Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Intoxication of the Working Weak

Again I found myself tipping into a slightly destructive pattern. Thankfully all it was this time was a relatively short passage of working too much, which I self medicated with regular doses of Stevie Wonder (at one stage the only non-work mental stimulation I could manage was "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing")

Through this period it became apparent to me how working like this on a more regular basis can have such a magnetic and destructive pull, like the swoon you feel when a tube train thunders into the platform.

There is a brilliant passage in The Unbearable Lightness of Being where Kundera describes one character feeling "vertigo... A heady, insuperable longing to fall" as she tries finally to turn her back on a painful relationship. He goes on to comment,

"We might also call vertigo the intoxication of the weak. Aware of his weakness, a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it. He is drunk with weakness, wishes to grow even weaker, wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down."

Obviously things weren't that bad, but I love how he expresses that tipping point of self destruction, the seduction of the self into believing how a conviction, a determination and commitment, can be mistaken as strength in itself.

The character Kundera is referring to also has a total lack of support from anyone else around her, and so I am glad to report I had great support from colleagues and my partner checking on me and pulling me back. I even managed to squeeze in an official engagement, my left hand now a little weightier than at the start of last week.

Thinking of colleagues, possibly the biggest lesson for me was the potential for a weird co-dependency that I saw some glints of as we ping ponged between euphoria and despair during our long working hours.

It's easy to subconsciously drive each other on even if you know what you're doing is kind of ridiculous and it feels like each of you are personally deciding to behave like this.

Weirdly the simile that came to mind was like bulimic sorority girls. As a manager, awful to think I may have been lead "Heather". Apologies to those who haven't seen the film - but I think you'd at least understand we all want to be Winona Ryder really (minus the painkillers and shoplifting).

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