I am flat out redesigning the web site and payment gateway for Intrepid Integrity’s launch and I am behind time.
Once upon a time, this would have been the cue for me to go full on turbo mode—Going days without sleep, living on coffee and chocolate and pushing myself way beyond my limits of endurance… because my work mattered more than myself.
You know what used to happen? Yup, that’s right. Burnout. Let me amend that. Not just burnout but total catastrophic physical and cognitive collapse. I didn’t just burn down to the ground, hell, I went six feet under.
Sure, I usually met my deadlines… but I would be physically and cognitively non-functional for weeks afterwards.
It was a horrendously dysfunctional way to live.
I used to think I didn’t have a choice. The conflict between giftedness and autism, and the disabling aspects of autism itself, usually mean that I cannot predict my function, much less my output capacity, beyond the immediate or short term. It is part and parcel of living with this particular neurocognitive profile and I have (finally, and more or less) made my peace with it.
The thing I live with most today is the knowledge that no matter how hard I push myself, I will never “be like everyone else”. I will never be able to work a 9-to-5. I will never be able to churn out a piece of content a day.
I will likely never be able to enjoy the sort of predictability and reliability in short and long term function and output that most people take for granted.
(Ugh… I can already hear the trauma replay of well-meaning voices in my distant past saying, “Never say never,” or “In saying that you are the one setting the limits on yourself,” yada yada…)
What I can do, however, is to make sure that I always create in the space of joy and flow. And if not those, at the very least, ease.
And that means caring more for myself, than my work.
I know. That sounds sooo blasphemous. It still does to my ears.
However, I know something today that I didn’t know just even six months ago—All work (to me anyway) is in service to other, whether that other is human or animal or plant or otherwise.
And our best service can only come from a space of well-being.
An unhappy and unhealthy service provider serves no one. A burnout creative can’t create. An empty well can’t provide.
If we truly love our work, then we must love ourselves first and foremost. Because our work comes from us.
We need to be selfish enough to be effectively unselfish. Otherwise, our very state of emptiness will render our services anything but selfless as we consciously or unconsciously seek to fill our wells, and most likely resentfully and irresponsibly from the very people we seek or claim to serve.
This means, sometimes or most of the time, depending on your unique circumstance, being a perfectly imperfect human.
It means sometimes deadlines will be missed, appointments rescheduled, and other things done bare basic or not up to snuff.
I used to think those things were the hallmark of bad service but today I’m rethinking that a lot.
I used to kill myself making sure those things never happened and what that accomplished in the short term only fucked me up in the long term because I was so unhappy and unhealthy as the result of burnout that I was painfully aware I was not doing my job well.
It made me realise just how much we all consciously and unconsciously guilt one another into perfectionism by expecting perfect service.
As if there is such a thing!
Are there perfect humans? Hmmm?
Where then can perfect service originate from?
I am guilty of it too! I bought a WordPress plugin the other day and it didn’t work as I expected and support was slow to respond and I was stressed and I had the gall—THE GALL—to feel offended… OFFENDED!
For all of 60 seconds before I caught myself and gave myself a facepalm so hard I damn near knocked meself off my sofa. How DARE I expect another human being to be perfect?! To be at my beck and call?
Will I die if I can’t get this plugin to work in the next 24 hours?
It made me ask myself the following questions:
Do I want perfect service? Or do I want good service? What’s the difference? What is good service? What do I expect from service providers? Is it realistic? Healthy? Humane?
There are a lot of things that we expect from service providers that are not humane and we just don’t talk about it because we put ourselves under the exact same pressure to conform and perform.
And it’s killing us.
I can’t speak for non-gifted people, though I know they experience this too but for gifted people? Oh yeah it’s killing us.
It killed me for decades. And now as I near my forties, I’m only just barely getting out of the cycle of toxic expectation and shame.
What is good service? I ask myself that everyday. And what is a good, happy and healthy life for myself as a service provider?
I may not be able to answer that question in elaborate detail just yet but I do know that I already know the essential bit, the most important bit, the starting bit—Love myself first, my work second.
What about you?