Living and learning

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!

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19 thoughts on “Living and learning

  1. The only people we are of any real importance to are our kids, partners and some very close family. Other than that, in the big scheme of things we are inconsequential – minuscule little dots on a tiny spinning rock in never-ending space. Takes the pressure off somewhat! Anyway, you’re best at being you 😉

  2. Work and office politics stink. I was never very good at them, I suffer quite severely from foot in mouth syndrome. Although your course was a little difficult it does sound like you are getting positive results from it.
    Louisa recently posted…Words that make you go urghMy Profile

  3. Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed reading. I am at a huge crossroads with my career at the moment, facing losing a job I adore and have worked bloody hard at. So I have started applying for training, which has been so hard. It really makes you look at how you talk to people and what you say.
    So thank you for such a refreshing post, in a funny way it’s nice to see that change is not uncommon to everyone, just need a time machine now to see what will be happening this time next year!
    WildFamilyFun recently posted…My Little AdventurerMy Profile

  4. I think everyone hates office politics, but for me…the worst thing is when they affect you so bad that you bring them home and let it effect family life. Thats happened to me a few times. Our little family units are all that really count.
    Ryan Costello recently posted…Wordless FridayMy Profile

  5. Action Learning totally rocks!! Congratulations – and welcome to the club 🙂 I did the course about 4 years ago with ECF Training and am still part of a set that meets regularly – it’s the most effective thing EVER to untangle all my issues, personal &/or professional. I love it (can you tell!?). So happy for you!

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