Maybe I’m getting old, but all the hullabaloo at work over everything that needs to get done… it’s really getting tiresome.
Lots of work, not enough people to do it. And the people who understand how it’s done are leaving the company, so that leaves it to the rest of us to figure it out. And it leaves it to me to explain.
My mood is low today, because I’m tired. I have a lot going on, this week, and I feel like I’m not keeping up. And the same thing next week. And the week after. And the week after… until July. At every step along the way, there are critical details to keep track of, and to be honest, I’m not keeping up with everything.
I’m not the only one, either. Everybody is being asked to “do more with less”, which gets really old, after a while.
Anyway, things will change in time. Either I’ll get used to them, or they will get better. That’s how it goes with me. Time solves a lot of problems, just by being Time.
And I have to keep in mind that in another six months, this is going to be a past blip on my radar. All the pain and suffering I’m experiencing right now will be behind me. Maybe new pain and suffering will take its place… Yeah, I’m not thinking about that, right now. I’d rather think about my next steps — get my head out of the particular details of my situation and work on my resume, for the next thing to come, a year from now.
Someone asked me yesterday if I would ever sign on with this company full-time. Not for the money they pay and 2 paltry weeks of vacation they offer. I could go back to my old employer and have four weeks, right off the bat. Or I can continue to contract, make1/3 more money than I make as salaried employee, and be free to come and go as I please. That would be preferable.
The money needs to be there. And the time off. I’m not settling for less. There are too many other options out there, and now that my insurance situation has changed (my spouse is on separate insurance which gives them more comprehensive coverage at a fraction of what we were paying before), I don’t have to take — and keep — crappy jobs because of the insurance.
But the day is waiting. Time to wade back into the thick of it.
And think about my future. Because I don’t have to stay stuck in this crap forever.
So, the upheaval over the accident a week ago has begun to settle down. I truly cannot imagine a worse time for life to be disrupted. It’s been a roller coaster of tears and anger and frustration and confusion, with some pretty intense extremes.
I really don’t have time for this sh*t.
I’m not being selfish and insensitive. I really feel for my spouse and all they are going through. It was a really traumatic experience, and I totally understand the reasons for the tears and the anger and all the emotional upheaval. I truly do understand. And I’m there for them to support them as they heal. And I have to deal with my own emotional stuff, too.
The thing is, life goes on, and I have a lot going on with me, just to keep the ship sailing in the right direction. I have to keep functional at work. And I have to finish my own personal projects which are a way for me to A) earn some extra money now, and B) set me up for future income in the years to come, when I cannot do this 9-5 work thing anymore.
I’m feeling less and less capable of dealing with the workaday world, each day, and I know I need a change. I’m not happy with how my brain functions at work – I’m forgetful and distracted and I am not functioning at the level I want to be at. I feel so marginal. I think it’s a combination of brain injury stuff and motivation and the general environment. When you’re dealing with TBI, you have to put in a lot of extra effort and find the “special sauce” that keeps you actively engaged in your life. Then things can go relatively smoothly (on a good day).
But if you take away the motivation and the joy, the sense of purpose and connection, everything gets harder. A lot harder. People at work are very nice, and I’ve had worse jobs, but they’re cliquish and petty and we have very, very little in common.
It becomes more obvious to me, every day, that I cannot continue to make a living, doing what I do the way I do it now. I am wearing so thin, it’s a challenge just to keep my head in the game and show up 100% each day. I really friggin’ hate the 9-5 scene, with the cubicles, the pettiness, being stuck inside all the time, and being in an artificial environment. It also makes me nuts that the people running the show don’t seem to be interested in actually running the business for profit, so when they come up short, people get cut, and it leaves me feeling quite vulnerable and exposed.
That will never do. Someone else who can’t run their business is going to dictate how my life develops? Oh, I don’t think so. It’s really wearing thin with me, and I need to get out. I’ve started counting down to when I can leave — not sure when that is, but I’ve got this countdown going in my head.
So I’ve been putting a lot of my time and energy into developing concepts and projects that can get me out of that environment. I continue to get up each day and go through the process of living my life and building the pieces I need in place for myself in the future. I’m very clear about my ongoing direction — there’s a lot of writing and publishing and “information marketing” in the cards for me — and I’m very clear about how to get there. Plus, there are a lot of resources online to help me get where I am going. So, I’m fairly confident these ideas will take flight.
It just takes a lot of work and a lot of focus. Every extra hour I have, when I’m not eating or sleeping or trying to relax for just a few hours, gets funnelled into my Great Escape. And having this car accident intrude on my focus and having to process all the drama around this event has really been sucking the life out of my activities.
I’m not feeling like I have the wherewithal to go through this whole post-traumatic process with my spouse, and deal with it along with the rest of my life. It was traumatic for me, too, because whatever happens to my spouse, happens to me, and it was pretty intense, being at the hospital and not knowing what the hell was going on. And the car being wrecked… that’s not so great, either. Working through it all… it takes time, and time is something I just don’t have much of.
The thing is, in the back of my mind, I am absolutely certain that things are going to turn around for us. My personal projects are solid and valuable, and I know a number of businesses which have a real need for them. It’s only a matter of time, till I can break free of where I’m at.
It’s the getting therethat takes so much time and energy. So, I’m just keeping steady… slowly returning to normal… sitting through the tears and anger and fear and anxiety… looking for every opportunity to change and improve, picking and choosing how I spend my time.
I’m also continuing to grow and expand and develop. Getting new ideas. Following through on them. Testing and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and just staying steady. There’s none of that old haphazard approach, where I would just throw something out there and hope for the best. I’ve got plans in place, and it makes all the difference in the world.
And so it goes. I have to keep current with my sleep, as well as my nutrition. I need to keep on with the everyday, as well as reach beyond to what’s yet to come. I’m feeling really positive about the direction I’m taking.
I just need to get through the fallout from this accident in one piece.
So, things have been very tense at work. The people who are running my group are actually running it into the ground, with their scorched earth approach to achieving their goals. They really don’t care whom they hurt, in the process of getting where they’re going, and it shows.
They’ve hurt a bunch of people, thus far, and the ripples are being felt all across the company, which spans several continents on the other sides of several oceans.
It’s a little difficult to watch – first, because I genuinely care about people and how this all affects them. I feel for the people who are in charge, who feel that they “have to do what they have to do” and are putting profit margins ahead of everything else.
I feel for the middle management people who report to them who also seem to think that they are helpless in the face of institutional structures, and that they’re lucky to get anything done at all.
And of course, I feel for the folks at my level, who are being given a sh*t-ton of work to do, without a whole lot of support or resources, let alone direction and leadership.
It’s ironic – at every step, people seem to feel helpless in the face of overwhelming odds, and at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. And yet, each and every one of us has the power of choice. We each have the option to do what we feel is the right thing, and to stick by it. The only problem is, there tend to be consequences for making unpopular decisions, and the decisions which challenge the dominant paradigm of helplessness and victimization… andtake responsibility for outcomes (which may not always turn out the way we hope they will)… well, those kinds of decisions can make your boss(es) pretty nervous. And if they’re not on board and not on the same wavelength and they’re not willing to take the same risks as you, it can end up turning into a bit of a sh*tstorm.
Which is where I’m at right now.
Right now, I’m in charge of designing and rolling out a program which is not terribly popular in every corner of the company. It’s for the best, and it introduces changes that should have been made years ago, but a lot of people are very wedded to old, unworkable ideas about how things should be done.
Nobody likes change… and yet here I am, in the midst of it, instigating it and moving it forward.
Which means that people complain. About me. About my program. About the change. And my bosses, who are intensely concerned with how they are perceived and how popular they are, are getting fidgety. There’s a real lack of character that’s coming out — and ironically, the people who are the most concerned with how people see them are the ones who have the worst reputation and can’t seem to get anything done.
So, that’s all very well and good. And it’s very instructive. But I can’t let it throw me off, as it has been. I’ve gotten too caught up in worrying about my bosses’ worries, running interference for them and helping them justify their position, which is untenable, because they’re driven by other people’s perceptions and their own selfish gains, rather than substance and character.
Which is not how I want to live my life. I do want to do my part in the team, and I do want to do work that is meaningful and has impact. But I certainly do not want to do it the way I see it done. And the people who are giving me orders and telling me how to behave, should really check themselves. It’s just a little bit disgraceful.
So, it’s all very instructive, and I get a front-row seat to how I do NOT want my next job to be. Substance, not just form, is important. Form matters, but only if there is substance to back it up. And I’ve been on this earth long enough to realize that jobs and promotions and raises and popularity contests come and go, but I will still have to live with myself through it all, no matter what the circumstances of my present situation. I am still dealing with the personal fallout from poor choices I made in the past, and I am still dealing daily with the residual troubles that all those traumatic brain injuries brought into my life over the years.
So, I know just how important and precious it is, to have a moral compass, to know who you are, and to make decisions in the now that will support you in the future — rather than trading in my dignity and self-respect for an expedient favor from someone else that may quickly go forgotten… except in my mind, and the shadow of it on my soul.
It sounds heavy… and it is. This one life is all any of us has, and it is over all too soon. So many things can go wrong, just by chance, so the choices we consciously make are all the more important. I’m using this god-awful experience at work as a learning experience and a proving ground, for me to get in the habit of standing up for what I believe and holding to my own vision for what can and will happen in my world.
People may not like what I am doing and saying. They may not much care for the changes I’m bringing to their lives.
But if I stick to my guns and stay true to myself, in the end, I have a feeling they’re going to respect me.
Looking back, looking ahead… As usual, when I start to contemplate a big life change — like career/job, moving, shifting the nature of my relationships, etc — I look back to take stock on where I’ve come from, and I also look ahead to see where I want/need to be.
I have been doing a bit of that, lately, and what really strikes me is just how much my mindset and my cognitive abilities and my overall ability to cope and deal with life have all really improved over the past several years.
When I look back on where I was, only three years ago, and I think back only a year’s time, I’m really amazed to see the difference in how I am handling my life.
I am so much:
better able to calm myself down and not fly off the handle over passing things.
more present and able to participate in life as it comes along.
less anxious – dramatically so.
better at humor than I have been in a long time.
more focused on what I’m supposed to be focusing on.
better able to pace myself and not get stuck in an infinite loop.
All of these things have taken a lot of time for me, and I am profoundly grateful for the progress in my life. I have worked my ass off, I have really pushed myself to do better, to be better, to be honest and allow myself to be humbled by my mistakes and screw-ups. I have made learning from my mistakes a top priority — and there has been no lack of opportunity to do that (fortunately or unfortunately). I have really soldiered through a lot of things that used to throw me
All these things have been central to my recovery, and now as I work my way through the tenth year of my recovery from my last TBI, I can both see and believe that so much more is possible for me. After my fall down those stairs in 2004, my “reset” button got pushed, and I was set back in my career and my relationship about 15 years. In some ways, I had to start from scratch, and I have really had to scrabble to get myself back to even close to where I was, 11 years ago.
Now I’m in that place — in my state of mind and my capabilities. And I can see so clearly now how much more I’m capable of, than I have been allowed to be by my circumstances — because people far junior to me, with far less ability and knowledge and experience, have been setting the pace and controlling the environment. In fact, the whole environment I’m working in now — in my immediate group, the larger organization, and so many of the thousands upon thousands of employees — is far less evolved and far less capable than what I was working in for the 15 years prior to my fall.
My career has been on “training wheels” for the past 7 years, actually, and it’s time to take the wheels off and move on. It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve had to put in a ton of work. But now I can see that I need to move on and get myself in a completely different space, in order to be happy and content in my work.
Now, certainly there’s the immediate environment that’s an issue. On the surface, I would welcome a change. But even more importantly, I need to change my “head space” — my attitude, my demeanor, my approach. I need to step up and really own my expertise, like never before. It’s bad enough to be surrounded by people far, far beneath my skill and experience level. But the thing that’s really done the most damage, is having succumbed to the environment and having carried myself like “one of them” for the past 3-1/2+ years.
I can do better. I can be better. And while I know that moving on from my current job is in the cards, the first step is really moving on from my current mindset, my current ways of interacting with people, my accustomed ways of carrying myself in the workplace with the people I deal with on a regular basis.
I’m better than this, and I need to act that way. I can’t let myself be dragged down by my coworkers to their level, which is embarrassing. They just don’t know how to act in professional situations.
A few examples:
We had a big Division-wide all-hands meeting that was streamed live from the home office overseas, and the Executive VP of the Division was speaking to everyone worldwide, with the camera on him. Behind the EVP, the new head of my group was sitting and talking with their counterpart in another group. Two global managers, who I would expect to behave like adults and show the EVP some respect and pay attention to what he was saying. But no, they were sniggering and whispering behind his back… as the camera recorded them rolling their eyes and giggling.
Another prime example is one of my teammates who has some serious working dynamics issues with their counterparts at the home office. Those counterparts have been with the company a lot longer than they, and they also are natives to the country where the parent corporation is based. So, they clearly out-rank my US coworker, in terms of politics and connections. But my US coworker seems determined to spend all their time trying to spite and outmaneuver the folks overseas, talking about them behind their back within earshot of everyone. And what’s worse, this person puts on a good show, coming across as professional and capable, but under the facade, they’re lazy, don’t show initiative, can’t be bothered to get their hands dirty doing the drudge work that every position has, and they laugh at everyone behind their backs. They’re one way in front of others, and completely different when others aren’t looking.
The most embarrassing thing is that these two exemplars have a lot of visibility and go out of their way to carry on like they have everything squarely under control. The truth is completely opposite. They’re legends in their own minds, and they’re not paying attention to how they are truly perceived by others.
This has been bothering me for months, now — even longer. Neither of these people is someone I care to spend any time with, but I’m stuck working with them as part of my group. Plus, they’re making a ton of money, carrying on as they are, which just rakes me over coals of righteous indignation.
So, rather than let them drag me down and ruin my peace and affect how I feel and conduct myself, I need to just move out of that “space” and maintain my own level of professionalism that stands on its own.
I know that others can see what level I’m at. The fact that I’ve got a lot of very solid relationships with professionals in my organization, who are both in the States and overseas says a lot about my reputation. I’m known as someone who gets things done, and that’s a good thing.
Now I need to really embody that on a daily basis — live it, breathe it, eat-sleep-drink it, and make sure a higher level of professionalism completely permeates all my dealings with people at work. If people I work with can’t respond in kind, then I am positive that I will be able to find another situation where that kind of behavior and demeanor is appreciated and rewarded.
I know there are other places this happens — I’ve worked in them for most of the past 27 years. I’m just not in that kind of environment now.
So, I have my mission — to raise the quality of life in my daily work, to do my job in the way that I want to be doing it, and to build out my resume in ways that will “slot” me into my next position in good shape. I really do have the right stuff. I’ve got what it takes to really go far, and physically, mentally and emotionally, I’m finally in a place where I can make the most of that again.
It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. And I realize now that losing sight of my innate professional abilities and behavior was one of the most debilitating aspects of my TBI. I just lost it.
But now I have it back, and I’m going to take my situation to its next logical step in the progression — up, up… and ultimately away.
I’m 70% “with-it” this morning – I got 7 hours of sleep last night, which is pretty good, considering my recent track record, and I woke up without an alarm. I’m doing better about heading to bed when I need to, rather than staying up to watch a little late-night talk show joking around, as I often do. The really funny people come on around 11 p.m., which is when I should be in bed.
Last night, I peeled myself away from the television and headed off to bed at 10:45, which is real progress for me. And although I felt like staying up and reading and keeping my brain in motion, when I got into bed and relaxed, I was too tired to do anything else.
I simply slept. Through the night. And woke up feeling pretty danged good, if I say so myself.
So, that’s progress. It’s been hard-fought, but I’ve done it. Yeah.
It’s a start.
I really didn’t feel like exercising this morning, but then I realized that I was lying in bed checking Facebook, when I could have been riding the exercise bike and checking Facebook, so why didn’t I just get up? So, I did, and I rode for 10 minutes and 2-1/2 miles — pushing myself a little harder at the end, without too much of a worsening headache. I also did my knee exercises while my coffee brewed and my egg cooked up. I worked on my balance while I did those exercises, and I realized that my balance is much better than it was, just a few months ago. Something is working better.
I’m feeling pretty good this morning, Fog Factor not withstanding. I’ve been fighting off a cold for a few days, and it felt like it was getting the better of me, first thing this morning. Now, though, it feels like it’s backing off, so that’s good.
Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to feel this great for another couple of weeks. I’m going on another business trip this coming week. Then comes the jet-lag. Then comes the pretending that I’m not jet-lagged. Then comes the extra work in the midst of jet-lag and meetings with people who speak other languages than me, and figuring out how to navigate the world far from my home. Last trip, I fought it tooth and nail, melted down over the prospect of going, and I had a really rough time just prior to going.
This time, I’m doing better at accepting the situation and seeing what I can get out of it. I’ve got a much better attitude, and I can see some saving graces.
It’s just tough, having to uproot myself for all this time… and then have to struggle through the return with the bone-crushing fatigue and disruption to my sleep schedule.
The good (no, great) part is, this will probably be my last big trip for quite some time. Just like last year, and the year before, we have to travel a few times at the beginning of the year under stupidly demanding circumstances. I consider it a test by management to see how on-board we are with their authority, and to test us about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the team — pretty much a stupid-ass macho display of strength. woo. effing. hoo.
Rant alert: Let’s see who can put their family through the most hardship during the months when things can be the toughest at home — especially for folks who live in snowy areas — and let’s see who can show up at work the most bright-eyed and busy-tailed. Like I said, a bunch of macho crap — aging warhorses who feel the need to exert their authority over the minions.
I hope they feel good about themselves. /End Rant
But those displays of uber-capability don’t usually last long, because – you know what? – hauling staff all over creation is expensive, especially with air travel and accomodations as pricey as they are today, so corporate predictably put the kaibosh on that. Serves ’em right. Of course, there will be eager little keener brown-nosers who will suck up and “do whatever is necessary” to book more miles and hot-foot it all over the world throughout the course of the year. Congratulations. Bully for you. You win the prize for Most Cooperative and also Most Gullible. If you think for a moment that you won’t get tossed aside if you prove un-useful to the overlords, you have another thing coming.
Once upon a time, I was a Believer, too. And I found out what that gets you, if you aren’t vigilant or evil enough to beat the bastards at their own game.
It’s sad, really. I hate to see other people find out the exact same thing. And here I am counting down the hours till I have to go — 31-1/2, right about now.
But I’m making the best of the situation, which is progress. I’m not harboring any illusions that I’m going to be able to magically transform my life through abject obedience to task-masters, and I’m going to just enjoy things as they are, for what they are. I’m going to get what I can out of the circumstances, having some thorough travel experiences, and learning what I can along the way. It’s all a learning opportunity, resentments aside. It’s a chance for me to step outside my everyday life and see what I can make of things. It’s not going to be forever. So, I might as well enjoy it now.
I’m just going to BE here — all here. And see what comes of it. The older I get, the more precious life is to me. Everyday life. Boring old life. Regular life. It’s just so fascinating, the more I know about what all goes into making it everyday and boring and regular. It’s not run-of-the-mill at all. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
So, in pursuit of my own miracles, I’m getting myself set up properly, so I have all the tools to make the most of my trip. I have a checklist I follow for what to take, and what NOT to take. The last time I went, I did not take my personal tablet, because A) I didn’t have a keyboard for it, so I thought it would be of limited use to me, and B) I didn’t think I’d need it. I was wrong on both counts. I could have really used my tablet on the last trip, if only to do some personal work and have a connection with my own world, where I didn’t have to rely on my work-issued devices for contact with MY world.
I learned my lesson from that experience. It was so dreary and limiting, to not have any personal contact with my world, but to have to go through my work devices for everything… to not be able to blog or look at my personal email, to have to work around all the policies and limitations on personal use of work equipment.
This time, I am taking my own personal tablet with its new keyboard. I am going to spend time writing and also collecting notes and observations from my travels. I’ll have time at the airport and on the plane to do some reading and writing, which is good. It’s all good.
I have really noticed that since I’ve gotten back to reading, I am feeling much better about myself and my life. Ironically, having a way to escape the pressures of the day-to-day makes me feel so much more better about tackling those pressures. Even if I just read for a little bit each day, it soothes me and it gets me out of my own head.
Writing helps me, as well, because it gives me some distance from my “problems” and it helps me put things in perspective. It also helps me organize my thoughts — I can tell a huge difference between how I was processing information five years ago, and how I’m processing it now. I’m much better at staying on topic, and I’m much better at getting some distance. When I can’t get distance, I end up running away from everything in my mind, distracting myself and keeping myself busy and occupied with any old crap that comes along.
By giving me a way to think through my life in an organized fashion, this blog has helped me tremendously.
It keeps me involved in my own life, as I think through the details of my life.
It keeps me all here.
So, today, it’s steady-on. I have a short list of things I need to do, to prepare for my trip. I’ve already done a bunch of things to prepare, so I have a more civilized approach this weekend. If I get some of these little to-do items out of the way, first thing, then I can kick back the rest of the day and just relax, which is cool. This is my new thing – doing things ahead of time, so I have big chunks of free time later on, when the Must-Do items aren’t hanging over my head. I have been a chronic procrastinator for a long, long time, but now I “get” the value of clearing my plate and clearing my slate, so I have free and open space to think and just BE.
Heck, I may actually be able to take a walk later today and really get my blood pumping. The woods are a little mucky right now, so I’m probably not going to go for a hike, but I can definitely get out on the back roads. And wear my bright red coat when I do, because it’s a little gray today, people don’t always pay attention when they drive around here, and I don’t want to blend in with the mid-winter gray landscape.
So, yes. Onward. I’ll go take care of those odds and ends, and have the rest of the day to myself. My spouse is going on another business trip today, so I’ll be flying solo. It will give me time to relax and sleep and clean up some of my work clothing, and maybe even watch some Kung Fu movies this evening while I have dinner. I haven’t watched any Zatoichi movies on Hulu since I was violently ill with the flu, this time last year. I miss just lying around, watching tales of the Blind Swordsman without a care in the world.
Today is a day when I can dispense with my cares and just go about my business. I may do some business preparation for my trip, or I may not. I have a presentation I need to refine, so I may work on that. And I have an internal newsletter to write, so I may start drafting that.