Work and things

Work has suddenly become a lot more busy. I’ve been moved onto a project which is in a bit of a state. It’s been a stressful experience so far due to the subtle lack of a calm and considered approach from higher up. The main problem is the MD wants to be programming it himself, but isn’t, so instead he’s micromanaging the actual programming and getting incredibly excited about exploring things, which results in priorities that change literally by the minute. It’s been a few years since I last worked on one of the MD’s projects and I forgot he was like this. I’m fairly sure he’s got worse. He makes it difficult to use your own judgement because he tends to prescribe things in great detail, which he’s not always best placed to understand. So you have to go with his approach, even if you can see it’s not the best idea, because it’s easier to try his approach and then show him the resulting problems than it is to convince him we should be doing something else. I spent two days this week not really achieving anything, despite it being urgent, because the MD has very vague but very strong ideas about what he wants to achieve and how he wants to do it. Managing the MD is a skill in its own right. So I am finding this quite stressful. I am not handling it very well, really. Hopefully with some more practice…

The good news is that this stress doesn’t seem to have centred itself again around the Office Crush, which is something I sort of expected to happen. It didn’t make much sense a few weeks ago and I was worried that general stress was just latching onto her because stress is a strong feeling and she evokes strong feelings, but it hasn’t played out that way now. So I think I am ‘over’ her in as much as I still have a massive crush on her for reasons I don’t understand, but I’m no longer losing sleep over her. It still seems bizarre. Up until about six weeks ago I was beginning to wonder if I still had any romantic inclinations at all and then BAM, she wanders in and it turns out I do. Shame they aren’t directed at someone maybe a little bit closer to my age and not already taken.

So, yes, I still have a massive crush on her but I doubt she realises it because I am not really worrying about what I say to her. It seems to be happening much easier. Earlier this week we were talking about the (minor) earthquake and she mentioned that she remembered one from 2002 because it woke up her daughter who was a baby at the time. It rang a bell with me because I recall going to school the next morning and remembering that it had briefly woken me up only after a friend mentioned it. I told her this, because, being conscious of an age difference, the first thing you do is mention that you were still at school when she was a mum in her late 20s. I’m smooth like that.

Later on she said “you know, it makes me feel really old that you were still at school then”. I paused and eventually went with “Hmm, yep, I was, there’s no way around that one”, while grinning sheepishly because I felt I’d backed myself into a corner there. If I’d been more diplomatic I could have tried a “oh you’re not old”. It was almost an invitation. Maybe it was because I apparently declined that invitation to be polite that caused her to burst into giggles when I gave my fairly lame response. Maybe I delivered it just right. Maybe it was just absurd. I don’t know. But she found it hilarious, so somehow, completely unintentionally, I got the best reaction that I could. Far better than had I gone with a more careful response. So that’s good. It’s exactly how things should be working. And it’s also an interesting point that I should just be me and not shy away from these things. Yep, there’s an age difference, I’m not going to impress her much by pretending there isn’t.

She is a bit of a mystery in some ways. I am finding out bits about her relationship, so of course I’m trying to gauge how secure it is and unfortunately (for me) I think the answer is very secure. But I’m a bit confused by the chronology of it. She has a 7 year old son who she talks about as if he’s from her current partner, but (uh oh, Google snooping alert) she was still using her married name less than two years ago but uses her maiden name today. She wears what looks like an engagement ring… why wait so long after divorcing/separating to revert to her maiden name, especially if she’s going to get re-married, and why would two people wait 7 years after having a child to get married? I haven’t figured out an explanation that ties up all of that in a satisfying way, so it seems to be a case of choosing what I prefer to be unsatisfied by. The fact that there is a 9 year gap between her two children does lend credence to the idea that they are with different men, but the married/maiden name doesn’t make much sense in that case. I could try delving deeper on the online front but I’ve decided to set a self imposed limit there. It’s inconsequential, I’m just incredibly curious for obvious reasons.

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Latest

THE LATEST ON THE office crush, which is, for those just tuning in, entirely unrealistic and not going anywhere.

So:

She is not trying quite as hard with her appearance as she was in her first few weeks, but I still find her REALLY attractive. I am definitely making more of an effort with my appearance though. Nothing major, but I’m being more conscious over making sure I’m wearing clothes that make me look good. Not a bad thing I suppose.

As far as anxiety related symptoms go, they’ve mostly disappeared – I think because I managed to flush out a lot of self-doubt. There are some things left over but they’re not really a problem. I think I hit them head on and it’s helped me relax a bit.

But overall things are going well. She is becoming more chatty with me and we have some running jokes that she seems to enjoy bringing up. And when we accidentally (on purpose, or not) end up in the kitchen at the same time for the third time that day, she doesn’t give me an “oh not you again” look. I’ve somehow managed to time it such that she walks in when I’m in there as much as vice versa so I don’t think she realises that I do it on purpose sometimes. But I’ve also been a bit self-restrained. I think I’m trying to optimise for the number of opportunities to talk to her rather than really trying hard when they do come up, which seems a bit more natural. So sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s how it’s supposed to be. People aren’t ‘on’ all the time and if she thinks I’m trying too hard she’ll probably work out why, which probably isn’t really what either of us wants. Sometimes I later realise I missed natural and easy ways to exploit those opportunities, and that frustrates me, but then I think “that’s OK, I’ll spot it next time”.

I feel that if I’m going to be secretly fawning over her, which I don’t seem to have much choice about, then I should be using the experience as a learning opportunity. It’s a new experience to me in many ways. I’ve never been seriously attracted to a co-worker before – someone whose presence I have to be in 8 hours a day – and she is so different to the kinds of people I generally meet. And older. The fact she is so different is probably what grabbed my attention so tightly. If I can build an enjoyable relationship with her then that’s both a good outcome on its own and an achievement, even if it’s not quite the relationship I’d have pursued if things were a bit different. In this sense, she is an interesting challenge.

I have stayed in my current job as long as I have because I’ve always felt like I’ve been learning new things. In the last year or so I’ve actually felt quite bored and the thought of going somewhere else has crept into my mind. But now, once again, I feel like I’m learning new things. Not things I will be putting on my CV, but things I want to learn regardless.

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WEEKEND

I thought I was getting ill Saturday morning when I woke up with some pressure in my sinuses, blocked ears and a slightly sore throat. There’s been a multitude of illnesses going around the office for the past few weeks so I wasn’t too surprised. I think there are only 3 of us who haven’t succumbed to it yet (I keep very precise track of who is ill for obvious reasons) and I’ve been wondering why I’m one of the chosen few.

I normally go for a long run (relative definition of ‘long’) on Sunday morning but I thought that if I had a cold developing I’d probably feel better on Saturday, so I did my 11k Saturday morning instead. I felt much the same for the rest of the day but also a bit lightheaded at times. Then I woke up on Sunday and felt… a bit better. And it was a nice day, so I did another 5k. We’ll have to wait and see how the possibly-a-neuroma feels about running two days in a row, but it’s been a lot better lately so I’m optimistic.

I still don’t feel quite right, so I am guessing that what’s happened is I have caught a cold, but it’s a mutation of one of the many colds I caught towards the back end of last year so I’m mostly immune to it. I don’t know if that’s how it works. Of course I could be wrong and find it flourishes tomorrow, but as it’s improved, that seems unlikely.

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Updates

The Office Crush. Let’s first say that it’s silly. I know that. I’m painfully aware of how trivial it is. I find it embarrassing how it has affected me. But it has affected me, and that’s why we’re here.

So. How is it since I last wrote…

It’s improving. I’m handling it better. I feel relatively normal most of the time. I have off days but a few weeks ago, every day was an off day. Today was an off day which is probably why I’m writing. But yesterday wasn’t.

I’ve been thinking more. I’m 30. She’s at least 40. Actually she’s 43, I should clarify that I know that because she said something that let me work it out, not because I went to the registrar and asked to see a copy of her birth certificate. So she is 13 years older than me. I don’t know why I’m so attracted to someone 13 years older than me, but I am. When she was 18, I was 5. When she is 50, I will be 37. It’s a pretty big gap really. Past the periphery of practicality. Up to 7-8 years is probably OK, but 13 has moved us through ‘eh, that seems like a big gap’ and well into the ‘no, that is definitely a big gap’ zone. At least for anything serious. I know that. I spent a lot of time fixated on this difference and, in my mind, her age raised the bar for what I expected of myself. I think this is what triggered the negativity. Insecurity over where I am as a 30 year old and how it compares to her as a 43 year old. If I wanted her to see me as an equal then I’d have quickly find 13 years worth of adult experience. Probably it was this subconscious realisation that gave me so many problems. If she was a dysfunctional 30 year old it would have been fine.

(rambling:)

It’s a strange period for people my age and a bit younger because we entered the workforce in the immediate aftermath of the financial crash, which for many of us essentially meant delaying our lives for quite a few years before we caught up to where a functioning adult would have been a decade earlier. It took me until I was 25 to get a job at the level I should have been at when I was 21 or 22. Not a big deal now, but there are plenty of people my age who still aren’t there and the longer they don’t achieve it, the less likely it is that they will.

Three people I used to know at school have not fared well and have had serious mental health issues probably as a result of this. Perfectly bright and able people who I remember being jealous of at school because they had the maturity to work hard and achieve good results, whereas I played computer games and didn’t. But in the end, things fell into place for me and not for them. That’s not through my later hard work or good decisions and it’s not through their mistakes, it’s just how things beyond our control worked out. But as a result, they’re trapped in a sort of pseudo childhood as they’re not in an environment where they can grow into an adult. It’s not a process that can happen without the environment, because it’s a slow process of you adapting to better handle what the environment throws at you. You make mistakes, see what you did wrong, realise it doesn’t really matter because there’ll be a next time, and when it comes up again you do it better. One of those people wanted to study medicine but didn’t quite get the grades (but ironically got much higher grades than me), did something else, ended up in a job he hated, had a lot of time off with stress, went back to university and did another degree that also didn’t help, and now spends his daytime going to the gym, funded by his parents. He’s 30 and he’s worked for about two years in his early 20s. And then there’s a whole bunch of people who are just-about-managing in low paid menial office work but will need a lot of luck and hard work to obtain comfort and security in the long term.

My sister is two years younger than me but often behaves like someone much younger in some ways. I never noticed it in our early/mid 20s, but there is a big maturity gap between us now. She has good career potential but she hasn’t yet managed to put it into motion and I think the fact she’s still essentially in an entry-level position contributes a lot to her attitude. Her friends have done no better. One is the daughter of an MP, and even with that rather stark advantage, she’s nowhere near having her life together, not entirely through her own fault.

I think a lot will continue to be written about the financial crash and its effect on this generation in the UK in years to come.

So in many ways I’m doing much better than a lot of people my age are. Not in every way, but I have financial independence and security, and I don’t usually act like a teenager (sudden crushes notwithstanding). A lot of people my age can’t say that, and it causes them real problems (unlike my problem here, which is literally imaginary).

Back to the crush.

I found out she smokes. Or at least, I think she does. I’m not 100% sure, but there have been two occasions where she’s come in from outside and I’ve caught a cigarettey whiff. She can’t be a heavy smoker or I’d have noticed it before. Some days she doesn’t go out at all (which seems odd for a smoker?), so maybe I’m mistaken, but the fact it’s happened twice now makes it harder to brush off. It would also explain the cough…

In reality, there are two fundamental barriers on her side to a relationship: firstly that she’s already in one, and (speculation:) secondly that I’m younger. Those have nothing to do with flaws on my part, but I’m aware it’s a non-starter and I’ve struggled to avoid spending a lot of negative effort looking inwards for other reasons why, which better satisfy a sense of insecurity. Reasons that make me feel frustrated with myself and empower a destructive little voice in my mind telling me to prove myself by attaining her validation. And yet, I’ve always been firm about smoking. It’s unpleasant. It makes living spaces unpleasant. It makes the smoker unpleasant especially if you’re going to be intimate. It really is a flaw. Every brain cell I have tells me on the subject of dating a smoker “no, no matter how much you think you like her now, don’t do it!”. And I wouldn’t.

So where does that leave me?

Still confused. Maybe because I’m trying to look at things logically instead of just thinking about it as a series of strong impulses that exist for very good evolutionary reasons and which sometimes get things a bit wrong. If anyone impartial looked at the two of us they’d be surprised which direction the attraction goes. They’d probably say I have more going for me than she does, especially with the smoking. I sort of agree with that, which adds to the confusion but doesn’t actually change how I feel. It makes me wonder – if I actually dated her, would I stay interested in her? The fact I ask that question betrays the fact I have doubts, but I don’t know either way because, fundamentally, I don’t understand why I’m attracted to her. Why would an unattached 30 year old with no real commitments become so interested in an attached 43 year old with two children. I meet plenty of women I manage to avoid falling in love with; this isn’t some general problem I have. Quite the opposite – until I met her I was starting to wonder if my romantic attraction circuitry was still wired up. It’s just her. It’s not a physical infatuation and neither of us is in a position of authority or trust over each other, which seem to be the usual suspects for kickstarting these kinds of things. I don’t know what it is. She is just fascinating for some reason I can’t put my finger on.

But the smoking doesn’t kill the attraction. It doesn’t kill the what-ifs. I still want her attention, but I’m not sure as to what end. I find it hard to understand the source of how I’m feeling some days. I know I enjoy her attention, but I also spend a lot of my working day feeling pretty bored, so there is certainly mixed in there an element of her relieving the boredom. But when she relieves the boredom I enjoy it a bit more than when other people relieve the boredom. When I feel bored I’m more prone to negative thinking which brings up all the other things. It’s a chaotic system and she does seem to be at the centre of it. But I know it’s not really about her, at least, not to the extent that I’m feeling it.

I think I am discovering that there is a certain truth to the maxim of it being important to love yourself, even though when expressed like that it’s not obvious why it’s important. If you don’t recognise what you have going for you, you risk being drawn into focusing entirely on the things you don’t have going for you and that puts you in an unhealthy position when you start comparing yourself to other people. It feeds the negativity. If you’re going to beat yourself up over your weaknesses, you need to balance it by also finding confidence in your strengths and successes.

You aren’t perfect and that’s OK.

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Summary of this week

My sleep has been terrible this week. I keep waking up hours before I need to get up. It’s probably a bit of a vicious cycle at this point. Lack of sleep makes my body rely more on adrenaline, which also makes it harder to be calm, so it’s harder to go back to sleep when I wake up 3 hours before I need to get up. I think I need to fix this before I will feel normal again. The tendency towards adrenaline is not helpful mentally or physically. I’m not too worried by it on its own; I’ve had phases of insomnia before and I used to get stressed about it, which is the worst thing you can do. Now I know I can function on few hours of sleep. It’s not ideal but it’s not too bad. The main effect it has is that I get tired after lunch and I start yawning in between sets when I’m lifting weights.

Regarding The Office Crush, I seem to have mostly stopped my feelings running away with themselves so things are much better. There’s lots of room for improvement; it would be nice if the feelings were a bit more sensible and felt less urgent to start with, but hey, I feel like I’ve regained my sanity, so one thing at a time. The urgency thing gets me. It’s like I have no concept of time. No patience. It’s like I think she will forget me if we don’t say anything to each other for half a day. As I get to know her better I feel more relaxed with her. I notice things about her that would drive me up the wall, which is good because it means I’m seeing her as a real person rather than having my brain project things onto her. I still fancy her though. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. But if I could get to the point where she makes work more interesting without thinking about her much beyond that, then that would be great. I think I will get there.

It continues to surprise me that I have become much more extroverted since she started. I am quite enjoying it and it has made work more fun even when she is not around. I’m hoping it will be self-sustaining from now. I am definitely going to try to hold on to it.

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The road to inner peace

I think some inner peace, or at least a return to normality is within sight.

STILL on the Office Crush… …who has made me feel very, very odd for the past few weeks.

For the past couple of days I have been thinking about what I actually want with her. I have spent so much time thinking about her that this seems like a reasonable question to ask. But I haven’t managed to come up with anything. Even supposing her partner didn’t exist, she has a life I’m not really interested in and obligations I don’t want. I haven’t really thought about sex with her, so it’s not that either (actually my sex drive has all but evaporated since this started, which I’m sure is not a coincidence). This total lack of enthusiasm seems underwhelming considering how much she has occupied my thoughts.

So it hits me: it’s not really about her. Sure, I find her highly attractive and she’s very nice, but it’s not about that. It’s about my desire to prove wrong a little voice in my head telling me that I’m not bold enough to go after her. It pops up and asks what I’m waiting for when I miss opportunities to butt into conversations or accidentally-on-purpose run into her. It gives me the kind of irrational self doubt I outlined before. When I do what it says, the relief is very temporary. When I don’t, it tells me that it’s not because I made a choice, it’s because I didn’t have the courage. It pushes a sense of urgency – I must do this right now! It makes me feel intensely frustrated. I don’t remember frustration being a component of my experience of anxiety before, but this time, it’s absolutely huge. I have never felt so frustrated.

I want to silence this annoying little voice more than I want anything with her. That is the key to all of this.

I am calling it a voice but if it was really a voice it would be more transparent. It’s more of a very subconscious urge. It’s harder to see the motivation behind an urge, so it can lie to you. And it does, very convincingly. I said I didn’t remember the frustration, but I certainly remember the being lied to.

So I’m trying to keep myself more grounded. I’m trying to keep reminding myself that this feeling should not be taken at face value. It’s lying to me and it’s a very convincing liar. So, since my hair is long enough to justify this, I have started wearing a hair tie around my wrist. It’s supposed to be a regular reminder and something I can focus to bring me back to reality on when I feel the frustration building. Something I can touch and fiddle with at work when I need to. So far, it seems to be working. It doesn’t stop the feelings in the first place, but I have been able to prevent them from building too much.

2wqgvho

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Contrast

I’ve been reading a lot about anxiety here on WordPress via the global reader. It’s striking how almost every single writer on the subject is female. If you are a woman and you are reading this, consider getting your iron levels tested. It’s very easy for women to become low on iron because you need twice as much of it as men, and it can cause anxiety, depression, etc.

Since triggering this bout of anxiety I have felt very unsure of myself over the last few weeks. I have compensated for this at work by… being more confident. Sounds contradictory, but it seems to be true.

I looked through my blog and the last time I had a big enough problem with anxiety to write about it was about four and a half years ago. I had been in my current job for one year. It’s not my first proper job, but it is the first appropriate to my education level. I felt intimidated by the fact that everyone there was more experienced than me. This wasn’t the cause of the anxiety, it just gives a good insight into my mind at the time.

There were two people in particular – a 30 year old and a 50 year old, who had both been there a few years and had got comfortable to the point they treated the job like something to do during the day rather than as a serious obligation (although I’m sure they produced good quality work). They were both quite sarcastic and weren’t afraid to speak their minds. Even though they both left two years ago, I associate their loud conversations with work more than I do some people who actually work here now. When they and others left in a short space of time, I think they opened up some metaphorical space above and around me as my view of the office hierarchy fell apart.

Now, here I am at the age of 30 finding my 50 year old manager and me having much the same sorts of slightly ridiculous conversations that I used to listen to four years ago. I say things with probably the entire office listening that I wouldn’t have dreamt of saying quietly back then. It’s been a gradual process for the last few years but I realised that I’ve been confidently outspoken almost every day recently and that’s because of the anxiety. I said before that this was me trying to make myself more visible to the Office Crush (more on her later), but I was wrong – I’m doing it equally when she’s not around. Nobody at work would believe I’m feeling unsure of myself right now, but in fact it’s like there is a lot of noise in my body and a lot of tension in my chest and those short bursts of confidence resolve it for a while into some kind of temporary calmness.

I’ve mostly kept it within the space of the office, but I have also started having actual conversations in the kitchen with one of the women from the other office on our floor, who I’ve only been on ‘hello, goodbye’ terms with for the past couple of years. She instigated it with a totally unsolicited compliment a few weeks ago, but I’ve continued it. Four years ago I would have responded by changing my kitchen schedule in case she tried to take it further (spoiler: she hasn’t). I think I may have become slightly more receptive to her feminine attention to try to trick myself into wanting less such attention from the Office Crush (spoiler: it hasn’t worked).

I still feel terribly conflicted by the Office Crush. I wasn’t in Monday, she wasn’t in Tuesday. Wednesday and Friday were uneventful. But Thursday… First thing in the morning, I turned a brief awkward silence in the kitchen into what became a long and meandering conversation that she really seemed to enjoy, and we chatted a few times during the day too. This is the conflict: I enjoyed this far too much. She is unavailable and I need to manage my expectations, otherwise I’m setting myself up for bigger problems later when I feel like I’ve invested in a lot of effort and emotion only to hit a brick wall.

I feel like a lot of my anxiety right now revolves around an irrationally intense desire to keep her attention. Or possibly the anxiety just magnifies it; it’s always hard to tell which way around these things work. My brain tells me that it’s ridiculous that I find myself so strongly drawn to someone I didn’t even know existed only three weeks ago, and that this shows it’s more about me than her. My feelings aren’t interested in making that distinction, so this observation doesn’t really change much regardless of whether it is correct or not. It is of course worth remembering that there are very good evolutionary reasons for strong feelings when it comes to the opposite sex, so it might be possible to over-think this a bit.

It felt immensely frustrating on Friday that we didn’t say more than a few words to each other, but I need to let that happen.

I have felt that since I started this job that my life hasn’t gone anywhere. And yes, ok, in some ways that’s true. But looking at it now, I can see that I have actually grown a lot and that’s evident in how I’m responding to the anxiety now. So, I could focus on the fact I’ve spent many hours this week sat at my desk feeling frustrated, agitated and slightly nauseous about nothing and everything (all at once), but there are more positive things to look at as well.

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