It’s Friday evening. I’m officially on leave. And I’m kinda freaking out.
I’m not good at this leave stuff. I know all the words, the mantras, the psychology of leave. It’s really important.
I am acutely aware that I have an over-developed sense of responsibility. It’s actually necessary, but currently I am point of contact for over 800 customer organisations. And there is always a whole lot of bad shit going down that my primary contacts and their team need support with. I know my colleagues will handle it, but I’m a wee bit connected…
It’s my birthday tomorrow, which compounds things. I like to reflect, usually, but this year has me off- balance somewhat. Still, I’ll make the most of it.
I’ve decided to make a plan for the next week:
The value proposition of going out of town hasn’t stacked up. So this year I’m staying home, and spending the $ on fine dining and several of Auckland’s top 50 restaurants rather than random AirBnB’s.
I’ve also set a goal of 10000 steps per day for the next 7 days.
And a goal of mastering making tortillas from scratch.
It would be nice to share with a someone, but that’s not where I am right now. Perhaps next year.
Today I booked some Leave. While this probably doesn’t sound all that interesting to most, it’s actually created slight anxiety in Simon-land.
I’m out of practice with taking non-stats time. In 2020 I only had one day off…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hero complex (still, you can refer to me as a hero if you want/need to), I just have spent too much time by myself these last couple of years. So more time by myself, albeit in a different setting, isn’t that appealing.
Which leads me to options. What are they? And no I won’t be flying to Australia – I’m still aware of budgets…
I’m considering a road trip from Christchurch to Dunedin. A roadie to Hawke’s Bay. Haven’t been to Gisborne for a lifetime.
Suggestions welcomed. Please. (Travel is in early June).
My mind is conditioned to think in Quarters after years in business. And this weekend, happily, coincides with the conclusion of one Quarter and the beginning of a new one.
Reflecting. The first Quarter was about recovery. My work is challenging at the best of times, and at the beginning of last Quarter, I was broken. Utterly broken. Probably was a bit a shit with my closest and loved. I had nothing to give and really needed people around to fill my emotional tank. That filling came from unexpected places for the most part, and I’m grateful.
I’m always grateful. I’m very conscious of those who add.
Where I am today is a lifetime of progress from where I was 3 months ago. I’m more content.
Happier? Hard to say really. I’m happy within myself, but I suspect it’s time I opened my borders…
Reflecting. Work is still challenging, but the environment is completely different. I have the same ridiculously difficult conversations. Supporting people facing horrific situations. But now I have support to do so. So I’m much more effective. (Pro tip – find you people that understand and love you). I’m very grateful that my colleagues are now able to bring their full authentic selves to the game.
So, mental is sorted. What about physical? I’m managing to maintain my stepcount. But I suspect it’s time I faced my nemesis – a gym membership – again… the key? I suspect I need a challenge and people I love doing it with me.
Spiritual? An important part of human existence (arguably). An apropos given it’s Easter. I’m very spiritually aware, given my lifetime and background, but I despise hypocrisy and control. And I see too much of this in human constructs.
I value conversations. I’ve been significantly influenced by those following Hindu dharma in recent years. I’m always open to explore other faiths, understandings, philosophies. I’m not sure that I can embrace atheism, given my experiences, and agnosticism doesn’t really resonate.
Please suggest reading material for me to consider. I will read.
So finding my Ikigai… I’m actually very close. I love my work. I love my colleagues. I’m challenged every day.
I have been worried that my heart has been closed. Shut down. perhaps it’s time to open up again. Risk hurt and disappointment, but be alive. Connect with a one.
So… this next Quarter. What does success look like? What does progress look like?
Ok. We need to talk. I know I’m strong and resilient. I also know that I am severely impacted by the events of 2020 and now.
I know that most people are also impacted, and many people are simply unaware that they are impacted.
I work in a business that provides mental health support. I talk to people everyday about how to support their people, so I’m acutely aware of the world and also acutely aware of self.
I am not quite right. And this is Ok. It’s important to acknowledge. It’s important to be able to talk about it.
I’ve noticed a few things that are subtly dictating my behavior and how I interact.
I am struggling with going ‘out’. I can’t do crowds at the moment. For example, I lasted an hour at the Sky City 90’s party last week. The crowds sucked, Annie Crummer was cool. She’s still got it. Go Annie!
I have increased frustration with my friends. Plans made get cancelled or rainchecked at the last minute so there’s no time to make new plans. Therefore I end up staying home. I can’t take myself out solo to see the Viaduct. Side note: What the hell does one do solo in the Viaduct anyway? Especially when one struggles to interact. (NZ culture looks at single, middle-aged white men out and about with a certain unhelpful filter).
My self-diagnosis (note: I’m NOT a clinically trained professional) would suggest I’m not depressed. My day-to-day is fine. I’m not anxious. I’m just not that interested in being in the world.
I do have friends that care. I could have seen Russell Howard tonight (for example) but the idea of being in a closed room full of strangers? Nope. Couldn’t do it.
I’ve been invited to watch the SuperBowl on Monday with an American colleague. Would love to. But there are strangers there. I don’t have the energy. So I’ll stay home, make chilli and drink Budweiser, and watch it alone.
My tolerance levels have reduced. I get grumpy with friends who tell me about their fun evenings out (having not invited me) with people they’ve told me about, introduced me to, and then actively prevented me from getting to know. And then when I point this out I get ghosted for a week. So that’s cool.
It’s not all a self-involved whine though. Tomorrow will be a good day. I’m going to have fun with a new group of friends. And I’m actively forcing myself to lower my guards. Be open to new connections.
Mental health is a weird beast to manage. As we all have varying levels of physical fitness, we have varying levels of mental fitness.
The key for me is to recognise that I’m not 100%, to focus on what I can manage and improve, and to be kind to myself about the rest.
Some of you may be aware that I work in a business that provides support to people dealing with various life challenges. My role is fairly frontline – I help and guide managers and business owners dealing with some fairly tough situations within their staff.
(Side note: business managers and owners care deeply for their staff. They’re not dicks)
I’ve never finished a work year so utterly broken and empty. 2020 was a bitch. And we all need to be aware that 2021 will be challenging as there are lingering effects. Don’t be complacent. Don’t stop caring for each other.
This year started. I was prepared to resign. You know, brokenness, emptiness… not a good way to start a year. Actually, it took me ten days in the break before I was able to actually have a normal human interaction with another person. God, I have been so impacted.
However, as the company I work for was acquired in December, things are changed. My conversations with new GM, new CEO, give me optimism.
I’ve noted today that I’m feeling happy.
It’s not a feeling I’ve had for many many months.
As I write this, I’m optimistic. Honestly I’ve become a bit of a recluse… avoiding people where those catch-ups would probably have been helpful. I’m now forcing myself to go ‘out’ because I’ve realised that in the last two months I’ve only been out of my apartment past 7pm only a few times. Not ideal.
So, I guess to all you readers, feel free to challenge me. Get me out.
Looking back, I have to say that I have learned much about myself this year. I’ve had to dig deep – deeper than ever before. I understand my strength, my resilience. My vulnerabilities.
It has been a year where the sources of support I’d usually expect to be able to draw from were reduced or absent. It’s been a year where I finished utterly broken.
I’d love to venture into more detail about my work but that really isn’t a great idea. I can however say that in 8 days of recovery I’ve gotten from 0% to about 50% of where I need to be.
This has been a year of some significant milestones and achievements, and whilst I do take time to pause and reflect on these, my residual energy levels aren’t yet high enough to properly enjoy these moments. These accomplishments.
This year, my Christmas celebrations were muted. A few hours with my teenagers was great, but unusually for me – no decorations. No excitement. No anticipation. Nothing really to look forward to. Plans fell through. And so I’m doing everything I can to rest up and recharge. I’m doing everything I can to clear my head and my more importantly, my dreams. I have been replaying and revisiting work conversations which isn’t helpful. I can report that with the acquisition of a new pillow, my rest last night was full. No work dreaming.
I will be ok (I’m very self-aware) but it’s taking a lot longer to recover than the few days I thought it would take. Which highlights how much care I need to take.
So, what am I doing?
Focusing on gratitude is key for me.
I’m grateful for my few close friends who kept a watchful eye on me who this year. I’m grateful for my colleagues who checked in on me – and I checked on them. The mutual support has been so so important and so very good.
I’m grateful for the new people that I’ve met this year. I’ve noticed that people in my circle have slowly exited – through isolation, busy-ness and distraction mostly – so I’ve had to breathe and start again. It really is quite tiring getting to know people enough to trust them with ‘Simon-world’… but to those I’ve let in, thank you. Thank you. My guards are coming down slowly and you have helped me immeasurably.
I’m grateful that this year I’ve developed some better habits: regular walks, smaller portions. I cancelled my gym membership (after 18 months of only using their bathrooms). Perhaps 2021 will see a re-motivation… but knowing me it’s unlikely. Gyms really aren’t my natural environment.
I’m grateful that I’ve ticked quite a few things off my various life to-do lists.
I’m grateful that my teenagers have thrived and are succeeding. It’s good to see them happy.
Continuing the family theme, watching my adoptive parents having to deal with enforced change due to age in the last few months has been draining and impactful, but seeing their grace and dignity through these challenges is also inspiring. I do need to acknowledge the effort my sister has put in to help them through. She has definitely gone above and beyond. Being able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary a week or so ago was great.
Seeing this makes me appreciate the time I have.
So here’s to the New Year. The trick is to recognise that it’s pretty much going to be more of the same. So I’m planning accordingly. I will continue to tick things off my lists. I will re-open myself. I will continue to explore. Explore nature, explore food, explore New Zealand. I will continue to Dad.
Goodness. I’ve just finished my 7th work day back in the office.
It’s been strange. Whilst it has been good reconnecting with my people (note: our work lives are incredibly important for our purpose and mental health), I’ve found myself still needing to create space.
So I go home for lunch. I’m lucky in that I live a 1 minute walk from the office. I’m sure it would be fine eating in the office but I just need the space.
I’ve enjoyed starting to reconnect with customers. Having meetings offsite. Driving around again. The fact is, we are really busy right now and the mental health of our ‘team of five million is frayed’. Supporting my customers to look after their teams amidst making some challenging calls is draining.
I’m very conscious of the need to protect my own health.
How have you all found things? Happy to chat if you need. Be kind to yourself and each other. Be tolerant.
I think this will be my last reckons on isolation. We are now at level 2 so things are a bit more relaxed.
It’s been hard. The last 7 weeks or so.
My day job is in mental health and wellbeing. Every day I have had conversations with managers and business owners. Hearing their stories. Their pain. Their concerns and worries. Talking to people with their voices full of emotion. Full of tears.
My problem has been that I have been giving of me. Pouring out my emotional tank to encourage others. The lockdown has prevented me from actively refilling it and by the time Level 3 ended, I was spent. Drained.
I can honestly say that I have been impacted by my isolation.
Thursday night I made an attempt to go ‘out’. I made it as far as buying food (ya gotta support local) and then dashing home.
Friday night I went to a ‘welcome back’ gathering at a fave place. It was actually really good. Met some people. Got a hug. The first physical contact with a human being since March 23rd. It was sooooo very good.
I only managed 90 minutes.
Reintegration to society and people contact will take time. As strong as I am. As resilient as I am, I’ve been impacted.
And I know that every single person in this country has been impacted.
We need to be aware of each other. And kind. And tolerant. We are not going to be reacting to things normally for quite some time.
When you talk, listen. Hear the underlying story if you can. And just care. And love.
So, here’s to us. We now have a tale to tell our grandkids in a few decades hence. Be strong and be vulnerable. Allow yourself time to heal. You will.
I’m absolutely fine during the week. I have my work routines and tasks. I’m having good energy meetings and phone calls, and feel like I’m helping people.
But then get to the weekend, and I am finding it incredibly difficult to distract myself from focusing on the fact that the last human contact I have had was a month ago. A handshake.
I miss handshakes. And hugs.
On the plus side, I’m better at calling people for a chat. Video-calling people to see faces. I’ve had some fun and interesting conversations.
It’s really hard reprogramming yourself. Reprogramming behaviours, expectations. Switching from drawing energy from connection with people to drawing it from connection with solitude. I’m fortunate in that I seem to be able to move from extroversion to introversion when needed.
But it’s not easy.
It will be interesting to see what the Level announcement will be today. I suspect it will be staying the same until after Anzac Day. Mainly because people are starting to relax their lockdown behaviour in Level 4, and a move to Level 3 will trigger more behaviour that is contrary to the spirit of New Zealand’s response: Stay at home. Stay local. Don’t drive anywhere.
I could be wrong though.
At any rate, Level 4, Level 3 makes no difference to my bubble-of-one. So what will be will be.