Work has been bringing out my character defects this week. I confess that I have been judging everyone left, right and centre. I’ve been spending too much time listening to my colleagues’ conversations, and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of them talk a load of crap. At least half of it’s solely concerned with the subject of booze and partying. The stark differences between their interests and mine couldn’t be clearer. Five minutes of eavesdropping and my mind goes numb with boredom. I shouldn’t get hooked into this game, I should spend my energy on a spiritual practise that actually gets me through the day. Boredom only leads to resentment, and resentment is poison to me. The minute I let a resentment brew I become trapped in it. Ultimately it’s not my colleagues’ fault that I have nothing in common with them, anyway.
On Monday and Tuesday nights I did well to share about that in a meeting, and I felt better for it. And then today on my return to work the feelings returned. My over-sensitive antennae tuned into B and J’s conversation throughout the day, and as I couldn’t really hear most of what they were saying (they were whispering too quietly) my mind made up a conversation about me and how crap I am. It’s toxic to think like this, not least because the chance of them actually saying those things near me is so slim. But I’m trapped in the paranoia most of the time at work, it’s got me hooked.
I realise the only answer when I’m feeling the fears, doubts, anger and so on is to welcome, accept, appreciate and move on. I try and say to myself in regards to a particular negative thought: “I welcome, accept and appreciate this thought”. And it always disperses it. It takes its power away. But it doesn’t take it away permanently, I have to keep practising this spiritual action, and that’s the problem. I forget to keep doing it and so I lose the momentum, and depression and rage can quickly get out of control.
My disease rages at the fact that no one in the office has yet shown an interest in me as a person. I have so many interesting things to say, so many friends outside who respect me, I’m wonderful, God damn it! Don’t they know who I think I am? As long as they don’t know I can’t begin to feel like a worthwhile person when I’m there.
That was getting me down on the way to the meeting last night, and I didn’t want to meet my sponsor at the cafe near the church, I just wanted to be on my own and wallow for a while. I was committed to meeting him there as we meet there every week. When I arrived I was pretty stressed out. I briefly explained where my head was, without enthusiasm, before ordering the same nice meal as last week. The food took ages to come, riling me even further. When it finally came, I could fill my stomach and remember that I love that place. I love that it’s on a corner near the meeting, with big glass windows so that all the AA regulars who pass by see us inside and come in to chat. The food’s expensive, but always really tasty. Quite a few of us from the meeting gather there now beforehand, so it’s become a nice little pre-meeting meeting for some of us.
The main meeting was great, as ever. I managed to share about my problems and get it all out for another day. At the end I talked to R, a regular who I’ve never allowed myself to get to know because I thought he was one of the ‘cool’ crowd that wouldn’t want to know me. We chatted for five minutes about what I’d shared, and he offered some unintentionally amusing advice for my situation. “Why don’t you talk to them about Britney Spears?” I think he said it because I’d mentioned that all my colleagues were younger than me, so perhaps the career of a cheesy pop star would interest them if I needed a conversation starter. We burst into laughter when we realised how unlikely it sounded. I can’t actually think of anything less likely to get my colleagues chatting than Britney Spears.
Since I can be surprised by someone like R turning out to be genial after all, surely I can be surprised at work. Surely I can adopt an attitude of openness and willingness there, like I did in AA, and make connections. Well, you’d think it would work that way, but for some upsetting reason it just isn’t happening yet.
Despite that it was lovely to come away from the meeting at 9pm yesterday and walk to the bus stop under skies that were still light. It hasn’t been as warm this week as in recent weeks, but it was still a fairly pleasant spring evening. Because of that I was able to cheer myself up for a while.
Today was day 37 at work, and I had to face a team trip to the pub that was postponed from last week. I could think of no excuses. When 5.30 came, we were all going whether we wanted to or not. There was a sense that we were all just going through the motions with it. B arranged it all ages ago when we were still new to each other and didn’t have each other sussed out yet. Ah well, what harm could one hour in a pub do? At least she’d picked somewhere that was coincidentally very familiar to me, since it was there that I spent many Saturday afternoons last year with P after our trips to the swimming pool nearby. I grew to like the place last year. They do good food there, it’s comfortable and good value for money.
Although I knew the place I couldn’t escape the fact that I was obliged to be there, regardless. Sure, one can come up with excuses in these situations and just not go, but realistically, such behaviour would have done me no favours. I’ve hardly been giving people a great impression of myself in the office as it is. One hour in the pub with them could potentially go a long way to improving perceptions, and I’m not so anti-humanity that I can just say “I don’t care.”
In the normal world of the office people socialise at the pub after work, it’s the done thing here. I’ve always known this, and in taking this job I knew there would have to be an element of playing the game. I don’t claim to get it – ever since I stopped drinking I haven’t failed to be amazed at how much time and money people are willing to spend in pubs with colleagues for the sake of bonding. I don’t like it at all, but I will do it when necessity calls. Tonight couldn’t possibly be my worst ever experience in a pub. It probably wouldn’t be all that enjoyable, but I knew I’d survive it. It was certainly ok in the end. I didn’t come away thinking that I’d become lifelong friends with anyone, but I at least managed to enjoy a good meal, and there wasn’t a great deal of awkward silence. I noticed that interesting divide in our team again, the one that has me and V on one side and B and J on the other.
I was pleased to observe V buying a soft drink like me – at least I wouldn’t be on my own in the sober department. J and B meanwhile started on the G&T’s straight away while we waited for our food. 90% of the conversation over dinner was about alcohol: how much J and B love drinking it, how often they drink it, how many times in the past year they’ve consumed too much of it, etc. I got the feeling that J, the youngest in the group (and, strangely enough, our manager) was playing up to B in the drinking anecdotes department. I’d never noticed her blathering on about her drinking all that much before. But with B sharing all the gory details of her recent nights out, J seemed to want to impress us even more with her own stories.
In a world where workmates are expected to socialise in pubs after work I suppose it’s natural and easy for alcohol to become one of the main topics of conversation. How I wished to be able to talk about something else, though. Music, for instance. Why couldn’t someone mention a great album that they like? I know B’s got taste in music. Last week in the team quiz she displayed some impressive knowledge of the Beatles’ catalogue (it really impresses me when I come across someone who was born in the 90’s that likes the Beatles.) You may wonder why I couldn’t have brought the subject up myself, steered things in a favourable direction. Well, in these pressured situations my will to be assertive tends to desert me. I could do little except nod and smile at the drinking anecdotes, all the while feeling judgemental inside.
B got particularly excited about the subject of her leaving party that’s likely to take place in a few weeks. She’s planning to celebrate her move to the other office with a big send off in a pub somewhere, and why shouldn’t she. Sadly for me this will probably mean a few weeks of anxiety now, because I’ve got to start preparing a good excuse. I don’t want to go to her leaving party. It won’t be like tonight, where the main activity was eating a meal. It will be a big crowd from the office in a tightly packed pub on a Friday night, with everyone downing their drinks so they can get pissed as quickly as possible. B said as much tonight. I don’t have the patience for these things that I did when I started at the last company. I’m six years older now, I’ve done too much of that over the years. It bores me completely to watch people getting drunk just so they can deal with each other.
I’m coming to think that the only thing I have in common with most of my colleagues is that we’re all human beings. There was a time when I thought that meant I’d be able to connect with everyone on some level, if only I could find the right switch. Today I feel that the gap between me and some of them is just too great. It still saddens me a bit to think that I can get those connections everywhere else: in AA, at my last company, everywhere except here. Sad also that I found similar occasions in my last days at the last place so horrendous, my own leaving do in September being one example. So horrendous then, so pleasant in comparison now. Once again, how did this happen?
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m an alien who has been thrust into an hostile situation. Past experience may have shown me over and over again that it all works out all right in the end, even when I start off feeling this exact way. But there is an instinct telling me that it is different here, that the people really are indifferent or worse. That there is a coldness pervading everything, starting from the false happy clappy crap that they make us go through at the beginning. Can time really make these strong feelings subside, like it always did before? Can it actually do it again?