Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Emotional Fragility

It struck me recently that I'm really much more emotionally fragile at work than I used to be. I guess I was always emotionally invested in my job -- how well I felt I did, how I perceived others as valuing my contribution, how much I enjoyed my day-to-day tasks. But in the early days after T died, I really didn't care much about work. It was something to fill my days, it wasn't too taxing (luckily a lull at work coincided with my world falling apart), and I had no emotional energy left to worry about my career. Recently, though, I've started taking more of an interest, as I face the thought of spending most of my waking hours at work, doing something that doesn't really thrill me.

So I've been dissecting what isn't working for me. And a big piece seems to be related to partnership, collaboration, and engagement with a peer (or several) who cares like I do about what we're working on. Being the only one out in front leading the charge, or more commonly pushing a rope, just isn't satisfying for me. It's in fact exhausting. I know I could handle the rope-pushing better if there were one or more people pushing it right along with me, to strategize and sympathize and celebrate with. And that insight leads me to wonder if I'm looking to work to try and fill the partnership void in the rest of my life. It's not the only place I have relationships with adults, but it is the only place where those relationships are expected to produce something; where there is a commitment to see things through even if it gets tough (not unlike a marriage). Hmm, I guess that also says something about my orientation toward friends. I have a number of wonderful friends, but I think I always expect in the back of my mind to have them just disappear one day -- there's no formal commitment in friendship like there is in marriage, or a job title.

My boss recently gave me some positive feedback on how well I drive organizational change, and hearing that helped my attitude quite a bit. Knowing that what I'm doing is really hard, and valued, and recognized, makes a big difference. But why should it? I'm a grown-up. I should be able to take pride in my work knowing that I'm doing my best, whether others recognize it or not. Is this another symptom of the aftermath of grieving? Or a more fundamental need for validation?

I guess I was expecting a silver lining side effect of grief and loss to be a more inwardly-focused sense of accomplishment, and less worry about what others think. Life is short, after all, sometimes too short. Do what's right for you, and forget about what others think. If that is indeed a result of great loss, I'm still waiting for it to manifest for me.

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