Ponder this:

Monday, February 8, 2010

My starving brain

I think I'm losing my mind. It came to me this morning:  I am becoming stupid!

I Googled around for "Can stress make you stupid?" and found an article, "The Reinvention of the Self," that appears to apply. 

When I used to watch soap operas, on Fridays they'd recap everything that had happened during the week, apparently just in case a viewer was only able to catch that one day's episode.  In that spirit, here is the outline of June's [mostly] work life since late 2004. 

I was promoted at work. Part of the process that led to my promotion was the requirement that I testify, at a civil service hearing, to the malfeasance of my department head (with whom I had been very friendly until she began to malfease). She was dismissed. 

The promotion put higher numbers in my paycheck but was not, overall, a good thing for me.  It put me in a position of being boss to the former boss's deputy, a volatile personality who, within a few weeks, loudly and forcefully invited me to perform the classic impossible act and stormed out of the office, not to return for several days. 

Other department heads knew about the former department head's malfeasance and the unsuitability of the unstable deputy for the position I now held, but felt that I had the ear of the administration and was, therefore, on The Other Side. Holding that view, they were fearful of sharing much "department head" wisdom with this newbie; each felt they might be the next one to be thrown under the wheels of the bus that they thought I was driving.

My erstwhile friend Jane (also a department head, see above) did not speak to me. Several times each day we passed in the hall, hugging our respective walls, never making eye contact. Until the day she came to my desk, leaned over me and screamed at me, "Will I come in tomorrow and have Power That Be tell me, 'June will be taking your job now'?" 

Enter The Felon. He ran for the office of Power That Be, The Main Man in Small Pond.  He campaigned through the village with an open car and a bullhorn, criticizing me by name.
All's fair in love, war and politics. 
The Felon came to my desk one afternoon and contemplated aloud what he would do to me when he was elected.  I suggested that we wait for that discussion until he was in office. At length he left, screaming from my doorway that I had made a Faustian bargain and I would suffer for it. As, indeed, I have.

About that time, Husband left home, having had it right up to here with my self-medication.  I commiserated with a coworker who (I later learned) had gone straight down the hall to Jane's office to regale, with high humor, Jane and others with my tales of woe, and to The Felon (with whom an alliance had formed) with every detail. 
That rule about not sharing extremely personal information at work is a good one. I wish I had heeded it then.

Time passed. I got sober. 
Husband came back. 
The deputy found out that I was making twenty thousand dollars less per year than he had thought, and in fact, my salary was lower than his, and resigned. 
New boss was hired.
All appeared to be sorting itself out. 

Then The Felon got elected, not as Power That Be, but as a member of the governing body.  
One of Jane's employees stopped coming to work. Days later, a medical excuse arrived, and eventually the employee resigned.
November 2008 budget approval meeting time came, and The Felon called for The Termination of June.  (His demand has always been treated as "termination of June's employment," but I have my doubts; I think he would like my physical existence terminated.) That evening his full request was denied, but he did manage to gain the votes to alter my position to part-time. To Jane's credit, she jumped in and volunteered to take me on as the needed part-timer in her office, thereby keeping me employed full-time. 

When Jane told me the news early on the morning after the meeting, I was shocked. I did not react with gleeful gratitude. 
I asked repeatedly, "What's the plan?"  
In response, Jane cried, "There is no plan!"

No one told my Afternoon Boss that he would have me only part-time until I did, upon my return from the conversation with Jane. 
Never was there any discussion between Jane and my Afternoon Boss.
Never did the chief administrative office take the lead in any part of the process.

Memories of angry Jane looming over my desk and screaming came back and played and replayed in my mind and I became more and more fearful.  Jane interpreted my trepidation as rejection of her, and once again we were back to not speaking, hugging hallway walls, etc.  

A couple of times during December 2008 I went down the hall to Jane's office and asked if there was anything I could do to help her since I had an hour or so to spare.  
"Not yet," she'd say, not looking up from her work.
On January 5, 2009, Jane (now aka Morning Boss) phoned me at 8:30am, "It's time. This is the first day of the fiscal year. I want you here in the mornings."

For the first two weeks of my new placement, every morning Jane would get calls from her friends, fellow department heads. Her end of the conversation always consisted of, "Awful. Just awful. It's awful," as she stared, expressionless, at her desk. 

The function and resulting quiet tappity-tappity atmosphere of Jane's office (aka Morning Job) is very different from the friendly and jovial atmosphere in Afternoon (formerly "Whole", aka "Afternoon, aka "Real") Job.  Computer programs I had never seen before, file cabinets full of unknown and unidentified material, deadlines of which I had never been aware.  I was frankly fearful.  My hands shook, my heart raced, I gasped for breath, and lacking it, I sighed to catch up on my blood oxygen. 
Sighing elicited exclamations of, "What's wrong with you?" 
My coping strategy of humming bought me, "Are you humming?" 
"Yes." 
"Stop it!" 
Jane began to play her desk radio, with the volume set to stun to mask my tortured sounds. 
My questions about how to proceed with various tasks were met with exaggerated patience. "You have done this before. See? that's your handwriting!"  Yes, I had done "this" before.  Once.  

If only someone had said, "If you need an example, here is where the previous files are stored." 
If only someone had said, "Here is the big picture; here is where what your part of it fits." 

I had hoped that the 2010 budget year would return me, full-time, to my Real Job. It is the place where my skills and my talents come together and I shine.  Failure, unremitting day-after-day failure, makes me stupid(er). 

The new Power That Be has done two things that give me hope: He removed The Felon from office on the grounds that The Felon's election had been in violation of the Public Officers Law, and he has said he wants me back in my Real Job full-time. The prognosis for the latter, however, depends on several factors beyond his control.  

Every morning I pick up my yoke and try to act cheerful. I remain silent. I do not hum. I try to remember to breathe deeply and regularly, so as not to sigh. Sometimes when I speak to Jane, her reaction is as if I have not spoken. I do as good a job as I can. 

I'm getting worse. My errors are no longer errors of ignorance; they are errors of I-don't-know-what. Where is my mind? The article I cited above offers an explanation:  
"The structure of our brain, from the details of our dendrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured."
So it is not simply my perception; I really am getting dumber.  

Your Score Summary Overall, you scored as follows: 
72% scored higher (more stupid),4% scored the same, and 24% scored lower (less stupid). You are 24% stupid. This means...

You are far from stupid. Congrats on a great accomplishment!

I'm sure a few years ago I might have been only, say, 20% stupid.

I have sent resumes and nobody's hiring . . . no funding. Maybe that's good. Yet another new job might send me straight to the loony bin.  
I have kept notes and have put them together into a written manual of how to do the Morning Job tasks. New information is added daily. Friday I organized it yet again for the use of the person who will take my place. 

Perhaps it is time to retire before I forget which end of the pen makes marks on paper. 

15 comments:

threecollie said...

I hope that this somehow works itself out for you. Reading of your trials and tribulations makes me happy I only work with cows.

ladyhawthorne said...

oh, June. I am so sorry you have had this going on. I hate politics and corporate type atmospheres, both of which you seem to have to deal with. I'll be praying for you and hoping the change back to your regular job full time comes about quickly. Hang in there!

Kathryn said...

Oh, Lordy, Lordy. I am so sorry.

Your recital is very much why i HATE office politics & have tried to position myself so that i deal with management/administration as little as possible.

Hope you soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Barb said...

After reading this, I had to go back to your last post and lie in that bed awhile and gaze at the ceiling. It makes me feel bad that my only worry right now is fear of flying...

Lord Wellbourne said...

If only someone had said this is where the firearms and ammo are kept....

What amazes me--truly--is how you can create the most moving paint-by-word memoirs with all that chaos going on around you. I am in awe of your resilience. Truly.

If you really want the afternoon job than I hope you get it. Personally I'd rather be dipped in honey and staked to a red ant hill than work in that Peyton Place of a job. June does NOT equal dumb, stupid, or inept. June equals grace under fire and inspirational tenacity. That's how it reads in MY book.

Carolynn said...

Yeah....what Lord Wellbourne said. *grin*

Susan said...

I endured a similar situation. Worked for 10 years and everyone loved me (private company) and then the Daughter came to work there. All down hill from there. It took me about three years of her ignorant behavior to decide, but I finally figured out a way to take early retirement and now I can laugh, especially when I learned that she ran the company into the ground and they had to sell. She and her family have been booted out of the business, not allowed to even come on the premises, because the folks that bought it, knew and remembered how we were treated. As my mom used to say, "you reap what you sew". Hang in there, and do what's best for you and your family.

Bernie said...

I would hate to work in that kind of an environment and I admire your tenacity to try to make it right. I hope it all works out for you and you will get your best job back.

Thanks for visiting my blog. You are very loyal. To prepare an instruction sheet for your possible successors indicates to me that you are a very good person.

June said...

Thank you all. I wasn't trying to be Poor Me...just filling in the background.

I think I'm about finished with my kvetching about stuff for a while. It would be nice to get back to pretty writing again.

LW...you made me laugh long and loud!

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

I am not sure if I should laugh or cry or just scratch my head. I am like most people -- a touch of nuts -- but this tale, just to me, takes the cake. Is this just a good, "poor me" story or is this reality. I am no longer sure. Maybe I am becoming part of the dumbedg down society.

June said...

Mr. Lincoln: Oh yes. It's reality. Most assuredly, from my point of view, and others' accounts of some parts might vary slightly, but there are local news accounts of the major events and written personnel file documentation of most of the rest.
There is nothin' like small town politics.

Deborah said...

Oh my god, June. This reads like a Rube Goldberg machine of office politics.
I admire the fact that you still have a sense of humour after all this administrative warfare and when not feeling really sorry for you, I was tittering behind my hand.

Glad you were interested enough in 'Musicophilia' to get it! I love Oliver Sacks' books - so fascinating.

Friko said...

blimey, am I glad I'm retired.
pens making marks on paper? Are you sure you are still in the 21st century?

Doesn't sound like there's much job satisfaction in what you do. Are you sure there's nothing else you can do? Even if you get less pay?

I hope things sort themselves out.
Thank Goodness for blogging and letting off steam.

C-ingspots said...

I too, agree with Lord Wellbourne. However...I have been in a similar situation and would rather die than go through it or anything like it ever again. Life is simply too short. I sure hope there is a drastic change soon for your sake. Making a living is a lot easier than people like to think. You might need to make some changes elsewhere so you can tell the "powers that be" to kiss your lovely ass while you sashay out the door. I'm just sayin'...

Von said...

Awful, awful situation.Good on you for keeping notes and your head.Office politics are the pits,early retirement often works wonders for the memory and brain cells.