Tired Today

I’m tired today.

You spend your time defending, you get to see folk right up close. Folk in extremis. That does something to your perception of ‘the human condition’.

Though if you’ve even just a thimble of insight it magnifies your own tendency to self-examination and regulation. Which at least has the merit of sounding as though it might be a good thing. (But which, in reality, can be a screwy, fuckwit thing which jumps all over your big fat paranoia and neuroticism nerve – paralysing with a series of ‘what ifs’ and ‘why fors’…)

At least this means you’re not exercising your (entirely controllable but thoroughly unpleasant and self-defeating) desire to thump or to scream some ‘home truths’ at the unfortunate who’s pulled you as the short straw in that great game of  defender short-straw-ness.

It’s all relative. One person’s ‘walk in the park’ or ‘grit teeth and soldier on’ is another’s personal tragedy or Rubicon.

Oh dear…

I love you. I really do. And I care. I do. I really do.

I honestly do get it that your neighbour dispute, about that leylandii that’s blocking the light to your hall landing, is keeping you awake at night and thus leading to a dip in your work performance. And that your boss’s reaction to this dip proves that they are the blind, insensitive, bullying, fucking animal you always thought they were – a right nasty whose sole – and I mean SOLE – purpose in life is to make your life so abjectly miserable that you cannot survive without at least 5 months and 30 days’ sickness absence. I get it that you’re outraged that you are forced to attend absence monitoring meetings. I understand that you’re insulted by their questions and haunted by this suspicion that they don’t believe that your illness wasn’t feigned or that it had sweet fa to do with the fact that your competency was under review and you’d missed several deadlines (go on, admit it, that’s what you thought when Wilma from accounting was off for 6 months just after she’d ballsed up the budget for that 2.3 million IT project…). In any case, I appreciate that it’s difficult to juggle the competing needs of your several dogs and your husband’s IBS and that you’re pissed off with your colleague for having 4 maternity leaves in the space of 6 years and that your pay is a real demotivator.

I’ve felt your pain. Honest.

I know you’re struggling. That sometimes life is hard. That there are occasions you’ll need to moan or cry. And that I’m just conveniently in situ.

You’ve bills to pay. You’re unfulfilled. And stuck in that dis-empowering cycle of needing work to earn cash to pay those bills. Or you’re trapped in a conflict and blind to all but your own perceptions and feelings. Unable to comprehend that there might be another way of looking at things… ‘stuck in an uncomfortable rut’ you’ve said before. ‘Trapped’ you’ve mourned.

But if the rut is hurting you, you get out. If it’s a trap, you find a way to break free.

Which is why I’ll ask you whether this is really the job for you. If there isn’t something you’d rather do. Have you considered reducing your hours for instance – or re-training? I’ll challenge your perceptions about your boss – just how many deadlines or targets did you miss? was your boss perhaps entitled to expect you to meet them? what makes you think their request for your paperwork was unreasonable? are they perhaps under pressure or struggling with a kid who’s just been charged by the police or an elderly parent who’s on their way out? I’ll ask what you want from the grievance you’re about to lodge. I’ll explain the law in relation to continuing your long-term absence and the lawful ways in which this can lead to your dismissal (and agree that the processes are dehumanising and shit). Or I’ll advise on the legal impact of that word reasonable in ‘reasonable adjustments’ (basically = not carte blanche for you to get the say so not to do your job at all).

Sometimes I’ll ask you to describe the responsibility you believe you bear for a conflict you’re party to – and often you’ll be angry with me for suggesting you bear any responsibility at all. (though your decision to shout at me during the hearing into accusations that you’d shouted at several colleagues – wasn’t brilliantly wise. Of course, I do understand you’re horribly stressed).

I’ve made too many mistakes of my own to judge too harshly. Believe me (and if I could apologise for them all I’d be here til my cremation).

Which is why I want to tell you that life is short. That you are in control. That you shoudn’t sweat the small things or make mountains out of mole hills or aim to hurt other people the way you think they’ve hurt you. That perspective is all. And the law is no panacea.

But I’m sure you’d complain and I’d be sacked.

And I can’t have that as I have bills to pay…

So, on and around we go. On and around.

Which is why, when all is said and done, I’m tired today.

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A Hogmanay Accounting

This is the true dawn of auld age: when Hogmanay becomes an opportunity to sit in a grim-faced determination not to cry, as opposed to an excuse for the hoose to become party-central.

I remember my Mother succumbing to this noli me tangere- ness – and feeling this boiling impotent rage with her that she could be so selfish as to waste our (my) party-feeling.

It’s crept up on me. Gradually seeping into the cracks and crevices left by regrets and sorrows and just the sheer weight of memory.

Until it is now this deep, backward-looking sadness that consumes.

So I spent the hour before midnight feeling embittered. Twisting in an incomprehensible wrath about lifelife that dared to take people I loved and that seemed hell bent on proving that there was no hope.

That’s what New Year is, increasingly.

I’ve reached that mental fulcrum – the tipping point where there is more stretching out behind than stretching out before. It’s an accumulation – an accretion – of loss and of memory. I’ve done more than I can ever do again. The largest part is gone. And whilst I’m not advocating shuffling off I’m aware that there is more painful loss ahead. That makes hope a bit of a bugger to cling onto.

But I do. I did. Eventually.

Megan and Robert pressurised me into going down to the Square for the Bells and fireworks. I went with a bad heart.

And stood on the cusp of the crowd, feeling like the unwelcome witch at a christening; the ghost of Christmas past; a ghoul. The deliberate cheering and toasting happiness surrounding me triggering only a deep resentment and increasing this sadness. I was dark and brimful of spitefulness and just wanting to be gone up the road. When my aunt embraced and kissed me with the traditional ‘Happy New Year!’ I felt the surging want to cry or run away.

I think it was for Iain who was gone. Iain who could be a bastard curmudgeon but was precious. It was for Erin who smiles through her leukaemia – but it is not fair, not fair at all that she has to suffer. It was for the end of a difficult year.

I’ve heard – too often this year – that it is darkest just before the dawn.

One of those cliches said when we don’t know what else to say or how else to console.

In so many ways this year has felt like one long night.

All the things I’d previously held onto being carried away in one long powerful egress. Like the things that made me me had been exhaled. Spat out.

I’m ashamed now by the faith with which I’d held onto ‘political solutions’. By my refusal to accept that there was not one perfect answer out there, somewhere  which would prove our social saviour – if we (I) just looked hard enough and thought long enough. Or by what surely is just a wilfully stubborn refusal to own and accept the inevitable: that our children have to make their own way and in doing so they move on, leaving us behind.

Or even just by the everydayness which I allowed myself to escape into.

I know there’s a time for us all (numerous times for us all) to take stock and to review. New Year’s as good a time as any. Though I’d much prefer getting rat-arsed drunk and rolling into bed around 7am (as we’ve always previously done).

The walk to the Square was enough to shake me out of the miserableness. Though it was a deathly quiet one we all had. Dougal first-footing us at 1.30am and staying until 3am.

There will  be other times I’ll feel as angry with myself and the world. It would be daft to think there won’t be. And those times have their uses.

Today I sit in a cold house, hugging the oil-filled radiator (because if I light the wood-burner it’ll smoke me out of the living-room), writing this between work calls and feeling old but grateful.

Because that review was also an accounting. 

I am alive and like the world. What I have or face – well, it is of my own making. And I’ll be dead for long enough.

So now is for living, not lamenting.

Plenty folk will have sung out the old year with Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’. This ‘Selkirk Grace’ is attributed to him – and it fits my mood (if not my belief system).

I am thankit.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.