So I’ve been having something of a blogging break. I’ve not logged into my site for WEEKS I tell you. Or maybe days. But it’s felt like weeks! After the kids are in bed I’ve been catching up on reading other blogs, binge watching Orange is the New Black, and also working through the final stages on getting our new shop website up and running. And you know what I discovered? THE WORLD HAS NOT STOPPED! More importantly I woke up this morning, and despite the fact that I have skipped the school run to get to the shops early to buy provisions for my daughter’s birthday party, I’ve somehow landed up in my favourite writing haunt with my laptop open and actually excited about writing something – anything.
I am sure this is linked to the fact that yesterday I underwent the most excruciating 45 minutes that I’ve spent for a while, and what best to do when you have been totally and completely excruciated (it’s a WORD, ok?) – yep, fire up the laptop and share the humiliation with a million more people. Or a couple, anyway. Whatevs.
I’m on a course at work. It’s pretty exciting actually, both the course itself and the fact that I’m doing it, and I hope I’m going to learn a lot from it. I wanted to do it for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggies for me was that after working pretty much for myself for 8 years, I wanted to learn how to stop working in isolation, and become better at bringing people along with me. I also wanted to be better at managing upwards – I’m really crap at this, and always have been – I can’t do internal politics, I don’t get the power play, I can’t hide my feelings, and I become confrontational when cornered. This got me fired from a fat job in advertising at the tender age of 30 – fired for doing the right thing, by the way, and I’d do it again too. I’d just do it cleverer this time. Ooooh, see, there’s baggage right there, maybe I should blog about that one day!
Anyway, back to the excruciations. This course I’m on is based around something known as an ‘action learning’. This basically means that a group of people support each other through a project by a process of open questioning, reflective thinking, and offering a safe environment to test out new thoughts and ideas, ultimately leading to real progress on a work issue. Sounds fairly simple? Yep, I thought so too. Until it came to be my turn in the hot seat, bringing a problem to the group. I’d actually decided on what I was going to ask for help on – it was something fairly non-controversial on my to-do list of doom, that I needed some help with.
But when the time came to open my mouth, for some bizarre reason my pre-prepared and non-controversial problem didn’t come out. Instead what came out was a very real set of fears, both about whether I have the ability to deliver my chosen project, about what failure on the project might mean for me and for my employer, and also I suppose a bit about the fact that I feel absolutely terrified about everything, all the bloody time, but do a really good job of hiding it.
I felt like I had been stripped naked. I tried to regain control of the situation, to dress myself again as it were, by reverting to type. When asked by one of my colleagues how I thought I might deal with stress, I rolled my eyes in (I thought) a semi-humorous fashion and answered ‘drink more, obviously‘. This didn’t work. So I had to give the real answer. To that and various other questions that I found uncomfortable. I should point out here that my colleagues and the trainer were not in any way disrespectful or unkind in their questioning, quite the opposite. It’s just – well, it was excruciating. And it left me totally discombobulated.
But weirdly, once the discombobulation wore off, I think I sort of feel like I might have made some progress. For one, I did come out of the exercise with a concrete set of actions to follow up on the project. It’s an exciting one by the way, which I shall be blogging about as soon as I am allowed!
But also, this. It made me realise that there is no rule which says I have to be the best at everything, all the time. There is no rule that says I always have to try to be the funny muppet one to deflect attention from the fact that I’m not the best at anything. There is no rule that says if I drop a ball, the world stops. And while this has left me feeling a bit disappointed in the world (FFS, I’d always thought it needed me!) it’s also left me feeling weirdly relieved. And a bit of a muppet that it’s taken me until this age to figure it out.
I think I’m beginning to see why they say life begins at forty. Though I’m a bit past that particular milestone, it certainly feels for me as if this is a time for figuring stuff out and beginning, just beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin. Onwards and upwards, I say, just as long as it doesn’t involve too many more excruciations!