Thursday, July 27, 2017

the way the mind works

Or in this case specifically my mind. But it's also a 

a) reminding lesson in how we react to seemingly minor, mundane things and behaviours is based on previous experiences (and values)

b) more often than not you're your own great therapist (given you're reasonally sane and insightful of course)

The first time I really really grasped this was when I was on my lengthy burnout sick-leave (now over ten years ago) - 

sure the workload was heavy, but the real reason was it was basically a workplace from hell with a very unhealthy company culture of bullying, insecure bosses and lackeys who kept targeting one of the lawyers until s/he broke down and was replaced by a new, unsuspecting target. Specifically those who did the best job, thought outside the box and weren't afraid (initially) to speak their mind. And yes I was soon the perfect target. -

I could write a long long post about this of course, and I have written several touching on the subject when I began blogging - hey it's almost 12 years ago now! - but I'll just say as much that even if I was in that hell for too long, and the recovery took years, I'm also a much much better and healthier human being for it. One of my best life lessons, even if it felt like far far from that back then, deep under the duvet. And of course, Little Loaf would't have moved in here if it hadn't been for that dark period in my life.

That workplace experience also shaped me and my reactions to a lot of ways people behave - hello master suppression techniques, you don't escape me - when I shy away, when I genuinely dislike or embrace people and organisations. And yes, back then I got it why we all react in ways that seem logical to ourselves but possibly spaced out and irrational to others, our previous experiences set the stage for actions and reactions. Fight or flight mode.

And that was merely the prelude to the recent event I was to write about. A mundane and genuinely kind offer that threw me into a calm panic mode. Calm as in it wasn't a scary situation at all, quite the opposite, but my mind went into overdrive and I realised I've come so far in this past year and at the same time I'm so shaped by both my values and all those years before that it's both great and sad really.

A month ago I had a business meeting. The journey there by commuter train would take about 1,5 hours followed by a walk for about 15 minutes through a depressing industrial area trafficed by heavy vehicles. It was raining when I left home, it kept drizzling outside the train window for 1,5 hours but when I reached my station the sun suddenly appeared which felt like a great sign for the meeting to come.

After 300 metres the heavens opened and an absolutely mad rain began to fall. Never mind, I have a fancy Marimekko umbrella that will keep me dry. But then the sudden gusts appeared and I soon realised having a fancy schmancy umbrella would not make much of a difference from not having one at all. Half there I was basically soaking wet from shoes to shoulders. And got a crazy painful blister from nowhere. The rest of the walk I frantically sang 'High ho high ho it's off to work I go' to cheer myself up.

Had some time to try and sort out my drenched look before the meeting but it was quite obvious it had been a *rather* wet walk to get there and the person I was meeting was quick to offer me a ride back to the station after the meeting. I was needless to say grateful for the kind offer but these were my three instant reactions -

1. No way I'm accepting if the person driving doesn't pass the station on his way to something work related to where it's necessary to drive. Just because it might be convenient for me doesn't mean it's a sound environmental choice. I'm already wet, I can walk back too.

2. I'm an independent, grown up, professional person that can cope with annoying things like very wet weather and blisters. I must not get used to accepting rides when there's really no need for them.

3. The realisation that for most of all those years with M I was far too accepting to taking the car instead of the bus/train when we did things together. The car was like an extra limb to him, when it was more of an environmental and health issue for me, yet it was so very convenient... And time saving. And... I am now effectively weaned from that.

I could have declined the offer after the meeting. I didn't. I kept debating with myself when I waited. When I saw the car, a company car with logos but still your usual modern car much like M's car, it put me in some kind of weird 'oh no, I can't open the door and step inside because I will now be back in the passenger seat of my life with someone else driving' panic mode. 

You know, your average irrational behaviour and thought that seems so obviously logical to the person with a certain experience. The thing that saved me from saying 'thanks, but no thanks the weather is clearing up' and just run was that I hate making a fool of myself, especially in a professional situation and I'm insightful enough to know why I reacted the way I did. 

But the 5 minute car ride felt really awkward, I played normal, - albeit still a rather wet and damp version of normal - chatting away and to make it even worse my glasses broke. One of the sidepieces just bizarrely fell off. I didn't mention it and tried to keep the glasses on my nose like it was the most normal thing in the world to have one sidepiece only. Soon that world looked really lopsided and I almost fell out of the car at the station because I couldn't see properly and for all the tension of acting normal for 5 minutes while my inside was in turmoil.

I hope I was a good actress. And I seriously doubt the person in question read this blog. (If you do, feel free to have a good laugh at my weirdness.)

At the same time as it was an encouring realisation in how far I've come on the journey of redefining myself as a me alone it was also a bewildering feeling of being ridiculously childish, a stubbornly independent weirdo who blow things out of complete proportions as well as an insightfully wise and value driven human that makes/wants to make conscious decisions for the greater good not only my own convenience in the moment.

Sometimes I'm just so liberatingly uncomplicated, easy to grasp and please, others my brain take me on the wildest rides over seemingly random, mundane things. I guess that's just a case of being a multi-layered human being. An odd bird. And growing up with an always analyzing, deep thinker father like mine.

All in all, high five to me for realising the whys and the hows for my calm panic reaction to something as simple as a kind gesture. I have no idea how I will react when something similar happens again one day.

But at least I got a blog post out of the ride that turned into two quite different rides, outside, inside.


Beth Waltz said...

I've had this conversation with friends about how our reaction to situations and even people may be influenced by their resemblance to others we've encountered. One can imagine oneself as a version of Marley's ghost in "Scrooge" -- but instead of dragging a chain of cashboxes and ledgers, one drags along memories, good and bad.

Thank you for inviting us to laugh with you about the rain, the offer of a ride, and the disintegration of your glasses. Brava!

Pia K said...

Thank you, Beth! Your kind and thoughful comments with a twist always make me happy!

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