Archive for ‘work’

May 29, 2016

A few cartoons

December 5, 2012

anatomy of an argument – sweating the small stuff

27.03.2011 – Journal entry [btw, we’re fine]

Well yesterday started out ok then M. and I had a massive row at the supermarket, after we’d been running in the park, about something ridiculously trivial and I am still in a rage about it. It’s making me feel crazy. I have just tried to clear the air, but M. maintains he has nothing to say, he’s happy, he got up early this morning, he’s feeling a bit tired, but otherwise he’s fine. I am seething. I’m not sure why I am making such a big deal of this. He has nothing to say and I can’t bring myself to look at or speak to him.

I am convinced that M. was trying to pick a fight with me. He won’t admit it. He reckons I escalated it beyond the two-minute moan he was having about my having bought an unnecessary plastic bag at the supermarket, and beginning to expand on the theme about how wasteful I am and all the food I’ve ever bought which I haven’t eaten. Perhaps I did. But I could feel a cloud descending on me as he repeated variations on the theme over and over again.

It’s not as if he was paying. It’s not as if the plastic bag wouldn’t get used as a dustbin bag anyway. It’s not as if I’m never going to miscalculate the number of bags we need again, and will be penalized to the tune of 15c. And since I’m the one who does most of the shopping, and I prefer to have too many plastic bags than over-fill too few, plus I pay for the fucking stuff, I don’t see why I should have to listen to him droning on about it. So it feels like he was picking a fight.

So why did I take the bait? I was starting to feel resentful, thinking how happy I’d felt running around the park, how relaxed, how normally right now I’d be in a dreamy state of well-being and instead I’m being nagged, having my balls broken about something absolutely trivial. I kept thinking “don’t sweat the small stuff”, actually, I kept thinking “why does he have to sweat the small stuff”. Maybe if I’d been thinking the first thing, I’d have been better able to resist the temptation to explode, because that’s what I did in the end. I told him to shut up, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!!! I think I might have missed the stage of politely asking him to change the subject. No, I didn’t. I could probably have been more polite or humourous about it, but I did ask him to change the subject.

Did I tell him he was right? He said something strange yesterday morning, that he was going to have to leave me because I always told him he was right. I often appease him, it’s the easiest way. He also said that it was because he was nearly always right, and I’d do better to just listen to him and do whatever he says. At the time this was a light-hearted conversation, but I wonder if there’s anything behind it.

Anyway, after I told him to SHUT UP, he didn’t, which ramped up my frustration, which was rapidly turning into rage, even further, and I doubled back on myself and took the parallel route home so I wouldn’t have to keep listening to him. Unfortunately I was the only one who had the keys, so he was waiting for me. We got home in silence, with me banging every door I could. He seemed calm and cheerful. It felt a bit sadistic.

This does remind me of rowing with mum. I think she believed this was what communication was about, this was how people were supposed to interact with each other, this was “being Italian”, being honest, being oneself, expressing one’s feelings. I would be the one having the amygdala hijack, and I’d feel completely drained and crazy afterwards.

It’s funny, M.’s always more likely to do this when people are coming over, especially if it’s D. He has been known to behave like a whiny pain in the arse with T. around as well, but less so.

What happened when we got back? It was quite late, so I started tidying up the house, clearing the table in the kitchen. M. started to go on about the plastic bags again, because, evidently, I hadn’t understood what he was trying to say. I started screaming at him to shut up, what was there not to understand that he’s pissed off because I bought a plastic bag we didn’t need, and how dare he break my balls about something so fucking trivial, about a 15c bag. How would he like it if I broke his balls in this way? I don’t break his balls so why the fuck does he think it’s alright to break mine. He denied he was breaking my balls, at which point I threw the folded-up table-cloth at him.

I went into the living room to try and cool off. I realized that wasn’t going to happen so I decided to have a shower. I’d just finished getting dressed when D. & A. arrived. There followed a fairly excruciating day of my pretending that everything was alright. M. was showing affection towards me, leaning against me at the table, but as soon as D. & A. went outside on the balcony for a smoke, he said, half jokingly, “I hate you, and I’m going to hate you until you apologise.” I couldn’t trust myself to speak. Before D & A came back, I hissed at him in the toilet that I was happy to apologise if he was. He announced that he had nothing to apologise for.

Is it too much to ask that he shows some basic consideration of my feelings, like if I’m clearly about to erupt with fury to stop doing whatever it is he’s doing which is presumably provoking it, reasonable or not? Apparently it’s too much to ask. I really feel like I’m dealing with Sheldon here, but am I being a bit Sheldon-like?

November 26, 2012

personality tests I have failed


There’s a website, Authentic Happiness,  that really annoys me and which inspired this cartoon:

Since publishing this cartoon on my blog [now defunct], I have been asked things like ‘Did you actually take those personality tests?’ and ‘Why don’t you like that website? You should try harder to join.’ (This, from my partner.) Also, ‘That cartoon shows a lot of self-awareness.’

So the answer to the first question is, no, I didn’t do the questionnaires. Also, just to be clear, since I have obviously failed in the purpose of this cartoon, which was to make fun of the Authentic Happiness people in their relentless pursuit of positive thinking, you don’t actually have to pass these tests to join some kind of happiness club, they are for self-awareness/development purposes only.

I dislike personality, psychological and aptitude tests, as I have a long history of failing them. For my statistics class at University, we did a lot of these tests to generate data to analyse. I was always an outlier – at the ‘educationally sub-normal’ or ‘uh-oh, mental!’ end of the normal distribution.

There’s a horrible personality test called the Big 5, which evaluates you along 5 dimensions: Openness (intellect), Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. What I learned about myself from this test was that I was naïve, feckless, an introvert (which apparently means ‘more likely to turn out to be a serial killer’), high-maintenance and emotionally unstable, i.e. destined to end up an unemployable spinster.

For the next couple of decades, I adopted a strategy of minimizing self-awareness, of refusing to recognise what the tests had revealed about me. This worked quite well, and I managed to earn a living and have relationships by convincing potential employers, boyfriends and sometimes myself that I was outgoing, easygoing and completely committed to whatever it was they were proposing. However, this was exhausting, and I just couldn’t keep it up. My true nature always asserted itself eventually.

Then I did the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, which unlike the Big 5 test, isn’t arranged in terms of positive and negative ends of a spectrum, but goes from good to … differently good. According to this test I’m an intuitive introvert, who prioritises human factors over objective logic, with a high tolerance for uncertainty. In other words, an independently-minded woman who is better suited to self-employment. That I can live with.


Today I read a review of this book, and was inspired to dig up my old cartoon:

November 21, 2012

from the ridiculous to the morbid

05.03.2011  Saturday

I wonder if I have an alter ego? If so I wish she’d come out and show herself.

My life feels like a bad story that no one wants to read. There’s no beginning or middle or end. Or rather, the middle is just one gigantic boring bit.

If the experience of working at XXXXcompany was like being at war, then I was plagued with captains who would lead me to my certain death.

What if the doodles I’m doing, the scribbles which I then carefully colour in, are some sort of reflection of the state of my circulatory system and I’m going to die of an aneurism, like dad? Then people can look at my paintings and say “she knew she was going to die and didn’t tell anyone.”

November 20, 2012

The joy of mindlessness

12.03.2011 Sunday – from my journal

At some point yesterday I was reading about mindfulness. Being mindful is about paying attention to things, about really listening, really noticing. That’s what I’ve been paid all these years to do on behalf of other people. It’s exhausting. It’s just so much easier being mindless. Isn’t it easier to not think about things, just react as they happen? But then there’s that business about needing to keep body and soul together.

A lot of jobs require you to be mindful, on behalf of other people. Because you can’t be mindful about everything. No-one has that kind of attention, that’s why you need doctors, shrinks, consultants, lawyers, accountants. The irony is, the more time you spend being mindful, the more you have to spend on people being mindful on your behalf.

November 8, 2012

tramp dread

28.02.11 – from my journal

Just read Michael Neill’s Monday post. Here’s a nice thought: “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do it.” So he’s saying don’t change. If you don’t know what to do, do nothing. That’s subversive. M. was looking yesterday at exhibitions we could go and see this afternoon. That would be in the spirit of doing nothing, I suppose. It’s hard doing nothing, especially if you’re feeling scared, scared of being judged, scared that opportunities are passing you by, scared that there are all sorts of pro-survival things that I should be doing, that normal people would do, that I’m not and am therefore going to join my homeless friends in their sleeping bags in the street downstairs. Why does “homeless tramp” seem to be the logical conclusion of my behavior? I’m hardly reckless. The chances of me doing something that will really turn me into an outcast are almost slim to none. I’m not likely to murder or steal from someone. I’m quite a good person. I have relatives who wouldn’t allow anything really bad to happen to me.

November 7, 2012

it’s all part of the process

01.03.11 – from my journal

This morning E. is coming around. When things aren’t great we have a tendency to depress each other. Or maybe it’s that I bring her down. She’s never been unemployed and the thought terrifies her. How can I not bring her down?

I just don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. I wonder if I wrote this 100 times, I’d feel better?

So far today I’ve watched 2 and a half TED talks, and it didn’t help. I did a search on innovation in Milan and got to a couple of interesting-looking websites. I looked up networking events in Milan and have put Toastmasters, British Chamber of Commerce and PWA in my diary. It made me feel terrible. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. I don’t want to go to these things with the express purpose of meeting people.

All these things make me feel like such a freak. Ok I’m in a relationship, but I own nothing, I don’t have children, a mortgage, a pension plan. How dare I be a consultant, who am I to tell anyone anything? I feel like I’m going mental. This isn’t helping. I’m giving free reign to my demons and they’re setting the tone, taking over. God, I’m so scared. I’m so scared. I’m so scared. Is this helping? So the refrains of today – and it’s only morning, 9.51 to be precise, are: I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to, I’m scared. My brain is in “flight” mode.

Why did Toastmasters work for me? Because there is a point to the public speaking thing. It’s challenging – in a real way. I’m not sure I ever “sold” myself, but it does force me to show myself, even to myself. Ok, I need to start doing it again.

What would my future me tell me? Don’t worry it will all sort itself out. I mean, it has done in the past, always, something’s happened, I’ve made things happen, things have improved, dramatically. But, honestly, I don’t know what to do. I really don’t.

November 6, 2012

will I do whatever it takes?

28.02.11 – from my journal

My biggest problem at the moment is that I don’t want to do whatever it takes, I’m just not willing to. I don’t want to rent out all my brain energy for someone else’s benefit. I suppose if there was a social benefit I would feel better about it, but to further the interest of the insurance industry – I can’t see the point. There must be one.

I once said to Julia in a coaching session that I wanted “more interesting problems” – but did they really get more interesting, the more money and the less time I had? What are interesting problems? Surely it doesn’t get more interesting than “how to earn a living”? How to earn a living and not turn into a zombie? How to earn a living and be free, feel free, be you? What does that mean and why is that so important to me? Why am I not interested in furthering the human race? Why am I so unbelievably self-centred? Just as well my genes aren’t going to be passed on, although I suppose I have enough nephews and nieces to ensure that will happen. For most people it’s sufficient to do whatever it takes to raise your family and to feel like you’re doing a better job than your parents did, to get a sense of progress. Why has that never been enough for me? Why does this feel like a good use of my time? I have no idea why I’m writing, I have no idea about writing for other people, this is entirely for me, no audience, so why on earth does this feel like a good use of my time?

November 6, 2012

one of my inner censors

28.02.11  from journal

What if I took my book-writing aspirations seriously? What would I even write about? I’ve been ploughing through my coaching journals, which is a bit excruciating, but sometimes I seem to have stuff to say. The most boring bits are where I’m focusing on work, on trying to think in ways that don’t come naturally to me. I keep thinking things like “stop trying so hard, love” – I feel like I’ve got some kind of misogynistic Northerner in my head, shaking his head pityingly at my attempts to be a businesswoman, since business is something I clearly have no understanding about or feeling for. Actually this is totally true. I’d love to not bother my pretty head about things like this but sadly I have to provide for myself and my feckless young man. I wish I could be feckless. No I don’t. I just wish I had some non-demanding, rent-paying work so I wouldn’t have to worry about this aspect of my life.

November 5, 2012

how it feels to be unemployed

Journal 28.02.11

That makes 4 months that I’ve done virtually no paid work. I’m feeling scared. Yesterday evening I ended up eating half a loaf of bread and watching back to back episodes of The Big Bang Theory to try and not feel scared, but I went to bed feeling scared, I went to sleep feeling scared and I woke up feeling scared. I’ve decided to stay here this week and face my demons. It may turn out that this involves eating entire loaves of bread and watching series 3 of Damages back to back, that I’ve been saving for just such an occasion when I don’t want to feel anything.

Maybe that can be what I do on Wednesday. I read somewhere that Wednesday is the worst day of the week, the day in which you’re likely to have the lowest energy, to have lost hope of either achieving anything or that the weekend will ever come. The last two Wednesdays I have spent watching In Treatment. Maybe the first of those two Wednesdays I might even have done some journaling and gone running but things fell apart after that.

It’s no fun feeling scared. I certainly can’t be creative while I’m scared. It’s good to have something routine to do, to occupy all of my attention, that doesn’t require any kind of emotional or intellectual energy to do when I’m scared. Otherwise, it’s all about dulling the sensation, blocking it out with TV. Sometimes really good books or movies help. Sometimes the desire to stop feeling like this galvanizes me into action.

October 30, 2012

facial wear and tear at work


October 23, 2012

Making hard things soft …

22.02.2011 Tuesday

Alan is determined to print new business cards and we have to come up with snappy, memorable titles that don’t feature the word “consultant”, as that scares off the punters. Here’s what everyone else has come up with.

Ron      – Knowledge Ecologist

Brian     – User-Centred Designer

John     – Enterprise Transformer

Alan      – Innovation Bricoleur

Julia       – Organisational Catalyst


  • Manager of the Unmanageable
  • Mental Mentor
  • Experiential Experimenter
  • Myth Exploder
  • Shaker-Upper
  • General Interrupter
  • Random Idea Generator
  • Fire Starter
  • Organizational Hygienist
  • The Inquisitor
  • Behavioural Engineer
  • Problem Handler
  • Professional Scape-Goat
  • Fomentor of Anarchy
  • Engineer Whisperer [this is what I went with]
  • one of those little fish or birds that eats parasites off large predators
  • mind-reader, oracle, wise woman, sooth-sayer, fairy godmother, witch, fool

my motto is …

  • Making Hard Things Soft
  • Order into Chaos and Vice Versa
October 18, 2012

morning pages

Journal 21.02.11

The trouble with journaling on the computer is that it’s easy to get distracted by emails and all the other things I could be doing on it. I need to decide that all I’m going to do for a period of time is journal, write randomly like this. It’s got to feel like doing floatation tanks, like nothing can touch me while I’m doing this. Of course, it’s particularly impossible today with A around, but he’s glued to this Spiderman cartoon I downloaded for him. Now Alan’s sent something boring-looking. Ooh, the pull to read the document is strooong, but I will resist, as it’s very unlikely to contain any earth-shattering revelations. Now I want to watch Spider Man with A – it’s a really good episode, about when Peter Parker gets a costume from outer space which is an actual alien. A is sitting on a chair with his eyes 5cm from the TV. Please God no-one ever read what I’m writing. This is absolute stream of consciousness stuff which is why I sound so retarded. Even when I’m conscious of what I’m thinking I can’t help sounding retarded. Obviously I am a bit. Trouble is I pass for normal in most situations. It was interesting seeing Massimo (Alessandra’s) yesterday. His voice sounds like mine, like it was never used when he was growing up. I wonder if he recognized a fellow introvert. I hope the bloody dish-washer finishes soon. It’s going to be quite hard to cook without any pots and pans. God, I am such a bird brain. Maybe I’m more like a bird than a snake. Andrea compared me to an eel, but that was only because of the slippery part. I feel like a snake or lizard because I need to lie around re-charging my batteries before engaging in intense bouts of activity which completely run my batteries down. I’m not very mammalian. Birds are not mammals, but they’re warm-blooded. Are birds reptiles? As dinosaurs they certainly bore a great resemblance. I suppose they’d have to have a warm-blooded metabolism to generate the energy to fly in a constant way, rather than being forced to depend on heat.  Why don’t I just trust my reptilian tendencies? I could accept that I’m going to be unproductive a lot of the time, that it won’t be “efficient” to hire someone like me if you need to see your workers constantly at it. If you want to see results you should hire me, but don’t expect to understand the processes I follow or to see how I deliver the work. It’s just not like that. Ohh, Peter Parker has his clothes off, and looks very sexy. I have about 15 minutes before I really should start cooking. I wonder when the bloody dishwasher will be finished. I wonder if –

October 18, 2012

do I have Tourette’s too?


Interesting: it takes 45 minutes to get to Piacenza. I thought it took a lot longer than that. Fucking hell, this whole carriage has filled up. Can’t the guy go and sit somewhere else for fuck’s sake. Can’t he see the rest of the train is empty? Ok it sounds like he’s going all the way to Naples. That stupid woman could have sat somewhere else. Anyway, it’s not going to kill me to sit with these people for another hour and a half. God, I am such a misanthropist. There’s a word that sounds like misanthropist, that means the opposite? What is it? What’s Mr. Microsoft now? A philanthropist, that’s it. Gosh, what a vocabulary I have.

October 17, 2012

The London riots, August 2011

August 2011, London. Just arrived, on a bus, on my way to my sister T’s. I’m trying to decide what to do with the 8-page ultimatum I’ve written to Alan. I’m imagining myself arriving at the rented meeting room, slapping down the letter and flouncing out. Or participating silently in our pointless board meeting, then slapping it down, and flouncing out. Suddenly the bus pulls over and the bus driver tells everyone to get off. I ask a fellow passenger what’s going on, and she says “it must be the riots.”

I try and phone T. but get no answer. I call M. in Morgex and ask him if he’s heard anything about riots in London. He says, “Oh, yeah, there was something on the news about it last night.” He says he’ll get online and to call him back in 5 minutes. In the mean time I find a bus that’s willing to cross over into South London, but only as far as Elephant and Castle. During the bus ride M. tells me there is rioting all over London, and this is day 3. He finds out what sparked the riots, what areas are particularly affected, what’s going on in South London.

I decide to have a bowl of noodles at Elephant and Castle, while I wait for T. to answer the phone. I’m the last person they serve and they start barricading themselves in and telling customers to eat up and leave. Finally T. answers the phone. She’s at home and has been having a massive row with her Turkish boyfriend, and has no idea that Walworth Road is being looted.  I find a bus that will take me near my sister’s home via a back route and T. will meet me off the bus.

We spend the evening monitoring the situation on Twitter and on the news. The riots have a soothing effect on me. Seeing all the violence out there makes it seem like less of an attractive option inside my head. The next day I participate politely in our pointless board meeting.  No ultimatums are issued.

October 16, 2012

made-up jobs: the flake-o-metre

Tuesday 3rd July 2012

I could be a Flake-o-meter. My job would be to detect flakiness in employees. After all, it takes one to know one. Or I could use my hyper-sensitivity to assess organisational climates to determine how creative companies are. Basically, I’d be like a canary in a coal mine:  if I walk into a company and burst into tears, the climate is bad.

T told me an true story, about C., who works at Happy People, a consultancy that helps companies improve companies’ organisational cultures, who was ready to quit because of the toxic influence of one of their employees. When he quit, everything improved. See, I could have helped there.

October 16, 2012

drawing of my reaction to an email I received


October 16, 2012

a visual metaphor for how I’m feeling