Tag Archives: Workaholism

Lessons On Boundaries

I’ve been on a hiatus from the life I was leading through most of this year and the last. One notable conversation I had in this time made me realise the importance of boundaries in my life. 

I’ve always been a boundary tester, a rulebreaker, a label hater, an opposer of all things that feel restricting. But now I think I also need to learn how to define and maintain boundaries in my life. It’s very exciting to be able to flow and ebb and dissolve and rise from chaos. But it’s tiring and now it feels futile. 

I think all human beings and interactions need some kind of boundaries but most of our world is entrapped in boundaries set by other people that have become prisons. In that, I have no regrets over who I have been — in testing the world I live in and finding where I want to go, how far and in what way. Boundaries are only good when you set them yourself.

My boundlessness has caused systemic corrections like violent reactions from people, actions that feel like profound betrayals and my own sense of feeling drained and exploited. The cycles I go in are to love in a burst of passionate emotion and give and give because it just feels good to give — attention, affection, objects, time, energy, commitment. Unsurprisingly I’ve drawn takers, most notably the abusive men and a handful of manipulative friendships. 

With complete objectivity, I can see how I fit their scripts as well as they fit mine. But even someone who enjoys giving runs empty eventually. And the fellow actors in my scripts have punished me for not being perennial while having reached a point of not giving anything back. Balance off whack. And the solution? Boundaries, defined better, well and early.

All this is probably really obvious to anybody outside of me. But I can feel this understanding at a cellular level now. I’ve been figuring out what boundaries mean to me (outside of ‘prison’ or ‘control mechanisms’). I’ve been navigating the kind of emotions that rise, how many of them are remembered traumas and how I can proceed in spite of them.

So what has this looked like? It’s been about saying no to a work project, something that caused me a lot of agony because it runs so against the grain of my work ethic (kill myself if need be but deliver, deliver on time, deliver over the promise but DELIVER). I know this comes from a very early place of not fitting into the education and social systems (gender role, nuclear family unit etc.) and so overcorrecting in a bid to ‘be okay’.

It has been about getting off the stage. I needed to face my fears about the stage, I needed to break the victimhood of being gaslit, violated and hit for being visible and I’ve done it all. It was a hard choice getting off the stage once I’d fought my way to it feeling like a place of comfort. Especially so because I wondered whether I would ever get back on again and whether my entire life of performance would have to go hand-in-hand with reliving traumas. Saying goodbye to anyone or anything is always hard only because of this — because you don’t know if it’s the last goodbye. Thankfully, for me it wasn’t. 

And then it was about learning to walk away from situations and people. This was actually the easiest thing to do, perhaps because I’d done the more visible things like work and stage before this. Years of not having a choice of escaping traumatic situations, of being blamed and shamed for those situations made me have to grow a Warrior whose motto was never back down, take everything head on, offense before defense etc. It was so exhausting and it never really felt like me. Worst of all was being related to by the world as if that was my entire being, not just one facet developed as a defense mechanism in certain situations. That’s what all the harassment of last year (“Manhater”) was about. I’m a Creator, not a Destroyer or even a Warrior. Now that I know I can be the other things if I need to, I can retire them until further notice. All I had to do was walk away from some situations.

I’ve found help in watercoloring. Oddly enough, this is the one artistic medium that never appealed to me, even though I actually had some formal instruction in it. Maybe that’s exactly why — anything that came from the system felt like an imposition, an imprisonment to me. I started on watercolours after a friend took it up and shared his works with me. There’s something soothing about working with water, about the gentle brushstrokes, the undramatic (I used to think boring) colours. And I’ve resolved that this will not be one more thing that I turn into a competitive, goal-oriented thing. I’ve been carrying my kit to events, coffee with friends and even meetings. I joked to a friend that this is my new hipster behaviour. He just smiled and said, 

“It’s not a hipster thing, it’s just a Ramya thing.”

which is the nicest thing I’ve been told in a long time. I’ve been painting swatches, squiggly nothings, letters etc. Sometimes they look good, sometimes they’re unmemorable. And always, I feel accompanied, well-adjusted and complete with that brush in my hand.

The results have not been bad at all. I fell sick a fortnight ago — the kind of dark, no-end-in-sight sickness that afflicted my very soul. I couldn’t breathe sometimes and spent hours coughing or gasping or just passed out in some version of asleep. I don’t think this is a coincidence at all. An ex friend once told me that phlegm represents pain. It had to threaten to choke me before I could release it willingly. For the first time in I-can’t-even-remember-how-long, I spent an entire week in bed, not checking my email, not answering my phone, drifting between sleep and fevered wakefulness. The past week has been returning to the world and I’ve given myself permission to do it slowly and without apologising. It hasn’t been bad at all.

I’ve also been meeting friends. Yes, it turns out I do have a lot of friendships and people who are genuinely happy to see me. Some have even been from places I had labelled Trauma Points inside my head — Twitter and Poetry. But I’ve been doing all this with boundaries (as far as possible). Limiting my time, what I say, what I ask about, the things we do.

Maybe a wall can have my back too.

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My Least Favorite People (Fine, My Pet Prejudices)

1. Doctors. This ‘noble’ profession stayed noble for me only as far as the parents of my best friend. Every medicine man & woman after that, has looked at me and my family and seen only a big, fat wallet. Scum.

2. Pedigreed puppies. It’s bad enough that this country values degrees & diplomas over knowledge & understanding. Then there is the fact that most of these branded institutions serve as nothing more than factories churning out certifications by crateful. Add to that the lack of age/experience stipulation which means the average age of the products from one of these institutions is 23 (and the associated immaturity & brashness). And finally there is the idolization that the entire country heaps on them, treating them like God’s gift to this universe, the workforce, the dating scene and the marriage market.Their attitude, their work ethic and the people they are (if there is anything human beyond the degree/diploma) leave so much to be desired. So very much.

3. Male chauvinists, mama’s boys & the typical Indian hypocritical males. Need I say more? I don’t think they deserve more than these words.

4. Workaholics, especially if they are senior to you in an organization. If you need me to explain this, chances are that you’re one yourself and then, I have nothing to say to you except: GET A LIFE!! (and stop torturing other people for your lack thereof!)

5. Delhi men: Male chauvinists. Hypocrites. Overprivileged brats. Boors. Road rage drivers. Presumptous, pompous p*!@&s.  And on occasion, rapists. What, really I need to say more? You’re from that bloody city, aren’t you?

To this distinguished list, I now add – House Brokers: The pimps of real estate, the scavengers of the worst of this city – space. I loathe you, I despise you, I think you have to be the most horrible creatures if, of all the things you can do, you choose to do this.

That’s a lot of people to wish were extinct, isn’t it? Well, it’s a shitty world.

Imbalance

And my work has been snatching away…viciously…from the rest of my life. Time. Energy. Enthusiasm. Joie de vivre.

But this blog has the fewest entries. Isn’t that ironic? No, its not. It just isn’t funny anymore. Or fun.

Idiotic frenzies

What kind of an lame-brained idiot works on a report all week, plans it so as to finish on time on a Friday, then does, shuts down and goes out for a moonlight cruise and dinner……remembers mid-way that they forgot to email that report out? Someone like me, that’s who.

So what did I do next? Yelped, jumped up and down in my chair and generally fretted till my friends agreed to split and take me back to office. Got to office after midnight, called up some ten thousand people (no actually only one and she laughed) to check how to get into the locked building, managed to get in and switch on my comp.

Then I sent the email. And I received a reply,

Whatever are you doing in office at this hour on a Friday night?

Being an idiot that’s what.

I must really stop lecturing other people on not become workaholics. I couldn’t remember my own boardline number to call the security guard to unlock the gate; I had to pull out my visiting card to check. Fine sight I must have made standing on the sidewalk at midnight trying to read my own visiting card.

I sleep badly (if at all) and when I do, I have nightmares of screaming clients, graphs and numbers looming bigger and bigger over me and angry-red marked calendars hurtling at me at top speed. Just kidding. I have nightmares that are too awful to remember and I’m only glad to get up and come back to work in the morning. Except that I only get nightmares when I’m stressed. And then sleep-walk through the day.

I……need……a…….break. Not a tea break, a smoke break, a lunch break or a loo break. I need a break from my job.

Antisocial workaholic

When you say you are my friend, at least take 2 minutes out of your busy schedule to call me at a time like this.

Who will believe me when I say I haven’t had even 30 seconds to grab a cup of tea? No one, least of all the person who said the above.

I’m not able to call my best friend when she’s in a crisis.
I haven’t managed to attend the wedding of ANY of my closest friends.
I wasn’t present at the birth of my nephew, niece or godson (the first baby born to a close friend). In fact it was weeks before I got down to visiting the baby and the not-so-new mama.
I pulled out a day’s leave for mum’s operation. But I haven’t been able to accompany her on the follow-up visits to the doctor.
I cut short phone calls to run off for a meeting or lunch or because I’m entering office. Or because I’m just too dead tired at the end of the day to speak.

People in my life have been complaining that I spend so little time with them. Mostly I suspect, they’ve just stopped caring. It worries me. I wonder is it worth it? I mean, its not even like I’m an extremely successful trailblazer. I’m an average working person in an average job, that’s all.

The easy answer is that no, of course not….nothing matters more than the people in one’s life. And yet, callously, cynically all I can say is that work is the only area of my life that has given me consistent rewards for the effort I put in. Relationships, people….all of those have been gambles. Either I’ve hit jackpot or I’ve bombed miserably. Even the jackpot…there’s no guarantee how long it will last before it turns into a ticking bomb.

But I am afraid I’m turning into an antisocial workaholic. Damn, it isn’t even that I love my work all that much. And yet, I feel good about myself at work, while the people I love make me feel like a failure. But seriously, that message I had this morning has washed out all the euphoria of my good work of the past month.

Stat-check

There are days I hate my job for how little time it leaves me for the rest of my life. And other days, I’m grateful for my job for the very same reason.

This has been a week, month, no….six whole months of mad work. Time has passed and I never even realised that its been nearly a year-and-a-half since I signed the offer letter. That’s longer than any job I’ve held. Or any relationship I’ve had.

There have been disappointments, annoyances. I’ve had moments of such strain that I thought I’d break and just throw in the towel and resign. And known I couldn’t do that because I’d be running away. And to where?

I found some friends. I get attached to people pretty quick and it always shakes me up when a colleague resigns, even if I’m not that close to them. I’m a creature of habit I guess and it is painful to not have a face I’m used to seeing everyday, around anymore.

In a few months, every single person who comprised the office when I joined, would have left. And that scares me. Because I realise now I’ve become part of the fabric here. One of the ‘people who comprise this place’, one of the ‘old hands’ so to speak. That makes me feel good too. And wonder where my restlessness has gone.

Yesterday I was in the office late, very late. Around 7:30 pm, the hunger pangs hit me so hard, I couldn’t think straight and I walked around to some of my colleagues digging for a biscuit or something to stuff into me (I promised to wear a signboard around my neck saying “Will work for food” from next week). Then I ordered some food. Half an hour later (after a colleague-friend had saved my life with a pack of biscuits) my food arrived, right in the middle of an intense discussion with my director.

He smiled at me and said, “Go and eat. I know you’re very hungry.”

That made me feel good, it did.

I don’t know when I passed on from feeling over-awed/scared/rebellious towards senior people. But I don’t anymore. I don’t see them as authority figures, more like…well, managers, directors, just that. It is a good feeling. To respect without fearing.

And finally, having an absorbing, demanding job is probably what has kept me from going into depression over being single. Don’t laugh…its happening to at least 3 women I know in their late twenties and they’re so close and similar to me, I’m wary that its going to hit me any minute.

For the time being though, I’m pretty okay with life. I have a good relationship with my job and it keeps me happy.

Crazy Tuesday

I am slowly but surely sinking in the quicksand of work. I initially called it a ‘sea of work’ but I realised I can swim. This is exactly like quicksand, the more you struggle, the faster you go down.

Maybe I should stop telling people about my ‘dream job’. Every time I do, I get hit by an avalanche like this.

And just yesterday after a great evening, I fell asleep thinking that my last thoughts of the day should never be about work….*groaannn*

 Why doesn’t someone find a way to extend the day to 36 hours? Or even 48 hours? How do people manage to blog and hold a job down? How indeed?

Damn….Tuesdays are always a bloody killer.

S.O.S.

What kind of a loser works marathon workdays every day of the week including SATURDAY and SUNDAY????

…….a loser like me……

12 hours sitting hunched over a computer.

3 hours twisted like a pretzel or performing contortions to fit all body parts into a cubic inch of public transport space.

1 hour spent trying to iron out the kinks in my back and revive angry muscles tightened up in a sulk.

8 hours trying to forget I’m alive….rolling over and playing dead…what everyone calls sleep and what I call adrenalin-induced low.

Save me someone…I thought I was a good swimmer but I’m drowning…

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