Thursday, May 13, 2010

the stomach continues to churn...

So, this has been an extraordinarily sh*tty time at work. At the Program (identity hidden to protect, well, everything so don't leave any specific info if you comment), several people have commented on my constant cheerful nature and that I "am always smiling". I've learned to let a lot of things slide over me and choke down the other, shall we say "less positive", feelings. I've never been a big fan of people who are very dramatic at work, and I'm rather aloof by nature anyway. But things hit the boiling point and yesterday I lost my temper.

Here's what's started it...the big item I'm working on is one of the items that needs to be done and go through FOUR levels of approval (all the way up to the national level) in order for the really big contract to be released to bidders. Last Tuesday was our deadline and we were doing really well, until...

Let me put my literary education to some use and craft an analogy for you. Imagine that your academic Advisor told you that there were two topics you could choose from for your Really Big Thesis (Senior or Master's--whatever will consume approximately three intense months of your time). Both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte are options. He's not going to tell you which one to choose, but directs you to focus on Charlotte Bronte in your thesis. Keep in mind that this is "not a decision but a direction". Lots of work, lots of effort, many, many revisions and insipid comments later, your thesis is done and you are quite satisfied with what you've been able to produce and all that needs to be done is to present it and get final approval. All the pieces have been reviewed and approved separately, so the final approval is really just a spot check. However, the day before your project is due, you find out that your Advisor has pulled a bait and switch. Although you were directed to do your thesis on Charlotte Bronte, he now wants your thesis to be on Jane Austen. Except he doesn't actually tell you. He tells others, and you find out when you ask someone to do a last minute quick check on your thesis and he says he can't because he's really busy pulling together some information about Jane Austen. And when you go to him to verify what you've heard, and even though you've spent the last three months working full time plus on this thesis, he graciously gives you a week extension.

Oh, I wish I were joking about this, but I'm not all that creative. I can't make this stuff up. (Wait, I can be creative; I'm just not cruel.) I still have this naive notion that if you treat your colleagues with respect, they will actually work with you to get your project done (or at least not sabotage you). Okay, I still believe this. Apparently executive management has a different strategy.

I only wish I could say that this is an unusual experience, but it's happened many times on the Program. But this is the first time that such a Decision has affected me personally, so therefore, it is the most tragic experience of all of them. (Okay, that's irony, all right? I'm trying for that some of that cheerfulness that people have associated with me.)

It goes on. Believe me, there's more. This bit that I just told you isn't even the bit that caused me to lose my temper, but that's all I want to write about at the moment. The fire of rage has dampened a bit. Instead, I'm consumed by guilt. There's a HUGE, EXPENSIVE contract that's about to be released to bidders and the release date will be delayed because I won't have my stuff done in time. One of the biggest contracts in the North American Continent won't get released on time because I can't be counted on to do my job. IT WILL BE ALL MY FAULT!!!

And a lot of it is my fault. Although I said in a previous paragraph that I hate workplace drama, I have allowed my own personal drama to affect my work. Although Le Divorce is going along okay, emotionally I've been a real wreck. I convinced myself to stay in a marriage that clearly wasn't working because I didn't want to "be divorced". It's not that I had any problem with being single, or any problem with divorce in general. I am not anti-divorce. Instead, I've spent most of my adulthood trying not to recreate my mother's life. From my perspective, she had a very fairy tale view of marriage. If there was ever a problem, she would spirit herself away in a big dramatic gesture and wait for the Prince to experience the emotional fallout and realize that yes, he just could NOT live without her, and would show up later, and humbly beg her forgiveness and admit that he just wasn't a man without her. (I am not joking about this.)

I have tried to be more practical. Marriage is many things. One of my friends married very young (I think she was 19) and her husband was in the military. I inferred that the first few years of their marriage were rather tough; romantic love was there, but the reality of trying to make a life together when the husband is forced to relocate from his wife and infant is a tough situation even for those who are older and wiser. But 25+ years later and they are still together. Why? "We were going to do whatever was necessary to make this marriage work." A very practical attitude.

But it's the old story. There were problems, and I saw myself adapting and changing but didn't notice any effort on his part. And one day, I finally had it. Despite a constant lowering of expectations, and consistent-giving-up-a-lot of what I wanted out of the relationship, and even holding to my ideal of "everyone deserves another chance", I just couldn't take it any more. In the movies, a single action is depicted as the cause of the breakup. Very dramatic. In my case, it was just a war of attrition. No one thing was really big; just a lot of little actions. Intellectually, I know I should have cut and run a long time ago. But emotionally, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I just didn't want to become my mother. (My mother was married and divorced three times; my father five. Twice to each other. The first marriage was annulled because my dad wasn't yet divorced from his first wife when he married my mom. She did not learn of this until later. When I asked her why she remarried him after this incredible breach of trust, she said simply "I was in love with him.")

The sad thing is that I truly feel that my-soon-to-be-ex can be the incredible man that I know he can be. For some reason, he just can't be that man with me around. I don't know if it's because I'm always taking up the slack, so he felt he didn't have to put out the effort, or if I am the stereotypical "ball-buster" who emasculates her man. Maybe I am a bullbuster. I don't know. I don't think I am; I have many male friends and none of them seem weak to me. I guess it doesn't matter at this point.

I don't know what exactly I am trying to say. I guess it's that I was willing to compromise up to a point, and one day, I finally passed that point. I guess another thing I am trying to say is that I broke what I always considered a fundamental rule for myself: "if you work hard enough, any marriage can be successful." But I'd gotten to the point where I was starting to strip away from the core points of my own being. I couldn't compromise any further without fundamentally changing me, my soul, my sense of self-actualization, whatever phrase you want to use. I have worked really hard to get to a point where I actually believed that I was confident, intelligent, worthy, and even likable. I wasn't willing to give that up.

That's the personal baggage I've been dealing with for the past several months. Try as I might, the angst just doesn't go away. And my usual method of just stuffing those feelings down only works to a point. I guess it's really no coincidence that my sleep patterns--always erratic--have really gotten bad. It's not that I have insomnia; it's that I can't wake up. Yes, I do tend to fall asleep late; I am a night-owl, and always have been. But over the past several months, once I do fall asleep, I sleep like the dead and can't wake up. I have three--THREEE--separate alarms, and sometimes I sleep through all three of them. (And the dam* dogs and cats would apparently either bust a gut or starve than try to wake me up. I know dogs are pretty laid back but cats tend to be pretty insistent on getting their kibble on time. But then, maybe they do try to wake me up and I don't even notice.) So many times over the past several months, I find myself waking up at 10 or 11. When I say "several", I mean "at least once a week". It is truly embarrassing showing up to work, oh say, four or five hours late. Shaming, even. And my boss, my poor boss, entrusting me with such responsibility. I don't know whether I should feel ashamed about being such a piss poor employee, or offer prayers of thanks to her kindness and mercy to me during such a painful period of my life, or be amazed at myself that DESPITE such crap-ass decisions from executive management and my own personal weirdness over the past few months, that I have even managed to produce anything of quality at all.


Kelly Henry said...

Hey Lee

I read your post and even though it seems like even though things may be tough going, that you are in touch with your emotions and recognizing that there is loss and frustration, which is natural in your current situation. Being able to write about your feelings I hope provides you with some level of catharsis.

You know we (K2) are always here for you and that we have your back. As for the work situation, I can say that I have worked for an individual who I call Richard Nixon. Yes, the former President of the United States. Richard Nixon was quietly famous for a tactic in that he would make the same assignment of more than one individual. Whether consciously or unconscious, the goal was to see the results of the various work efforts and then choose the product that served his needs best. So perhaps you are working for a Nixon. I once had a boss who I felt totally offended me in that they had assigned me a project, which I took highly serious as I would any project assigned to me, The project began to take shape, structure, progress and momentum and renewed excitement. The project goal had been assigned to others with less than stellar results in the past and a sense of malaise surrounding. As I breathed live into this project (which by the way I was wildly successful with), this boss told me that she really did not expect this and that the only reason for assigning it to me was to serve as an irritant to get the individual originally assigned to bring the project to fruition and get them feeling a sense of urgency.

Not sure if this is helpful, but I have been in the game and have had those moments of profound disappointment, moments of despair, not to mention the chuck it all moments. At the end of the day I realize that there are politics and minefields to navigate and that one should develop alligator skin to survive in the corporate world. Keep those that are true friends close to you and lean on them when you need to, which includes K2.

Love ya.

Rachael said...

Hugs! You know you can call me if you need to vent or wanna get a coffee and knit. :)
Brian says HI and he understands your frustration...he is dealing with crap at work right now too that is endlessly frustrating.