Sunday, September 29, 2019

Deep Work

I’ve had a string of several good months – a record, frankly, since first encountering PTSD over a decade ago. And those good months have carried me through a lot of stressful transitions including buying a house (yikes!), moving into said house, selling my travel trailer, and taking a new job.

I knew that my good months would hit a snag at some point or another. After all, those of us who struggle with mental illness cannot reasonably expect to be on our A game all the time – even after much healing has occurred.

For that matter, who can?

So this weekend was the first in a long time that I sequestered myself away from – well, anything outside the walls of my home. Everything else was simply Too Much.

Chores and errands didn’t happen of course. Laundry wasn’t done. Last week’s dishes are still dirty in the sink. I skipped a couple showers. I haven’t bothered to throw my trash into the – trash.

And along with that, the guilt and shame and feelings of failure.

What could possibly have derailed me so surely?

And then I try to push aside the judgment and assess. The honeymoon period for my new job is over. Those job honeymoons just don’t seem to last like they used to. I chalk it up to experience and perception. It takes far less evidence for me to size up my coworkers and bosses, and I spend far less time feeling like everything is my fault. So – far less time excusing everything they do, far less time taking responsibility for their shortcomings.

In other words, far less time in the honeymoon period.

I really would have preferred not spending my weekend stewing about work and recent interactions with the boss, not getting worked up over and over, not feeling compelled to write out narratives, thorough documentation, then analysis of what happened and why it wasn’t ok.

And by sitting on my ass stewing and documenting, rather than bettering myself, that opened me up to more self-criticism and disgust. What a waste of my weekend and my life.

But here’s the thing. For the first time maybe ever, I see a way through. Unless I’m fired (and you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re beyond the threat of being fired – we are all expendable), I think I can work around this boss’ shortcomings.

Because you see, I really, truly get him. I understand that he’s quite comfortable jumping to conclusions without hearing all sides. I get it that he doesn’t actually listen to what I’m saying, because he’s already made up his mind. I see the many ways he’s telling me that not only does he not have an open door policy, he blames me for taking up his time with “this.”

(As far as I can tell, “this” refers to me reasonably wanting things in my job that he isn’t interested in giving me – such as clear roles and responsibilities, things like that – and my resulting frustration.)

So yes, the honey moon period has ended with every job. And as with every job, there has come that first difficult conversation with my boss where I tell them (tentatively? apologetically? angrily?) that my expectations aren’t being met. And in that first difficult conversation I find out whether my boss is someone I can truly work through challenges with, or not. Do they seek out and value my perspective? Do they want to at least try to give me what I need to succeed? Are they interested in perspectives besides their own? Can they be humble? Can they have their minds changed?

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, and a lot of bosses. I’ve had some truly exceptional bosses. And I’ve had some bosses who really tried hard, even if they didn’t always succeed. But more often than not, I’ve had bosses who were inept, and worse, were uninterested in learning to become better bosses.

And I’ve had bosses who were malicious and abusive, who seemed to get off on jerking around their employees. Actually, I’ve had more than my fair share of those.

But in this case, I think I merely have a boss who lacks experience. Whose perspective, whose privilege, has not compelled him to consider that he can only grow by learning from others.

And I think, just possibly, I can work with this.

If successful, it will mark an enormous turning point in my life.

Capitalism is not something I can opt out of. Patriarchy, as well, not a choice. What I can control is limited. But I think just possibly, with this boss, and with all my experience, there could be a way forward.

A way to get what I need – an income and a semblance of job security (to the extent that anyone has job security), without being constantly embattled, belittled, or abused.

I see a way forward.

I do not know if I will succeed.

But I am hopeful.

And if a weekend was forfeit (or a week or a month, for that matter) in mapping out this way forward, this life changing way forward, then it was well worth it.

This was, after all, not an unproductive weekend where I fell apart. Rather, it was a weekend where I withdrew from all distractions, took stock, and mapped a way forward.