In my skin

I’ve been thinking about why I keep this blog. I guess I’ve done it primarily for self-seeking reasons: I want people to know what I’m going through, how I’m feeling. Helping other alcoholics is always a nice, and important, bonus. When I post it’s often a late night, long and rambling affair. I hate to admit there is an element of self-obsession but if I think about it, it’s undeniably there. I do aim to be as succinct as possible with my writings, but what often happens is that more tumbles out than I can contain. Maybe I am self obsessed, maybe we all are. We’re alcoholics after all. Being obsessed with my inner world doesn’t mean I think it’s more important than anything else going on in the world. If anything, I’m fascinated by the process of change in my inner world. As I journey from being heavily involved in and controlled by my feelings to being a passive outside observer, I enjoy watching what happens. The aim, not always achieved, is to observe, no matter what.

Work gradually got better towards the end of the week, as one knew it would. I was busy pretty much constantly. At the end of my fifth week I feel quite confident with my main daily tasks, and I can answer some complicated customer queries. It’s become clear that B’s desperate to leave the team. I heard her bitching about the waiting process she now has to go through to one of our neighbours the other day. If she’s trying to keep her feelings a secret she’s not doing a very good job of it. She was off sick today, possibly because of a hangover. I’m guessing a hangover because she came in with one last Friday. She quite happily admits to liking her drink; the quantity of alcohol that she admits to imbibing regularly makes me worry a little. It’s not my place to say whether someone is an alcoholic or not – I just don’t know – but it never seems right to me when a person’s favourite subject to talk about is drinking. What seems even less right is when they announce how unhappy they are having to be sober during the working day. It’s all said in a half joking way of course, and everyone laughs like it’s not really that serious. Still, you know deep down there’s got to be something going on. I’ve spent so long sheltered from that part of life, I may have forgotten how popular drinking still is as a pastime with some people. It shouldn’t come as a shock to me, given all the news stories you hear about the country’s drink problem, but it does when it’s right next to me at work.

Well, it’s none of my business, so I’ll just have to learn to ignore it I guess.

On Wednesday and Thursday I still wasn’t talking to people outside my team all that much. I was seriously wondering when this would ever end. Then today, I was invited to a meeting with S, the head of the whole department, and a few other newcomers, where we’d get a chance to introduce ourselves and learn about the department. S’s intentions appeared noble, in that she just wanted to get to know the new faces in her team and help us settle in a bit. For me this could have been a great opportunity for me to turn things round on the social front. Some of the people who had been at my interview back in March would be there in the meeting today – perhaps the ice between us would finally be rebroken with our boss’s help. I was very nervous going into the meeting, as I probably had too much riding on it. Plus I didn’t know S at all; since starting over a month ago I’d not spoken to her once. To me (and to all of us) she was the scary head of department, never to be approached or socialised with. It was good of her to arrange the meeting, but I wasn’t ready to just let myself go and be a full part of it.

After the obligatory introductions were out of the way S got an interesting discussion going about our ambitions and passions in life, which was unexpected. She gave us some decent advice on how to go places in our career, based on what she had done. By the end of the hour I felt a little warmer towards her, I have to say. Despite her undying love for the bank, I was impressed with her drive and her ability to be encouraging for an hour. I didn’t come out of the room with a bunch of new friends as I’d hoped. J and A, the two people who I’d spoken to at my audition and not since, were still not talking to me. A great shame, since I didn’t know when I would be thrown into a similar situation with either of them again. We all went back to our desks in separate parts of the office, not to have any involvement again until the end of the day when J came over to leave with his friend A. J had been so nice at the audition, wishing me luck; he comes across as a genuine nice person in every way. But for some reason I can’t get through this barrier with him. I know I don’t need to be his friend, I don’t know him at all and he’s probably not given me a second’s thought. But for once in my life I would just like to be able to make a friend with no initial awkwardness or mistrust, no emotional turmoil, no fucking fear of rejection or ridicule.

I was disappointed in my expectations of progress with J and A, before being surprised in a different quarter altogether. One of our nearest neighbours in the office, D, was talking about her birthday which is coming up over the weekend and I managed to get involved in the conversation by a stroke of luck. She mentioned that she was turning 21; she was excited about some posh nightclub in town that her boyfriend was taking her to. Oh, to be 21 again. It slipped out that I was in my 30’s, causing great shock in the group. D kindly said she had thought I was 27 or 28 (if only!) and the others firmly agreed with her. This from someone who I thought hated me two weeks ago because I took her hard drive. After that we were on friendly speaking terms for the rest of the afternoon. D is one of life’s true extroverts, confident in everything she says and does. She also has quite a caustic sense of humour for a 21 year old. Every now and then she’ll come out with a dark comment about a customer or colleague and everyone’ll laugh or try and come back with an equally witty follow up. Before today I could never get involved in the folly for fear of being turned on. For the last hour of today, I could stop what I was doing and get involved.

For the first time in a month I felt comfortable in my place at the bank. The feeling only lasted an hour or so, and it was helped no doubt by the Friday feeling and the good weather we’re having, which has put everyone in a good mood of course. It was nice, anyway.

At the end of work today I celebrated the start of the weekend by walking to the meeting in beautiful warm sunshine. We really have been blessed with good weather this week. It was an especially nice day to walk through the heart of the capital as we elected a left wing Muslim mayor for the first time. For months I have been increasingly angry at the way politics have been going in this country; to watch as a progressive and likeable candidate took the highest office in the city restored some of the faith in humanity I’d lost. There was a good feeling on the streets today. London was out in t-shirts and shorts showing some skin in the warm, sweaty air. When I got to the meeting I felt comfortable in my own skin as I said hello to most of the people there. I chatted normally with a number of them, without much awkwardness. To think back to a year ago, when I could barely say hello to anyone, shows there’s been great progress by any standards.

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