Oh, how I wish my life would flow, instead of festering in stagnant pools, sputtering through too-narrow gaps, crescendo-ing in hurry or anxiety, followed by ouf, OUF… kerplunk – kerplunk being graceless arrival in any change of routine, like my annual summer holiday which began today.
A blessed break, but too loaded, too short, too… too everything. Too tired, right now, too achy, still resounding with the huge, reluctant effort of trying to take control at work, so that crises won’t erupt and make me ‘look bad’ in my absence.
I deserve to look bad. I do a really crap job of things, only just managing to hide this, thanks to a well-honed sense of what will be noticed and what won’t.
Other bloggers have recently evoked this experience of work with painful lucidity.
Andy recalled a student sitting reluctantly before an unfinished essay:
Fast forward 30 years… The surroundings have changed: the room is now an office, paper is superseded by computer, essays are replaced by technical papers, yet what I experience now in my work – only in my work, not in any other arean – is that same inability to focus, a shutter that comes down in my mind creating paralysis of thought and deed.
That shutter is like a science fiction force-field, an invisible, impenetrable barrier between mind and work, and it’s a common feature of both scenarios, then and now. At last, I think I see its source and its purpose – it’s my heart’s way of telling me that this is emphatically not how it wants to be engaged; this is not its purpose, not is plan. It doesn’t belong here, and if head won’t listen to it, continuing to ride roughshod over its desired, then this mental barrier is the only way heart has of communicating, throwing up road-blocks that I cannot ignore.
I blog. I procrastinate badly. But as always, my old skills as a student -- so uncomfortably close to those of the sycophant -- keep me afloat. I listen. I know what people pay attention to and what they care about. Those things, I always make sure I do. But the conviction of unreality persists. I flirt with disaster, I think, in hopes that at some point something will seem real. But disaster never comes, and neither does reality.
Ouch. Yes. E x a c t l y.
And so, released from this dismal, guilty tension for two weeks, I have many pleasant plans, but right now my neck hurts and I am at a loss.
¶ 9:57 p.m.
There's an old Australian cure that might do for your first few hours, Jean. The advice for dealing with exhaustion, compounded with any kind of dilemma was always: "A Bex (aspirin tablet), a cup of tea and a good lie down!"
I might add that the Bex were so damaging to the innards, and so many women misused them or were addicted to them, that they eventually had to be removed from sale. That was around thirty years ago.
"I deserve to look bad. I do a really crap job of things, only just managing to hide this, thanks to a well-honed sense of what will be noticed and what won’t."
Have you been peeking inside my mind, Jean? It both amazes and depresses me how my similarly crap performance (ouch! sorry, that's agreeing with your premise; not exactly what I meant!!) goes unnoticed. Every once in a while I turn in something that shows I haven't been totally idle, and although that only seems to reflect about 10% productivity, no-one seems to notice, or if they do, no-one seems to care. Maybe they're all 10%-ers as well. Expectations seem low; perhaps that's the most depressing part, knowing I'm capable of so much more, but no-one seems to want it.
But back to that "really crap" bit. I *know* that I do really crap job, but what tells you that you do? Discomfort in a job is often the result of a mismatch in values between oneself and one's employer - is it possible that you're actually doing fine as far as "they" are concerned, and the issue is really one of values, not performance?
Re the Bex: although I remember popping plenty of these pills myself when I was young, I wasn't entirely sure what the problem was that had them withdrawn. Have just done a little research. Bex and Vincents were the two brands of analgesics - usually referred to as 'APCs' (All Pain Cures) - that were taken in dry powder form for fast action. Bex, however, also came as a tablet, and I remember often being given these as a kid. They contained a mixture of aspirin, phenacitin, codeine and caffeine. In Australia they were taken very freely, sometimes even at the start of the day to ward off a possible headache! Apparently it wasn't uncommon for people to take 30 or more doses a day. I read of a doctor who used to take around 100! Taken in large quantities they could be fatal, causing renal failure.
I gather that the use of phenacitin was banned world-wide in around 1970 and in Australia other combination algesics were also banned a little later. So there you have it. I think that Bex and Vincents might still be available, but without the phenacitin, etc.
Found a lot of interesting info on this era of serious pill-popping - might be worth a blog one day. Incidentally, Hazelblackberry of W.A. has quite a pithy blog - http://liedown.blogspot.com/ called 'A Bex and a good lie down'.
Amazing that this post led Jude to talk about over-reliance on painkillers, which might appear to be something of a tangent. I do take far too many painkillers containing paracetemol, caffeine and codeine - known to be habit-forming and very common problem in people who suffer from migraine and don't find any other over-the-counter medication effective.
Andy, how about the office piled high with unprocessed paper as evidence of the crap job I'm doing? What you say about values and expectations is, however, also true.
My neck is fine now, thanks to St John's Wort Oil, fresh air, exercise and relaxation.
Dale and Richard, enjoy your vacations!
I am looking forward to a few days full of outings and socialising, before going to the country for a week.
Tamar, oh I know exactly what you mean about only knowing what you want to spend your sabbatical on now that it's over - been there, desperately frustrating feeling!! I think in a way it's not true, though, is it? It means you spent the sabbatical clearing out all your shit and are now much less tired and confused, more in touch with your true priorities - which is a very worthwhile way to spend a few months.
Jean, I think you are right about the clearing away shit and being in touch about priorities and also with myself so much more. It has been worthwhile in many ways, yes. Not at all what I expected though - hmmm... which makes me think (you are good at making me do that!)...
What I probably mean is that now I would like to continue for at least another six months for some of the things I've realized I'd like to do.
P.S. Having lots of papers piled up on your desk doesn't mean you do a crap job ... it means you have a lot of papers on your desk... no?
Hi, Jean! Yes, I meant to let you know I was quoting you and in the fray...I got distracted. Thanks for visiting, even if you did bust me.
I am in your same frame of mind right now, agonizing over the bid pages not yet sent to contractors on one hand...and on the other saing to myself, "Oh for heaven's sake! They will be there on Monday!"