The last few weeks I've felt like I'm two different people.
I'm very busy at work and the end date is rapidly approaching. Things need to be done yesterday and somehow, the two elements of the project that I'm responsible for have both ended up needing to be finalised at pretty much the same time.
I'm struggling, because it's been very much: do this, send it back, next thing comes in while I'm doing the first thing, do the second thing, send that back, in the mean time the third thing has come in, then the first thing has come back and needs revision . . . and it doesn't seem to stop.
Me-first is driven and determined to get this all done, and done right, and won't stop until everything is perfect. My part-time hours mean I haven't been there at some critical times, which means delays that I can't really afford. The days I'm supposed to leave at 2.30 to pick up Juniordwarf from school have been the hardest. Just because I've left doesn't mean the work doesn't keep coming in. So I've been taking work home to make up those hours.
Taking work home is something I said I'd never do, but Me-first is taking some kind of delight in working so hard and getting things finished. It must be the adrenaline rush or something, because Me-first has really been getting into the zone at these times. Working at home has become such a habit that last Wednesday, the first Wednesday for a few weeks that I didn't need to take anything home, I was wandering round the house feeling completely lost because I didn't have any work to do.
I know! That has to be the saddest thing ever, right?
The second me is feeling very very pressured and scared and overwhelmed and like I'm about to hit my breaking point. Me-two hears people tell me to ease up on myself, to relax and to take time for myself. Me-two knows that I need to do this, but Me-first is committed to the task and says that there is no time to stop now, I can rest when this is all over. It won't be too much longer, it really won't, and the pressure will be off.
So this inner dialogue between Me-two and Me-first is going on all the time, making me feel even more anxious. So now, not only am I feeling stressed about the work itself, which is bad enough, but I'm also feeling stressed about the very fact that I’m overdoing it. I think I'm just holding on by the skin of my teeth, so that I can have this break some time in the near future. At which point I will probably collapse.
Me-first decided to make things worse yesterday when Juniordwarf and I were watching a DVD, by telling me I really should be doing something more productive with my time with him rather than watching a DVD or letting him go on the computer.
Thank you Me-first. That is Not Helpful.
I think part of this stems from the way I think about myself at work - or more accurately, the way I think other people see me at work - that is, that being part-time means I don't really pull my weight. So Me-first is determined to show them that I can contribute just as well as anyone else and not let the side down. Everyone else is under pressure too. Others are working full-time hours, some of them have kids too and they’re all coping. I just waltz on out of there at 3 pm, so what do I have to complain about?
Of course, no one has ever said that they think I’m slacking off because I’m part-time, and the majority of feedback I have received is that my contributions are valued and that being part-time hasn't affected my work performance. Some things might take longer for me to do because I'm not there all day, but this is generally factored into my time frames.
So it's a flawed argument, but it doesn't stop me feeling guilty every time I leave work at school pickup time.
It would be easy enough for me to lay all the blame for this on work, but that’s unfair. When I took on the extra work, I expected it to be a lot less work than it became. I've been fairly relaxed about waiting for other people’s feedback and contributions – someone told me I was far too nice in this regard – and I don’t like to ask for what I need even if, by failing to do so, I inconvenience myself. I’d rather put myself out than someone else. It takes me quite a while to settle into the flow of a project and get really focused. And I’m a very good procrastinator.
Fingers crossed that the worst of this is now over. There is still more work to be done, but I’m quietly confident that the craziness that was the last few weeks has passed. And what I have to do once all this is over is to make an effort to sit down, not in judgement of myself, but in a self-compassionate sort of way, and work out where I went wrong and come up with ways I can learn from this.
I also need to take some time off. I think a week away somewhere in the mountains with no phone, no internet, a stack of books, pens and paper and some yoga DVDs would be just what I need right now.
Me-two is nodding furiously.