This is Me Not Cooking

I probably should be cooking. It’s that time of day to be making something for dinner, and Jack will be home in a while, most likely wanting to eat. I have a love/hate relationship with the preparing of meals. I actually don’t mind cooking. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. It’s the menu-planning, grocery-list-making, and shopping that I can’t get excited about. I neglected to do those things last weekend which makes it difficult to know what to make for dinner now. So I’ll probably wait until Jack walks through the door and say I’m going to make grilled cheese sandwiches or pancakes. To which he might say, “Why don’t I go get Chinese instead?” To which I will say, “Okay.” I love breakfast for dinner, but he doesn’t. And I can eat healthy-ish again next week, right?

I am seriously thinking about trying out one of those meal kit subscriptions. Then I can just fill in the other food necessities with a Target run now and then, because who doesn’t love going to Target? And yes, I have tried just ordering my groceries for delivery. I realized afterwards that even when I make a list, when I’m actually in the store I pick up a lot of things I didn’t think about during the list-making. And so I miss those things when I order groceries. Why does food have to be such a necessity? And also, why do we have to like it so much?

Also contributing to my lack of culinary motivation is the fact that it has been a week! I’ve just worked two full weeks in a row, which I think we can all agree is a hard habit to get back to after the holidays and all of their slow-downs and time off and such.

Clearly, everyone who spent most of December using up soon-to-expire vacation time is now back in the swing of things and wanting to get work done. And I felt this. And even though I just read a really helpful book called Calm the F*ck Down, my coping skills still need a lot of work. There is just so much to be done all of a sudden. I felt all the stress and anxiety this week. And there was that thing yesterday when someone said to me, “Don’t give this a second thought. It’s not a criticism in the least. But before you say something like [that thing I said] in an email to this group, just run it by me first.” That thing I said was just me talking like I talk and it was nothing. Really nothing. It was just me saying how I had something to provide to the group but I wanted to refine it first. And even though I was assured that I should not give the assessment of that thing I said a second thought, I allowed the insinuation that I somehow gave others the idea our team is less than perfect (which we are) to stress me out to the point I couldn’t stop worrying I would fail miserably on everything else job-related from now on. Everything on my to-do list suddenly seemed insurmountable and I felt like I should have had it all done yesterday, even though much of it isn’t due yet. And by the end of yesterday I just wanted to dissolve on the couch.

Of course, by the time I woke up this morning, I was asking myself why I’m so crazy sometimes. And everything looked well and manageable today. And I was no longer taking personally the assessment of the thing I said.

Also, on Monday I thought I might have COVID. So that did not help with the goal to reduce my habit of worrying. I started sniffling and sneezing at 5:00 am and it continued ALL DAY LONG. When Jack came home from work and heard me sneezing, he asked, “You got COVID, or what?” He was joking, of course. But of course, I hadn’t thought I might have the virus until he said what he said. And the thing about being in this pandemic is that, at least for me, every little thing in my body that feels the slightest bit off suddenly makes me think I might have COVID and I’ll infect others and it will be bad, oh so bad. (Can I just get that vaccination already?)

But it was not COVID. I woke up on Tuesday morning and nothing. No sniffles. No sneezing. Literally nothing. So all I can think is that I was allergic to something in the new sweater that I wore on Monday without washing it first. Definitely not COVID, but probably the fault of Old Navy.

All this makes me really grateful that I have a three-day weekend ahead. I am really going to need it after working two whole five-day work-weeks in a row. Maybe I’ll spend the extra time planning some meals and going to the grocery store so that next week I can cook again, and also eat like a person who wants to stay healthy and live longer than a few more years. That’d be nice, huh?

This is a reminder to myself to never stop embracing change

This blog site has been calling to me lately. I once couldn’t imagine  a time when I didn’t stop to write something at least a few times a week. Now months go by.  I guess once I really fell out of the habit, it just kept getting easier to let it be the thing for which I simply couldn’t find the time.

I’ve had a nagging thought lately that there are a very few things that I do just for myself, just because I really enjoy them, and just because they fuel me. Writing is one of those things. And it hasn’t escaped me how ridiculous it is that I have let go of it the way I have.

So … this is me, attempting to hold myself more accountable by putting in writing that I want to do more writing.

Moving on.

I just finished my fourth week in a new position at work. It was a fantastic opportunity and I have no doubt it was absolutely the right move for me. This job is an extension of what I was already doing, and opens a lot of new doors. The people in my new department actively recruited me and have completely rolled out the red carpet, constantly reminding me how happy they are that I have joined their team. “Thrilled” is the word they keep using, and I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am, and how fortunate I feel to have been given this chance. I’ve realized over the past few years that I simply like to work. I recognize that for most of my earlier years, I didn’t believe in my own potential, but once I got a taste of it, I began to truly appreciate having the chance to contribute to something meaningful, grow my skills, and keep feeding my mind. It hasn’t escaped my attention that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work in a place and with people who continue to help make this a daily reality.

I was very content with, not to mention confident in the work I was doing in my previous position, although I worked for a manager who created an atmosphere that felt much like being in kindergarten. To be fair, she allowed me a lot more breathing room than most – probably because she had little expertise in the work I was doing. So leaving me be was surely preferable to admitting her lack of knowledge. But I existed in her world every day, witnessing her micromanagement of the rest of the team, her inflated ego, and her utter lack of respect for the other very capable, intelligent adults under her direction. I have had good managers over the years, ones who know that empowering their employees is the secret to success. This one didn’t grasp that concept. Every day, I felt my coworkers’ discontent, listened to their frustrations, and was powerless to help. It was a toxic environment. And while I recognize that my old manager’s ways are likely rooted in her own insecurities, I, like many others before me, leapt at the chance to escape.

I’m still getting my feet wet in the new job. The department I’ve joined isn’t new, but recently reorganized, so I’m relieved to be coming in at a time when things are new and different for the whole team, not just me. One of my main responsibilities will be working in and helping steer the direction of a new system. Plus I’ll get to continue doing some of the work I most enjoyed in my previous position. I can work from home anytime I want, during any set of hours that suits me best. If I need to take time away for family or personal needs, I have all the freedom in the world. Because this is the polar opposite of my prior work environment, it almost seems too good to be true. But it is most certainly true.

So why have I felt so anxious lately? I haven’t been sleeping. I haven’t been able to shut my mind off at night. A constant set of worries seems to be streaming through my mind and every little thing annoys me. I’ve seriously begun to wonder if I’m not capable of being happy unless I’m experiencing some sort of discontent!

I should mention that I am now a “remote” employee. I have always worked in my company’s Minnesota office, but the rest of my new team is based in the home office in Wisconsin. This past week, I traveled to the home office to do some training and spend time with my new peers. It was my first solitary work-travel experience, my first time ever in the home office, and it all played out so much better than I could have hoped. I was able to make in-person connections, and work side-by-side with my new team mates for a few days. I can only describe the whole experience as one of being utterly and completely welcomed into the fold. I guess I have a certain set of expectations for what my work life should be, and am always pleasantly surprised when relationships there go deeper than work. And that’s exactly what happened. I found my new coworkers to be so genuine and warm. They are truly a caring group of people and I was amazed at how quickly we bonded and found things in common with one another. A million times this week I have marveled at how fortunate I am to have been awarded this position.

Now that I’m home from my first work trip, it’s become clear why I’ve felt so uncertain and worried lately. I’ve been with this company and/or its affiliates for thirteen years. I’ve survived several reorganizations and much change. But in the past, whenever I’ve moved into a new role, I’ve always continued doing what I know and do best, with a few new responsibilities and expectations. This time, I’ve taken a small bit of the familiar with me, while facing a vast amount of new and uncertain experiences and expectations.

No wonder I’ve been such a wreck! An old habit of not believing in myself has reared its ugly head. Oh how I wish I could be one of those people who charges into every new life experience with confidence and certainty! That’s just never been me. I’ve always required my experiences to prove to that they’re not so scary before I embrace them.

Thankfully, I’m now able to see that the past month has been a journey … one that I’ve had to travel in order to see that no matter how old I get, there’s always room to continue growing and learning. The past week has allowed me to prove that I can go to an unfamiliar city, find my way around, present myself as an intelligent and capable person, and start to succeed in a new role. More importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to actually believe that I can succeed rather than feed my self-doubts. I’m glad to be reminded that change can be a good thing, and that turning new corners is vital to keeping life from growing stagnant. And the past two nights, I’ve slept like a baby!

Never too old

My time away provided several team-building opportunities with my new department. Most revolved around lunches and dinners, but the best one was a yoga/mindfulness/meditation class. I was a bit skeptical and self-conscious at first, but tried not to let it show. I didn’t want to be the newbie who resisted anything different. And not surprisingly, the class proved to be an amazing experience … and much to my benefit, focused on dealing with stress and anxiety.

One thing I learned specifically from this class is the importance of self-care – those things we do for ourselves to keep us operating at our best so that we can be our best selves for those around us. Hence why I’m writing today, and hence (hopefully) more often from now on. Here’s to never standing still in one place for too long!

On relationships … and forgiveness

A couple of years ago, I wrote on a few occasions about a work associate who simply rubbed me the wrong way. She is someone I’ve worked with since I started my career with our company more than twelve years ago. I may have referred to her as “Babs” at one point.

Babs is a woman with a strong personality. She rarely exhibits any lack of confidence, and she loves to be in charge, whether or not her role formally requires it, and whether or not her knowledge and experience warrant it. A couple of years ago, I was working closely with Babs. We were peers … equals … and yet she seemed to always be hovering over me, checking my work, trying to boss me around. And she was putting me over the edge.

People sometimes tell me I’m “too nice.” I sometimes think, “If you could only hear some of the thoughts in my head…” And deep down, I recognize that my reluctance to engage in confrontation may contribute to the label of nice. My feelings toward Babs sometimes bordered on hatred, but I would never let it show. And I don’t regret that. I’ve never wanted to be that person. A coworker actually voiced similar feelings to someone who matters, and it didn’t do her any favors.

I remember writing about my frustrations with Babs. It was the only way I could find to relieve the pressure. I’m sure I wrote some things that were not very kind or fair. And while even at the time, I may have recognized that Babs’ behavior likely resulted from a sense of insecurity, I seemed unwilling to admit that my own reaction to her probably came from a similar place.

Fast-forward a couple of years. I got my wish. There was a reorganization in our division, and Babs was the only member of our small team to find herself in unfamiliar territory. The rest of us were quietly thrilled. Her physical location barely changed. Her desk was still located just a few feet and one cubicle wall away. But it was enough to take the pressure off. She may have still been “right there,” but she no longer had any stake in what we did or how we did it.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that inside, I felt a sense of pure GLEE over the relocation of Babs. She was in a new department, one composed of people who had valuable skills, but whom management wasn’t quite sure how to use just yet. I was fairly certain that Babs’ inability to “play nice” with others contributed to her move. She is smart and savvy, but she had created noticeable divisions in our department.

This new department seemed at first, a placeholder. The insecurity that I’d previously suspected in Babs visibly surfaced. She stopped by my desk on many occasions to lament her situation, saying she felt like she’d been outcast. She expressed that she was no longer sure of herself or how she fit in. She worried about her new role, and the fact that she had no idea what she was doing. She half-joked many times that she was sure someone would catch on and she would soon be fired. Any sense of pity I may have felt for her was quickly overshadowed by the idea that she somehow had this coming.

It’s been some time now since that reorganization. New business has found its way to Babs’ department, and the team is moving full steam ahead. Babs seems to have found her footing and she’s busy. So busy that days go by without a single word from her. I have a much greater sense of peace in my role ever since, and I know that I have flourished in the change.

Yesterday, Babs stopped by, not for business reasons, but to show me a photo she’d had printed on canvas. We both have an interest in photography and she knew I’d appreciate it. The canvas print was beautiful, and we marveled over it together. And a realization hit me like a frying pan to the head.

I was actually enjoying my conversation with Babs. I realized that although we may not mix well when working closely together, I might actually be able to  like her. Had our relationship started on another foot, who knows how different things might be today?

The whole thing taught me a bit about myself. That maybe people can change. Or that maybe I have to be willing to look at someone from another angle to appreciate who they really are and why they behave the way they do. I was so certain of who Babs was, but maybe she only looked the way she did to me, because of where I was standing. I considered that the things that bother me most about a person might just be a small reflection of the flaws I don’t want to admit to in my own self.

And maybe a whole lot of this is simply a willingness to set aside judgment and forgive a little.

This gives me hope for other relationships in my life that are less than what I’d like them to be. Maybe nothing changes today. Probably not tomorrow either. But someday. There is always hope.