I cannot over emphasize the importance of my mentor, S2. I first got to know S2 when she was briefly my manager and she has travelled my journey with me for about 6 or 7 years. Her support is unparalleled. I initially asked her to be my mentor when I was significantly challenged at work, challenged to the extent that eventually I tied myself in knots and ended up in hospital with chest pain. I was mortified. I took time out from work (about 3 months) and then did not return to the position I had loved for four years. In the three months I spent a lot of time by the sea, I took photos, framed them and hung them on the walls of my home and a townhouse that my son, S, was living in while he was studying at university. I basically spent a lot of time in or around the sea and tried to heal myself.
I certainly took my ‘failure’ to manage as a weakness and though I bounced into my new workplace, I was sad beyond imagination that I could not just ‘make it work’ in my old workplace. It has taken me until recently to realise that I had things to learn about myself that could only be learned by accepting what had happened.
S2 has been a sounding board on multiple occasions, so many occasions that I could not count them. S2 has sat through some angst ridden conversations with me and I always come out feeling better. She doesn’t generally express opinions but I can tell when she is comfortable with my decisions (or ramblings) and when she thinks they are questionable. S2 has been a voice of reason for me when I was anything but reasonable. I value her opinion and support as much as I value anyone’s. Our relationship blossomed into something more than professional and I love her dearly (in a purely platonic way). S2, her husband, my husband and I are now firm life time friends and the four of us would do anything for each other.
Now, I am a princess, that is to say, I have princess genes and I have always thought that my way is the right way or at the very least the best way. My daughter, L, has these genes too and she will ring me to run by me a circumstance that she finds herself in and ask whether her reaction is justified or her over active ‘princess genes’. I have commented to her that I am proud of the fact that she can do this and that she is happy for me to help her with her feelings. Sad really, that I have, until recently, not been able to do this for myself!
Interestingly when I asked S1, my psychologist, recently what I needed to do to stay healthy, the conversation went like this,
S1: “You could acknowledge that other people have a perspective.”
Me: “So you are saying that I have to admit that sometimes other people are right?”
S1: “No, you just need to acknowledge that there is more than one way to see things.”
When I asked my man, G, whether I had an inflated opinion of my own perspective, he looked at me incredulously and said, “I would never in a million years have been game to say that to you!” Now probably the old me might have been upset, incensed even, that he would say that to me.
I remember distinctly when I asked him once why I have so much problem with doing what I am asked / told to do, he said, “Because no one outside of work is ever game to tell you what to do. It’s a very foreign thing for you.”
I remember a couple of years ago when I had a 360 degree feedback from my team at work, one of the comments was that I don’t take criticism well. My immediate response to myself was, “How could they say that?”
Hmmm, I’m thinking, there’s a pattern here. I guess that the fact that I remember all of these things adds more fuel to the fire! Whatever way I look at it, I have certainly mellowed my thought processes and am much more reticent before making a decision about what is right, wrong or in a shade of grey somewhere between. Reading this back, I sound impossible and I am sure that some people would say I am, but generally my thought processes went along the lines I described but my actions were generally much more compliant. I am sure that the incongruity between thoughts and actions contributed both to my stress and depression. Because I clearly had to be more compliant than my thought processes would indicate, my mind was often conflicted.
I have disengaged on a large scale from a number of my life circumstances in order to cure myself. I feel no sadness about this disengagement as my health is infinitely more important to me than any engagement.
I have always been highly competitive and ambitious. I have always loved my workplaces and committed fully to them. Huge organisational change has occurred in my workplace over the past 18 months and now my workplace conflicts my values to an extent that I find very challenging. I have now managed to balance a level of disengagement with my commitment to my profession (and excellence in general) to an extent that I go to work feeling good about it and myself. As things conflict with my values I am learning to step back and acknowledge that although things are not being done the way I would choose, they are not necessarily being done wrongly, just differently.
Stepping back from ambition has been huge for me and so very healing. I have always looked over the fence at what I don’t have and felt envy. I feel now that I wasted a lot of time and energy on envy and that contentment is worth more than anything I could have or be.