The Trap

The Trap

I had a hell of a week. Actually, I’ve had a hell of a few weeks. To be honest, the past few years haven’t been great. Things culminate. This has happened a few times over the past few years. No need for details but hey, I’m resilient?

This last week was one of those boiling points of stress. I felt pulled in many directions. I had very little alone time. People wanted me to attend things with them, chat with them, listen to them. Work was intense, to say the least. I’ve been feeling very run down. The good habits that I have every intention to implement are still just ideas and goals. I need to fix that. One more thing for my list.

High performance individuals face unique challenges. Smart people have a lot of experience and validation that they can outsmart situations, find a solution through thinking about it. Smart people often find themselves caught in toxic relationships with people who have a personality disorder or are abusive. You can’t outsmart crazy or evil or dysfunction. Sometimes you just have to leave.

Hard workers have a lot of confirmation that putting in extra hours will get the thing done. Their diligence, perseverance and discipline gives them the results they seek, but often they don’t learn how to prioritize because they can do it all. They can’t just let things go undone because if it should be done, it will be done and they will get it done. They often don’t see past their own work ethic to see how many things actually go undone without consequence for other people. As a result, relationships, their health, their personal needs often are neglected. If something isn’t screaming at them that it’s a priority, it gets postponed.

Perhaps this also translates to people who have physical prowess. They are able to accomplish great physical feats, push themselves to great lengths so they never learn the satisfaction of a gentle touch. They can’t enjoy rest. I don’t know. I’ve never been some big toughie but I would imagine that any great talent or skill leaves vacancies in other areas that are vulnerable to life injury, neglect and harm.

I’ve suffered from the first two. Repeatedly. I have experienced the incredible mental and emotional pain of trying to communicate and have a relationship with someone who’s mind does not work as expected. Someone who doesn’t live by the basic assumptions most of us take for granted. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t hit, don’t hurt. You can’t reason with crazy, but smart people who have resolved nearly everything in their life with reason can often get caught up and entangled in a painful battle to reason with crazy. I learned that lesson the hard way. All lessons are learned the hard way.

I also suffer from a diligent work ethic. In college I read everything I was assigned. The students who just read what they thought was most important and then went out with friends to relax always amazed me. I thought they would regret their decision when there was a question on the test from one of those books on the optional reading list. I was certain I’d get rewarded for all my hard work. They had it right. And to this day I struggle to find balance and let things go.

That’s what has led me to this week, to this culmination of stresses and frustration and exhaustion that left me agitated to near panic attack Friday night. Working too hard, no balance, ignoring myself. There are only two things in life that go away when you ignore them: Love and your Health. I know this but I don’t live by it. I ignore both and I need to stop.

When we are young we believe we are making choices but often when we choose the traditional route we are choosing a trap. I chose the trap. And here I am, in a nice house, with a nice job, with two nice kids and not a moment or a penny to spare as I tread water with weights on my ankles trying to stay afloat. It was a trap. And I feel it every day.

In this modern world we glorify jobs that deserve no glory. That’s the kind of job I have. Did you ever watch Laverne and Shirley? In the opening song they are working in a bottle factory, putting caps on the bottles. The conveyor belt speeds up and the bottles come faster and they can’t keep up. It’s very comical. My job is the same, but it’s not funny. There is no conveyor belt of bottles, just a conveyor belt of projects and emails. In the push to increase profits, the workload conveyor belt of my job has been moving faster and faster over the past few years. It’s the slow boil.

If I were a machine I would have malfunctioned. A belt would have snapped, a screw would have gone loose. A repair man would have arrived and fixed or replaced me. The repair man may have said, “This machine is most effective and will last longest at speeds under X. If you keep speeding it up you will need to replace it. And that’s going to cost you.” The company would have done the math to see if it was more cost effective to replace the machine every few years while turning out extra bottles or to keep the speed on a steady pace to preserve the life of the machine.

Has someone made this calculation with me? I’m certain they have but they have only factored in the cost to them. The cost to replace me. Not the cost to take care of my broken body machine after I’ve been cast out. That bottle machine doesn’t have kids to raise, friends to enjoy, a life to live. I do. And when I make the calculations for myself, it’s not worth it. But what do I do? I chose the trap. I’m neck deep in the trap. I was young. I followed the rules. I believed the hype. Now, I’m paying the price.

People will tell me, “you can just make time,” but I can’t. And I will not engage in anyone who tells me I can because explaining something so obvious to me to someone who has no clue how many things and people I’m responsible for in a day is another waste of time. Being someone who tries not to waste time, I won’t engage. I’m currently squeezing out every extra minute of spare time in my life and applying it to something useful. There is no extra time to rearrange. In fact, I’m on borrowed time. I don’t sleep, I cut corners on exercise and eating. I multitask. I don’t rest. I don’t take time for me. There is no time left for me. When I do take time for me, I squeeze in as much fun and stress relief and letting loose as I can possibly squeeze in and again, this isn’t balance. This is compensating. I’m a pendulum of stress and release. I’m never still. I’m never at rest.

I love my kids, I love my house, my job is mostly good but as it has all become more and more unmanageable, there are fewer options for making change. Right now I don’t have any. My hope is that I can write a book, get extra income and then possibly change careers some day to one with less stress. Less stress comes with less money but I’d be happy to make that trade.

The truth is anyone in a high stress job like mine is leasing their health and body to their employer. The more stress, the more money but in the end when you’ve leased your body and health to someone else, you lose. You will not get it back. I will not get it back. Change, at this point in time, for me, has become a matter of survival.

So here I write. In spare moments–I write, either with the desire to create something I can publish, the desire to clarify my thoughts or the desire to improve my writing skills, I write. And some day, I hope to write my way out of this trap before it’s too late and my machine body is trash for the heap.

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