Thursday 15 April 2004

Duty of care

Ach, I'm stressed. My mind is inefficiently swirling with a million thoughts, .."phone James".."write presentation".."prepare for meeting"..and my dizzily spinning brain wakes me at 5am to emboss worries on the black escape of sleep. The sheer volume of individual concerns renders me busy but oh so inefficient, I can't focus on any task long enough to complete it properly.

The reasons for my stress are as manifold as they are anonymously dull; incompetent co-workers, underscoped work, potential professional failure; any job could generate such bland trivialities, and many of my previous projects have done so. The slight, annoying, difference this time is I am aware of my stress while it happens rather than recognising it through the dazzle-reducing lens of hindsight. Great, now I have stress about stress, meta-stress, to vex me further.

To relax I try to snag my mind on other distractions, to make the unproductive loop of thoughts jump the mental spools and allow happier images in. I mentally move myself forward in time: it is three months from now, I am in a night club, sweat is running down my face, my fists are thrashing the air. I imagine I am elsewhere: on a windblown mountainside I am turning to survey the swoops and knuckles of a silhouetted ridge. I try to remember how insignificant my concerns are: I stare from the train at the vast blue sky and dream of the many theatres enacted beneath its impassive dome, I smile and stick my tongue out at the bawling baby in Sainsbury's. I try to humanise those that hassle and harass me over the phone and on e-mails: I imagine Sam afraid on a yacht far from shore, I picture Jenny struggling with an umbrella turned inside out by April gusts.

These diversions are right, they are correct, my concerns are short-term and dust-speck unimportant, but attempts to remind my agitated brain of these simple truths act as merely temporary diversions and soon I am again aware that my brow has furrowed and I am thinking about a forthcoming meeting.

The only permanent cure I can think of is to simply not care, to be unruffled by trivial project concerns. Not caring is an alien concept to me, I am mentally geared to worry about work, my job is partly dependent on conspicuous concern for mundane office politics and caring more about system delivery than the other guys. I imagine myself not caring: someone is reporting a problem to me, I am shrugging my shoulders, exhaling with a 'pshaw' through lips pursed with nonchalance, thinking about the fine wines I will drink later tonight. The picture doesn't stick; I don't believe that I will ever really be that way, for if I didn't care about work, what would I care about?