Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hypertension 35: Why Haven't I Written Anything Lately?

Regular readers of this blog--if there actually are any (To this moment, after 97 days of tracking, there are 845 'unique' visitors and 265 'reloads', for a total of 1110 visits; 413 visits from the US, 239 from Canada, 63 from the UK, with the remainder from the rest of the world--ain't the internet amazing?)--may be wondering: "Where has he been?" The last post was February 9, and today is February 17.

Previously I have been writing and posting regularly, several times a week. Why am I no longer writing and posting regularly? Have I been on vacation? Did the high blood pressure finally get to me and give me a stroke (or since we all need the good kind of strokes, at least a pat on the head?)

The answer will be familiar to so many writers who have a day job: I was back at "work"--i.e., paid employment (where they have to pay you to do it, unlike this blog). In a tragic turn of events for blogdom, the blogosphere, blogoscety or whatever, after six months' medical leave I returned to my full time employment this past Monday, February 12. It was and was not a graduated return to employment, as I returned full time, five days a week, but to less work.

This post, which is kinda on the long side, should make up for my absenteeism from this blog. Hey, friends, it ain't like you're paying for it, eh? On the other hand, writing this blog is obviously important to me, and daddy missed his baby. Returning to work full time after such a delay was hard emotionally and physically. You may weep for me now.

Why hard emotionally? The type of governmental investigation work I do can be demanding and stressful. I investigate complaints that a certain law has been contravened. The law itself is complex. All facts must be weighed against the law itself, my employer's policies, and court rulings. That alone is hard enough, getting it all correct.

As a neutral investigator I can not automatically believe anyone is telling the truth--if the truth were obvious, an investigation would not be necessary. So I must start out by being suspicious of the "Complainant" and the "Respondent" and the information they have provided. Taking nothing for granted, being suspicious, is a fundamental part of the job. And what you do eight hours a day, five days a week, affects how you see people and life after a while, eh? Especially after 19 years. So, that I find difficult. It is difficult for the suspicion not to leak over into the rest of your life. It is difficult avoiding having your mind poisoned by it.

It is my job to interview everyone involved in a complaint file, interview witnesses, review relevant documents. Think the tv show "House", but without saving anyone's life. You're kind of a Sherlock Holmes, digging for the facts. And it can be easy, like Dr. House does, to conclude that the "patients" often lie. This can colour your view of humanity, which I again find hard. Dr. House, also, can be sarcastic with everyone around him. I, like most of us, can not.

Most people DO tell the truth--but it is the truth from THEIR perspective, of course. We all see events from our own point of view. No one person's version is usually completely accurate, because of self-interest, because of seeing only part of the whole picture. Roshomon, anyone?

What makes it more difficult emotionally is that you have to make a recommendation, once the investigation is completed, as to whether the law was contravened. One side is right, or at least more right, than the other. Meaning, using simple arithmetic, that half the main parties will be real unhappy with you. If you recommend the complaint was substantiated (proven), then the "Respondent" is angry. If you recommend that the complaint was not proven, then the "Complainant' is angry. Either way, if you are a sensitive person (and golly, that is me!--heck, I'm a writer, so by definition I'm sensitive...or at least unpleasant to eat with) it is difficult.

Believe it or not, at times neither party is happy with you. As an example, once my investigation supported a person who complained. So, the "Respondent" was upset. But then the Complainant complained to my Director that my report did not support him strongly enough. Go figure! Sometimes you can't win.

And, of course, it always seems to be open season on civil servants.

(Does this sound like whining? Well, are you not whining about me whining? Instead of whining at you, would you prefer I was wining and dining you? If so, do you prefer red or white? Actually, a drink doesn't sound so bad right about now.)

Also, for me anyway, people take a lot of energy I'd rather divert to writing. While I was at home on sick leave, my contact with people was relatively limited. Okay, yes, I may not be the most social person in the world. For example, I've been involved with the local science fiction convention since 1995 but have yet to attend any of the convention's two yearly "socials" (a Manitoba type of big party). Missed all 22 of them. So, okay, yes, I'm a hermit. And I'm something of a misanthrope (well, actually I am an optimist about people who is very frequently disappointed--is that the definition of a misanthrope?)

I find relating to people takes up energy, even when I enjoy it. And I do enjoy people, pretty much. But at home for six months, I related to people in a limited way, and concentrated on writing, which was fabulous. Isn't it ironic that writing is about people? Now I'm back in a situation where people are around me all the time. It isn't "quiet". Where is my room of my own (well, I do have an office and I can close the door. On the other hand, I leave the door open, and bring in chocolate to work to encourage staff to come in and talk to me 'cause I'm no good at going into the coffee room and chatting there)?

Uh, maybe I'm giving you the wrong impression about what I think of other people.

I do have a friend. Or two. Well, actually I'm not sure I have any friends, but I do have a lot of acquaintances! And, uh, well, I've been married for 31 years. I have two grown or growing children. My dog wags its butt when I come home. The cockatiel sits on my shoulder and poops on me.

Why have you put me on the defensive?

In terms of it being hard to return to work, there is also the physical component. For six months, I carefully controlled what I did and when I did it. I could take naps in the afternoon if I got tired (which was pretty much every day, given the prescription medications I am taking). My physical activity was limited. I'd wake up, drive my daughter to school and my wife to work, and then be alone to take my meds, read and write, make lunch. I'd go exercise, but you don't have to talk to a treadmill. And all the people exercising in the gym listen to music on headphones, so there's no chance of an idle conversation. I could control my environment and direct my energy towards where it was most needed.

However, when you return to work, heck: you can't control much.

I'd get phone calls (although it took a week to get my original phone line back, so I'd get calls but could not easily get messages), friendly staff would come in and chat, I'd write investigation plans for the new work I was assigned, do phone interviews--it all took some energy. Getting up to go to the printer, the fax, the photocopier. And by the end of the day, I'd feel drained after 'pumping it up' for work all day. And, as the work starts to become more complex the deeper I get into each file--not just reviewing a file and writing a plan, but starting to field phone calls from the parties, interviewing witnesses and so on--juggling the six new cases I have been assigned becomes incrementally more difficult. One result? No energy to write when I got home each night.

Is my job or situation the hardest in the world? Nope. Not by a long shot. Children around the world live in poverty, some people have horrendous jobs that drive them mad, people are poisoned by toxic waste. But for me, it's difficult. Is this like "the pain of my cut finger is far worse than the death of ten thousand people in another country?" Yes. Such is humanity and how it works.

This does sound like whining, doesn't it?


Yes, Victor DID make it through the week. But it leaves me wondering what next week will be like, and what the week after that will be like. How long will I last, watching the destruction of the successful hard work I did in bringing my blood pressure down? I am watching my recovery's progress slowly disappear, bit by bit, each day.

I am taking my blood pressure at work regularly, as per my doctor's orders. When I am just sitting reviewing a file and typing up an investigation plan, my blood pressure is usually no higher than 145 systolic (before my return it was steadily well under 135 or so; in the mornings before I go to work, it can be 125). However, when I am talking with a client on the phone, doing an interview, or dealing with, uh, certain administrative issues, my bp rises to above 150 systolic. Once it was 161, and it hasn't been that high for months.

Am I being a bit evasive about some of the issues at work which appear to be increasing my blood pressure? Well, internet blogs are available to anyone. Does my evasiveness about work sound familiar to anyone else who works?

Anyway. At least I can get this writing done because it is Saturday, and I have the weekend. Of course, now I have to go out and run on a treadmill to nowhere. Yeah yeah, tell me I'm running to good health. No wonder I'm a misanthrope, with remarks like that!

You are allowed to weep for me now, if your eyes are not already bloodshot and aching from reading all this.

No comments: