Close to the Edge

As if new motherhood wasn’t challenging enough, in recent weeks my sanity has been tested by an altogether different situation. Back in March, work started on an extension to the optician at the building next to ours. Having bought the commercial property directly underneath our apartment, they proceeded to decimate it, bringing in the big guns in the form of wall-shaking drills and ear-splitting power tools. Needless to say, the residents of our building took umbrage to this unwelcome disruption. It was tabled at the residents’ meeting and formal complaints were made. As a result, the architect visited the residents, in our case reassuring us that the works would be completed by my due date in May, and giving us his number in case we needed to contact him.

Fast forward nearly four months, our baby is now six weeks old and the works are STILL not finished. The last thing any new mother needs to deal with is indiscriminate drilling, which is legally allowed to happen in Belgium between the hours of 7am and 6.30pm, six days a week. Some days there is relative peace and quiet, but on others we are woken by drilling so loud I have to leap out of bed, grab the baby and run to the opposite end of the apartment. I even had to buy ear defenders for him, because at times I have genuinely feared for his hearing. All this, and our texts to the architect have mostly gone unanswered. Admittedly, nobody wants to be bombarded by messages from an irate and sleep-deprived new mother, but the lack of response has really got my back up, not least because of his original insistence that we contact him should we ever need to.

On Monday I finally reached the end of my tether. Arriving home at 4pm, I was greeted by loud drilling beneath every room in the apartment. With literally nowhere I could take my son to protect him from the noise, I stormed, wild-eyed and raging, down to the optician with him in the buggy and demanded to speak to the manager. Confronted by this half-demented she-beast, I can understand her reticence to engage. But after some initial heated words we managed a civil conversation, which ended with her saying she would speak to the architect and ask him to call me. Has he done so? Has he bollocks (excuse my French).

So here I sit on high alert after another terrible night, clutching my coffee and staring glassy-eyed into the middle distance as I attempt to find the words to describe the ongoing shit show unfolding beneath us, about which I can apparently do precisely nothing.

Perhaps one day I will laugh about this.

Or perhaps one day I will be writing the sequel to this blog post from my padded isolation cell after going on a one-woman rampage with a power tool.

Such is the rich and varied tapestry of life.

https_img1.etsystatic.com00005834566il_fullxfull.159947543

Advertisements

What’s MY problem? My only problem is YOU!

The older I get the more I come to realise the virtues of self-awareness. I should preface this post by acknowledging that I’m far from perfect myself, but I do – for the most part at least – have a fairly competent radar for detecting when I’m being a bore and/or getting on someone else’s nerves. Some people, however, seem to have been born without such radar capabilities and are therefore able to spend vast swathes of their daily lives in a state of blithe obliviousness as to just how many of their fellow human beings they are driving to the brink of insanity with their behaviour.

The most maddening type of un-self-aware person is the person who gets constantly upset by other peoples’ behaviour without making any connection whatsoever between others’ behaviour and their own. In other words, the cause and effect principle is so completely lost on them that even if you held up flash cards to highlight that they, in fact, were the root cause of your irritation they would merely tell you that you were being ridiculous and heap insult upon your character (or, more likely still, accuse you of heaping insult upon their character, as a sneaky means of deflection from the true problem – which is, ostensibly to everyone but themselves, actually them).

As such people are prone to having delicate sensibilities, it’s often hard to know whether to grin and bear the extreme irritation their mere presence evokes or to attempt in some way to address the issue and tell them their behaviour is unacceptable. Whichever option you choose will have consequences, and possibly far-reaching ones at that. Remember the rule of cause and effect? Well, that. Ultimately this is a battle of your sanity against theirs, and only a brave man (or woman) will risk toppling the house of cards that is a fragile person’s entire personality. You have been warned.

Desiderata

Three weeks ago I was informed my role at work was being made redundant. Well, the official line was that there was a business case for it to cease to exist and that I would therefore be entering a period of consultation, during which I would be quite welcome to put forward a counter proposal should I feel disinclined to agree with the reasoning for terminating my employment.

I felt no desire whatsoever to oppose the business case, in part because I knew I could never continue working for an employer that valued my contribution to the workplace so little they had held the metaphorical axe over my head in the first place. In the main, however, I didn’t wish to oppose it simply because I felt my time there was up.

It’s never nice to feel you’re not wanted, especially when you feel you have worked hard and delivered everything that was expected of you – if not more. But it’s vital for your sanity not to take it personally and to try and move on. You know your value even if they can’t see it, so instead of waiting around for your turn in the hangman’s noose find a new opportunity and avoid it.

It’s this attitude that’s helped me to see my impending redundancy in an entirely new light. I’d been looking (albeit casually) for other jobs for several weeks before the news came, and whilst it was a bolt out of the blue it’s a plain fact I wouldn’t have stayed for that much longer anyway. Being faced with redundancy was exactly the catalyst I needed to make the change I’d been craving, and fortunately my employers have at least been accommodating when it’s come to needing time off for interviews.

Speaking of interviews, I’d forgotten just how much I hate them. It’s horrible having every aspect of you put under the microscope and scrutinised; I’ve often wondered how introverts cope. A good interviewer can put you at ease in a moment – to some extent at least – but a bad one can leave you traumatised for years. And it’s not just down to how skilful the interviewer is, it’s as much about how well you ‘fit’ with the organisation itself.

Take the interview I had this morning as an example. On the face of it there was nothing wrong with either the organisation or the people. In fact, as my preparation had progressed I felt increasingly excited by it. But as soon as I walked through the door something felt amiss. There must have been nearly forty people in the room yet you could have heard a pin drop. Then, when I sat down in the interview room and reeled off my ‘pitch,’ I felt I had impressed them to some extent, but simply didn’t feel any rapport with them. We were all smiling, but to me those smiles felt empty. Something wasn’t right, and I knew in that instant I could never be happy there.

In stark contrast last week I had a second interview at another, smaller, organisation, where I felt I had clicked instantly with both the CEO and the lady who would be my boss were I to be offered the role. The atmosphere was relaxed and even though the interview itself was rigorous I didn’t feel at any point I was being deliberately caught out or put on the spot. Afterwards the PR assistant took me for a coffee to find out more about me. I knew they had seen ten people at first interview and were seeing me and one other people at the second stage, and I was told at the end of the day they were going to take the weekend to decide and come back to me on Monday.

After this morning’s interview I must admit I felt despondent. I knew if they asked me back for a second interview I wouldn’t want to go, but I also knew if the place I really wanted to work came back with a no I’d be back at the drawing board; not a drawing I was keen to start from scratch.

I walked along the river thinking about all I’ve learned over the past few weeks; how much of a difference it makes to at least try to be positive (even though it’s sometimes hard) and how important it is to make the most of every second, and not take people for granted. By the time I got to the train station I was feeling a lot better, and ready to rationalise whatever eventuality came my way.

Fortunately it was exactly the eventuality I’d been wishing for. And I’m now not only going to work for an organisation I think I could really, truly love, I’m also going to have time to pursue my dream of becoming a freelance writer.

To conclude I’m going to use the final verse of my favourite poem, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann:

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.