Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gratitude and Bitterness

Jon Swift asked his readers about their best blog posts from 2008, and bfp posed the question, "What was important to you this year?" They each got me thinking about what I went through - and put myself through - this year with all the hand-wringing and soul searching and general anxiety.

I spent way too much time forgetting how unbelievably fortunate I am in so many ways. Not only that I have all the material things I need (and many more I don't), but I'm healthy, and I'm safe. Those things alone make me richer than most people in the world.

On top of that, I have such amazing people in my life. The Husband, his family, my family, my friends - all of you are kind and decent and smart and funny and a joy to be around. I can't even complain about my in-laws. It almost makes me feel guilty to be able to say that.

I am disgusted with how much time I spent unhappy and whining over a job. I know my brain was kind of broken at the time, but looking back with a clearer head it's hard to understand why the idea of getting another job if I didn't like the one had was so impossible.

The only option I felt like I had was to suffer until I went crazy and then quit altogether and hide away from any responsibility at all. Goodness knows the isolation, pointlessness, and feelings of inadequacy engendered by unemployment did wonders for my mental health. On the other hand, it did give me the opportunity to forget how sucky it felt to have a job and remember how sucky it felt not to.

The best thing to come out of that whole weirdness is a better sense of proportion when it comes to the importance of any one particular job. For now I really like the job I have, and I hope I like it for a long time, but if I don't, I can (drumroll, please) look for another one! Feeling trapped is a miserable situation, and I can choose not to feel that way. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

So anyway... Here comes the bitter part. I was reading some old posts (not that there were that many this year) and noticed a line from this entry:
My boss supports me and works with me to be sure that my position is fulfilling to me and allows me to use my strengths for the good of the agency.
I don't really remember writing this, but I can remember feeling it. And I can remember why, too. That boss of mine was border-line emotionally abusive. She would sneer and criticize and roll her eyes at me nearly every day until I was ready to cry, and then just before I ran sobbing from the building, she would be all sympathetic and encouraging.

At that point I would be so caught off-guard and grateful for the bone she threw me, I would walk out of her office feeling like she was the bestest person ever and filled with determination to work super hard so I could deserve her wonderfulness. She'd start being mean and critical again such a little bit at a time, I wouldn't even realize it until I was right back at wanting to jump out a window.

These crappy mind games nearly pushed this anxiety patient right over the edge, but I was so wrapped up in guilt and self-blame for all my internal issues, I wasn't even registering the external problems that were exacerbating the crazy. I have a friend who still works there, and she described working with the same boss like being in an abusive relationship, so I know it's not just my oversensitivity or bitterness coloring my recollection.

My old boss is pretty awful, and I'm not sure why she chose to work in a profession that involves caring about people. It's not that I don't have respect for her. She's wicked smart and has the instincts of an alpha wolf. It's just that those talents could be better put to use in law or politics or maybe organized crime.

But, the point is that she is not my problem any more. I'm feeling really optimistic about 2009, and, as I said over at bfp's place, that's not the manic side-effects of Lexapro withdrawal talking this time.


Sparkling Red said...

I work in a field that "cares" for people, and I find a lot of people get into caregiver professions because it gives them a sense of power. I've seen it in quite a few nurses. It's sad, sick, and dysfunctional, but that's some people for ya.

Abi said...

Oddly, as Sparkling Red says, my mother in law (who I also like, teehee!) got into this exact position with a boss that sounds like yours, and like my mother - and she is in a caring profession too.

Bosses like these can make your working life utter hell - it's certainly not an insignificant problem. Talking about it and working through it, gaining perspective and insight... that was all an important part of 2008 by the sound of it.

Good luck for 2009 x