The Process by Which It Happens
First published in July 2017
I am not aiming for balance, or a balanced life, oh no, Elizabeth Gilbert says you cannot do that and I largely concur. I am aiming for a happy life subject to circumstances and a ‘spiritual’ life whatever the circumstances, indeed friction helps me grow. I am glad to be developing and all my life is helping me to do that (all my life as in all that’s going on in my life right now and all my life as in past, present and future). I fully know I may concentrate on one part sometimes and other parts other times and that life will show me what to do next.
Money: ‘Studying’ (aka obsessively binge watching) Shameless USA, reading about the Buy Nothing movement, hibernating, in order to get my finances under control. I didn’t set out to watch Shameless in order to do this, but I am sure it helped. Spend as little as possible. Who needs money when you’ve got words. Not being flippant about people who don’t have money for food, I just mean that I can cope with staying in etc because I have this to do.
Work: I got locked in my pattern again: I take on too much, get too tired, or in this case, there just was too much happening (lots of people leaving/off sick); me pretending to everyone including myself that it is okay and not accessing support. I end up feeling burned out, thinking I have to meet the every emotional, professional, advisory and every other need of everyone in my team whilst also doing a good job for my patients, other dept. duties, answering emails, thinking up new stuff, keeping one step ahead, keeping everyone happy… all of which is obviously ludicrously impossible.
The next thing that happens is that I start to get self conscious and paranoid, worrying about what everyone thinks of me, wondering if anything I do is any good, wishing I could start over again and be different- stop being shy, communicate better, stop avoiding the strong senior managers because I’m intimidated. I avoid criticism, I am scared of it so I avoid people, and that just makes everything worse…
To contradict what I just wrote, I have actually in many ways been more relaxed at work. I have stopped to chat. I have worked slowly. I have left things undone. I have chosen the fun things and put off the boring ones. I have cancelled things to make my week manageable. I have noticed that I usually go around on full pelt (resenting others who stop to chat!) and the busier I get, the more I take on; working up to the last minute so I am always late and stressed, as if I don’t deserve to take it easy and sit calmly in a room waiting for a meeting to start (I have done this at least once recently!). It’s going to be an adjustment…
So although tonight’s writing mission was mainly about dealing with work stress, and was more about writing as therapy than writing, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to finish this book: Don’t get distracted by the idea that you should be so ‘spiritual’ as to be above wanting or needing to do anything. This might be idealised as sitting on top of a mountain meditating but in practice becomes eating oven chips and cold baked beans and watching rubbish on Netflix*. A creative mind is like a border collie, remember…
*There is really great stuff on Netflix but it is definitely possible to waste time on it as well.
Ah, the joy of burning out! Now that I’ve left it behind there are things I miss and value about that job: The feeling of working at the outer edges of my capabilities; the sheer creative freedom: being given big projects with little support and direction, and having a team to lead meant I could at least in part set the tone and direction of my department; the buzz of so much pressure, both external and from within myself. Finding creative ways to postitively engage patients and provide hope within a medium secure forensic setting was what I was good at and felt rewarding. Working in such a heartbreaking and violent setting meant that what we did felt really important, and the fact that we were there meant that we were strong. But ‘You can have it all, just maybe not all at the same time,’ and right now, working three days a week in an easier job, I have the time and space to keep on finishing my book.
Thank you very much for reading