Yes, I have gone back to work. I have been back for two weeks, in fact.
“How am I?” you must be wondering ….
It is good to be part of the working population again.
Also not so good to be back with the working population again.
I was telling a good friend and colleague of mine that this time, I came back a little more jaded compared to when I first went offline a few years ago. I was reminded that when I came back after being diagnosed with anxiety back in 2012, I came back to work full of enthusiasm and energy. I had all these ideas on how to make work more enjoyable, less stressful, more fun. I looked forward to going to work; I was quicker to forgive and make concessions and excuses when something or someone pushes too hard. I felt connected and optimistic that things will be ok. It’s all uphill from here on in, I used to say….
“It’s ok, she is just having a bad morning”…or “he does that to everyone so don’t feel too bad..” or ” Let it go, it’s not such a big deal…”
However, I realize now that these little things, these little concessions here and there, were silently and relentlessly chipping away at my enthusiasm. It’s like waves crashing on the shore…mental and emotional erosion.
In my first week, I resolved to integrate slowly and stick to the plan. Come in, turn on my computer, change my shoes, walk to the washroom and wash my hands, say hello to everyone I see, and come back and start my work day, taking little breaks here and there. Good safe plan.
Catching up was easy as I was not gone that long and all the issues that may have come my way had already been dealt with. The team I work with is comprised with very smart people…our little world continues even when you go offline.
I thought I was doing okay…well, until someone from another team came to my cubicle and “scolded” me sending out an innocuous email and including someone who he thought did not need to be copied. “Scolded” does not seem to capture the moment. I knew he was upset as his posh corner office was on the other side of the building and he actually took the time to walk to where I was sitting.
My brain was reeling. “Upset over the distribution list?!!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!”
He talked to me through gritted teeth…a passerby would have mistaken it for a smile but the tone was clear “Don’t mess with me, I’m more senior than you.” However, with an open concept office, voices travel and people hear. They knew that something was off and were curious.
At any rate, I recall that my cheeks started to burn for holding up my forced sunny smile while my lesson in choosing my distribution list continued. All I could say was “Noted”. It took a Herculean effort not to add “JERK”.
He was gone as quickly as he had come. I had to shake the negativity off. I felt dirty to have seen such rage over such a petty thing. Good thing it happened on a Friday afternoon and the idea of going home was like a lifeline. I had to tell my boss what happened as some people heard and may have been drawing their own conclusions. I sent a quick email saying I had to leave before I do anything stupid…like copying his boss. Shock-horror!!
On the train home, the concessions started….my practice on compassion and loving kindness came to the fore as I searched my brain for my mantra when people irritate me (although, it did have a rocky start)…
“May this JERK be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease”.
Ok, try again.
“May this silly person be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”
“May he be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”
I repeated this mantra several times and by the end of my train ride, I was feeling ok. It was the weekend, anyway.
What stayed with me throughout the weekend was not that I should be mindful of who I copy (that’s garbage…I’m smart, I know who I should or should not copy to get things moving!), but rather that I felt I had given a small concession once again. My boss used to tell me if someone was rude to me, to be rude back. Dish it all back. Sigh. Perhaps I need a lesson on Confrontation. I just find it so hard.
No. Can’t quite bring myself to be like that. I would probably botch the confrontation anyway and end up in more of a mess than when it started….
So, I resolve to build thicker and higher walls so I can slow the erosion. I will have to. My field of expertise is full of people like that…full of overinflated egos and insecurities and I have to learn how to walk through the minefield, taking care not to blow myself up. I think it is the same in all other professions. We just have different ways of dealing with our own erosions…. That’s just how it is, I guess. My first mindfulness teacher would say, “Accept. It is what it is.”
But, this episode has hardened me. I feel it. I came out jaded. I broke my rose coloured glasses. It was probably a good thing. A good reality check that however hard you try, you cannot control everything…people, most of all.
Anyway, I had a good break from the stresses of the world. I am grateful for this little respite. I wish everyone had this opportunity….I guess that is what vacations are for….of course, without visits to the doctors office.
Have a good weekend, everyone.