Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Handling a bad day

Today was just rotten.

I got to bed too late last night, and had to be up too early this morning. The weather has plunged to a permanent sub-zero (Celsius) and days now start with scraping ice off the car, creeping to work through slick streets, and a long walk in from employee parking. In the dark (and ice). I've spent the past month or so sorting out end of year raises for some members on my group: today someone who got an 11% raise blistered me about why it wasn't 15%. Seriously. Dutch directness at it's worst.

Bad Day

I'm leaving for the US in the morning: that pressured me to wrap lots of things up before I leave. A half-day meeting ran over by two hours. Attempts to find a restaurant to join a New Year's celebration produced the predictable result that everywhere is closed so the Dutch can be home with their families. Problems continue to simmer in Seattle over my son's schooling. Since I had to work late, I got out past the start of my Dutch Conversational course. I have to pack gifts and clothes tonight, and scramble to the airport in the morning for a 10 hour flight home, writing Christmas cards on the way.

Sure, it's normal, it's what I do to myself: blah de blah. It was still a bad day.

But that wasn't what I wanted to write about tonight.

It's what I have to do when days go south. There isn't a chance to vent, to get some comfort, to talk it out, to get perspective, or to let it go with someone when there's nobody around. It becomes easy for the apartment to become a vast echo chamber that only amplifies feelings, and end up having a glass of wine or losing myself online or some other means of suppressing the feelings.

My first rule is to recognize that I'm slipping and to take a time-out. Usually I can catch that I'm getting wound up or ground down: it's more sensitivity and self awareness than the situation allows, but I've learned to listen to the warning nag and stop.

Next is a bit of self-control. People who have meetings with me or questions to ask need my ear and attention, not my tale of woe or a canceled appointment. I set things aside and probably concentrate more than usual on things going on.

There are a few people that I can cautiously talk things out with. If there's time, I do try to drop by and either 'ask advice' (if I need to gently complain) or 'take the blame' (if I want a bit of sympathy). Usually the airing makes it a bit less intense on me, and the dispassionate management conversation helps me to gain a little perspective.

I do make time for a more intense workout: crank the bike up a bit and pedal a half hour while losing myself in an unrelated book or magazine. The change of scenery and people usually takes away the proximate source of the problem. Leave the phone in the car and no forwarding address for a few hours.Swedish Archipelago Day 3 Findhamn 19

Finally, plan a weekend off and go to bed early. I love to travel, and thinking about a drive into Germany or a weekend in Morocco is restorative (even if I don't finally go). There's always the summer sailing in Sweden or trip to Stresa to look back on, and lots more good things to come.

Okay, that wasn't what I was going to write about, but I feel better. 'Off to pack. Tomorrow will be better...

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