Stress, Happiness, Family, Home and Work: Rambling Does a Soul Good.

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This last year has been turbulent.  There were so many ups and downs (it seemed like more downs than anything to be honest) and to be completely honest, I was burning out and pretty damn near miserable.  The worst part is?  I didn’t realize how miserable I was, despite it tearing apart my life.

When you’re not happy, it truly does impact all aspects of your life.  A big part of my issue was work itself, and after I started burning out, I no longer wanted to be a part of it.  I felt helpless, taken advantage of, and angry.  Little did I know, I was taking all of that home with me.  My relationship with my boyfriend suffered, I was working 60+ hours a week, and was so crabby during what little free time I had, I threw most of it on him.  My daughter felt the brunt of it as well, I snapped on her for simple things more times than I’d like to admit.  Of course, working so many hours, made me feel like I missed out on her life (which I did, and I regret wholeheartedly), which made me resentful, which made me angry… and the cycle continued.

The stress from work, and my by that point, unhappy home life impacted my health.  In 2013, I had no hospitalizations.  In 2014 through now?  What, 3?  4?  With several ER trips in between?  It’s been ridiculous.  Crohns isn’t caused by stress, but it most definitely is impacted by it.  So, on top of everything at work, and at home… add in hospital trips.  When you add in hospitals, you have to remember to subtract pay and add stress at work from missing work.  Take all of that and re-route it back into the unhappy job, which leads back into the unhappy home.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

Towards the end of the year, I realized that work was my main issue, and was getting the impression that I was bringing it home and affecting my family.  I made a goal to make it through Christmas.  I had talked about it with Ryan, and once Christmas was past, I would make a decision and decide whether I would leave or stay.

Oddly enough the timing of that final conversation coincided with a demotion.  For whatever reason, my management decided instead of making changes I had been asking for, that it would be better to put me back into the customer service pool and bring back an old coworker as the new supervisor.  I jumped on it.  Sure, I was a bit angry, not at the demotion itself, but at the lack of help I had received, the lack of support I was given and the lack of training (which is improving markedly since then, might I add) for my position.  However, I knew I wasn’t right for the position yet, and at that point, I didn’t want it anymore.

Once I was firmly back in my customer service position, I vowed to leave work at work and to bring the happiness from home there.  I had never been good at separating work and home, never.  Not even when I first started working at 15 years old.  This time I was determined.  That was the first step.  Within a few weeks I was getting comments from family, friends and coworkers that I seemed markedly happier.  Little fights with the boyfriend seemed to happen less and less.  I started to sleep better at night and I realized that it was because once 5pm came along, I *refused* to be aggravated about work, I *refused* to be angry.  If I did manage to bring home those feelings, I did something immediately to put it out of my mind.

Since then, as the weeks pass, I realize what a mess I was.  I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t eating well, and I was perpetually grumpy.  My Crohns Disease started to flare again around Christmas, and I have been back in the hospital twice since then (one was just an overnight, the other almost a week).  The downtime while being sick really pushed home the changes I needed to make.  I have been doing great leaving work at work, and enjoying my home life.  My stress levels were markedly lower once I started focusing on how much I enjoyed doing silly little activities with my daughter, once I started working on my hobbies again.  I started to tweak my diet and cut out some of the fattier foods I eat and try to cut down on coffee.  I quit smoking again (wish me luck) even… that’s the newest, I haven’t had a cigarette since Saturday.

Needless to say, I’ve noticed a huge difference in myself.  I’m enjoying my life a lot more now, and I finally feel like I have my priorities straight.  It took a long time for me to realize that my family and my health come first, no matter what.  No more going to work sick, no more sending my daughter to school with a cold, no more rushing back after hospital stays.  No more bringing home work and no more stressing about it after the day is done.  The benefit also crosses back into the office.  I feel happier heading into work (or at least the dread of a new day isn’t there anymore) and I take my lunch breaks and work on something I’d like to.  When you feel better, you tend to have a higher quality of work.  I  also make it a point to enjoy cooking (like I used to) and my family is benefiting from home cooked meals again.  I’ve even done my best to bring as much music and art as possible back into my home, which is one thing I noticed fell out of my life this last year.

So while I still have quite a bit going on with my health (new doctor, new medications, and new symptoms – a blog post for another time), I’m enjoying myself, my home and my job a lot more these days.  I wish I would have listened to my friends and family earlier, maybe I would’ve caught on to how miserable I really was.  However, you can’t change the past, you can only create the future, and more importantly, make sure you enjoy the present moment.  Here’s to hoping for a better year, a healthier life, and more happiness through out it all.

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Chasing it down.

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I feel like I lost something along the way, like it fell out of my pocket while I was walking down the street one day.  It feels like I lost it at home, in the morning rush, while I was trying to get my child off to school so I could head to work.  I feel like I lost it at the office, in between the screaming customers and cranky coworkers.  I feel like I lost it while trying to balance the work I’ve brought home, with the work I already had set up for me there.

My creativity is missing, have you seen it?  My fingers used to itch with ideas to put on paper, with stories streaming through my head.  I used to have to STOP what I was doing, multiple times through out the day, just to write an idea down.  I could sit down with my cup of coffee and write and write, whether it was with my journal and pen or computer.

Somewhere this past year, I lost it.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t occasionally sat down by the computer, grabbed my notebooks, and… tried.  It just doesn’t come.  If I sit there long enough, the only feelings, the only things that come is stress from the job, and the feeling of failing at home (the result of working long hours and bringing work home with me).

My fingers don’t itch, my journal is sparsely filled with meaningless entries, and my blog is stagnant.  Don’t even get me started on my drawings or my knitting.  Lately, it feels like there is nothing left in my brain but stress.  There’s this underlying wave of anxiety lately, if I give myself a moment, it threatens to drown me.  I get up in the morning, get my kiddo to school, work 9 hours (often without a lunch, which was a big journal writing time for me), get the kid from school and head home with another 2-4 hours of work.  I manage to fix dinner, throw in some activities for the family on the weekend, and bam!  The end of the day is there, I head to my room to conjure up something to put through my pen and just end up with the same anxiety.  Unfortunately you can only write so much about one topic before you start pissing yourself off.  (Yes, that was a full admission that *all* writing I do is for myself.)

Things seem to be slowly calming down at work, I’m slowly (read: the difference is in literal minutes) working less at home.  I’m slowly starting to feel the real draw back to my ideas, but now it’s pushed by the irritation, the HATRED of how I’ve sold my mind short.  I think of all that I could put through my pen, I think of all the time I could spend with my daughter (my true muse) instead of hovering over my paperwork, and then stressing over everything else.  I think of how much I just want to STOP.

I think of how much I just want to walk away.  How much I want to just say “screw your fucking (insert inane purchase at any retail/CS job I’ve worked), I’m done.” and go home and write.  How much I want to listen to my daughter’s make believe stories and spin whole tales about each character… for the pure point of telling a great bedtime story.  I think about the years I’ll spend working, and if they’ll be limited by my disease, I think about whether or not I’m spending what limited working years I have working in a stressful environment.  If I’m sacrificing my “healthy years” (those of you who personally know me, just started laughing) slaving away behind work orders and phones instead of with my family and my art.  I start wondering what’s worth it, and what’s not.  I start wondering what I really want, and what just gets me by.

Then.  THEN.  I think about how much I enjoy my industry (even if I don’t enjoy my job anymore).  I think about the great example I’m setting for my daughter about work ethic when I show up to work every day, even when other’s would call off.  I think about my co-workers, who sometimes drive me up a wall, but whom I consider my friends.  I think about the joy I find when doing my job correctly, and getting out and finishing at 5.  I think about how much easier things are with my extra paycheck (yes, I’m *finally* not the breadwinner in my family), and how much quicker I can accomplish my material goals.  I think about how much easier it is to get yelled at by a customer then it is to try and crank out material and get published.

I ran away this weekend, my daughter and I came up north, to a part of wisconsin I’d like to live eventually.  My parents will eventually retire here, and this is one of the only places I feel like I’m able to let my mind wander.  After work on friday, I packed the car and we drove up here in the dark.  I needed a weekend away to clear my head, despite planning to come up here much more this year, I haven’t made it.    So this weekend it is.

Last night, while laying in bed, I realized that something has to change.  Now I’m not saying I am going to up and quit my job (despite the rallying cries to do so), but something… anything has to change.  I need to learn how to say no, how to go home at a reasonable time and instead of working at my own desk, how to walk away from my to-do list and pay attention to myself and to my family.  I need to learn to let my words and emotions flow through my fingers like they used to.  I need to stop fearing that I’ll offend someone with my writing, that I’ll upset someone at the office or in my personal life.  I need to stop censoring my thoughts and written word and maybe… just maybe my creativity will come back.  I need to learn balance, how to do the job I (used to) love (and learn to love it again), and how to nurture my family and my own pleasures.

Last night, and today, I’ve realized what I want and it’s not the feeling I get out of the way things are now.  I have to make a change, and I’m the only one who can do it.  It’s my life and I’m the one leading it… I need to get my priorities in order and enjoy it.

Life is a lot shorter than we’ve been lead to believe.

Another Cup of Coffee

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It’s Saturday morning.  I’ve dragged my laptop outside onto the deck to do some writing.  As for months, I still can’t conquer my writers block in my private writings.  Oh well, nothing new there I guess.  It’s a beautiful morning though, supposed to be pretty hot outside today so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.  Please pour me another cup of coffee.

I had a bad day yesterday, it was filled with stress and frustration at work.  It took me getting angry enough that I didn’t even want to have another cigarette to re-evaluate my thought process.  That itch I was speaking of in my last entry, I figured it out.  I was taking things way too seriously and letting that “over-care” flow out of my workday and out of the rest of my life.  As a friend pointed out yesterday, I’ve never been one to do things half-assed.  When I take on a job/project/interest, I put 100% into it.  It’s both a positive and a negative, the negative being is that I will spread myself too thin.

So, at work, I love my job, I care about it immensely.  When things go well there, I was able to give it my all for my 8-5 shift and leave the rest at the door.  When things get wonky there, and someone isn’t carrying their own weight or making too many mistakes that it overflows onto my position, I still attempt to give it my all and fix everything.  The problem with that, is that I am not enough to cover both myself and someone else, so all of my energy and emotion is going towards that 8-5 and it zaps what I have left for the rest of my life.  The stress from going so hard at work and caring so much seeps into the rest and it diminishes other parts of my day that I find joy in.

I do love my literal job, and as a former single mom (former because I do live with my boyfriend), I also clung to my paychecks.  During my fit of anger, I realized all of what I wrote above, the cons of what my job and my “it’s go time” attributes have done to the rest of my life.  Which caused me to divorce myself from the moment and actually think.

What are the positives?  Well of course, I love my physical job, I do.  However, with the current situation at work, it’s not nearly as enjoyable as it should be.  I love problem solving and learning new ways to fix things, but when there are so many things to fix, it’s not fun anymore.  So loving my job doesn’t count for as much as it used to.

Positives included a paycheck.  By discussing with a third party and sitting down with a pen and paper, I figured out what it costs for me to go to work and after said costs, what my profit is.  I figured out the profits to a T and wrote down what I use those profits for.  Once it was on paper in front of me, I realized that it costs half of my income just in transportation and before/after school care.  The profits are still enough to make me want to go to work, but only if the conditions are correct.  ie: Not what they are now.

So with what I SPEND to go to work is half of my income, and if what I earn as profit goes to non-essential things… is the job worth it?  With the current stress, no.  Without the current stress, yes.  To put things into further perspective, the profits I make after cost, could be made working for minimum wage, part time, during school hours and locally.  During school hours and locally REMOVE the cost to go to work.  So logically, since my income after cost goes to non-essential items/bills, My finances would stay the same if I worked a local job part time during school hours.

All of that jumble summed up? I don’t want to lose my paycheck, but when it comes down to it, it is not 100% needed.  My paycheck could be easily made up by switching jobs to something minimum wage that will increase the time I spend within my home and with my family. More importantly, my paycheck *is* inessential and staying at home is a reasonable option.  SO… my current job truly depends on how much I enjoy it, and how much I am willing to take.

Once I realized that, once I *saw* it on paper, it really shocked things back into reality.  All of this stress at work, putting my ENTIRE self into improving everything… isn’t what I thought it was.  The reality of the situation is, is that if I get mad enough to *want* to walk off, never to come back, I *CAN* do it.  I do NOT have to take all of the shit going on right now, I can walk away with the only negative effect being, that I lose spending money for the month.  The reality of the situation is… is that I don’t have to deal with it, if I don’t want to.

Now that’s not saying that the next issue that arises at work will make me pack up my office and take a hike.  That’s not in my nature to abandon something that I once enjoyed doing.  It’s not in my nature to walk away if there is a problem.  However, having all of that put into perspective, it’s freeing.  I can go in, and realize that it’s not permanent.  I don’t have to deal with it, I have the freedom to walk away if I want to.  Out of character as it might be, I can go in, and do just *my* job, I don’t *HAVE* to worry about the mistakes others make, nor do I have to fix them.  I just have to do what is in my job description.  I have to do my job, not save someone elses.  If my customers are happy because of my actions… great.  If the installers are happy because of my actions great.  I can excell to the best of my ability at my job and that’s all I need to do.  If someone else makes mistakes which then hampers my job, which it does in about 50% of the time, I can demand they be fixed so I can correctly accomplish my duties,  Realizing that my job isn’t particularly needed, just wanted, made me realize I am NOT on a manager’s salary.  I do not need to be doing a manager’s job.  I don’t have to put my all on the table if it is not recognized, and it most certainly is not.  I don’t have to put my all on the table if I’m not paid for it, and if the person who is, does not.

All of this just made me realize.  I have a job.  I have a job I used to absolutely adore, I have job that gives us spending money.  I’m lucky to have a job, but I don’t have to care as much as I do.  I’m not there to save the shop, I’m not there to save every customer.  I’m not there to go above and beyond what position entails, especially when someone else is getting paid for it.  I have a job that shouldn’t impact my family and the rest of my life.  The best part of all of this?  I have freedom, I can walk away, I am there because I *want* to be there.  It puts everything else into perspective.

I am actually looking forward to work on Monday.  It’s a brand new way of looking at it, and I now realize that I don’t have to let my job rule my life, that I don’t have to let it stress me out.  It’s not my responsibility to make someone else do their job, it’s just my responsibility to do mine.  I care immensely about my shop, but it’s not my job to fix it.