One Day in the Life of Me #socialanxiety #9to5life #yoga

Yesterday was the first day in awhile that I was able to go for a long walk during my lunch break and come back from that walk without looking and feeling like I’d just spent an hour in the sauna fully clothed. I had my cane with me, more out of habit than necessity now. Physical therapy is helping with my knees and hips, although I’m not as diligent at doing my exercises as I should be.

It does help that temperatures down here in north Florida have lowered a bit. Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t tolerate relentless 100 degree heat with humidity like I used to. And yet …

Image by shushipu from Pixabay

I go to a hot yoga class every Tuesday. Yup, I don’t mind sweating under controlled conditions, and the heat and movement are good for my joints. With a hot yoga class, the emphasis is more on how well you control your poses, not how quickly you do them.

I sweat heavily in this class. Not as much as some (seriously, some yogis leave lakes of sweat next to their mats) but plenty of sweat for me. When I sweat in this class, I sweat not just for my physical health, but also my mental health. I have to focus on my breathing, on my heart rate, on controlling my movements. I have to concentrate on what I’m doing at that moment and release the memory of my work day through my pores.

So many times I don’t feel like going to hot yoga, especially when it is already 100 degrees outside. I never regret it, though. I never regret the hour and fifteen minutes of total concentration that always leaves me feeling more connected with myself and less anxious about the world in which I work.

Usually I don’t write about my work in a public venue. I write in my journals and for the most part that helps. Today, however, I feel like I have to write publicly and hope that what I write doesn’t find its way to the wrong people. That worries me not because I’m going to share some scandals or shady business dealings. No, I’m more worried about the pettiness of some people, their inability to listen to criticism, their inclination to set new rules and expectations just because they can, not because it’s necessary.

My complaints will seem minor. Please don’t doubt that I know I’m lucky to have a full-time job with benefits. Still, my fuse is short and my sensitivity to principle is deep. Speaking of sensitivity …

I’ve often written about how I am a shy, highly sensitive introvert. It takes a lot of effort for me to give the pretense that I’m comfortable in a group setting, to speak with confidence, to make little jokes so the atmosphere stays warm and friendly. It about kills me, and I can’t always pull it off.

Friday was such a day. I had three back-to-back meetings in the morning. The first one was fine, very collegial with a group from a different division in the agency. The next two … not so good. At best, they were boring. Like watching grass grow during a drought–that kind of boring. The worst came with the last meeting, when I and a coworker were expected to talk about a project we are working on. I’m new to the project so I fumbled and stumbled, losing my confidence quickly and feeling like the worst imposter. My coworker was more articulate since she had been working on the project for a couple of years. The problem was that I am her supervisor, and I had recently assumed a “leadership” role on the project to help her out.

I wasn’t helping her out much in the meeting, and it embarrassed me. I was desperate to get out of there and when the meeting finally broke up, I made a beeline for my office. Only I wasn’t supposed to stay there. I was supposed to drop off my stuff and then go to another conference room for a big luncheon with people that I see more often than I see my own husband. After spending three hours with people, talking and listening, feeling my energy fade, my concentration wane, my anxiety grow, I was supposed to go and experience more of the same for another hour.

Instead, I sat at my desk, shaking. I wanted to cry. I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. The thought of going to the luncheon and having to continue the pretense of conviviality was unbearable. What I wanted was to go for a walk, a long walk, by myself. I had, in fact, already determined that I would do just that. I just needed to wait until everyone was gone from the suite and then I would make my escape.

It was a wonderful walk. I was rewarded with an ibis flying by me so slow and low that I could see the black tips of his wings. A short while later, I watched a Pileated woodpecker hop from one tree to another, apparently looking for but not finding some good grub. The sun felt hot on my arms but an occasional breeze kept me cool enough to make my usual loop.

Wildflowers from one of my walks, taken on a different day.

Back in the office, I felt better and proceeded to finish some up tasks. Of course, no good news gets dropped in your inbox late on a Friday afternoon. I opened an email from the coworker who had coordinated the as-boring-as-watching-grass-grow-during-a-drought meeting and learned that I and the three other people in my little section had tasks to complete within a few days. We are each to write a report on a report.

To wit, we are each to document a document that has been documented.

Late on a Friday, no one I know will have the energy to argue about whether such an assignment can advance our agency’s mission even in the most indirect way.

I’ve given you little context. Many of my colleagues believe in the mission of their work, believe that they can and should do whatever is possible to improve the quality of life and health for their state’s residents. Even if that work is indirect and behind the scenes, they still believe in it.

But there’s been a change in the culture of my workplace, a shift from looking outward and seeing how we can best help those who are helping others to looking inward and seeing how we can best count widgets.

I’ll survive one way or another because I’m at the end of my career anyway.

I just keep reminding myself that there’s a huge world outside my workplace, a world where I can see ibises and woodpeckers, where I read books and poems and stories written by friends, where I visit with friends and my husband and play with my cats, where I can enjoy the simple task of pruning a small rosebush or watch a chickadee drink water from a hummingbird feeder, where I can sit quietly and appreciate the moment.

***

Thank you for reading. If you’ve gotten this far, please enjoy this gratuitous cat photo!

Wendy snoozing on a sunny afternoon.
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37 thoughts on “One Day in the Life of Me #socialanxiety #9to5life #yoga

  1. Ah, I feel your pain! I worked in (more than one) life-sucking job. I feel for you and hope that you are soon able to leave and spend your time refreshing you soul. More walks, more husband time, more cat pics!

  2. I am so sorry that you had to suffer through that. To me, one stinken meeting is 100 too many. My highly sensitive personality and low boredom threshold do me in every time. I fidget like crazy, too. So back to your experience–I am glad that you know ways to make yourself feel better, but honestly, how awful is humankind to have created such a botch of everything they do anyway? It sounds like your workplace is on the decline! Sending huge hugs!!!!! and kitty snuggles!!!!

    • Thanks, Luanne! Yeah, I don’t have high hopes for the workplace right now. Since I don’t plan to be around much longer, I am trying to not worry about it. One day at a time 🙂

  3. I relate to your highly sensitive introvert challenges. So well explained here. I adore your “looking inward and seeing how we can best count widgets” line about your workplace. Made me laugh because that’s the truth of it so many times. I’m not a natural born widget counter so people who are like that suck the ever-loving life right out of me.

    • Thanks, Ally! I’m glad I made you laugh. Sometimes on my walks I’ll listen to a podcast like Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! Once I start laughing, everything seems manageable 🙂

  4. Hi Marie. Thank you for sharing your intimate thoughts on your work experience. I didn’t realize when I worked with just how introverted you felt. I guess that’s common with analyst types. I’m an introvert as well and don’t enjoy being put on the spot. I have wondered why I feel so comfortable saying things out loud in meetings when maybe I should be silent now. It’s age I guess. You are a wonderful writer. I liked the part about documenting the document that documents the document…. I work in a place that documents too little. Captured a lot of what I am feeling about work these days. I am hoping to endure about 9 more months. I think the work world is changing whether government or corporate. It’s not necessarily for the better. I have a new manager from totally outside the company who has yet to speak to me.

    • Hey, Rhonda, so good to hear from you! Ah, we introverts keep our social anxiety close to the chest and hope nobody notices 😉 I’ll be happy to step away from this workaday world. I just have to be patient. Isn’t it interesting how with all our technology, our work doesn’t seem to have become more efficient or effective. Hang in there. Hope the nine months go by fast for you 🙂

  5. Oh Marie! That walk was therapeutic! I really dislike meetings, so I can relate to your pain. So glad you were able to get out in nature. Thank you for the lovely photos.

    I never knew what hot yoga was, though I’d heard the term before. Glad you enjoy it!

    I have noticed the increase in paper work for many professions. Such a nuisance.

  6. Sounds like you practiced excellent self care. Kudos Marie! I understand how that day must have felt. I would’ve been so overwhelmed. It’s a shame that the work world in our country is often at odds with happiness. We have to decide how we can best live, and unfortunately we need money to live. I hope you can stick it out and get the retirement you deserve and have worked hard for. I could not, but I’ve come to peace with that. It’s too bad we sometimes (not always, I understand) have to decide between making a good living with benefits and enjoying our work and lives. Keep walking and smelling the roses! 🌸 Love Wendy’s pic!

    • Ah, thanks, Cheryl. I am trying to be more diligent about self-care plus reminding myself that we’ll be okay if I was to retire sooner rather than later. Right now, knowing that I can walk away if I have to actually helps me to hang in there. But I’m talking about hanging in there for maybe a couple of more years, not ten years 😉

  7. This is one of those posts that prompts so many thoughts that I’ve decided to record them as I read your post:

    I don’t tolerate heat either, unless I’m doing something. I absolutely detest sitting in the hot sun, or heat. But give me the opportunity to go for a walk, a run, a hike, a bike ride, and I don’t care about the temperature.
    Sweat … I sweat just thinking about exercise. But I love the feeling of having a sweat-soaked shirt after a good run or bike ride. Sweat is good. Sweat is healthy.
    Regret … so many times I simply don’t want to go for that run or bike ride or whatever. And the best runs, rides, hikes I have are the ones I have when I didn’t want to but forced myself to get out there.
    The rest … I don’t have quite as negative a reaction to the meetings and the demands of those meetings, but I never stop feeling like I’m wearing a costume at work. This is not me. It is not who I am. This person I present to my workplace. Friday, I announced to our executive staff that I would be “retiring” in the next couple of months. After the meeting where I made that announcement, one of them referred to me as the stabilizing force in the office. To which I responded that I was not the stabilizing force. I never wanted to be that and, to the extent I am, it is exactly why I am retiring. I’m done being the stabilizing force with people who refuse to be responsible, accountable, and ethical.

    Okay, I’m done. Thank you!

    And good luck to you as you move through this thicket that is the work place. Your walk sounds like the perfect response to all of this.

    • My husband used to run and he’d come home happy and drenched with sweat. I never understood the appeal until hot yoga. This here: “I’m done being the stabilizing force with people who refuse to be responsible, accountable, and ethical.” I’m not a stabilizing force at work but I do know some people rely on me (too much) to help them manage their workload and time. Wearing a costume is a good way to put it. Lately, the stress of maintaining composure has left me totally worn out by the end of the day. I had been hoping to “coast” through the next couple of years, get my projects organized, make things easy for the next person. I want there to be such a smooth transition when I leave that no one will miss me. That’s my goal still. I just might have less time to make it happen.

      • Here’s the thing … for people like you and me, there is no coasting. We take our jobs too seriously — which is why we end up being the stabilizing force — because of all those people who don’t.

  8. As a fellow introvert and someone who loathes public speaking, I totally get this. I used to work as a newspaper reporter and I’d often go home and take a nap after interviews, because I simply could not cope with having to return to the office and engaging with more people. So glad you took your walk. It’s the perfect solution, isn’t it? What I hate most, though, is how introverts often must fight for their rights to be introverted. It’s like: Hello! We’re wired this way! We need time to ourselves to regroup and recharge. Sadly, many people and most workplaces don’t understand this. P.S. Meetings suck. Almost nothing good comes out of them. P.S.S. Hope you have a nice, relaxing, walk-filled weekend.

  9. I am so sorry you had such a challenging day, Marie. I’ve never been a fan of meetings…many are a total waste of time. But several meetings on a Friday? That’s ridiculous. You made the right call going for a delightful walk. Some long nuzzles with Wendy is my prescription for you. xo

  10. I hope you will get your wish very soon, Marie! It can be so challenging to get the right conditions for our temperaments. Your walk sounds delightful!

  11. Your work situation sounds soul-killing, so I’m happy for you that you’re mostly able to tolerate it. It sounds like you did the right thing going for a walk–and it sounds lovely. I’ve heard a lot about pointless meetings and in-service days from husband, daughter, and teacher friends.

  12. Hi Marie. As a flaming extrovert I must say you did the right thing by going for a walk. No good ever came from trying to function under such stress. I noticed the workplace change and that’s why I hung it up. Not because I wanted to but because the fun was gone. Hang in there. As you say there is life after work. Also I loved Wendy’s photo. Yes, I read that far. Hugs.

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