I'd heard the image first in connection with churches from a professor at St. Paul in KC -
churches are addictive and codependent organizations. Their drugs of choice are overwork, over-commitment and works-righteousness. And the only word they know is "more." Never "enough," only "more."I've found it's true with employers as well.
My employer is an addictive group. Their drugs of choice are over-work, over-commitment, hyper-responsibility, and fear of financial insecurity. They too only know "more." There are no limits; only deadlines. If you've committed to doing six insane things before the weekend, and it's Thursday night, you stay until they get done.
Last weekend, I melted down. Completely. Easter weekend - Jesus came out of the tomb, and I retreated to my apartment. The proximate cause was a combination of bowel and bladder problems that ensured I wasn't going to go far from a bathroom all weekend. But the underlying cause was that I was done. I'd said "yes" when I should have said "no," I'd over-committed myself, and I'd failed. Deadlnes missed, emails and reports not sent, you name it. And I just didn't care - which scared me, I think, more than anything. At some point, my new boss (a kindly, but ineffective man) came in asking for the fourth time in 15 minutes about a task that was ninth on the list. I all but shouted at him, "I'm trying - I really am! But I've got only so much bandwith, and there's a lot more requests than there is throughput around here!!"
By noon on Friday, I had every intention of going to 7:30 Good Friday services, but by 5:30, all I could think about was going home and going to bed.
I dragged myself out for a Saturday morning meeting - but by the time I got home (just in the nick of time...) the bladder problems helped me redefine the term frequent urination for the whole rest of the weekend. And mind and spirit just shut down as the physical discomfort increased. So I pulled into my shell and stayed there.
I felt guilty for not going to Easter services - especially when I'd been thinking of how much I was looking to move forward with finding a new church home again - but my plumbing problems ensured that I would not be riding the Metra or El trains (no public restrooms on the trains or at the stations). So I spent my time listening to classic Christian music - Glad, Keith Green, Acapella - and I slowly relaxed.
Then I stumbled on my old recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass - which will probably generate about a dozen posts, by itself. But more on that later.
So Monday and Tuesday were typical of our "purgatory weeks" - we ran late, and hectic, but I was home and relaxing by 11 (which feels like mercy, unfortunately). But then I heard that our "efficiency team" lead had taken yet another one of the leads "into the woodshed" over errors that were made - and my spirit just kinda broke. If, despite all our efforts, we're still failing, then why not do it gracefully?
The funny thing about employers and drug addicts. When you can't deliver the goods, they go to someone else. If the dealer is all out of pot, no addict just does without pot; they go from place to place, from dealer to dealer, until they find some. On Wednesday, I went to do a couple of tasks, and in each case, I heard, "You don't have to worry about that - it's been taken off your plate." I was introduced to Jason, a whiz kid from the Mothership headquarters, who was taking one of those pesky items "off my plate." It probably didn't help that he's 20 years younger than me, and a whiz at precisely the kind of stuff they needed him to be (SAS software systems) - and I'm not.
Part of me felt like a failure - oh, you're not strong enough to play with the team, so we're delegating it back to the "A" team. And part of me said, "Screw it - I couldn't do it anyway." So I had to just let it go. (I have to admit, I've got some work still to do on that...)
I sent out an email about my upcoming absence (I'm having some non-invasive medical tests done at the UC hospital Monday morning), and I went home. By 6 PM. And it felt good. I had dinner with a friend, then went home and watched Batman Begins, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue since, oh, February, and I still got to bed before midnight. And that felt good, too.
I'm going to do my best to be a worker among workers, today. No heroics, no "no problem, I'll take that bullet for you." Just my job, and to be helpful to others.
Just for today, I'll try that.