Friday, October 31, 2008

The opposite of me

Did any of you ever see that episode of Seinfeld - The Opposite? To summarise from Wikipedia "George, upon visiting the beach, (where many of the characters are seen having a major revelation), decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. Later, at Monk’s Café with the gang, he tells Jerry this, who convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally. He suddenly begins to experience good luck, getting a girlfriend, moving out of his parents' house, and even landing a job with the New York Yankees."

I know that Jerry Seinfeld described Seinfeld as a sitcom "where no-one learned anything" and as such it was wonderful anti-dote to so many cheesy sitcoms with "useful life lessons". However, ironically, a few years ago I did learn a great deal from Seinfeld by doing the opposite of me.. I don't really like most self-help books or self-improvement stuff - most of the time I feel that they oversimplify people's personalities and issues and that the solutions offered are pat and patronising. However, I do realise that there are times when you need to change aspects of your life and habits and so, for a while, I did the opposite of me. You see, up until that point I believed that my ballooning weight and inability to exercise was just the way I was. I wasn't happy about it but I didn't believe that it was possible to change. Everyone knew (or so I thought) I couldn't exercise and I knew I couldn't stop eating. However, for some reason doing the opposite of me lodged into my brain and so I experimented with ignoring what I normally did and so believed I could exercise and could lose weight. I did and I did. And while watching what I eat and how I eat is still something I need to keep a check on I do know that I can be slim and don't have to hoover up everything in sight. And with 5 marathons under my belt now, I also know that I can exercise.

And the point of this history of me is? Ah I was getting to that. As many of you have realised (particularly those who have read my deeply stressed-out outbursts on Facebook) the past year of working as a marketing manager in a sollicitor's firm (law firm) has not been easy. There's been the predictable crises resulting from childcare and domestic issues but there has also been a great deal of work-related stress. Focusing on the marathon in the weeks leading up to October 12th, I put all that out of my mind. But when I found myself back from Chicago with no immediate goal in mind I really sank down. Hence my January in October post, and my overwhelming desire to just get my head down and run another race. However - I decided to do "the opposite of me". For some strange reason, when I'm under pressure, I tend to just pile on more pressure until I crack and everything stops. I then finally tend to admit that I have too much on my plate and only then do I re-evaluate. I didn't let myself do that this time. While part of me threw around all sorts of crazy ideas "the opposite of me" would not let me make any decisions until I knew that I knew. For sure. So I flailed around for a few weeks, listening to all your wise advice about whether or not to race (and I really appreciate all of that - I can't tell you) and a few of you offered advice that went a bit further than whether or not to race - ShirleyPerly sent me an incredibly kind and incisive email about the role of training and racing in your life. I didn't make any decisions(believe me, that is the opposite of impetuous me). I just let things percolate. On Monday evening, when I came back from work stressed out and grumpy , my husband begged me to give up the job, telling me that I wasn't even doing the job I was hired to do. And suddenly I tweaked. All this time I had been beating myself up for failing - failing to enjoy a prestigious job, failing to appreciate how lucky I am to be in a job at all in this current climate, failing to be good enough at this job. Adam's comment made me realise that the job I am doing at the moment is NOT the one I signed up for and not one I chose. It's just evolved.. Thinking that through made me realise that while I enjoy doing freelance project work, I hate going back into an office with its office politics, the way people check up on you as they do in offices, and the constant battle to prevent bucks being passed my way. So on Thursday I went to see my boss and I told him that while I would be delighted to carry on taking web and marketing-related project work I would, by the end of January, stop doing the endless admin side of my new role and would cease to work in their offices and be at their beck and call. They could go with that, or not at all. And guess what? They went for it.

Like so many people I find it difficult to actually, honestly, say what I think - particularly when I think people are not going to be happy to hear it. Making an effort, for once, to do this, has been the most incredible release. I asked for what I wanted, and I got it. Not only that - once I had made this decision I immediately received a request to do some freelance work for a different company. Completely out of the blue, completely unexpected, and yet perfectly right. I have been thinking for years that what I'd be good at would be the person who sits between the techies and the business hiring them and I've never been brave enough to do anything about it. When I finally dared to say it, it started happening..

I apologise because up until now this has been a non-running related blogpost. But strangely enough it is. Forcing myself to believe I could run, and then that I could run marathons, has slowly trickled its way into wondering whether there is more I could do that I never dared to confess to..

And the running is good. I'm not running a december race. I'm enjoying the downtime. For the first time I'm running a decent mileage without a goal race and relatively quickly after a marathon - I'm aiming for 20 to 25 miles a week. I'm paying attention to my stride, my pace, my body. Babying it when I'm tired and pushing it when I feel I want to. It's lovely and I'm enjoying it. My training for London starts at the end of December - I want to be fresh and ready. Removing this enormous blockage of stress about work should be a help.

Thank you for being so patient while I've been away - I'm back with you all now.

18 comments:

lizzie lee said...

Petra!!! what a week full of deep thoughts, emotions and decisions. I am happy that you had the ability to act on what you wanted to do. I've never watched Seinfeld (I don't watch any TV at all), but the lesson you explained from the particular show is really interesting. I may use it, and stop being so "squared" in all the aspects of my life where everything is a rule that needs to be complied.

You have taught me a lot with your post.

thank you very much
sincere-lee
lizzie lee

Road Warrior said...

it's just so nice to hear that you're ok. You seem to be making good choices. And you've got your priorities straight. Way to grab life by the horns!

Girl on Top said...

Congrats on the successful meeting. I tend to not voice my opinions at time because I'm afraid of rejection, but then if I never then I will never know right?

Thanks for setting an awesome example!

Marathon Maritza said...

I'm so glad to hear the meeting with your boss went well and that you are feeling that you're in a much happier work situation! Way to stand up for what is right for you!

And I'm so jealous...I want to run London!

IrishBlue said...

Gosh Petra, I think this is better than any of the countless self-help books I've read. I love this post and I admire your courage to stand up for you! You're right about what happens in the mind when we set out to attain the unattainable. Suddenly, all the things we never thought possible are back on the table.

I know I went through a period in my life where I became a bit of a workaholic. Yes, it was fun and glamorous for a while, but I quickly realized the price I was paying was just too high – no time with my kids, stressful trips and meetings, working at night from home after working all day, working weekends, etc…. I think what I’ve found is happiness comes from balance. Sounds like you're finding yours. Bang On! (There's a British pub in my hotel and I've learned to you folks cross the pond this means something like "Way to go!" LOL...hope that's right and it's not obscene.)

Maddy said...

You're amazing! Great job talking with your boss and getting what you want!

When you're happier, running is easier! It's true!

*aron* said...

you are so awesome!! wow that is so great that your meeting went well and you are feeling so much better... YAY for you!!!

and i have seen every episode of seinfeld MANY times :) at least one a day!! love the opposite one :)

ShirleyPerly said...

Petra, it is so wonderful to hear you have figured out some very important things about yourself. Believe it or not, we are very similar. So similar that we could be sisters!

When I made changes to my work situation in order to work freelance from home, I became a much happier person. I, too, can't stand office politics or getting stuck doing things that I didn't sign up to do. As a freelancer, I can pick and choose what I want, when I want. So much better.

Good luck to you with all your new directions!!

Susan said...

PETRA! You are just brilliant! I just love this. I know nothing but good things will come your way.

I always say "People are not lucky. People create precisely the life they are in, whether it is good or bad." Sounds to me like you are creating a little slice of heaven!

jen said...

Wow, Petra, great post. I am so proud of you for taking action and resolving some of the things that have been bothering you. I think I could learn a lot from your little experiment. :)

Enjoy your recovery and the laid-back running, you deserve the break.

MarathonChris said...

I can't think of anything to add with all the wonderful comments here except that I agree!!! :-) I admire you strength to go out on a limb and do the opposite....I should try that sometime. Failure is something I don't do well, and recently had to admit to... And I tend to do more when I should do less. (sigh!)

You are such a great example to all - we are blessed to have you as a blogging buddy!

Enjoy your "zen" running!

Tammy said...

Wow, isn't it great to have to have a partner to help us think. The comment that Road Warrior said by grabbing life by the horns is very true, way to go!!!! I give you a lot of credit for doing what you did, I'm not to sure that I would have the gutts to do what you did.

Good Luck on your run in London, I know you'll do great!!!

CewTwo said...

You are such an inspiration! What else can I say?

Jade Lady said...

very interesting post. I recall seeing part of that Seinfeld episode - maybe i should take another peek at it! congrats on making that leap to self-employ!

akshaye said...

I enjoyed your post.. way more insightful than George! Having one of those conversations is never easy. I am glad you did it and it went well. Hopefully things will be less stressful. Btw.. you have a new friend request waiting now on facebook :)

Drusy said...

What a great story Petra! And pretty inspirational. I pretty much just put my head down and push through obstacles and troubles (typical Taurus!) but I'm going to look around a bit more now!

jeanne said...

whoa, that was an awesome post! Thanks for the inspiration. There must be something to this do the opposite of me. i might try it!

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