I wrote these words — Once when I felt utterly down and out.
I’m a thousand miles from home— Surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
But I’m not admiring the mountains covered in mist.
I’m stopping next to the road to pop a pill for anxiety.
“Am I not supposed to be on leave?” Was the question that kept churning in the back of my head while I washed down the pills with cold coffee.
Once, in what seemed like a previous life we harbored the illusion that annual leave was sacred— Something untouchable— That essential and non-negotiable time when you would recharge body and mind, and align it with your soul after hard and honest work.
Ok, so regardless of what leave should have been, or could have been— There I was, seeking artificial assistance against rising levels of stress.
Because only a few minutes earlier the office called.
It was the fifth call in a short space of time.
And the worst of it all is— My situation is not unique.
At this very moment, someone is being woken from a night’s sleep to address a colleague’s crisis.
Right now, someone on leave is being asked to resolve an issue, and log into the office network to work remotely.
And somewhere else, millions of employees are worrying— Carrying the emotional weight of work— After hours.
A few months ago I started writing down my thoughts about life.
Many of these thoughts are about work.
Other thoughts were about life, philosophy and just coping in this world.
Only once I had reached point number 35 did I realize that life and work can’t be separated.
You are the living entity who has to commute, and put in eight or more hours of work each day.
You are the human being who won’t “make it” if that job of yours doesn’t provide you with some feeling of safety, and above all— Respect and fulfillment.
My heart feels broken today.
A long relationship is on the verge of collapsing.
I really looked forward to taking a break from the office.
But the office didn’t relinquish its hold.
I feel sad that my “colleagues” and bosses didn’t feel it was important enough to respect my time.
And soon the sadness will morph into anger.
I’m also disappointed in myself— Because for too long I entertained this toxic relationship without setting boundaries.
I was the nice guy— A fixer. The hand’s on helpful guy.
Yes. I’m also to blame because I couldn’t manage to switch off my phone.
I know, that when I get back, half of the “problems” I get back to won’t be nearly as disastrous as I pictured— But nonetheless, I’m part of a trend, a toxic trend where it seems like an increasing number of employees can’t cope anymore.
Nothing changed after I poured out my disappointment on paper.
Or did it?
In retrospect, it sounds a bit melodramatic.
However… Emotions are legit. That’s what I felt that day.
Actually — Not once, no, but dozens of times before.
And unattended emotions come with a price.
Your health and general well-being will ultimately pay that price.
What I succeeded in creating was an anchor.
A tangible reminder of something I had to address.
Something did change.
There’s something almost mystical about naming a problem — Calling it out.
That which has a name can be pulled from the darkness, and addressed.
It’s never easy — But it’s a start.
The power of words can place you inside a pit — But it can also light the fire that drives you toward hope — And a way out!
Breathe appreciatively. Live and work mindfully.
2 thoughts on “The broken holiday— When boundaries fail.”
Oh I do get that. My dad used to tell me that I’m considered a mid-level manager and so even though I have contracted hours the unspoken expectation is that part of my pay is the outside of contract hours work. But that was before technology, Covid, inflation, and just a general realization if I drop dead tomorrow these people will replace me in 72 hours or less. This is NOT my family and one day (fingers crossed) I’ll retire and this place won’t even be a thing to me. But people I truly love will be. That’s where my focus needs to be.
Also I think technology has made everything really wild—people don’t have boundaries anymore. Teachers have a weird thing where we work a full day & then parents (who do work a full day too, so I get this is when some of them only have time to deal with their personal concerns) want us to answer questions past that time and get mad if we set a boundary and wait til our work hours begin.
We get more relief time than other professions but we often work through them. If we don’t we can’t keep up with everything else we need to do. People are working 2-3 jobs but only getting paid for one. This is a *global* issue, and I’m not sure how we rectify it except just keep talking about it and setting boundaries with egregious violators.
(But honestly I’m about ready to have a 2nd Neolithic Revolution in reverse because this techno-industrial revolution is exhausting and stressful.)
I love these added perceptions.
By no means am I a luddite, but the tech revolution outstripped human evolution…therein lies the rub.