Sweating the Small Stuff

I’ve always considered myself to be very flexible to change, I go with the flow and just get on with life as things around me change. But occasionally there are small things, that in reality have nothing to do with me, but I become so used to their presence that I actually experience anxiety when they aren’t there.

Some years ago when I was studying, I used to park in a multi level carpark, and 3 levels up was some kind of coupe under a protective cover parked in the same place, every day. One day, I’d miscounted how many levels I was on, and thought that the car wasn’t there. I felt a rush of panic coursing through me that this incongruity could destabilise my world and all that I knew. It only subsided as I rounded the next corner and saw it still parked there.

I have no idea who the owner of the car was, or the circumstances surrounding it being parked in a public carpark with a car cover on it. But the thought of it not being there had a terrifying effect. It had no bearing on my life at all, but I became used to things being just so, and it was a constant in my ever changing world.

There are lots of little things like this that make me panic and anxious, and yet I seem to cruise through massive upheavals with little trouble. It’s kind of odd isn’t it?

Illness and Depression

One of the things I struggle with when I’m physically sick is depression. Right now I’m fighting off a sinus & chest infection and I’m taking up a lot of my energy to not spiral down into the mental dumps. The thing that bothers me the most is that I’m forced to take time off work. I hate having to take time off work for illness, it’s just something that wracks me with guilt even though I legitimately shouldn’t be at work.

Here is how it’s going in my mind – “It’s only a little cold, man up and go to work”. But in reality it’s not just a “little cold” in reality I’ve been up half the night coughing and gasping for air. I can’t talk for any period of time without descending into a painful coughing fit. My lungs and stomach ache from all the coughing. The doctor has prescribed me antibiotics, and ordered me to have bed rest at least until Friday.

And yet, I still dragged myself into work today because I hate taking a “sick day”. I’m not a workaholic, I’m really really not. I just have an impossibly high personal work ethic that doesn’t include sick leave. But apparently it doesn’t matter what I think I can do – my boss has (and I’d say rightly so if it were anyone else but me) sent me home. And while my body is glad for it – my soul-eater aspect is starting to needle it’s way into my consciousness and attempt to convince me that the people at work think I’m just slacking off, and are talking about me behind my back. That all I’m going to be remembered for is the girl who faked being sick.

Yes I know it’s ridiculous, but I know myself well enough to know that the thoughts I have aren’t always logical and definitely not necessarily healthy. But I also know how powerful my mind is, and how it can make me believe practically anything it wants me to. It’s really quite annoying on one hand, knowing one thing but on the other still persisting in believing something totally different. This is where the fracturing of my mind into different aspects is really stressful.

Please excuse this abrupt ending, I need to lie down.

I’m Party Animal

As I wrote previously I went out last week for a Christmas Party, got more drunk than I had any right to be, and stayed out till like 4am. Next weekend I have my work Christmas Party. I don’t think I’ll be drinking but I’m definitely going – I’ve agreed to give a mate a ride there and back to force myself to attend! And for the first time since gosh I can’t remember (maybe 1999! haha) I have some tentative plans for New Years Eve.

Look out party girl Karlee is on the loose!!

Not really, the NYE plans aren’t huge. I’m going to my brother and his girlfriend’s place – they are having some friends over to celebrate the new year. It will be the first time since having my children that I won’t be with them. Their dad is going to take them to see his parents a few days after Christmas (they live in the country) and he’ll bring them back sometime early January.

I normally spend New Year’s Eve in bed asleep, helps stave off the depression of ringing in another year that will probably end up being as shitty as the previous one. It’s usually just another night … but this time it’s probably going to be awkward as heck when all the couples invited to my brothers place give their significant others big New Years kisses. Oh cripes if I don’t stop thinking about that I’ll end up making up some terribly transparent excuse to not go. And I can’t do that, my brother already worries about me and is over protective enough as it is! He’d probably kick down my door and drag me to his place if I made up an excuse.

At least the NYE thing will be casual. I have to dress up for the Christmas function this weekend. The theme is like cocktail (or something like that) with a “touch of bling” if there was ever a word I hated it is bling. If I was a smart ass I’d turn up with a diamond grill in my mouth and a giant gangster chain round my neck. But I’m not that brave, so I got a couple of understated pieces of jewellery and a pair of silver shoes to wear with a black dress. The shoes are quite pretty, not really the kind of thing I’d go for in usual circumstances – but I think they’ll fit the theme really well. Plus they fit my obscenely giant feet!

But I think 3 parties will tide me over until the end of next year! haha!

Last Friday Night

Man am I feeling really seedy today. I overdid the whole “loosen up and don’t be such an uptight stick in the mud” resolution that I’d made for myself.

Last night I went out. I work for a bank selling General Insurance – and the company that underwrites the insurance products hosted their annual Christmas Party for all of their business partners that work in the same financial sector as us.

I decided that I was going to treat myself and booked a hotel room in the city for the night that was near to the bar. I figured I would take total advantage of a night off from the kids and pamper myself. My plan was to go to the party for a couple of hours and then go back to the hotel room and indulge in some room service and a couple of movies.

Something put paid to that idea. I can’t pinpoint what it was exactly but there was free drinks and food and I was having some good conversation with my workmates. The thing is that I’m not really a drinker – I’ll have one maybe two drinks once in blue moon and be over it and not drink any alcohol for months. Last night I somehow managed to get started and found myself knocking back the drinks. Not just one type of alcoholic drink either – I went from wine, to bourbon, to scotch, to rum, to vodka – I was drinking whatever the person I was talking to was drinking (except beer, never beer)

Four or five drinks in, and I decided I needed a cigarette. I do not smoke, never technically been a smoker. Years ago I went through a period of time where I’d have a couple when I went out but that only lasted a couple months. I was never a legit smoker. I bummed a cig from my mate, and it just snowballed from there. I must have had near on 15 drinks in total last night, and probably around 10 cigarettes too.

Everyone at the party got well smashed including yours truly. And yet I really surprised myself because I didn’t get silly or trashy or sick. I spent the whole night merry but still very much aware and on good behaviour. I started conversations with people who work at other banks – I was very nicely loosened up and introverted Karlee was nowhere in sight.

After the party all the guys and girls from my work headed to the casino to continue the night. I was outside having a cig with my team mate (he’s my work bestie) and somehow he and I found ourselves stuck in a conversation with this random couple. It was really bizarre because he and I are both introverts (he’s INFJ and I’m INFP) and yet we found ourselves in really heavy conversation with this couple for a long time. Both he and I were quite puzzled at how we ended up talking to them when we finally managed to extricate ourselves.

I’m super proud that I managed to get out of my shell and talk to strangers. But I’m a bit sad that it took so much alcohol to get me there. And I really did not sleep well when I got back to the hotel room. I had a massive headache as I started to sober up. I also started to feel sick from the smell of the cigarettes and the taste of ash in my mouth. I had to shower, and I brushed my teeth like four times. Then climbed I into bed with a cold and wet face washer over my eyes and forehead. Eventually the headache left but I started feeling really dizzy and sick. Lying down made me dizzy, sitting up made me dizzy. It was horrible.

I finally managed to get some sleep. But all day long I’ve felt my stomach churning, and still can’t get the smell of cigarettes out of my nostrils, and ash in my mouth. I feel so sick even thinking about alcohol or cigarette smoke. So I’ve definitely changed my mind at this stage and won’t be going to our work Christmas Party. Not when it’s going to take me at least a week to recover from last night.

But I will say this – I had fun, even though I’m paying dearly for it today.

Picking Up Good Vibrations

I’m feeling a little bit loved today. A few of my colleagues at work were making a very impressive joint effort to get me to say yes to attending our works Christmas party next month. One of my teammates even said he’d give me a ride there and back! That is a big deal for an introvert like me.

A lot of my introversion stems from my severe lack of self esteem. I am constantly terrified that people don’t like me. Even at work though I get along with people, I have this part of me that still believes that none of them would really want to engage with me in a social situation. So because of this fear I tend to avoid social functions at work. Ironically, this probably makes people think I’m stuck up and not really want to socialise with me.

For people to genuinely try to convince me to come (not just a half hearted “oh you should go” and leave it at that) makes me actually want to go. And gives me warm feelings of actually being accepted. This is fantastic because my mind is evil to me and constantly gives me an irrational nagging worry that I’m only tolerated and not accepted.

The burning question now is – can I actually bite the bullet and make myself go?

The Odd One Out.

One of my work colleagues became engaged on the weekend. Her boyfriend took her for a weekend away to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the centre of Australia. It was all very romantic. When she came into work today all the females (except me) in my department practically swarmed her and were cooing and fawning over the ring and the proposal story for ages.

Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely very happy for her and I think it’s lovely that her fiancé (I’d better call him that now!) made it all very special and romantic for her. At the same time, I don’t really get why women suddenly feel the need to gush and get all sappy over hearing of someone else’s engagement. I was watching them all out of the corner of my eye (I was on a call with a customer, I am at work after all!) and I was really quite bemused to see these otherwise professional women start squealing and carrying on like a pack of high school girls, the pitch of their voices getting nauseatingly high and baby like.

I’m sitting here laughing now, because reading over this one might get the misunderstanding that I’m bitter or jealous. It’s not that at all, it’s just that I’ve never been a ‘girly’ girl, and cooing and squealing and all that rot just isn’t me. But I do sort of feel like an odd one out, like there is something different about me in situations like this. I don’t behave like a “normal” girl. I can’t. It’s not me. I just kind of see those over the top reactions as a little put-on and pretentious.

For my part – I gave her a heartfelt congratulations, and even gave her a warm hug (and I’m certainly not a touchy feely person – so any hug from me is a rare event!). I thought her ring was gorgeous and told her so. I did this all in my own voice, the one that is filled with enthusiasm and happiness of course, but it’s still my regular pitch and decidedly no gushing. I promise it’s definitely not cold or unfeeling, but at the same time it’s not falsified or overdone.

Does that make me weird? Maybe. Truthfully, it makes me a little sad that I’m not like the other girls. I sometimes wonder what people think of me because I’m not like other girls. But, I am who I am. I can’t change that any more than I can change the weather.

Sometimes though, I wish I could change the weather…

I Went Out Last Night.

I haven’t been feeling so great lately. I’ve been in a bit of a depression, and haven’t wanted to do a whole lot. It’s been hard enough to get up and go to work the past two days. I’ve just wanted to be a hermit and sleep my life away.

But last night, I did something different. I went out to dinner. It was a sort of work function – one of the companies that my work partners with (they are underwriters for the general insurance we sell) wanted to thank us for meeting our sales targets over the past financial year. So they treated the insurance team (including a few people who are now in different departments) to a celebratory dinner. Normally, I would make up an excuse and avoid this kind of outing like the plague. Especially when feeling the way I’ve been feeling. However, I didn’t make up an excuse, not even at the last minute, not even when it meant sticking around town by myself for an hour & 1/2 after I’ve finished work, waiting for the rest of the team to finish so we could have this dinner.

I went. And I talked. I made conversation and I listened to conversation. I stayed until the end. And I even enjoyed myself! It was a very pleasant evening, and I am glad I went. I am very proud of myself for not avoiding this evening when it would have been so easy to just find an excuse not to go.

Sitting around a table with eleven other people in a social context isn’t usually a situation I am comfortable with. At work, even though we do chit chat a little between calls, it’s a very different experience to sitting around a table socialising. It’s difficult to explain, but when it’s work related I can deal because there are parameters for the conversations I have. There is a work context – I am conversing about work matters so it’s clear and straightforward. I have a purpose for speaking, I don’t have to try to maintain or participate in idle chatter. In work related conversation you know what the boundaries are – I don’t have to wonder if they’ll be bored with what I am saying, or whether they will laugh at my joke or think it stupid.

When it’s a social situation there aren’t those parameters – communication relies on organic flow of conversation. It is unscripted, and purposeless, and requires instantaneous reactions to words being spoken. Because I always have to think (or maybe overthink) things through – I can end up either making the conversation stilted and uncomfortable while I think of a response, or in a group situation I remain silent and possibly seem aloof or disinterested.

But last night, I muddled through. Mostly listening to everyone else but I did talk too! Of course me being me, today I need the entire day of solitude to unwind, gather my thoughts, reenergise, etc. So I am lucky I have today off work. But even though I am feeling wrung out, I have to say it was still worth it. I managed to relax a little bit and simply be, just for a moment.

Flattery Gets You Everywhere.

Sometimes I treat myself during my lunch break and pick one of the cafes near my work to eat at. The one I picked last Monday happens to have a really delicious BBQ beef ribs with Hickory Sauce that I really enjoy. The ribs are so tender they slide off the bone, and the sauce is smokey and spicy in exactly the perfect amounts.

My lunch break was later in the day (around 2pm) and by that time the restaurant was virtually empty except for me and one or two other patrons also dining alone. As I usually do in my lunch break, I sat there reading while I eat. Anyway at the end of my meal the manager came up to clear my plate away and asked me how lunch was. Of course my response was a very appreciative smile and confirmation that “It was really amazing!” … and he replies with “You’re amazing!” and a huge charming grin.

This is something that is really lovely about this restaurant – the staff all go out of their way to welcome you and make you feel like a special guest. One time one of the older guys who worked there asked me how I could be eating alone because I’m such a beautiful girl who should never eat alone. I think it must be a pre-requisite at the restaurant to be charming and make the customers feel special.

Mind you they don’t have to flatter me to get my business! The food there is great and I’d eat there every day if I could afford to!

Some of my work mates think I’m weird for wanting to dine alone, but I actually enjoy it. Being on the phones and in a busy office is exceptionally draining for me [see: My Empathy is Exhausting] and so I like to spend my lunch breaks with my nose stuck in a book drowning out the real world. I find that an hour, of losing myself in a fantasy world, recharges me enough to finish the last few hours at work without having an anxiety attack. I still need alone time after work, but at least I don’t fall down exhausted before the end of the day!

Common Courtesy isn’t so Common

I would like to tell a tale about two people who work together: I’ll call person one Kay and person two Doris. They both work dealing with customers over the phone.

Kay is a consummate professional. She has plenty of personal issues, including mental illness that has severely debilitated her in the past. However each and every day that she is at work she is polite, friendly, considerate and respectful to her customers and colleagues around her. It doesn’t matter how bad she feels, the professional face is never ever dropped.

Doris, well Doris is just a bitch. She too has problems in her personal life, no diagnosis of mental illness but she has other issues. The difference is that Doris lets her personal mood affect those around her. On a whim she will be snappish, terse, rude and unpleasant. She makes the workplace a very uncomfortable environment – her teammates are constantly walking on eggshells trying not to say anything that will cause her to snap.

Doris has had a number of complaints made against her by coworkers and even supervisors of other departments. She has had to have meetings with the managers to address her behaviour. If Doris doesn’t like something a customer has said, or the way they have said it, her demeanour will suddenly change and she goes very cold and unfriendly. She has been known to yell at coworkers if they did something that annoyed her, such as if they request that she ask nicely instead of demand that they switch lunches.

In start contrast, Kay hasn’t had a single complaint against her. In fact at least once or twice a week she is commended by a customer, or a colleague for her “exemplary” behaviour. This really amuses Kay because, despite her troubles, she doesn’t see what she does as out of the ordinary. She believes it is completely natural to show respect and courtesy to those around her. And on the days that she doesn’t think she can manage to maintain her professionalism – she takes the day off and hides from the world. Simple as that.

The character of Kay is me. I see it as my job to always treat others in the way that I want to be treated. It doesn’t matter how bad I feel inside – no one else around me is responsible for my feelings, they don’t deserve to be punished for it. I work with Doris (not her real name), and while I have compassion for her personal problems, I find it difficult to understand the way she behaves towards people who haven’t done anything to her. I can’t reconcile her behaviour towards customers or other staff, when there is no way while I still breathe that I would treat anyone I worked with, or worked for in that way.

I long for my life to be easy. And if I can do small things to make it easier – like be pleasant to others, not make others unnecessarily angry or agitated, and generally be well liked – then I will do that. It takes far less energy to be polite to people than it does to be rude or unpleasant.

And I know who in this story I would rather work with!