Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cost, Benefit, Balance

I jumped when he yelled, blinking at him in surprise even as his attention was directed elsewhere. I’d been told Best got upset, but – in the year that I’ve worked with him – had yet to see it. Yet fury was evident – muscles tight, eyes narrowed, voice loud – he was the picture of offended male on Wednesday.

“Do you know they wrote my name down?” PrettyHair came into the lab I was using and blinked back angry tears on Thursday.

“Well, hell,” I replied. “I’m sorry. The woman with the ugly red shirt said something to me when I walked in. I muttered something about how she needed a hobby and made sure she heard me. That whole team is beyond useless.” I shook my head at myself even as PrettyHair complained more and went away. I don’t mind being sarcastic and critical – they’re personality traits of mine – but I do find fault with truly thinking people are useless pieces of trash. And, pushed past the limits of my general tolerance, I could have screamed any number of inappropriate insults and the red-shirted woman and meant every word. (I didn't scream, but the muttered remark was out of line just the same.)

There are some months where hormones seem to alter a severe shift in mood. I grow viciously angry, uncaring of consequences and eager to do whatever damage I can. During those moments, it’s best if I isolate myself and wait it out. Instead, I called 12 hour days reasonable and winced when I came home 15 hours after leaving on Wednesday.

I was exhausted. My head hurt. I was about 9.2 out of 10 on the scale of evil. My list of things to do – once completely manageable – grew to panic-inducing proportions.

Feeling – whether correctly or not, I still can’t tell – that recognition from VeryImportant had prompted several people to communicate their low opinions of me, I went past defensive into survive-against-attack mode. In such a state, I made statements I would never have otherwise said. I took – and passionately defended – positions I didn’t really think were valid.

“Katie, as a friend, I wanted to talk to you,” a colleague said as we spoke on the phone at 7:30 last night. He went on to lecture me on finding balance, not overreacting and not jumping to judgment.

“It’s all cost benefit analysis,” I sighed. “And I understand you’re trying to help here – I really do – but I can tell you I’m reading it as more criticism in an already awful week. I understand that gaining VeryImportant’s praise means that I’m focused on priorities he’s defined and ignored some of yours. Likewise, I spent a good 60 hours this week working on a project for Adam because he’s my boss.”

“But I think you’re so passionate and dedicated that you react when people don’t match that.”

“That’s not true!” I argued, visibly bristling as I gripped the phone tighter. “I know I’m working really hard – nearly constantly, actually – and what I’m hearing from you and other people is that you’re disappointed with my effort. That I’m not contributing enough. And at some point, I need to tell you to go to hell because there’s nothing left for me to give you.”

“You need to rest,” he said after a moment.

“No,” I replied, clipping my words because I was hurt and frustrated and didn't know how to deal with him. “I need to go so I can finishing working on my analysis.” So I brushed away tears, feeling a complete failure, and calculated scores and made figures. I went to sleep near midnight, heart aching because people I like and respect are not currently returning those feelings.

I woke at 6 this morning to finish my presentation. My group was at the office at 8 to go over my results and decide on what to do next. Other than a 3 hour nap that I desperately needed, I worked all day. I think it's important. I'm proud of the effort of my group and don't mind shouldering much of the workload for this project. But doing that means other priorities suffer. And even as that's inescapable and normal, it sucks.

Given that highs seem to be paired with corresponding lows, I could go with a few uneventful weeks here soon.

1 comment:

Psycgirl said...

(((Katie))) I'm really in awe of how hard you work there - I don't think I can do it. I hope you get a peaceful few weeks ahead of you so you can have as much of a break as possible

Post a Comment