I was thinking this week about a park near my office, which also happens to be near a different office where I worked for many years. It’s just far enough away from both of these offices that it has sometimes become a place of retreat when my emotions at work became overwhelming.
People have often praised me at work for remaining calm in all situations. The truth is, in true crises, I become very aware of my surroundings, very grounded. My mind becomes extraordinarily clear. And it is always easy to remain calm when others are losing their minds, because I make myself a magic mirror, reflecting back to them, allowing them to think.
But having a reputation for remaining this calm means that people may not recognize that you are losing it beneath it all. The thing that will push me over the edge every time is when I witness deliberate, selfish, cruelty towards others. When I see someone in power bullying others – or bullying me. And then, deep inside, I go dark places very quickly.
And I feel a need to get out.
This park, just out of sight from colleagues, became a place to go when the emotions threatened to overwhelm me. It was the place I went when, during a reorganization, I remained employed but they weren’t quite sure what to do with me. They had taken my team, reassigned my responsibilities, and gave me no assignments. I couldn’t face staring at the four walls of my empty office, and the bitchy remarks of my peers, who took this opportunity to put me in my place until I created my own niche, a niche no one else wanted but was on the edge of a developing wave.
It was the place I went, years later, when the bullying became too much and the ceiling of my office collapsed like my work world around me was collapsing.
It was the place I went when, during the following purge, an idiot who had to make himself feel bigger by telling me that he was reorganizing me out of a job that I excelled at because I didn’t have the skills to do the job when, the truth was, I had outgrown the job and it was more than time to move on.
It is the place I have gone during Covid, when holding it all together crashes into human nature, and cynicism becomes too much.
It’s the place I go to cry tears of anger.
I was telling someone about The Crying Park and she asked why I was crying about work.
I thought about it.
And recognized that I have never cried about doing the work, I’ve never cried because the work is too hard, because I couldn’t get the work done. When I cry, it is about people treating me with deliberate cruelty at work, treating others that way. And I have cried because I gave these relationships an importance that they didn’t deserve. I, who have performed Shakespeare in flippers and a Dracula cape, had misplaced my ability not to care what people think about me. The emotions of what happens at work had taken up a bigger proportion of my emotional life than they deserved. I have accrued a lifetime of unpaid overtime hours, earned lying sleepless in bed, replaying these emotional nightmares and worrying about how to respond when they recur.
I read posts from people who talk about how the new WFH culture has given them time with their children and helped them put it all in perspective. I have no children and don’t regret that – but it would be nice to have something more important in my life than work. Something to put it back in it’s proper sphere.
Something to reduce it to what it is: a place where my skills and experience are traded for money.
And then maybe the park can return to what it is meant to be: a place to enjoy nature.
Not a place to cry.