Thursday, February 25, 2010

(Almost) 28 Days Later

A number of very decent things happened this month: a feis, a concert, a school presentation, some visits. And one thing was good because it did not happen: no bites (bedbugs or otherwise) since December 21. But despite the goodness, this has been the very greyest of months. Did you know that some universities used to call the February break "Suicide Week"? That's the kind of month I am looking forward to viewing in the rear-view mirror of my life.

Being a basement dwelling troglodyte by nature, I have largely considered myself largely immune to seasonal affective disorder, the February blues or blahs or whatever you want to call them, but this year was different. The whole household has started on Vitamin D as our doctor thinks it is an effective preventer of cancers, so perhaps that will help. And since we gave up chocolate for Lent, these chewable vitamins are the closest I get, so those two factors have to help.

February was also the month I shared a friend's pain, a friend of more than a decade whose employment ended suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S., and who will be coming home to Edmonton under less than ideal circumstances. While he couldn't tell me a lot about the situation that led to this, he told me enough that it made me extremely angry, and frustrated, and because I used to work for the same employer, disgusted and betrayed.

I was surprised at how much it affected me; obviously having control of your career path removed from you in such a way is never pleasant, but because this individual was always true to his values, and those (ostensibly) of the company, and was always forthright in his dealings, to have it end this way is unfair to the point of being criminal, and it got me right where I lived. In fact, it upset me so much that my co-workers could hear it in my voice while I was on the phone. My manager asked me if everything was all right, to which I replied I was very tired. Which was true, since even my sleep was affected for a few days afterward.

Work itself has been no picnic either, with record levels of inquiries and quite a few empty chairs due to maternity leaves, seasonal illnesses and so on. The pace is relentless and the respite is nowhere in sight. Without a refractory period, even the simplest of tasks become draining; without a chance to connect with co-workers, a sense of community is lost. For the first time since starting in this position, I was having a hard time going to work.

Things are improving though. The leadership here is aware of the challenges and doing what they can to help, which isn't a ton, honestly, but there is a lot of appreciation for the effort, and even more for the understanding. They have even set up a Wii mini-Olympics that staff all over the building are participating in on breaks and lunch hours. I got bronze in downhill, but gravity has always loved me; maybe too much.

Regardless of your faith, I hope you agree that there is much comfort to be had in these words: This too shall pass. (1 Cor. 10:12) And it will. Everything does, eventually. And the knowledge that my friend is putting a terrible situation behind him and coming back, not just to where he lives, but home, is improving my disposition as well. In fact, yesterday I e-mailed a poem around to my co-workers under the subject line "Coffee + Dr. Seuss = This":
As call volumes continue to head through the roof
And of member frustrations we have mounting proof
A few of them holler and fewer still yodel
Of instances proven and those anecdotal

In our second straight month of relentless work days
My hours pass by through caffeine induced haze
I look up for a moment from a very full plateful
And consider those things for which I am most grateful

First and foremost are the flexible bosses
Who recognize hourly emotional losses
And who help facilitate anger conversion
Into silly and sharable Wii-based diversions

The team-mates and colleagues much praise are deserving
Which sometimes they get from the members they're serving
Some callers' feedback might make our souls shrivel
But thankfully most are surprisingly civil

Most importantly though, no one sits on the benches
And everyone shares the grim work of the trenches
And although the call volume may make us all groan
At least no one here has to go it alone

"Many hands make light work" so the old proverb goes
Which is something the MSC worker well knows
The days may be hard but eventually end
And it's glad that I am to come work with such friends.

Sure it's sappy doggerel, but the beginning got stuck in my head and I was compelled to bang the rest out over my lunch break. It put a handful of smiles up around the office, which is still my favourite form of ornamentation. And having just recently found mine again, why wouldn't I share, right?

Bring on March, I say; a lion should put paid to the 'black dog' that's been lodging in my dreams of late, and the lamb will make good company later as well.


  1. With the reorg in our part of the ministry, I've suddenly found myself back on a career course that I've been trying hard to leave behind. Indeed, leaving behind deskside tech support was one of the reasons I moved away from Edmonton in the first place. I had a meeting today, where my new director asked me what me career aspiration were. I told him, and said "I see. But this is what I want you to do now." Which was a direction completely at odds with where I wanted to go. It sucks that right now the best thing I can say about my job is that I still have one. So I understand your friends frustration, at least to an extent.

  2. Rough times. But the poem certainly brightened my day.