The journey

My feeling of dissatisfaction at work seemed to increase over the weekend, so the week didn’t get off to a fantastic start. I had nothing major to do this week apart from continue with the project of producing posters and flyers for next week’s event, the novelty of which had worn off long ago. I could not shake the feeling that I was the new person in the office that had been given the task no one else wanted to do. I felt very much on probation – which technically I am, but it’s an uncomfortably intense feeling at the moment. All I want is fulfilment at work. Is it that much to ask for? One has always got the impression from books and TV shows that fulfilment happens overnight. Were those books and TV shows lying to me?

With my logical cap on I want to give time time, to trust that my higher power isn’t going to let me down in this situation, because it never has before. Yet even with my logical cap on I can’t stop my list of worries about work from growing every day. In a meeting yesterday K told me she wants me to take over the work of placing orders and raising invoices for the team. It sounded exciting in the meeting, but since K doesn’t really know how the process works herself, I don’t know how to go about taking it over. Once again I encountered the sense that other people in the organisation have always done a task, and I’ll have to use all my skills of deduction to figure out who they are, and how I can take the task from them.

It bothered me no end yesterday, and I had to go to the toilet to meditate for five minutes to calm the pressure in my head. After five minutes I felt a little saner, but anxiety remained an ever present, prickly sensation underlining everything I did. It drove me mad. This morning, to try to avoid it happening again, I decided to write a list of all my worries on a note on the computer, which I can add to or subtract from as necessary on a daily basis. Without the list I’d almost forgotten what I was specifically worried about, which always gives the anxiety a stronger edge. With a specific list of issues it’s clearer to me what I can and can’t do to make things better. Say one of the things I’ve written is “not knowing how to place orders and raise invoices,” it reminds me that the solution is to be patient, because next week I’m going to be occupied with company training and the volunteering event, so I can’t do anything about this issue until the week after next. I guess this is a form of step ten that I’m doing.

Towards the end of today I felt calmer again. I remembered there are some positives to the job. I’m creating and doing things that are worthwhile. This afternoon I got a break from my computer when A asked me to rearrange the office stationery room. It was a good few hours of tiring work, and I enjoyed sorting the whole thing out. Such breaks from the monotony must count for something.

One of the best parts about the working day now is the train journey in the morning. The trains are always quieter in the morning than in the evening, so I normally get a seat. Hence the past couple of days I’ve taken the opportunity to read on the train, something I haven’t done in a long time. I enjoy the part of the journey where I get to share the train with crowds of boys from the school that I used to attend. Twenty years ago those mornings spent on that train were a living hell, but today, it’s a visible sign of all the time that’s passed and the freedom I have now. I don’t feel anything like the intimidation I used to feel around those boys, they’re just kids to me now. Does this make it a healing experience? Am I currently finding some peace with the past? When the train has passed the stop for the school and all the boys have alighted, when it comes out of the tunnel and ascends to a level above the roofs of west London, it naturally brings to mind the journey I’ve been on since I left the school, as I can stay on the train and go above ground into the light now. It would probably sound strange to anyone who doesn’t know this journey as intimately as I do, but there’s something powerful in the fact that I don’t have to get off at the stop for school and face that daily torture any more, that I can watch them all get off while I remain in my seat, safely on my way to my new job and my new life.


Work this week has been boring. I wish it weren’t so, but no more apt descriptions come to mind at the moment. I still don’t have much to do, and the stuff I have to do doesn’t bear much resemblance to my job description. I’m spending most of my time producing posters to put up at the ‘thank you’ event that they’re organising for the charity’s volunteers in a couple of weeks. It’s nearly all I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, and I’m over the novelty of it. Another task that’s taken a little bit of time is some stats that K asked me to put together concerning the usage of our services in London. It was kind of interesting looking in the system for the relevant data and experimenting with Excel to try and present it in an interesting way, but it hasn’t exactly taken long, and I don’t think it’s the kind of thing I’ll be asked to do in the long term. I’m left feeling like I still don’t know what my ‘real’ job is. When we started we were told about booking travel and meeting rooms for the managers, ordering stationery and other supplies for the office, managing data to do with our services. At the moment other people are still doing all of those things and, for some reason, not allowing us to take over. I think a lot of people in the organisation still don’t know we exist. Our jobs arose out of a restructure which everyone knows about, but it seems that the transfer of duties that the restructure was supposed to entail hasn’t happened yet. I get the sense there are a lot of people who’ve been working for the charity for a long time, and who have been used to doing things in a certain way, which doesn’t make change very forthcoming.

I don’t have any set tasks that I know I’m supposed to do every day, it’s just a case of waiting for K to throw things my way. P is in the same position, and several times I’ve heard her express feelings of boredom (when all managers were out of earshot). One might think, maybe it’s not the kind of job that is supposed to be defined by set daily tasks. I’ve never been a ‘team admin assistant’ before, maybe this is just what those jobs are like. But I have to say it drives me a bit mad, always waiting for tasks to be given to me. I’ve always felt more comfortable knowing what I’m doing at work, and not having to rely on managers to remember to give stuff to me. I reckon freelance work, in any field, that involved waiting for jobs to come along would drive me crazy!

Friends have asked why I wouldn’t take advantage of all the spare time to chill a bit, look at facebook, read the Guardian, etc. Well I’ve done that, and it’s boring! Despite the internet being huge, I’ve never found a website that can keep me continuously occupied all day! I know I’m not the kind of person who feels comfortable staring at facebook at work, when I’m meant to be working. If there’s nothing to do it sits uncomfortably with me, and I’d rather ask for something to do than just pretend to be busy. A shame as I’m seated in a corner now where I could actually pretend to be busy, as no one can see my screen!


I think I’m growing out of my home group. I was extremely unenamoured with it last night, and I resented the fact that I’d have to be there for a commitment. Even though I volunteered for the service position six months ago knowing it would be for a year, I’ve got to the point already where I want it to end. One of the reasons I’ve gone off the meeting again, and it’s the same reason I went off it the first time some years ago, is the high turnover of attendees, which means that there’s no solid regular group to fit comfortably into. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, but I don’t know if it’s the main reason for my feelings of disenchantment with the meeting, or if it’s even the real reason. I think the real reason is that an old timer called G, who I’ve had a resentment against for years, has started going every week again. He used to go there a lot when I was first a regular in my early days; recently when I went back after a long break he wasn’t there, and I thought I wouldn’t see him again. But in the last month or so he’s come back, and every time I see him I’m reminded of my bitter resentment against him, one which he has never known anything about.

I find him annoying for a few reasons. He has an extremely caustic sense of humour, one which he’s happy to share with the meeting every week by joking about people who are there and things they’ve said. He has never come across as polite or friendly to me, I’ve never seen him support a newcomer or offer unconditional fellowship to anyone. Worst of all, and despite the faults that I often perceive in him, he is one of the meeting’s most popular attendees. In life there just seem to be people like that, who can do and say whatever they want and still be universally adored because they’re ‘funny’. For some reason Jeremy Clarkson comes to mind.

My commitment lasts another six months and I would spend the rest of the time feeling guilty if I gave it up now, so I’m going to have to put up with him for the foreseeable future. I’m also probably going to have to examine why he produces such strong feelings in me, when I don’t know him at all, and I have no proof that he is all the things I privately accuse him of. I hate having to perform self examination in these cases, it always brings up ugly inescapable truths that I don’t like about myself. Scratch the surface a bit and I may find I dislike him primarily out of jealousy: that he can be entirely himself without any reservation and remain universally loved drives me insane. Hence I wish I didn’t have to scratch the surface, just forget about the underlying forces at work and keep loathing him every week.


After spending half the day in anger, I went to the meeting south of the river hoping it would have dispersed. I’d named the reason for the anger, and my favourite meeting was the only chance I had of ending the day on a good note. Very often these days I will feel frosty at the start of a meeting if I haven’t had a good day, and so it was yesterday. It was one of those meetings where I couldn’t understand why everyone looked so happy. My disease, let’s call it Colin, honestly wanted me to believe that I was the only unhappy person in the room. It was a similar case at counselling class on Friday, when I started the morning feeling sealed off from everyone. Colin had me convinced that I wasn’t wanted there, that the people who hadn’t spoken to me yet were destined to hate me. I had to make such a huge effort to stay in the room and participate. Letting go and letting God wasn’t cutting it. I knew the problem was with me, and it was all made harder by fatigue. I was too tired to believe that my input was valued in the group. I felt I could never fulfil the main criteria of the course by revealing myself.

I have a very clever disease. When I’m in it, it feels like it’s me. Out of it I know it isn’t me, it’s Colin (for the purposes of writing about it I think it will be easier to call it Colin from now on, rather than keep saying “the disease”.) A lot of the time I question whether it really is me. If it is, what if I never manage to control it?

Colin’s cleverest trick is to isolate me, by building a wall around me. I come to believe that the wall is real and I can never get out. I heard all about this from other alcoholics in the meeting yesterday, and it took around an hour for the spirit of the sharing to crack my shell.  I had to speak again: every week it seems to be vital. I tried really hard not to prepare a script beforehand but didn’t quite manage it. I talked about this disorder in my brain which makes me believe I’m worse than everyone else. I mentioned the fact that every week I forget my problem is treatable, which is how I keep falling for the illusion that I’m separate from everyone else.

When I don’t want to share and bring myself closer to people, that’s the time to do it. I’m fundamentally aware of that these days and I thanked my lucky stars for finding the willingness yesterday. I’ve said before that even the simplest things, like smiling and saying hello to people without waiting for an acknowledgement, take a lot of willing for me, even now. The more aware I become of how simple the solution is, the harder it seems to get to follow it.

In the end I managed to connect with the meeting, by the time we were all walking out and going for coffee I felt one with the group as normal. However a service position had been announced, making the tea, and I hadn’t taken it, even though I’m available to do it every week there. I just didn’t feel ready to put my hand up when it was announced. There was a long, pregnant silence as the secretary deliberately waited for a volunteer to put themselves forward. I could have jumped in at any point. Eventually someone else reluctantly took it, someone who’s never gone to the meeting before. On that score I allowed Colin to win, then. Next time I hope he doesn’t.


Today I’m angry. I’ve woken with a rage that seems ready to explode out of me – I must confess that events in the world have driven me to this point. The rhetoric coming from our government about immigration this week started it, Donald Trump’s latest foot in mouth moment and the determination of his supporters to excuse it poured fuel on it. I have my bedroom door closed all the time but I still hear the news as mum follows it every day. The media’s toxic cynicism seems determined to invade my thoughts, I can find no escape. I can’t even go on facebook without being bombarded with the world’s crap.

With all the efforts I’ve made recently to wash negativity out of my life, it stings particularly when I am stuck here and the good things in my life seem so far away. The new job and the counselling course, the associated reading are all attempts at installing authenticity in my life, they’ve made me happy while I’ve been engaged in them. But at night, when I’m here all I hear about is Brexit, immigration, a new fascism, Trump, Clinton, the slow descent of society into a cynical, greed fuelled dystopia. Even when mum’s gone to bed and I can’t hear the news, when I’ve switched off the computer and left facebook behind for the day, I can’t stop thinking about how bad it all is. I want to punch a hole in the wall as my thoughts turn to who I can possibly talk to about all this. Lots of my friends would surely understand, but they don’t change the fact that things really are going to shit.

I saw P the other night for the book club, and my efforts to be nice seemed to pay off. We didn’t debate politics – I didn’t even want to go there. It was an ok evening. Now I wish I had brought politics up, had it out with him. I wish I could say to his face that I blame people like him for what’s gone wrong in the world. For years I have swallowed it down, tried to be polite, to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his loyalty as a friend. But it keeps coming up, keeps poisoning my thoughts when I’m not with him. As the people in power swing ever further to the right, it gets harder and harder for me to pretend that I’m ok with that friendship. When I started learning about counselling I thought maybe it would help me to be more tolerant (not that I did it for that reason, by the way), but instead, the more exposed I am to ideas of congruence and self disclosure, the more strongly I feel that I need to say something.

As for my mother, she voted for Brexit, she supports the right shift that’s going on in society even more than P does. I’ve even heard her say supportive things about Trump! What the hell can I say to her? I don’t want to patronise her by saying she doesn’t have the same understanding of things as the rest of us. But I remain convinced that any conversation with her on the matter would be pointless. At least she hasn’t tried to change my views, or tried to debate them with me. For the past year I’ve sacrificed some peace of mind in putting up with the news channels and their insidious ideology, so I get to live here rent free and save some much needed money. I can fully appreciate the good in her, and I still love her as much as ever.

P on the other hand appears to be symptomatic of the needed changes that I’m not making in my life. On the way to the book club on Thursday we briefly chatted about J, the mutual friend that I deleted on facebook earlier in the year following an inhumane rant about Syrian refugees. I didn’t want to get into a discussion about it but I finally told P why I had to delete J, and it was interesting to note P’s reaction, which was much like his reaction to the government’s policies. “Privately I don’t agree with it but I’m still going to support it by being friends with him, because I don’t know what else to do.” It was weak and disingenuous, like all of P’s excuses for supporting the Tories, but instead of shouting at him like I wanted to I kept my mouth shut. We were approaching the place where the book club was being held and I was too tired for the argument that I’ve been dying to have all year.

I’ve made big changes in my career to encourage personal authenticity and growth, but when it comes to my personal life I am still stuck after all this time. I get the feeling this is why I feel so angry today. If I was personally fulfilled in every way, if I only had friends that I respected, if I lived in my own place where I didn’t have to shut myself away from the constant noise of the TV, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry about the Conservatives and Donald Trump. I’d disapprove and use what limited political power I have to change things, sure, but I don’t think it would hurt quite so much.

So that’s why I’m angry today. Nothing’s changed, the world is still going to a dark place and my personal relationships still lack honesty, but I feel MUCH better after writing it down.

Mind control

After a quiet start, my new job’s gradually gotten busier and busier, to today which was actually quite stressful. I’ve been asked to help organise this big event that the charity is running at the end of the month for all its volunteers, where they’ll be giving out awards and making speeches etc. I’m having to contact lots of people in the organisation to get information that can be posted around the event, e.g. highlights of the year, photos, interesting stats that people will be able to browse while they’re waiting for the event to start. It’s turned out to be a much bigger responsibility than I initially thought; and at the same time I’m having to help K out with other smaller reporting projects that aren’t all that easy.

While I’m trying to organise things I still feel very new, but through the work I think I’m gradually getting to know my role and the way things operate, which is good. I still love the office and the people, I just wish the job paid enough for a place of my own in London, but I know it never will. Well, at least it’s an interesting job.

There was some extra stress today as we all had to move desks. Our experienced colleague, A, wanted to move to a desk in the corner of the room, away from front of house where she doesn’t want to be any more. Someone would need to replace her at reception and the whole team agreed that P would take that place, as she has a friendly face and just seemed right for it. I certainly didn’t feel right for it, and no one suggested me going there, thankfully. With P moving it meant I could take her desk in the other corner, a perfect place for me to set up camp and become invisible at will. So far I’d been sitting near to reception with my back to the door, not feeling very comfortable as I’d have to turn around every time someone came in to see one of us.

We did all the moving this afternoon and P clearly wasn’t happy about losing her comfy desk in the corner. It took ages for all the phones and desks to get sorted out, during which time she became visibly sulky as she waited. I got the feeling she would have been much happier keeping her old desk while I went to reception. I wanted to tell her that the whole move hadn’t been my idea, and that our manager was the one who wanted her to go on reception, not me – but I recognise that it won’t do any good me starting an argument. I got into those situations so many times before at RG, and I just want to be more professional here. So I didn’t say anything. The best thing for P to do, if she’s really unhappy, is to tell K, who will have to sort it out.

From experience I know these things happen in small teams where you’re working with the same people day in and day out. You’re not always going to agree on everything. At least I’m not counting the days here, like I did throughout my time at the bank. And at least I’m not obsessing about my time at RG any more. Since I started at the charity I’ve hardly thought about it, to be honest. I can definitely cope with the low pay when the job gives me such peace of mind.

Yesterday there was a quick one to one with K, who seems pleased with my work so far. I like to think I’ve been able to impress her with my efforts to get to know the organisation, and in helping her out with the mini projects she’s been sending my way. She mentioned that we’ll be catching up every two weeks until the end of my probation – which she hinted that I’m sure to pass, unless anything goes horribly wrong in the meantime (please don’t let it!) I would honestly love to keep this job and stay for many years like nearly everyone I’ve met there, get so used to work that I know it all inside and out like A. Clearly it’s a good place to be with people staying there for such long periods of time. It was never like that at RG or at the bank. And yeah, it is one of the world’s most well known charities, so obviously it will do me good to stay there, personally and professionally.

If I do stay maybe it will become the career path I was looking for instead of counselling. Who knows? I know I’m going in the right direction at the moment, and it’s so good to have that feeling back.

I felt stressed out today but it wasn’t entirely to do with work. It was more to do with mum’s passport. She applied for a new one recently and although they’ve sent her her new one, she hasn’t had her old passport back yet. It’s been almost a week and it should be here by now. It’s so silly that we’ve both spent time worrying about something that’s bound to get sorted out soon, but what can you do? We both have that disease of anxiety. All I can think about is someone finding her old passport and stealing her identity to commit some huge crime. Never mind that an expired passport probably isn’t going to do any criminal much good, the idea is in my mind now and it won’t leave until we have the thing back safe and sound.

I really don’t think anything’s going to happen, and maybe the fact that I can say that with some conviction is a positive sign. Even though a visceral dread has underlined my day concerning this matter, I can still be aware of what it’s doing to me and quiet myself with logical words. Maybe I just have to hang onto that.

That needless dread has made the day much harder than it needed to be. I was so anxious on the train to work this morning I thought I was going to kill someone. It’s like I’ve got so used to worrying about anything I actually want to worry now, even when I know what it’s about and why it’s pointless. I’m still automatically trying to control things that are out of my control. I’m not handing anything over unless I remember to, which isn’t very frequent.

It’s all proof that changing one’s brain patterns is an incredibly hard thing to do. After nine years I’m only just starting to try. I guess I’ve been starting to change for the whole of the past nine years. Who knows, maybe after twenty years I’ll find myself in the middle of changing, as opposed to still at the beginning of it!

I’m trying to give up porn again. A few weeks ago I managed two weeks of abstinence, until a slip which saw me descend back into mindless addiction quite quickly.

I understand clearly how this addiction works today: I stare at hot men in public, it turns me on, builds up an excitement in me to the point where I have to go home and use porn. All these behaviours reinforce each other so strongly, that I know it will get harder and harder with time to ignore the cravings for porn. I can’t just stop looking at attractive men in public, they are everywhere. To disconnect that behaviour from its reinforcer, porn, I will undoubtedly have to go through weeks of mental torture. When I tried it before I could only manage two weeks before I became so weak with desire I practically rushed home on a Friday evening to use. It’s my crack cocaine.

I’ve heard that a month can be enough to break any habit. Whether I’ll be strong enough to last a month this time is anyone’s guess. I really want to right now, but anything could happen in the next few weeks. Stress tends to make me particularly susceptible to triggers. And by giving up porn I have no idea what my ism is going to want to fix on next. When I’ve tried to give this up before it has clearly revealed to me the void in my life. The less I use porn the more my thoughts become dominated with how hopeless my sex life is, and how unobtainable the men I really want are. Since I gave up alcohol, internet porn has been the crutch I’ve used to avoid those feelings.

It tells me I can’t do without it, that I don’t need to. When I’m on a train and I see someone stunning, the addiction latches onto their image and literally forces me to stare. To avoid staring is a strenuous effort, the action of staring has become so automatic. I’m like Pavlov’s dog, I just can’t stop myself from drooling.

This isn’t like drinking. Where thought processes are involved it’s not a simple case of stopping in an instant. If I do ever manage to recover from this addiction, I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether it will allow me to form better relationships in my life, or if it will simply mean I never enjoy an amazing orgasm again. Whatever is to come of this, I know that the addiction has gone too far. It’s not just the money I’m spending on porn videos every week, it’s the fact that it makes me behave like a crack addict. Every time I use, I feel cheap and dirty afterwards, and I’m hurting myself ultimately by wanting a fantasy I can never, ever have. I can’t predict how long I’ll stay clean for, but just for today I don’t want to use. Just for today, I can do it.

An authentic self

Today was week two of the introduction to counselling course that I’m taking, and I was almost as anxious going in this week as I was last week. Having met and gotten to know some of the group last week, I didn’t feel much more confident about engaging with them this week. They were back to being strangers again, and I didn’t know if I could trust them to accept me back in. I knew this feeling would get in the way of me being able to engage with the session properly, but any attempt to overcome the anxiety felt like I was putting pressure on myself, so I just carried on feeling anxious and somewhat detached for most of the three hours.

During the break in the middle there was some embarrassment when I tried to sit at a table with two of the group members in the canteen. Just like being back at college again. I didn’t know what to say to them, so I sat there while they carried on talking like I wasn’t there. Fortunately I was rescued after a few minutes when a couple of others from the group joined us and started including me in a conversation. Any effort from me to get involved in the group chat without help would have been out of the question.

After break we were asked to form groups to do an active listening exercise. One person would talk, one person would actively listen (like a counsellor), and another person would observe things. We’d then swap roles so that each member in turn got to be in each position. I remembered doing this in the counselling course that was part of my psychology degree, so I should have been excited about playing the counsellor again. But I could only think about finding a group that I felt safe with, and how difficult it would be. For every group exercise the tutor asks us to pair up with people we haven’t worked with before, so to find partners I have to talk to strangers, my worst nightmare. This was the part of the session I’d been dreading all morning, the reason I hadn’t been able to be present.

One of the women who’d spoken to me at the break luckily came straight over to me to include me in her group, which I felt grateful for. When it came to the exercise, the tutor encouraged those of us playing ‘the client’ not to make stuff up. Instead, we might get more out of it by talking about things that were really going on for us, how we were feeling, etc. When it was my turn to talk I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about other than the anxiety I’d been going through in the group. I said that I felt sad about being anxious in week two, that it was stopping me from engaging with everyone fully. I was honest about not feeling safe there, and feeling guilty about that.

We had five minutes to talk, so I was able to get quite a lot of it out, and I felt immediately better afterwards. There’s nothing quite like owning one’s feelings, as I’ve discovered in AA many times before. My colleagues were as kind as one would expect, telling me that they too find opening up and engaging honestly with strangers difficult. I realised that to get the full benefit of this course, I will need to keep doing that. I can’t be closed off. Essentially, I need to be myself there, fully. To do that I need to trust that it will be ok, something I can find virtually impossible in all manner of social situations. It’s clear now that I will never really feel like it’s ok – there may never come a time when I believe in my gut that other humans can be trusted completely. So I’ve just got to get on and do it, regardless, or I’ll be stuck forever. That’s what faith means. For years I’ve been waiting for something inside me to change so that opening out and connecting to people gets automatically easier, and it’s never happened. I have to step out onto the ice and start walking, all whilst feeling like it could crack underneath me at any minute. There is no other way across the lake.

One might wonder why opening up and overcoming group anxiety is so important when I’ll only be working with individuals as a counsellor. Well, clearly if I can’t work through this then I won’t be able to help a client who’s going through it. We’ve been told from the start of the course that personal development and change is essential when training to be a counsellor. I was already looking at a lot of this stuff before the training started, as it kept coming up in AA during the past year or so. Now I am throwing an even stronger magnifying glass on it, and I don’t like it, but it’s got to be done.

I wasn’t going to go to the big meeting this week. I was going to try a new local meeting down the road, to see if I could branch out for the first time in years from the safe gay meetings that I’ve always done. In the end, despite my best intentions I just went to the gay meeting. It seemed easier, I’d know people there and I might not feel so resentful after a two week break. From start to finish, the meeting was packed with fabulous, heart rending sharing of the sort I could only dream about doing. There were some gaps in which I could have jumped in, but as ever, my mouth wouldn’t open when the opportunity was there.

For the counselling course I’ve been reading some Carl Rogers, who talks about things like ‘congruence’ and ‘self actualisation’. These are concepts I know well – in AA they just have different names. At the beginning of his book ‘A Way Of Being’ Rogers shares some anecdotes about times when he felt listened to, and times when he was able to really listen to someone, and how happy it made him. They’re the kind of anecdotes that make one feel warm inside, because I think really being heard is something we all crave in life. From the day I came into AA I’ve had a forum where I can always be heard, but I haven’t been able to appreciate it all the time because I’m so shit scared of vulnerability. In his writing Carl Rogers reiterates the point that real authenticity and growth only happens when we’re being honest and vulnerable with others. In a moment when one shares something personal with another, without embellishment or self editing, that magical connection occurs that we all dream of, allowing change to happen. I never thought of myself as an advocate of Rogers’ person-centred view of therapy, but I find myself nodding along with it now, and I also find myself wondering if I’ll ever ‘self actualise’ enough to share my true self in all situations.

At the end of tonight’s meeting someone called B opened their mouth and spoke what seemed like an unplanned, random jumble of words, but what was really a clever, funny, authentic story about their life. There was humour and insight, pathos and intelligence; it was fluent and relatable, like a friend talking to you over coffee. When I was sharing my anxiety in the counselling exercise earlier in the day, I had had some of that fluency; there hadn’t been any of the usual anxiety beforehand about what to say, none of the self editing and careful scripting. I had just allowed myself to say what seemed relevant in the hope it would pay off. It really, really bugs me that I can’t just say things in an AA meeting without scripting them beforehand; that I have to wait for a suitable gap in the sharing before opening my mouth and saying my name. What I wouldn’t give to be able to do what B did, just open up when I feel like it and say something that the whole room agrees with, without having to think about it at all.

On the way home I couldn’t help thinking about Carl Rogers and authenticity. Evidently I want to be able to be authentic when I share in AA meetings, to let others in, but I can’t do it when I’m sitting there trying to think of the funniest, cleverest thing to say. Anything I script in my head beforehand can never come out authentically because it just sounds like a script. I put so much pressure on myself to say the best thing I can in the short time given, it’s no wonder I rarely end up sharing.

When I next share in a meeting, I could refuse to script it out beforehand, and just say the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t script everything I’m going to say when I’m talking to a friend like P, for instance, and I don’t beat myself up afterwards for things I’ve said to him. If I could just start talking fluently and normally in a share, like I do in one to one situations with friends outside, it might be the beginning of an authentic change in my life. I immediately balk at the thought of saying things in a meeting that I would normally say to P, or on here – but why? You’re supposed to be able to share anything in an AA meeting, it’s supposed to be a safe space where we’re really honest. I’m coming to realise that I’ve never really been honest in an AA meeting, not for a long time. I’ve just said things that I thought would sound clever or relevant. I haven’t really reached into my soul and blurted the whole truth out, not like I do on here.

I’m not the same person in AA meetings as the person that writes this; nor am I the same person with P. I seem to be another person entirely in the counselling class. There I’m calm and collected, thoughtful, silent. A blank, almost. With P I’m silly, judgemental, superficial. In AA meetings I say things that sound profound but are really just paraphrases of what other people have said. On here, I guess I’m my real self…though it’s hard to tell. How can I tell? Most of the time here I’m anxious, over analytical, extremely self obsessed – but is that really me? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think I’m more than my anxiety and self obsession, but any other facets to my personality don’t tend to get written about here because, well, I don’t know how to write like the person I am with P, with friends, when I’m happy or excited.

After a meeting the other day I briefly chatted to an old timer about shyness. We were talking about someone else in the meeting who has apparently been avoiding this old timer for a while. I said that they’re probably just shy – it’s the impression I get of them, I didn’t think they were deliberately giving this guy the cold shoulder. The old timer replied with something along the lines of “oh, shyness can be so unattractive sometimes.” To which I protested “but I’m shy!” His answer: “yes, but with you it’s endearing.”

Now, it was nice of him to say that, and I appreciated it. Does that mean the real me is an endearingly shy character who comes alive occasionally in one to one situations with trusted friends? I still don’t know. I just get the feeling that in order to ‘open up’ more in the world I’d need to know who I really am first.

Newcomer nerves

I started the new job at the charity on Monday, and in many ways it should be the ideal job for me. If I could let myself be truly happy in it, I think it would be a dream. It’s got so many things going for it: a nice office, great location, small team, all lovely people, I can wear whatever I want (no more ties!), easy work. The money is terrible, but I was prepared for that, and the positives all outweigh that so much I almost don’t care any more. There’s just one thing, shall we say, that’s concerning me at the moment: so far there doesn’t seem to be much work to do. When I started I thought it was going to be hectic. I was looking forward to being rushed off my feet all week, to feeling like I was majorly contributing to something useful. On Monday we had to spend the day trawling through online learning modules that gave an overview of the charity’s history and some of its working processes, so no actual work done; yesterday and today we’ve been waiting for K, the manager, to give us work to do as it’s not clear how else we can find it. I should say that another girl, D, started on the same day as me in the same role, so I’m not on my own.

That’s another thing that should make the circumstances ideal: I’m not the only newbie in the office. Both of us have had to spend a bit of time this week twiddling our thumbs because everyone else has been too busy to suggest things for us to do.

I probably shouldn’t be complaining about this too much yet. It’s only day three, clearly we don’t really know how to do anything yet so it would be hard for them to pile work on top of us at this point. While it’s true that we’ll only learn to do stuff when they give it to us, they may not want to rush things with us yet. I’m saying all of this to convince myself by the way – I’ll keep going. It’s illogical to think that there really isn’t anything for us to do. The other member of our team, A (who’s been at the charity for twelve years, apparently) has loads of stuff to do. I’ve had hints that she’s got stuff she could share with us, but won’t be able to until we’ve learnt some more processes and been given some more access on the system. God, starting jobs and waiting for access to systems must be the bane of my life!

What I’m really worried about is redundancy. I’m not worried about being sacked: my anxiety’s become a bit more realistic recently. When all of my team was made redundant two years ago it was like the rug being pulled from under my feet, and I know I haven’t recovered from it yet. K’s been quite honest with us about the fact that we have our jobs now following a restructure of the charity that led to some redundancies. My current low paid position arose because other, much higher paid people were let go. It doesn’t lend itself to a feeling of security. Whenever I’m sitting there staring into space with nothing else to do, my thoughts can’t help drifting to the possibility that they’ll realise I’m not needed and let me go too. Thus the whole thing will have turned out to be too good to be true.

I need to let go and let God, to trust that fate wouldn’t deal such a callous hand. The journey to this job was so smooth in comparison to all other jobs, it seems so much like the best career move I could make, I’d have to wonder what kind of higher power would take it away now. Everything that’s happened to me, even what happened in 2014, has pointed to the conclusion that my HP doesn’t want me to be unhappy. I’ve had much cause to think about whether I can fully trust my HP recently, and here I am, being made to think about it again, evidently. Faith says that things will pick up, there will be work coming my way, I just need to give it time. And I haven’t exactly had nothing to do this week, there have been bits and pieces, just not as much as my over busy mind would like. It’s a certainty in life that no situation ever stays the same forever, so this one can hardly remain as it is.