Articles

Work to Live?

The last few days, have been some of the most challenging of my professional life.  Without going into too much detail (it’s a long and boring story) I was faced with huge disappointment.  A promise, which had been made to me, was broken and I felt utterly bereft.  In the hours and days which followed, I found myself questioning everything.  Was it my fault somehow?  Did I deserve to be treated this way, after all I had been waiting for the other shoe to drop!  Was it “normal” to feel like this, or had I simply over invested in this opportunity?  Had I put too much of my heart on the line?

You see, that’s the trouble with me.  When I commit to something, I go all in.  Whether I am crunching numbers, teaching a cookery class or coaching nutrition clients, I put my all into the work.  In the words of the great Kahlil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.”  I have always believed this, and so I take my work extremely personally.

A few months back, I had had a particularly arduous day.  I had spent the day making a presentation to a nutrition group, and taking back to back appointments with one to one clients.  The evening was spent teaching a cookery class.  By the time I got home, my head was spinning and my body exhausted.  Tired and wired, I collapsed into bed for what would prove to be a sleepless night.  I remember talking to a good friend about it and saying “I wish I could do these things, without putting so much of myself in to it.”  Of course, he and I both knew this was not the truth.  I simply don’t have the ability to phone it in, or go through the motions.  With me, it is all or nothing.

I received the disappointing news when I was parked in front of the gym.  Immediately the tears began to flow.  Like a tidal wave, there was no controlling it.  I sat there, red faced and soggy, desperately trying to resist the urge to ask strangers for a hug.  I was frantically texting everyone who knew about the situation, looking for comfort and advice.  I am so thankful to everyone who was there for me in that moment.  Most especially, I am grateful for the text which just said “go train.”

So, that is exactly what I did.  I dried my eyes, kinda, and went and did a workout.  I had no plan, and I would probably struggle to tell you what I actually did.  I just kept doing rep after rep, set after set until the tears stopped threatening.  By the time I was finished training, I was numb, depleted and really ready for a glass of wine!  I spent a lot of time over the weekend reflecting, and comfort eating.  I gave myself licence to lick my metaphorical wounds.  My sister had suggested dipping cookie dough into peanut butter, while sitting in my “depressing gown,” but I thought that was a bridge too far!

As many of the great philosophers say, we are not judged by what happens to us in life, but by how we respond to it.  My initial response, and one which I am still drawn to, was a desire to curl up in a little ball and cry about how unfair it all is.  My secondary impulse was to say “screw them,” and adopt a work to rule policy.  You know, do what is required of me, no more, no less and leave on time every night!  The irony is, that enticing as these action plans are, neither of them would serve me very well.

I have decided instead to be the bigger man.  I will continue to do my job as well as I am able, and conduct myself in a way I can be proud of.   I realise that in a few months, this situation will not seem as big or as important as it does now.  It might even turn out to be a blessing in disguise, who knows.  Another important thing for me to try to remember, is that I am not a victim, powerless to withstand the corporate machine.  I am not trapped.  I have choices and that is extremely empowering.  Even if my choice is to do nothing, to let the dust settle and the emotion die down before rushing to judgement, I am still doing that on my own terms.

Every one of us is unfortunately going to experience set backs in life.  Whether they are career related or not.  Being upset and disappointed by them is not a sign of weakness, it merely means you were invested and you trusted.  Curve balls will be thrown at us in our relationships and with our health as well, and learning to adapt to them, without compromising yourself, is a difficult lesson indeed.  As Rudyard Kipling counsels “If you can meet both triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.”  Events in life don’t happen to us, they just happen!  It is up to us to decide whether to let them bolster us or break us.

As for me, I am very much in wait and see mode.  A naturally emotive person, this is a struggle for me.  However, if I act in haste, I am sure to repent at my leisure.  Watch this space.  Be well xxx

Advertisements
Articles

Round Table Nights!

My husband and I are approaching the tenth anniversary of buying our house.  Looking back on it now, we were impossibly young.  We were completely overwhelmed by all the decisions, which needed to be made, and in our haste to get it all “finished” we made plenty of terrible choices.

One such choice, was with our dining set.  I wanted one with 6 chairs.  I was moving away from my home town, and was worried about being lonely, so imagined we would be thronged with visitors!  We had originally ordered a 5′ table, but when it arrived (and was assembled) we realised they had sent us the 6′ one in error.  Not wanting to cause a fuss, I convinced myself that it was “fine.”  It wasn’t!  The thing is completely enormous.  Totally unsuitable for two people (and one very large dog.)  I have hated it from day one and have lost count of the number of bruises its corners have bestowed upon me.

Last week, I made the decision to replace it.  I have ordered a small, round table (no more corners) and four chairs.  I am delighted.  I know the new one will be far more suitable for our limited dining needs.  The space it frees up in the kitchen will be invaluable, especially when trying to wrangle a muddy, wet dog coming in the back door.  Why then, do I also feel guilty?  Why do I find myself trying to rationalise the decision?  Even if I didn’t hate the original one, replacing it after a decade can hardly be considered frivilous.   So, why am I having such a hard time letting it go?

There will be times in life when such objects no longer serve us.  They don’t necessarily need to be broken or worn out to have outlived their usefulness.  Learning to recognise when this has happened, and how to let these items go, is definitely something I am going to have to work on.  For me, I think it is a fear of appearing wasteful, wanton and ungrateful, which causes me to hang onto things longer than I perhaps should.  Marie Kondo advises that when we come to make these decisions, we should thank the items for their service to us, and let them go.  Yes, it sounds a little silly, but I truly think it helps.

It is a similar situation when it comes to our habits and even our relationships.  There will be times when it no longer makes sense to do something, which we may have been doing for years, or even decades.  If we remain open to learning and growing, we will inevitably come to understand that maybe the path we are on is not the best one. Perhaps it never was, or maybe the landscape has shifted since our journey began.  Either way, allowing yourself to change direction is an extremely empowering thing.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that we should change course willy nilly, but being rigidly fixed on a set point, can really restrict us.  I remember being in University.  I absolutely hated it.  For the entire time I was there, I was miserable.  It had such a negative affect on me that by the time I graduated, I was physically and emotionally in a terrible state.  I became deeply depressed and more or less gave up eating.  Not through a desire to lose weight, but because I simply couldn’t have been bothered.  Most days I would eat one meal, consisting of a fried egg, two slices of toast and half a tomato.  By the time I approached my final exams, I weighed just 46kg (102lbs.)  I firmly believe that this phase in my life is where my chequered relationship with food began.

I recall, at the time my mother saying to me “Arwen, you have more staying power than anyone I have ever known.”  I thought to myself that this must be a good thing.  Surely setting a course and sticking to it no matter what is admirable and right?  It is only with the benefit of hindsight that I understand how wrong I was.  It was cowardly to continue to bang my head against a brick wall with something so clearly wrong for me.  It would have been far braver to accept I had made a mistake, and walk away with my mind and body in tact.

Even with our relationships, knowing when to walk away is a skill worth learning.  In all human relationships, there needs to be give and take.  Obviously this ratio will fluctuate during the course of the relationship, depending on where both people are in their lives.  However, if you get to the stage with someone where you feel like it is completely one sided, it might be time to ask yourself “what am I getting out of this?”  That might sound completely selfish, but if the alternative is that you end up feeling hurt, resentful and angry then the hard questions need to be asked.

If the person is important to you, then tell them how you feel.  They might have no idea that have been taking you for granted.  Asking for what you need from people is a mature and grown up thing to do, but it is never easy!  If you don’t feel able to address it, perhaps the only thing to do is walk away.  This doesn’t mean you need to have a huge confrontation and fall out with them.  You can simply stop being the first to text, call, or visit.  To put it plainly, if they want you, they know where you are.

I am a sentimental soul at heart, and my connections to people, places and things have always been important to me.  I find letting go extremely difficult.  However, I am beginning to learn that being overly attached to the past, can only serve to prevent me from moving forward.  My new table arrives on Monday and I am so looking forward to it.  It will serve as a daily reminder that sometimes it is okay to leave the past behind.  After all, even King Arthur knew that a round table was better!  Be well xxx