they arrived at the office, stirred things up with their big plans that have nothing to do with anything we actually need to get done (and are probably never going to happen, anyway), and whipped everyone into a frenzy with their bogus posturing and promises. I wish I could just block them out and ignore them, but they’re right there in front of us, and we have to deal with them. I’m hoping we can all just go back to work next week and not have to think any more about them. That’s all I want. Peace in the kingdom and quiet, so I can get these last few projects out the door. And then leave in October.
It’s hard to believe we’re already 2 weeks into August. Next week we’ll be in the teens of the month, which is crazy. Everything is flying by so fast, and I have so much to do. I set all these goals for myself, some more reasonable than others, and it keeps me busy. But I need to be able to shift and change and adapt to changing conditions and not get down on myself when things don’t turn out the way I expect them to. I need to be more flexible and factor in distractions and set-backs — like the uber-uber-boss coming to town and trying to “insert” themself into our process. I also need to be able to see past the immediate problems they cause and roll with it. I get caught in the weeds, so to speak, and I end up flailing around and getting all bent out of shape about things which will pass soon enough. That especially happens when I am tired, so things can escalate pretty quickly when all is not to my express liking.
Well, it’s all a lesson to be learned. One after another. The main thing is that I keep tabs on my mindset and keep myself from short-circuiting with unrealistic expectations and all manner of imaginary issues that are the invention of my mind alone.
The mind is such a powerful force. Using it for good instead of evil seems to be the chief challenge of the whole human race.
So, it’s back to work now, to get the last of the last done. I have some time to spend this morning looking at everything that’s in front of me that I need to get done, listing it out, organizing it, planning my “escape”, and figuring out the next steps to follow to get there. That in itself helps me regain my balance and not feel so out of whack. It gets me up out of the weeks and gives me perspective. And it’s probably one of the best uses of time I can imagine.
That, and not eating constantly. I had a lot of free food within easy reach of me yesterday, and I really over-did it. Now I’m hungry. Time to stop that slide into darkness…
Injured toe notwithstanding, I had an extremely productive day yesterday – got a ton of things done, and the busted toe didn’t even bother me, as long as I was keeping busy. As long as I was concentrating on what was in front of me, I didn’t feel the pain. Later when I just walked around the house, I felt it, but not so much.
I realized (again) as I was walking around yesterday, just how accustomed I am to adjusting for injuries and keeping going, in spite of them. I really hurt my right big toe, which I use a lot when I’m moving around — from days of playing a lot of sports and being very active, I am a very “active” walker — I use all parts of my foot to pivot and move me in different directions. I don’t just walk heel-to-toe. Sometimes I walk toe-heel-toe, and sometimes I walk on the outsides of my feet. Looking back on my youth, playing a lot of football and soccer and baseball/softball and some lacrosse, I realize how much I was trained to have “quick feet” — being able to move myself quickly in different directions, thanks to nimble footwork.
It wasn’t something we did deliberately or intentionally – back then, we didn’t have the same level of sports science we do now, and training consisted basically of going out on the field and just playing till we couldn’t play anymore. There wasn’t a lot of isolated specialized training like there is today. But still, I learned. And it’s helping me now.
Another thing that’s helping me deal with this toe issue is all the years I spent learning to stay upright even when I was constantly feeling like I was falling over. I’ve always had balance issues, and when at their worst they have drive me over the edge of insanity, turning me into a crazy person who would snap at anyone like a German shepherd with hip dysplasia who gets smacked on the back-end. But physically I learned how to keep my balance, even when things felt like they were all falling towards me, or I felt like I was about to go down hard.
I never found anyone who could give me a pill or a shot or counseling to help me with my nausea and vertigo. And I think it’s because it’s basically an autonomic nervous system issue, which is better handled with things like progressive relaxation, intentional breathing, and learning how to manage and tone down the fight-flight impulse. I believe that poor diet also contributed to my vertigo — when I cut out a lot of carbs and wheat, the issues fell away rapidly. So there’s also a dietary piece of it, too. No pill is going to fix a food allergy. You just have to go without whatever is making you miserable. Not that this is a terrible sacrifice to make…
In the meantime, till I figured out how to address my vertigo, I learned how to keep upright even when things were feeling pretty bad. I’m feeling kind of bad, right now — still foggy, out of it, in a bit of discomfort from being really active all weekend in ways that I am rarely active. It’s all good – I just don’t feel particularly great right now.
But still, I got about 7 hours of sleep last night, which is good, considering my recent run of 4-5 hours. I’ll take that 7. And I also slept hard — as a rock. Like a lump of cooled magma that had dropped where it fell, after being spewed out of the mouth of a volcano. Dramatic, I know, but that’s how yesterday felt — an all-out race to get everything done on my loud, fume-filled construction project — and get the house aired out — before my spouse got home. They’re extremely sensitive to smells, and varnishes and paints send them straight to hell with all sorts of allergic reactions. So, the pressure was on. Fortunately, I performed — and good thing I got everything squared away yesterday evening (instead of today), because they came back a day early.
So, yeah, my mad dash to get this project done was a success. And at the end of it all, I crashed — I landed so hard, I didn’t get a chance to turn off the light. And I slept through till almost 8, which is a bit of a miracle, these days.
Anyway, no worries. This coming week I start readying my resume to send out to recruiters. Looking at my timeline, I should be able to exit this company in about 8 weeks. I’m looking forward to that.
So. Very. Much.
But for now, it’s back to the office. The uber-uber-uber boss is flying in from overseas to check up on us and tell us all what a shitty job we’re doing, for a whole week. That should be fun.
Whatever. All I know is, I’m making fantastic progress on my projects, and life feels pretty friggin’ awesome right now. The toe will heal. I’ll manage to stay upright. Life goes on.
So, the new managers from HQ have returned to their homes, and we have one last day with the old boss — who is definitely not the same as the new uber-boss. In spite of the uncertainty and the stress of dramatic change, I am very glad that this change is happening at work. I feel like I can breathe again. Literally.
I hadn’t realized just how strongly I had been affected by the behavior and demeanor of the old uber-boss. They were just so manic. Always pushing and pushing and pushing and instigating and maneuvering and working an angle and promoting their agenda, which has seldom been the same as the company’s agenda. It’s been very stressful to walk that fine line between what the uber-boss tells you you’re supposed to do, and what the company (and their boss) expects of you. Frankly, it’s really screwed up the past two years of my performance – I haven’t been able to serve two masters effectively, but that’s exactly what I’ve had to do.
I think those days are behind me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about this change.
One more day with the uber-boss in the house. One more day…
They’re not a bad person, just problematic. And badly behaved. Hurt and insecure and passive-aggressive. They are also in a marriage that doesn’t work for them, which I’m sure contributes to their level of stress and their bad behavior.
Anyway, that is nearly behind me now, and it’s time to move on to what’s next. What’s happening now. I have a lot to catch up on, and now that there isn’t constant interference and people constantly trying to steer me in the wrong direction, I can relax.
And stretch. Last night when I got home from work, I was so wiped out. But then I stretched a bit, and it felt like some life was coming back to me. I have been so tense, and I didn’t even realize it. Or maybe I did realize it but I figured that’s just how things were, so there was nothing I could do aside from accept it. So I just went with it and tried to do what damage control I could.
Now I feel like I am out of damage control mode, and I’m loosening up again. Stretching my tight and tense muscles, cracking my joints, feeling my whole body loosening up. I don’t feel like I have to be in a protective state anymore, always braced for what new foolishness is coming down the pike, and it’s pretty great. All these changes, I can take, because it’s not personal anymore. It’s not individual. We’re all in the same boat, trying to keep afloat and move in the right direction, which is a very different scene than it was before.
So, change… I do need to take care of myself, and make sure I get some good sleep this weekend. I am listing all the things I need to do this weekend, making my schedule now, so I don’t have to think about it for the next two days. Just do it. I’ve got to replace some insulation in my basement, and clean up a bunch of crap, so I can move things around and have a decent living space. I also need to get some extra sleep — a nap on both afternoons, if at all possible — and get some exercise, too. I am feeling a lot of energy coming back to me, and I need to pace myself, so I don’t wear myself out. It’s all very exciting and dynamic; I just need to make sure I don’t over-extend myself in all the excitement.
Fortunately, that seems to be the direction that our new management is going – they don’t want to move too fast and make changes too quickly. And that’s good. It will give us time to adjust and adapt and figure things out as we go along. I’m sure there will be conflicts and confusion along the way, but in the end, I do believe it will all work out okay.
A few weeks back, I saw the first half of the movie “Memento” starring Guy Pearce, who has no short-term memory and has to keep writing notes to remind himself of things. It seemed eerily familiar to me, although I wondered about him actually remembering what the notes really meant. I didn’t get a chance to see how the movie ended — it was a bit of a challenge for me to follow. I think it’s one of those things you have to have a good memory to enjoy — keeping track of who did what and all the different pieces of it was pretty challenging for me, and I wasn’t following as well as I wanted to.
The movie was actually pretty difficult work for me, but I stuck with it as long as I could.
Anyway, I had my second round of neuropsych testing yesterday afternoon, and I thought it went pretty well. Then again, that’s what I thought the first time around … we’ll find out. A lot has been going on with me — the uber-boss from hell has given notice and will be gone from the company in another week. Praise be. Now maybe I can actually do my friggin’ job, instead of constantly dealing with their interference, undermining, and trash talking. There is hope, and now I need to do a reset on my attitude about work. Because I realize that a lot of the pain and suffering that this job has held for me, has been due to this uber-boss’es interference… along with the undermining and generally unprofessional demeanor of other coworkers and management types who are not on the same page as me (or the parent company), and who have been pretty poorly behaved over the past two years, if I say so myself.
I could go on, but why waste the time?
Anyway, now is the time when I need to reset my attitude and see if I can rekindle that original excitement I felt at joining the company 2-1/2 years ago. Once upon a time, I really felt like everything was wide open and possible… then the sabotage by my managers started, the bad behavior kicked in, and half my battles turned out to be fighting upper management about he right thing to do. I don’t doubt for a moment that there will be new fights and new struggles with the Overlords in the future, but these will be different ones, and at least I won’t have to fight them on a daily basis right in my own back yard. If anything, the battles I’ll be fighting could bring me closer together with others who are struggling with the same issues — which will be good for individual connections, even if it doesn’t do much for the overall spirit of the place.
The company is changing dramatically from being a mid-sized (under 1,000 employees) to being part of a major multinational corporation (over 10,000 employees), and it’s not going to be easy for a lot of folks. For me, it’s very familiar. I’ve done this a number of times, and I am accustomed to the shenanigans.
So, now is the time to remember my old coping mechanisms and rekindle that old sense of hope I once had, before things became so clear to me.
It’s interesting – in my testing yesterday, I found some things easy and some things difficult. Who can say which ones really WERE easy or difficult for me? I will find out when the testing results come back. I also have a “backlog” of personal and professional issues to discuss with my NP – I can really use their feedback on some things, to get a reality check. It’s interesting that out of all my friends and family, they seem to have the only truly independent view of the things I tell them, without an agenda other than helping me think through things logically and with common sense. They also recognize the neurological issues that get in my way, so while others fan my indignation into hot, raging flames, they talk me back from that edge and get me using the more sensible parts of my brain to work through it all.
Now, I just need to remember what to discuss with them.
Which is what I’m doing this weekend. I have made a list of the things I’m dealing with these days. I just started the list, and there are 12 “biggies” right off the bat that come to mind. That’s not even the little everyday crap that is getting to me, like my not being able to complete tasks on time, and my failure to follow through on important things at work. I am thinking that once management changes, and I am out from under the uber-boss’es sabotaging influence, things will loosen up for me a bit. I have a good rapport with the “overlords” thus far, and I think we’re going to continue to work well together. I have a lot of great “street cred” in other parts of the company, so there are a lot of people on my side, which is always good.
But good or not, it’s still additional stress. It’s still additional energy I have to put into things. And the additional things are personal as well as professional. I need to really focus in on keeping rested and taking good care of myself. I haven’t done such a great job of that, in the past months — I’m sure at least in part because of all the stresses at work, and wondering if there is really any future for me, under the current regime. Well, news flash – the current regime is going away, and it’s being replaced by something else. And in the end, sticking things out and letting the chips fall as they will, is probably the best strategy I could have in a situation like this.
Sticking things out, having endurance. And of course getting good rest, eating right, and getting good exercise as well.
It all fits together. I still pretty much hate my commute. I still don’t see a long-term future at this job. And who knows if the new boss will be any better than the old boss? … I hear that “Who” song playing in the background… “meet the new boss… same as the old boss…”
But at the very least, I’ll get some relief from that uber-boss who is disrespectful, obnoxious, cryptic, and always has to be the smartest person in the room… or else.
This job search is proving quite enlightening. As painful as all the insecurity is…
Will I be able to learn what I need to know? Will I be able to impress the people I need to impress? Will I be able to earn what I need to earn? Will I be making a bad decision? Will the company I go with be able to stay afloat? Will I be able to have insurance? Will I be able to have a life? What will become of me?
I am learning a lot about myself and my limits. It is incredibly difficult to stay cool at work, while I’m working on my exit. Everything feels like it’s in limbo, and the whole situation seems surreal. I don’t have a lot of margin for error, and it’s incredibly stressful to be in this situation. On top of it, I’ve been pretty hard on myself for “getting myself into this situation” because I feel like I’ve gotten myself into this tight spot, and it’s all my fault that I can’t make a success out of this situation, the way I’m expected to.
What an impossible scenario I’ve created for myself. I’m being way too hard on myself, and my ego has completely taken over with thinking that I’m the sole creator of this situation, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The real truth is that I’ve been making the best of a wretched situation for a long, long time — about a year longer than I expected to be able to. And I’ve accomplished things that nobody thought could be accomplished, despite outright sabotage by my bosses for the past two years.
Ha ha. I’ve succeeded anyway.
Yeah, it’s not all that bad, and I need to get over myself and stop telling myself that it’s all “my bad” that things suck bilgewater. Things suck bilgewater all across the board, without any help on my part. I’m free to go anytime, and so is everyone else. If they choose to stay in the situation where they are, that’s their choice… and there you go. It’s all a matter of choice. It always has been, and it always will be.
I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for your circumstances, and doing everything in your power to direct your own life in ways that are true to you and your vision and your talents. I stepped into this job, a little over two years ago, hoping to bring my talents and vision to the job. I succeeded to some extent, and the changes I’ve effected have permanently altered the organization. There are higher expectations now, and higher standards in some respects. We have a better infrastructure in place than ever before, and long-standing problems have gotten solved.
Yet at the same time, that improvement has gone completely unnoticed by the folks in charge, despite my drawing attention to it and documenting it and educating folks about it. The folks in charge are all about short-term quarterly results and being able to show “growth” in small increments, which is directly opposed by own point of view, which takes a longer view of things — when you take some extra time to fix things that are broken (and have been broken for a long time), you will speed things up for the future. The best part of it all, is that you’ll never realize that there is a whole system behind what you’re doing — it will work silently and invisibly, as it should.
But then the people who make their livings off fixing things won’t be able to log any progress.
And we can’t have that.
So clearly, if the organization doesn’t share my outlook there’s not much point in me staying there. And I have to remember that there are other places that do share my beliefs. I’ve worked in some in the past. This current place is an anomaly for me — probably because I am not working in a predominantly technical division. They do the sales and marketing and customer relationship stuff, not the technology stuff. And I’m definitely a fish out of water, flopping around on the bank of the stream, gasping for air.
Time to go… time to go…
And look up from my little workspace to see what else is out there, what else is available that really moves me. The simple fact of my life is that, in order to excel at things, I need to focus in on it so intently that it becomes a transcendent experience for me. And I haven’t had that for over a year. I need to be able to completely immerse myself in my work, and the present environment prohibits that – in fact, it’s designed to prohibit it. In order to build up skill in anything, you have to put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work. You have to try things and fail and look for workarounds. You have to really kick it, and be able to sustain your passion for what you do, day in and day out.
I — and everyone else in this world — cannot truly succeed without sustained effort, and sustained effort requires a ton of passion. Not just the kind of passion that comes up in the moment, but passion that lasts through it all — through the boring times and the exciting times… the kind of passion that keeps you up at night, that wakes you up early in the morning, and fuels you when all seems lost. I love the work I do, when I’m allowed to do it, and it’s that love that keeps me going, that keeps me learning, that keeps me sharp and engaged. It’s not the trophies and the prizes and the recognition. It’s not the outside-in rewards that drive me. It’s the inside-out passion that makes it all worth it, day in and day out.
In looking around at all my job options, I’ve come across a lot of jobs that offer external trappings — prestigious positions at top corporations who are leaders in their field. I’ve come across a lot of opportunities that look great on the outside. The companies that offer them promise rewards, benefits, and the chance to associate yourself with leading-edge industry powerhouses. And then I look at the company reviews on places like Glassdoor and Hallway, and I find different stories being told by people actually inside the companies.
And I have to stop and take a step back. I have to reconsider my orientation. Because it is so easy for me to be seduced into thinking that those powerhouses are the key to my future — prestige being the biggest draw. The only thing is, the things I look for are not mainly the external trappings. It’s the conditions that people work in, the technical focus, the infrastructure, the quality of staff. It’s the innermost working of the company that I need to look at and value — far above the outside reputation that’s made by sales and marketing and branding folks.
Frankly, it worries me when a company is so focused on it “brand” and there are serious holes in the internal infrastructure. It’s classic smoke and mirrors stuff, and I have to be really careful that I don’t fall for that, because it is so seductive and so attractive.
So, what do I really love, above all else?
Working with passionate people who love their work and want to make the right decisions for the right reasons, not because it’s politically expedient, or because everybody else is doing it.
Working at a company with a solid technical foundation and that values and understands the importance of its infrastructure enough to invest significant resources in building and maintaining it.
Working with people who understand and value technical standards and make the effort to stick by ’em.
Being able to immerse myself so profoundly in my work, that everything else ceases to exist for a few hours each day.
Having a good balance between what I love to do, what I have to do, and what I can’t help doing… and making room for my whole life, not just grinding out the hours because it’s the cool and tough thing to do, and losing my whole life to a single employer, doing a single thing that is only for that employer. I have so many other interests in my life – why would I sacrifice them all for a paycheck? There are other ways to do this, people. Many other ways.
There are other things, of course, but these are the Big Five that I look for. These are the things that Really Matter Most to me. They are the things I’m just not going to compromise on. I’m just not. They’re also the things that I tend to get seduced away from, by things like prestige and power and what-not. Ultimately, the only power we really have is over our own lives, and the illusion that we can have power over the rest of life or the rest of the world… well, that’s just an illusion.
So, as painful as the insecurity can be, as awkward and difficult as it is, to be in limbo, this is good work for me to be doing — to be taking a long, hard look at my life and being forced to consider what it is I want to do with my life. I need balance and the energy to pursue other activities and interests outside the 9-to-5. I need to find work I love with all my heart, that I can be continuously challenged with. And I need to work in a group that is all on the same page, not just flailing around, covering their asses and not being responsive or responsible to others. I need to find other people who love their work with all their hearts and who are willing to dive deep into a mutual effort to build things that make a difference in the world.
It’s not too much to ask, right? 😉
Actually, I think it’s not. It can happen. I just need to keep looking and keep holding out for what I am looking for, and not cave in the face of professional seduction.
What I want is what I need, and I simply can’t settle for anything less.
I’m being facetious here. There was nothing “nice” about it. Basically, my boss’es boss, who has been riding all our asses for weeks, if not months on end, pushed a little too hard yesterday, and I lost it. I blew up. Compared to how I felt, my outburst was relatively minor. But compared to the standards I hold myself to, it was way out of line.
This has been the culmination of weeks of hounding, innuendo, passive-aggressive comments, hints, tests, and general picking at me and the work I do. I’m not sure what precipitated it — no, I know what precipitated it: the Boss (capital B) has been running around the company making all sorts of statements that they can’t back up, in order to impress people or create the right impression. Meanwhile, they don’t have a very good handle on what exactly is going on, and when you tell them, they’re obviously thinking about other things. So, they don’t have the right information to base their statements on.
At times, they know they don’t have the right information, and then they think that they can press their department into making it happen the way they described it to others. The only problem is (it’s actually not the only problem, but it’s a big one) — the rest of us who do the work are so over-taxed trying to keep up with making good on the other promises they made, once upon a time, that we just don’t have the extra bandwidth to make it happen.
And then it all comes down on us.
Which is a pretty rotten way to run things. It’s called running your people into the ground.
Anyway, over the past year — especially since the move to the new building and its god-awful configuration which seems designed to prevent you from getting any real work done — things have gone steadily downhill. I’ve tried to keep up, but I have not succeeded at it. I’ve told my immediate boss that I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everything, and they know it, but that doesn’t fly well. I really don’t think it’s all me. I really don’t think it’s the TBI. I think it’s the way things have been run. I could probably have done a better job of communicating what’s been happening over time, and all the things that need to be fixed. I think I’ve tried to some extent, but it’s tended to fall on deaf ears. The reason I haven’t bent over backwards to communicate these things, is because the “solution” always seems to be to get rid of some really key projects that are critical to the business — but which are “competition” with the Boss’es own agenda. So, I’ve settled for having things 3/4-baked, instead of 100% perfect.
Plus, admitting that I need help with my workload puts me in a compromised position — not that my position is all that fantastic, anyway. This Boss has made it abundantly clear that they’re not comfortable with me, that they would rather avoid me, and that they think the projects I’m working on are just not “strategically significant”. So there you go.
Anyway, the bottom line is, yesterday they pushed just a little bit too hard in a meeting we had about this work that needs help, complaining about my work to someone else who is being brought on to help. They just kept poking and poking and pushing and pushing and going on and on about how these projects are in terrible condition and it makes us look bad, and we’re going to get “killed” by our critics.
I could feel myself getting really hot under the collar, and I wanted to just get the hell out of that meeting and get on with just taking care of things. I kept talking myself down, trying to get myself to settle and chill and not lose it. But they wouldn’t let up.
After the meeting was over, I gathered my things and got ready to go. I wasn’t making eye contact and I wasn’t saying much. Then the Boss asks me “…What?”
I sat back down and told them that I had seen this coming, and that I knew this was going to happen – that for two years I’ve been fighting to keep these projects going, despite being told explicitly to not do as much on them as needed to be done. I was told a number of times by two different bosses (including the Boss I was addressing) that I shouldn’t spend so much time on those projects — even though the people at the top had them at the top of their priorities list. And so I had to pick and choose what didn’t get done. I also said that the way things were done is not at all smart, that shit just gets thrown together and then we have to spend all our time fixing shit that’s broken. I also had some choice words — laced with profanity — about what f’ing bullshit it is to be told one thing, to fight (in vain) to make it different and make it work, then have the very people who created the mess come around and bitch and complain about how things are fucked up and why isn’t it fixed?
It’s the same thing as when I had been working overtime on a major project last year, and this Boss told me I should take Friday off, since I’d been putting in so many hours. I did take Friday off, and everyone was running around looking for me… and then I get back on Monday and this boss asks me why I took Friday off… and how everyone was pissed off that I was out.
I didn’t go into that, but when I leave, that will be one of the instances I’ll cite. They just keep doing this — telling me/us to do one thing, and then when that doesn’t work out, they come down on me/us like a ton of bricks.
Meanwhile, on Friday, one of my coworkers who sits near me and does the same sort of work that I do, had to leave work because they went blind from a migraine. All of a sudden, they lost vision in one eye. And then the other started to go. They had to be driven home from work.
So, anyway, back to my debacle. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the biggest monumental deal of the century, and there are plenty of people who have gone off as bad — or worse. And my coworkers have had their own share of meltdowns and bitch sessions with this Boss. But I never do that. It’s not my thing. At least, I make a concerted effort to have it never be my thing. I can do better than that, and the whole experience left me feeling nauseated and shaky.
Probably just the adrenaline. But all the same, it felt like shit.
And I think I freaked out my boss and their Boss. ‘Cause I was really, really bullshit about the whole situation. I know they’ve never seen me like that. And they’ll never see me like that again. I’ve got like six weeks that I HAVE to be there. And I’m getting some good leads on what’s next for me. So, I’m not particularly worried about my job situation. Even if they do try to trash me, screw ’em. I can contract for the rest of my born days and make good money and not have to worry about living up to employers’/bosses’ skewed expectations about their “investment in my talent”.
Jesus, I hate corporate speak. I hate the organizational crap. And I hate how they paint you into a corner with a “permanent” full-time salaried job. Please. It just feels like a trap, half the time. And since I don’t have any kids and I don’t plan to retire and I don’t really give a damn about titles and prestige and power-brokering, why the hell should I get locked into that game? It’s so tiresome. The emperor has no clothes. It all just gets in the way.
Please, just put me in front of a computer in a quiet space, and let me do my work. Let me create code. Let me build things that haven’t been built before. Is that so hard?
Anyway, now I have to keep chill and buckle down and just get this crap done. I just want to put the finishing touches on the pieces that I’ve been responsible for, and call it a day. I cannot WAIT to move on. It’s been interesting and I’ve learned a lot, but when the Boss is jealous of your popularity (and after not wanting to think that for the past year or so, I’m suspecting it may be true) and they see your success as eclipsing their own — oh, and they steal your ideas and take major credit for them — there’s only so much you can do. I can keep succeeding and keep living as a target for a Boss who wants nothing more than to cut me down to size, or I can move on.
Hmmm… choices, choices… Not. This one is easy.
Now, of course no job is perfect, and where people are involved, there will always be elements of this. But I don’t have to put myself in a situation where my survival depends on it. I really need work where I can be measured not by people’s approval ratings and the number of things I tick off in my to-do list each day, but by the quality of the work I do. And that really comes with a more technical focus — a machine won’t play games with me. It’s very simple: I either get it right or not. It won’t use innuendo or backhanded compliments to steer me in one direction or another. It will simply say “yes” or “no” — and if it says “no” I can always try again.
So, that’s my exciting life, these days — a power-tripping Boss who is in over their head and is beating up on their minions when things don’t work out (which they often don’t), a bunch of work that I finally have the leeway to complete. And the hope of a new day… in about 6 weeks.
Well, it’s about time for me to get going. I got almost 7 hours of sleep last night — feel asleep on the couch while watching t.v., then headed to bed around midnight. I got about 5 hours continuous sleep, which could be better, but at least I got a couple of hours prior to that. It’s all a friggin’ process, I know. And it’s all experience that I’ll be able to use later. But right now, things kind of suck, I feel like a crappy failure, and all I can do is keep bailing, while trying to steer the boat in the right direction.
Oh, well. At least I’m still here. That’s something.
So, I’ve gone from 5-1/2 hours to 6-1/2 hours to 7 hours, last night, and I’m starting to feel better. I’m also feeling better about the job business, because I’ve been spending time brushing up on my skills and working with techniques that are in demand, these days. I’ve also been doing my market research to find out what people are looking for, and what they’re paying for.
Things at work have been difficult. There is a lot of tension in the workplace, and I have been so swamped with extra work that people have snuck in as a “favor”, that the framework I had for getting things done has pretty much fallen apart. People are jockeying for position and they are pretty frightened of losing their jobs and/or being yelled at by management, so the tension is high and the atmosphere is tough.
I’m working from home today – my spouse had a doctor’s appointment originally planned for today, then yesterday it got changed. I’m still working from home today – it will give me two more hours to get work done, than I would have, if I drove into the office.
I’m also collecting contact names and companies for my job search. In September, I will start contacting people about work, so I can start interviewing. I have almost three weeks of vacation time left this year, so I plan to take two weeks off in September/early October, and have some time to talk to people, interview, and brush up on my skills.
I have great things to accomplish. I have to keep that in mind. I’m getting clearer and clearer all the time about where I want to go and what I want to do with myself, and I have to stay true to that, not get waylaid.
One thing that I’ve found surprisingly helpful is prayer. Yes, prayer. It sounds strange to hear myself saying this out loud, because my “prayer life” as my church used to call it, has been pretty much non-existent for the past 10 years or so. Especially since I fell in 2004, I haven’t had much religious inclination at all. It’s just kind of evaporated. And to tell the truth, I don’t actually believe in the same God that I was raised to believe in. “God” for me is less concrete, and less definite, too. In fact, what we refer to as “God” (or whatever other name you choose) I think of in more quantum physics terms — the personal God that my family believes in doesn’t exist for me. And yet, there is a spirit, a presence, that I recognize — and that presence in my life has always made itself known to me in many, many ways.
My life has been a series of miracles, no doubt about that, and the existence of “God” seems as rational an explanation for those amazing “accidents” as anything else.
Now, I was raised very religious. My parents both came from religious families, I have plenty of pastors and deacons and missionaries in my family history. Holiness was a top priority with everyone, and my grandparents used to go to a “holiness camp” each summer where they would go to revival meetings and worship services and live their entire lives around their faith.
That faith had no tolerance for my ways of thinking and living, however, so I broke with that tradition and I have lived a secular but “plugged in” life, for the past 30 years. When I fell in 2004, that schism was widened even more by a rapid loss of any religious or spiritual inclination. I just wasn’t interested anymore in that way of being in the world.
I’m still leery of that way. It just doesn’t seem helpful to me, and I have grown increasingly literal in how I think about my life. I don’t know if it was the injury that did it, or if it’s been my life experiences since. I know that some people completely lose their faith after war or a terrible trauma. I think it might be both. I do believe that religion has a neurological component. Many neurological conditions are accompanied by “spiritual” experiences, like visions and revelations. And I suspect that having a neurological upset can switch those experiences off as much as they can switch them on.
I suspect that’s what happened to me. Or it could be that I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, and my brain has been so busy trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C without getting detoured through Points X, L, and T, that I just haven’t had the energy for religious experience.
Whatever the reason, a few nights back, I was lying in bed — awake — getting more and more freaked out that I could not sleep. I was all caught up in anger over things that were happening at work, I was bent out of shape over things that I was doing wrong, that others were doing wrong, and I was really upset about having to leave my current job. (For the record, staying is NOT an option — there’s just no point to it.) I was harboring major grudges against people who had slighted or worked against me, and I was really burned up about a lot of things — some of which go back two years, to when I started in this job.
I was pissed off at lots of people, including myself, and I couldn’t get my head off it.
Then these sentence came to me, from out of my religious past: “Love your enemies… Pray for them that persecute you.”
Well alright then. Interestingly, I haven’t really thought of my colleagues as “enemies” but technically they are. Someone who deliberately undermines you and works against you and sabotages your work on purpse, pretty much fits the profile of a sort of enemy. And I don’t like to think that others are persecuting me, but if that’s not what middle-management is doing, I’m not sure what they are doing.
So yeah, they’re acting like my enemies, and they’re persecuting me. Enough giving them the benefit of the doubt — let’s call it what it is.
And since I was completely out of practice with prayer, but I was also completely out of ideas for how to spend my time lying there in bed, trying to get back to sleep, I figured I’d at least give it a try. If nothing else, it would direct my thoughts away from my own pain and frustrations. I wasn’t very good at it, at first. I felt like I had to apologize to God for my “absence”, but then I thought about it and realized that no matter how distracted or otherwise occupied I’ve been, there have still been evidences of miracles and great coincidences in my life, so it’s not like that part of my life was completely gone — I just wasn’t actively involved in directly participating in it. Anyway, the whole religious experience thing is something I understand very differently from before… we all change with time. The important thing is not always doing the same thing, year after year, but doing the kinds of things that help… that work… in the ways we find most useful.
Long story short, I started to ask for help, and I asked that I be given the answers I need and the strength to do what I need to do. I asked to have the burdens of cares and worries lifted off me, and for my mind and spirit to be set free from all the terrible weight of it all. And a little while after I started to pray, I was able to fall asleep. I’m not sure I even got through a whole “prayer” before I was down.
A few nights later, I had the same kind of troubles getting to sleep. Problems with work, problems about work, worries and dread about what people were/were not doing to/for/about my work… After lying awake for an hour or so, the thought came to me again to pray, and I did. I asked that the people who were giving me so much trouble be reassured and supported in their work, that they receive divine guidance, and that their worries be eased by divine intervention. I didn’t think about myself so much as I thought about them. And like before, I fell asleep.
Last night, I got to bed an hour later than I planned. The Olympics were on, and for some reason, I had to watch platform diving. I got to bed feeling a bit pressured and rushed, and I was starting to spin with all my worries and concerns about work. So rather than get caught up in that, I started to pray for the people who have pissed me off the most in the past six months. There were a number of them — most of them on my immediate team. And before too long, not only was I feeling better about them, but I was also able to relax and get to sleep.
And I slept seven hours, which is the most I’ve slept in about a week.
Now, I don’t want to get all hyper-religious on you, and I’m not sure I’m even praying to the same deity everyone else is… but this “prayer” business seems to work in a couple of different ways.
It gets my mind off myself. It forces me to think in bigger terms, beyond my own immediate cares and worries.
It humanizes the people who seem hell-bent on making my life impossible. It makes them actually seem human and deserving of respect, dignity, and compassion.
It gives me the sense that I can tap into a source of power that is much greater than myself and any of the cares and worries I have.
It helps me feel not so alone anymore.
Each of these things alone would be enough to make my life better, but all together, they really really help. At least, they have for the past week. Now, I’m not going to go down the road of saying that religion and prayer are the cure-all for the ills of my world — or anyone else’s, for that matter. For me, this is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not even something I can describe and explain exactly the way I want to. I’m really uncomfortable with the “personal God” concept, and I do not like to imagine a human-like God, or even a god-like God.
All the same, the simple act of praying for those who persecute me, really takes the pressure off and lets me get on with my life — or my night’s sleep. I’ve even started doing this while I’m awake — when I start to obsess about what someone has done to me, I ask that they be given the love and support that they need, and that they get the answers and reassurance they’re looking for. If nothing else, the goodwill goes a long way towards easing the animosity that flares up and floods my head — and my behavior — and my entire life… Somehow, prayer has a way of chilling that out, of cutting it off at the pass and letting me focus on what’s truly important.