Feeling da funk


I don’t have to look far to see people who are a lot worse off than I am.  My best friend just broke up with his partner of three years and his heart is broken.  He is the midst of the kind of sadness that literally takes your  breath away and robs you of your sleep.  A colleague at work struggles with her young daughter receiving a possibly life threatening diagnosis.  My brother is living with a currently untreatable cancer.  Turning on the news, a whole  other level of suffering is exposed.  My problems are very, very small.

Having this perspective is certainly helpful . . . most of the time.  Yet, at times my minor problems can cause me some major suffering.  Right now, I’m pretty miserable at work.  Depending on the day, I feel unappreciated, bored, paranoid and/or isolated.   It’s not a pretty way to spend eight hours a day.  After my mistake of last week, I’m still feeling pretty wobbly in regards to my reputation at work.   Which combined with generally scary news about the economy, sends me into a minor panic about my job security.  I’m not having fun.

It’s truly amazing how much suffering we create for ourselves because of this attachment to a picture we have of ourselves in our mind.  In my mind, I am smart, I am capable, I am likable.  Yet, right now for the bulk of my day, five days a week,  all that is in question.  Others question it, and now I question it.  Of course, I have friends I can call that will assure me I am all that and a bag of chips.   Lately, it feels like more and more I’m needing that reassurance and I’m reaching for my cell phone on my long drive home to hear the voice of someone, anyone who cares about me. 

At work, when I can, I like to listen to dharma podcasts.  My favorite is Ajahn Brahm out of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.  He’s a Brit who has become a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition.  He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and doesn’t seem to be big on the whole piety thing.  In the talk I listened to yesterday he was saying “suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.”  That’s it, isn’t it.  I’m asking for the rest of the world to buy into how I view myself.  I’m asking of myself to never make mistakes.  I’m asking everyone to like me and “get” me.   If someone told me that that were their expectations of themselves and the world, I would tell them that’s impossible, and it’s their silly expectations that are making them suffer.  Look in the mirror, you silly LazyBuddhist, look in the mirror.

This next week I’m taking a week off of work.  Do some work around the house, read a book, sleep in, take the cats to the vet, and then finish up the week with a lovely weekend in Carmel with my best friend.  Life really isn’t so bad, is it?


20 responses »

  1. I have to say I have had very similar feelings lately, but perhaps for different reasons. I too am taking the next week off, and I can’t wait for it. I’m not going to Carmel (I would love to SCUBA there) but I will have my son, and that is the best person to have around to reorient myself and figure that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

    I hope your week off is as rejuvinating as I am hoping mine is.

  2. Of course, attachment to reputation is one of the 8 worldly concerns. I often wonder whether true renunciation is possible in the world we live in and in the kinds of lives you and I lead. Renunciation is one of those things you quickly lose if you’re not keeping an iron grip on it. Moments like the experience you’ve had are real opportunities to deepen your renunciation, to see behind your attachment to reputation, and other things. So they are really beneficial. Sorry, it’s hard to comment on this without sounding like I’m preaching, which I guess I am. It also sounds like you’re experiencing a bit of ordinary pervasive suffering, so a change in circumstance will probably cheer you up, temporarily at least. This is samsara. It ain’t no bed of roses.

  3. I will tell you that it is obvious you are wonderful, so fret not on that front.

    Work is rarely the best place to find yourself truly mirrored back. I’ve gotten ‘shocked’ several times recently with being misperceived – usually starting from something stupid and not even about me, but then suddenly there I am, not being viewed as I really am.

    It IS unsettling, it DOES hurt (who likes to be misunderstood or thrown under the bus?). I’ve been trying to take the opportunity to pull back from “them” and then give them less of “me” to twist on. Lip but not eye smiling. Picturing myself as I know that I am and then amplifying that 10-fold into the slices of me I put up for view. It’s been helping.

    ENJOY the week off. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

  4. Robin – nope, it’s not so bad. And considering I just slept 11 hours, I think this week is off to a good start.

    Adam – You’ve had a lot going on in your life, so it’s not wonder the funk is creeping up on you. It gets cumulative, doesn’t it? Just a lot of little blows, stresses and the funk comes creepin’ on in. Have a lovely week with your son. In the pictures I’ve seen, you both look so happy to be together.

    Ron – I have to admit I bristled at first a little at your response. It was a bit of an NKT aftershock of being told it was not OK to be feeling what you’re feeling, but rather to transform it. How does one engage in renunciation practice? Or is renunciation something that one simply develops over time. So, for me, being able to feel what I feel, recognize the origin of that feeling (in this case, like you correctly identified, attachment to reputation) is on the road to devloping renunciation.

    As much as I wish I could pratice as Shantideva advises:

    If something can be fixed, there is no reason to be unhappy. Likewise, if something cannot be fixed there is no reason to be unhappy.

    I see the beautiful logic in that, but I’m not there yet. As for my work situation, I’m debating whether or not that can be fixed, or if I simply patiently accept it and al the icky feelings and insecurities that get churned up. Or do I simply change sufferings by finding a new job?

    Shu – Ah, thanks 🙂 You’re right, work is probably not the place to look for validation for that multi-faceted splendor that is each of us. I’m glad your approach of holding back something of yourself is working. I’m not sure if I can do that because I find that the parts I hold back are the good bits, and it hurts when those bits aren’t free to shine, even if they aren’t appreciated. What I think I need to wean myself from is needing the validation, because for me, the lack of it is causing the questioning, the suffering, etc. And yes, I DO plan on enjoying my week. Thanks!

    Mr. mellow NOT – I don’t consider yankeeing my doodle to be an appropriate activity at work, and would probably get me in more trouble than I already am.

  5. Hi, I guess I’d say that what you’re feeling is what you’re feeling. It’s not that it’s not OK. It’s just that it’s not important. Feelings are transient. They’ll change from one moment to the next. If you base your actions on your feelings, that’s a very unstable basis for making decisions. I can understand why you might bristle because my comment did come from a very high throne, sorry. Anyway, regarding changing jobs or not – make that decision when your mind is at peace and you’ll be fine. You’re obviously aware that just changing your suffering isn’t going to do you much good.

  6. Actually, I think it’s time I stopped commenting on this blog, especially as you’ve moved on from my core set of practices. It’s just a bit tricky, feels like I’m preaching.

  7. Nonsense, Ron. I enjoy your comments (bristling and all). Just because I’m no longer practicing in the NKT, can’t we still be friends?

    I have to admit I did have a wee bit of a problem with the intermediate scope when I was studying Joyful Path. My classmates and teacher were a particularly, uh, enthusiastic group, and any fluctuations in emotional state was evidence that you didn’t have renunciation, and thus cause for some wrathful encouragement. Each class was torture, and I’m still amazed to this day I managed to get through those months where we covered that material.

    You’re right though, feelings are completely transient, arising purely from the mind and subject to change in a moment. And while we know that they are not particularly important as they are impermanent and lacking any substance, we have to be careful how we communicate that to others, lest we sound above it all. If we are able to sit compassionately with our own suffering, we are better equipped to sit with others with theirs.

  8. I find you here, on Monday, and I hope that you spent the day with 40 pounds of cat arrayed on you in the places that will do your heart the most good. We are not ever perfect, but we are always loved. 🙂

  9. Yeah, not so bad at all.

    You are all that and a bag of chips. Maybe believing it yourself would diminish the need for reinforcement. Maybe it’s not so much ego as a lack of confidance?

  10. For ten years of my life, I worked in jobs that were wrong for me. It was awful … I was bad at the jobs, and my self-esteem suffered terribly as a result, because I wanted to do better, and just couldn’t … classic case of round peg in square hole.

    So anyway, I think that having job discomfort issues is a pretty big deal. In fact, I know for sure that it is, and not just because we want people to see us a certain way, etc. We all also want to be useful, and to serve our highest and best purpose. When we feel that we’re not doing that in our daily work, it’s painful.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you’re not good at your job, but just saying that from my own experience, feeling a dissonance at work is a bigger deal, and for different reasons, than people often give it credit for being. It’s not petty or small or an unworthy worry … it’s about identity and service in the world, and those are big things.

  11. LB, part of my work entails dealing with people who’ve gotten into very, very deep trouble. If there is one recurring feeling I take away from my workplace at 5 o’clock, more than any other, it is “thank god for my problems.”

    Not that I don’t grumble and get annoyed and often experience that same disparity between my self image and the image others have — it happens to us all, in some form or other. But, man oh man, I have not dug myself into the deep holes I routinely see others in.

    And you’re right about the nightly news, and all the suffering in other parts of the world. But beyond the sufferings of having to do without, I deal often with situations where people have so much, everything they need, really, and still snatch anger, bitterness, and conflict from the jaws of contentment if not happiness.

    I hope your week off is restorative.

  12. LBC – Thank you for the well wishes. After I finish this response that is what I am on my way to do. You little fluffy ones have amazing curative powers.

    Amurin – Can I be a bag of Trader Joe’s Salt and Vinegar chips?

    You’re right, it doesn’t take much to deflate my confidence. This whole episode has tapped into some really old stuff, I fear. I am also displaying signs of Bag Lady Syndrome (google it) Perhaps with this much job insecurity, now is not the time to sign up for another decade of therapy, but it certainly points out there are still a lot I haven’t sorted out.

    David – Thank you so much for your perspective on this. You’re absolutely right – I do want to feel useful, I do want to be of service to others, and to spend my day accomplishing none of that is painful. I have been feeling like the ol’ square peg for a while, both job-wise and personally. Yet, I’ve been trying to “practice contentment”, recognizing that pretty much all jobs are a source of suffering, and trying to always look at all the advantages I have: laid back atmosphere in terms of dress and hours, private office and . .. oh, I guess that’s pretty much it. Wow. That’s eye-opening. All the other perks I can get in a different department or division of our company.

    As two of my bestest, wisest, most wonderful friends in the world (Hi A & F!) have advised, perhaps it is time to brush up the ol’ resume and start looking around.

    OmbudsBen – I’m doing my best not to dig too deep a hole. My f-up raised its ugly head again yesterday and I responded as best I could. I put together a point-by-point summary of what went wrong and what preventive measures we could put in place to prevent this happening in the future. I’m hoping it will be perceived as it was meant, and not used against me.

    Back when I was doing HR type work, I was always amazed at how little people understood about what it takes to keep a job; namely, do your damn job and try to act like you care. If I had an employee that made the mistake that I had and then had gone out of her way to come up with strategies to avoid it happening again, I would completely back her and maybe even take her out for drink. However, I don’t trust the people I work for to have my back, which kinda speaks volumes, doesn’t it.

    Thanks everyone for their support. I really appreciate it!

  13. Hi LB

    Of course we’re friends.I have real problems at my job too. It’s all going smoothly now but for two years I thought they were trying to force some kind of constructive dismissal on me. I do empathise. It’s easy to say transform your surroundings but maybe sometimes you do need to just get real and move on. Call it karma. Please keep us in the loop.

  14. Hey, crap happens.

    (Chiming in a little late … 😉

    My favorite new agey line from the 80s:

    What you think of me is none of my business.

    If it hadn’t of been your item that broke in the software it would have been something else. Who knows, maybe having it break where it did, it prevented a bigger disaster.

    I’m not awake yet, I should probably think about this a little more. Hope your week off is going fine 🙂

  15. I did google Bag Lady Syndrome. Hey, I thought I was the only one who felt that way! Since we have a syndrome, can we write that off on the income taxes? (hee hee)

    I vote for the kitty therapy suggested way above. How can the world be SO bad if there’s a cat in your lap?

    Going to work is riding the seesaw. Sometimes you are soaring giddily up to the sky and sometimes you are getting the thunk when you hit ground. And only part of the ride is in your control.

    I love Cranky B’s line above. I may have to write that on my palm and take in to the office to keep reminded tomorrow. It is a bit of sassafras 🙂 (Thanks, CB!)


  16. I’ve come to this a bit late, sorry, but I’m with David on the ’round peg, square hole at work’ thing. And sometimes its not only easier but healthier to take that round peg elsewhere, rather than spending day after day bashing the crap out of the holes, trying to get ’em rounder!

    However, I also spent 2 years suffering from what I belatedly realised was depression. I got out of it eventually, and learnt 2 important things which I try to remind myself of periodically:

    1. that not getting enough sleep is the surest way to lack of confidence and poor self esteem (you look like crap + you achieve virtually nothing = you feel like crap)

    2. remembering that, while emotions are vitally important indicators of all sorts of things, they are not permanent. “This too will pass” sounds corny, but it certainly helps me.

    I hope the week off is going well. Strokes to Mr Binkles.

  17. Pingback: Small Problems « Discussions and Nonsense

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