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
1 thought on “Work to Live?”
Hi Arwen. I think I know what situation you have at the moment. What I can say is this is your life lesson. you will get through it quickly:) Good luck