Monday, 18 July 2011

Take it easy ...

Regular readers will no doubt have realised that the frequency of posting on this blog has been dropping off in the last couple of weeks. There are a number of reasons for this.

One has to do with the amount of time I’ve had to put into my job in the past while – and the kind of work I’ve been doing during that time. Up to a couple of months ago, I was doing quite a lot of night work. Now night work is by no means easy – it’s anti-social, drains your energy, and is physically and psychologically bad for you. But one of its characteristics in the area I work in was also the fact that it left me with time on my hands, time where the major challenge was to keep myself awake. Writing essays was one useful way of doing this; and many (perhaps even a majority) of the posts published here in the past year were written in the quiet hours of the deep enfolding night when most of the rest of the world around me was asleep.

But I’ve only worked one night shift since the end of May and this is certainly a major reason for the reduction of frequency in my posting. It wasn’t that I’d asked to be taken off nights, it just seems to have turned out that way at the moment – for all sorts of reasons. Much of the work I’ve been doing during the day has been on twelve hour shifts with quite a lot to do; certainly more than would leave the time to take out my netbook and start banging away on the keys. Even if it were possible, my bosses have also decided that there are more than enough other things to be doing during the day shifts and we were recently informed that the presence of powered-up private laptops and netbooks would no longer be viewed positively by the firm – during day-time shifts, at any rate.

In terms of internet access, it hasn’t actually made much difference to most of us. The march of the smartphone is continuing apace and most of my colleagues (including myself) seem to have acquired one in the past year or so. But while my HTC Wildfire is more than adequate for quickly checking and writing e-mails, writing a quick comment for Facebook or (in the past ten days) Google+, and providing all sorts of interesting apps, I somehow can’t see myself writing an essay with one finger on the tiny keyboard on the touch screen – unless I were locked into an unfurnished room for many hours with nothing else to do.

These busy twelve-hour shifts have the added disadvantage of leaving you pretty tired after you’ve done more than two or three of them in a row. Theoretically, working this kind of system is supposed to leave you with a lot of free time. Sometimes that even happens. But more frequently it doesn’t quite work like this – as most people working with such kinds of structures know. The reality of organising shift rosters for round-the-clock jobs means that you often finish up with a plan which involves working two or three days, then having one day free, then a day working, then the next day free, then three days on, etc. etc. If the plan gives you three or four free days in a row, then the chances increase that one of your colleagues will phone in sick and you’re going to be called in to work anyway.

Or at least that’s the way I perceive it at the moment. And, if I’m going to be honest, some of the deeper roots of why my posting here has decreased recently are to be found here. The vague feeling of frustration which I’ve had for quite a long time now regarding the basic conditions defining the work I’m doing has been increasing of late. Increasing to a degree which has finally started to communicate itself to others at the job, including my bosses. Which doesn’t make things easier.

I’ve been aware of this and (as I’ve written here already) I am currently involved in planning to change things. But my plans involve more training and a lot of reorganisation in my life before things can really change, while carrying on working at what I’m doing through all of this – and this will take time … and energy.

Energy, aye, there’s the rub. Although at a purely physical level a tiny amount of mass potentially contains huge amounts of energy, humans aren’t atom bombs and the liberation of personal “spiritual,” psychological energy is subject to different, complex, very personal laws. Apart from the physical drain which working a longer series of twelve-hour shifts entails (and this itself is not to be underestimated), I’m finding recently that continually coping with a situation in which I feel discontented and frustrated is putting a considerable strain on my personal energy levels.

This is not the first time I’ve been in such a situation and I like to think I have learned a little about dealing with them over the years. The positive side of things is that I am working on a strategy to change things. The negative side is that I have to go on enduring what can’t be immediately cured. And there are all sorts of things I can do in the short term to live with frustration, reduce it where possible, do positive things for my energy levels and go on, basically, finding life positive and enjoyable.

One of these tactics is not to stress myself unnecessarily about stuff. And that includes posting to this blog. If a post doesn’t get written – or get finished – well, that’s just the way it is. At the same time, if the power and the inclination is there, all the better – then something gets done, like writing this. And it is good to give oneself a shake every now and then and do one of those things one knows that one enjoys, even if it initially seems to demand some of that scarce energy. The positive personal feedback and consequent synergetic increase in energy which results makes it all worth while.

And sometimes you can trick yourself, in a positive fashion. As with this post, for example. I have a half-finished post on Rupert Murdoch and the whole News International scandal in Britain, which I just didn’t feel like today – one of those single days off before working another couple of twelve-hour shifts. So, instead of trying to slog on with it, or doing nothing much at all, I decided to write something else. This.

There are times when life runs lightly, like dandelion seeds dancing on the breeze. There are times when it is more difficult, like trying to wade through treacle in rubber boots. I suppose I’m in one of those treacle phases at the moment. The thing to do is to keep moving …


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