[Sept 2013] Cutting the Ties

I woke up this morning extremely nervous and anxious, with thoughts about my job running wild in my head. I couldn’t get over yesterday’s meeting when I had to realize that we wouldn’t be able to deliver our promises to a customer of mine because certain key people were moved from my project to more important ones. It knocked me out right then and there, mostly because I got another unexpected problem and burden to handle, that broke my dreams about having a comfortable letting go of my tasks and projects in the remaining days.

I immediately canceled the afternoon’s meeting with this customer because I felt I wouldn’t be able to walk in there and stay confident and patient. I chose a short conference call instead. The distance made me feel safer and more relaxed. Still, it was a horrible day. In the evening I went to play a football match, but it was a struggle too. I was so stressed out that I couldn’t concentrate on the game and let go of any of my problems. The first half had to pass like this until I could get a little relaxed and focused, but when the referee blew the final whistle, all the worries and anxieties started all over again in my head.

With all these feelings in my heart, today I wanted to talk to my boss about my replacement at work. I suspected it was not going very well, based on prior experiences about how he handled (or rather procrastinated) problems. Instead of going to our office today, I decided to go to a customer’s office to work, where we had an own room for our projects and colleagues. Before leaving I had lunch at home and called my boss but couldn’t reach him. I was nervous and tense on my way to the customer. My muscles were stiff, and I felt unpleasant pins and needles in some of them. This feeling peaked when I entered the building. I fumbled my way to our project room, greeted my colleagues and took an empty seat. I exchanged a few words with George, a project manager colleague of mine. He told me that the search for my replacement didn’t go very well because our boss just turned down someone that George recommended him. I turned on my computer when my phone started ringing. It was him, my boss.

I picked up the phone and told him that I wanted to know about my replacement process. He started explaining and bullshitting about how difficult it was because there was a reorganization going on in the company (like always), everybody and everything was very uncertain, and it was impossible to hire someone new because his boss strictly forbade it. He told me that he was just about to call me because of this, and he wanted to ask me if I could somehow lengthen my work with the company a little. I felt that my breath and heart stopped, and my anxiety rose to the skies. My mind went blank, and I was frozen with terror. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t say anything or even have a clear thought. After the last few horrible days, the nightmare seemed to continue, and the end appeared to slip away further into uncertainty. I was literally and physically sick of just coming to the office, and now I had to keep on doing it. I was devastated. “Okay, we’ll talk about it,” this was the only thing I could say and hung up the phone. My heart was racing, just like the thoughts in my head. I was shaking and feeling cold inside. My stomach was turning, and I wanted to throw up.

I stood up and left the room because the room felt too small and the people around me disturbed and frightened me. I went out to the corridor and sat down on a bench. I tried to breathe and calm myself a little, but it was impossible. After a few minutes I went back, opened my laptop, but all I could do was staring at the screen with an empty look. I was unable to read, unable to concentrate, unable to think, let alone do something. I didn’t even have the strength to grab the mouse and move it. I was unable to even pretend to work. I was finished, broken, fallen apart, fully and for good.

Mike came in a few minutes later and invited me to the cafeteria for a coffee. I told him I would go, I only a little later. I felt like I wasn’t able to have a normal human conversation, let alone talking about what had just happened to me. I sat another few minutes, but tension and anxiety were rising further in me, along with scary thoughts in my head. I couldn’t let go of any of them, and the more I thought about them, the deeper I slipped to this bottomless pit. I felt I had to stop it somehow, or I would pass out very soon. I was thinking about my options and found the only solution in escaping and going home. I turned off my laptop quietly, grabbed it, and left the room in silence, without saying goodbye, as if I had just gone to the toilet. Even walking and balancing was difficult for me in this condition. I managed to reach the stairs somehow, then the door of the building. I stepped out to the street, and I was finally free, or at least a little freer. I knew it was still a long way home. Everything was disturbing and stressful to me: the people, the traffic, everything. All I wanted was to get home, close the door, get into the bed, and not leave it for days. On my way home I wrote a message to Mike that I had to go. I didn’t want to talk to him and explain myself. He called me after reading my message, but I didn’t answer. I reached home finally, although the road seemed infinitely long. At the elevator, I met a girl from the house. She wanted to tell me something, but I didn’t stop, just said a quick hello. Standing at my door, my hands were shaking with the keys. I opened the door, entered the apartment, closed the door behind me, dropped everything I had in my hands, and fell into the bed, just like I dreamed of it.

I was laying in my bed with my face buried in the pillow and didn’t want to think about anything. I wanted to leave Earth and the whole world altogether. I knew I was going to calm down sooner or later because I had already experienced such downs before in the last year. Half an hour or more had passed, when my thoughts started to slow down and get clearer. I had to admit that this could not go like this any further. Not even for a day, let alone for months. My sanity and my health were at stake. My life was at stake. I made this decision quickly and firmly, the only question was how I was going to manage the whole exit. I didn’t want to go to the office again, I didn’t want to argue with my boss again, so I chose the easier way, my usual gun: writing a mail. This gave me relief and hope. I took my laptop right away and started writing it. I wrote it very quickly but didn’t send it yet because I wanted to digest it, besides, I didn’t have to rush anyway.

“Dear Jules [my boss]!

I thought about your request to extend my work contract until you can find someone new to replace me.

I think that you could always count on me before, and I would be happy to help you this time as well, but unfortunately, I feel that this time I can’t. Not because I want to work on other things, but because I need a break and rest. All my strength and energy is lost, and I can’t keep on going like this because I am burned out in this position. I think I have to break away from this role to fill up my reserves. This is what I need more than anything after the difficulties and struggles of my last year.

I ask you to find a temporary solution for my replacement until you can find someone permanent because I want to be out as soon as possible. I recommend you to chose people for the projects who know the actual customer, so not much energy would be needed to hand over my tasks.

I write the necessary information about my work and my projects into a document that anyone can use in the future. I also notify my customers about the change. I will be available on the phone for another month in case anyone needs any more information.

I hope you understand and accept this! I wouldn’t ask if I had any energy to stay.

Thank you!

Zol”

In the afternoon I pulled together all my strength left and went to visit my therapist for our appointment. I wasn’t sure if I should have gone, but I went. I was uncertain about if I was able to talk about my experiences and feelings, but I still went there, like every time so far. I arrived early, and the waiting felt agonizing. When I entered the room and sat down, it was impossibly challenging to start talking. It seemed like a huge mountain to climb. I wanted to tell everything, no matter how hard it was. I didn’t want to hide or refine anything. I wanted him to see from close-up how did a real bottom look like. A bottom I might have never experienced before. It was horrible talking about it, but it also gave me a slight relief by the end. My therapist told me that putting every information about my work on paper (instead of handing it over personally) has the advantage that I could start it right away, and I could forget and let go of every piece of information, problem or task that I write down. This idea gave me some strength and hope for the future. I went home with these feelings and called back Mike, who supported and strengthened my decision even further, telling me not to help my boss in this situation. I refined my mail a little, then clicked the send button, and it was all over. I did it! I felt like I resigned again, and it was firmer and more irreversible this time. I was really relieved. I was also proud of myself because I was honest, I admitted my weaknesses, without shaming myself. I was proud of my courage and openness. I felt that a significant part of the infinite tension could finally flow away from inside.

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