Getting out of tin can alley

Lots of junk in the way

I’ll admit, the experience of getting lectured by my boss yesterday left me pretty shaken. Getting called on the carpet by someone who is 13 years my junior and who has a fraction of the life experience that I have — was more a blow to my pride, than anything else. I just got caught out. By someone who I shouldn’t get caught out by. I hate when that happens.

I woke up early, full of rationalizations and excuses and counter-attacks, writing notes by the side of my bed that I fully intended to put in an email or type up in an outline I can walk though, point by point, with this boss of mine.

But the bottom line is, I took my eye off the ball, and I got called on it.

It’s more embarrassing than anything else, and that smarts.

I guess the thing that makes it more difficult is that everything gets blown out of proportion with me, sometimes. Especially if I’m tired – which I have been. I also got taken by surprise, by the gravity they gave to the situation. Like these were very serious issues that I needed to address immediately… or else. Please. I’ve gone through worse.

I guess I just don’t understand what the big deal is. It seemed like such a monumental thing. And rather than doing a check and say, “You know what, I’m not happy with how things have been going, either. What can we do about it?” I got caught up in my foolish pride, and that did a number on me.

I’m way too easily thrown by things like this. A lifetime of experiences like this embarrassment all come up for me, and I can’t help but replay each and every one of them. No matter what I do, all the old times come back and bite me in the ass. And it’s much worse inside my head, than in real life. Way.

I think the main problem is, I haven’t been strategic enough in my work and how I prioritize things. Here, I’m going along, thinking that I want to spend my days really involved in my work, experiencing it, getting a lot of meaning out of it, and really connecting with it… thinking that it’s enough. But it’s not enough. I need to feed the demons at the door, to keep them at bay — satisfy the basest of requirements, so that I can get on with my life and develop my own connection with my work and my life.

I work with people who think that putting in 8 hours a day and satisfying all the requirements is enough. Maybe it is for them, but for me — not so much. And there’s that fundamental relationship I have with my work that sets me apart from the rest of the crowd, which so often sets me at odds with the rest of the world. This is nothing new. It’s just the first time I’m encountering it with these people, and it threw me for a loop.

I guess I need to adjust how I work with people. I hate the posturing and self-importance, but that seems to be what works best in that work environment. It’s tiresome. I’ve wanted to be real and down-to-earth, but that’s just working against me in that environment. People don’t respond well to real and down-to-earth in my home office. They respond to posing and self-importance and bravado. Getting real makes them nervous, for some reason. Like they’re going to get called out, or caught, or something. I guess I need to let go of that hope of just being real, and get down to doing the work I’m expected to do the way it’s expected of me. There will be time to be real elsewhere.

I really need to work on two levels — one on the surface, doing the stupid-ass drudge work, meeting the requirements others have, feeding the beasts that drive this whole scene, paying my bills and appeasing the gods. That leaves the deeper level available for me, where I can pursue the things that really bring me life. I’ve got a lot of ideas about how to really transform and evolve the position I’m in and the work I do. I can totally do that. But I have to make sure the pillow is stuffed full of fluff, so the people at the top can rest their heads on it.

I also need to keep true to my own gut instincts. Part of the reason I got sidetracked, was that I followed the lead of my boss, who is really quite inexperienced in many work things. They’ve only ever had one real job, since they got out of college — at this small company, in the same state where they grew up. They’ve spent 1/3 of their life there, and it’s all they know. So, of course they’re going to be a little challenged, dealing with someone like me, who hasn’t just visited different places, but has actually lived and worked throughout the US and in Europe for a while, and has worked their way up from being severely down and out and homeless, 21 years ago… to actually having a life that is all but indistinguishable from the privileged insiders of the ruling upper-middle class.

Nobody would guess from looking at me, that I’ve had to work my way back from such adversity. And that’s fine. I don’t need to pull it out and parade it around. I just need to remember who I am and where I come from, and give myself some serious credit.

I woke up this morning, determined to set the record straight with my boss and defend my honor. Now, I realize that’s a stupid idea, and my best bet is to just let the dust settle, buckle down and focus on satisfying requirements, and not lose sight of the main goals I am being assessed by. Of course I’m going to get off track, now and then. The worst thing I can do, is make a federal case out of it. And there’s really no need to take the lead from someone who has a fraction of the life experience that I do. I’ll take my own lead, thanks.

In times like this, I really need to remind myself — My brain is playing tricks on me again. The only tailspin I’m in, is in my head. So, I just have to pull out, and get on with the business of living my life. Keep cool. Don’t let it rattle me. Just stay focused on what needs to happen, and keep the interactions that have the potential for working against me to a minimum. Life is too precious to get stuck in crap that’s rolling around in the back of my head like so many empty tin cans.

That’s all it amounts to, really. Empty tin cans — the empty casings of past experiences that left me cold and only serve to distract me from my real goal — to just do the best job I can, day in and day out, and live the best life I can, no matter what. Those tin cans make a whole lot of noise. The last thing I need, is to let them distract me from my primary purpose, or let their noise drown out the things I really need to hear.

Life is waiting to be lived. Outside tin can alley.

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Most of us live too small

Facing up to it

In the midst of all the everyday chores… in the midst of trying to keep myself on track, in the midst of a seemingly endless stream of little annoyances and oversights (a check to one of my creditors was returned to me, because I forgot – of all things – to write out the amount on the line, and I just wrote in the number amount)… I often wonder how things might be, if I weren’t constantly waylaid by these stupid little things.

The thing about the stupid little things is, the sheer number of them make me think that I can’t handle the bigger things. If I have trouble handling something as simple as writing out a check (I’ve never had that problem before, that I can remember), what does that mean for my overall competence?

All the little things start to look that much bigger. And the really big things start to look absolutely overwhelming. Stuff that people do every day, as a matter of course — get up and go to work, participate in the world, and just live their lives — starts to look enormous and intimidating, and here I am — little ole me, who can’t even write out a check properly — what good am I?

But thinking about this, it just doesn’t sit right with me. One oversight shouldn’t completely wreck me. One stupid blip on my radar shouldn’t define my whole day, my whole week, my whole life. And if I let this one thing stop me, if I let all the hundreds of other little things stop me, then what kind of life is that?

Seriously.  I do this all the time, unfortunately. And so do lots of people I know. They think that because they don’t know how to do something now, they’ll never learn. Or they think that if something doesn’t come immediately easily to them, they’ll never get it, or they’ll never be able to do it and enjoy it. They think that they’re too damaged, too wounded, too impaired, too ugly, too short, too stupid, too ignorant, too inexperienced, too young, too old, too injured, too inexperienced, too _[insert reason here]_.

Sometimes they’re making excuses to get themselves off the hook, so they don’t have to extend themselves. Other times, they’re genuinely skeptical of their own abilities and potential. They think that their past determines their future, and that if they don’t know everything they need to know by now, they never will. And all that remains for them to do, is make themselves as comfortable as possible while they wait to get old and die.

Sad. And completely unnecessary. Because life holds a LOT more for us, than just that. And we’ll never know what else is out there, what else is possible, until we get up and go out and find out what else is waiting.

Okay, so there are complications. Sustaining multiple mild traumatic brain injuries hasn’t done much for my ability to deal with fatigue or uncertainty. It tweaks my anxiety and makes me VERY agitated and anxious over the littlest things. It makes my hearing acutely painful at times, as well as my eyesight and sense of touch. And the balance problems don’t help, either.

But you know what? That’s not all there is to me. There’s a whole lot more to my life, and — what the hell — I can always work around the issues I have. Like make sure I get enough sleep, or at least don’t push myself to do stupid things when I’m over-tired. Like wear sunglasses and watch my moods. Like take time-outs, if I need to.

Most of all, what I need to do is just keep going. Not let my”issues” become the defining elements of my life. I need to get enough of a structure to my life to handle all these little logistics things, that I can focus on the big picture — the direction I’m going with my life, what I’m creating with my life. What I’m meant to DO. Not what I’m meant to endure.

What if there were more to life, than “coming to terms with my limitations” and “accepting the new me” that’s a poor imitation of what I used to be? And what if the monsters that are keeping me from doing what I love to do were not nearly as horrible as my mind makes them out to be?

What if nobody noticed that I totally screwed things up and said things that were lame and strange? Even if they did notice, what if nobody CARED? What if  the rest of the world were so self-absorbed and caught up in their own stuff, that they never noticed the “horrible” things I imagine I’ve done and said?

I know I’m not alone in my conviction that there is something wrong with me. Most of us feel that way, to some extent. And I know I’m not the only one who has let their life be too small, because of what’s happened before, and what I think has become of me.

But if I live right and use my head properly, the world will have one less person living too small.