Our relationship with our work in essence boils down to a piece of paper. A contract which has some ambiguity, but gives us a certain amount of financial safety. Recently quite a number of us received another piece of paper to accept furlough.


Although this piece of paper is met with the standard company message. Let’s be honest it sounds like a relationship break up: “it’s not you it’s me”… “it’s not about you….”you’re great”….”don’t take it personal”….”you can take this time to work on yourself”.

Unless you are a detached, or a sociopath, then you won’t feel in control in this moment. That this is not “just a holiday.  You’re grieving the loss of your old structure. It’s like being thrown into a purgatory. Sure, you have a certain degree of freedom from work in a 9-5 sense. However, in a emotional sense you’re still there. I rush down my lunch as a pavlovian response, thinking I have a meeting to go to. I wonder whether to buy some new workout clothes on ASOS…. but will I have a full pay packet in a month’s time? It doesn’t matter whether I’m in work or not. Work is on my mind.

Now I have been furloughed I feel stuck….
“Being stuck or being frozen is being in a state of contraction. That is what happens when fear rips us. That fear doesn’t allow us to think or to breath. – Esther Perel. 
Whilst my company was deciding who was about to be furloughed, I heard so many people say, “I will go mad if I’m furloughed”. I think I can put my finger on why. These questions start to circle in my head:
  • What is my identity?
  • Do I matter?
  • What value am I bringing?
  • Who notices that I’m gone?

If you associate yourself as a driven person, then this needs to be channeled. I have gone from spreadsheets, to cleaning dusting in a day. All these relationships with work are suddenly dropped, and this is a grieving process in itself.

The main point that I draw from this is that its ok, not to feel ok. Being healthy is not necessarily about not having a virus. It’s about being mentally healthy, and not just accepting “can’t complain” when asking “how are you?”. At a time when people really want to know how are you are, really tell them how are you are feeling. Just because you and your family are well, doesn’t mean you cannot tell them about your 4am thoughts. These weave us together.

For the time I have now, I am re-organising my reality. I am doing things that I am curious about. Note the word “curious and not passion” – Elizabeth Gilbert. Passion does bring so much anxiety. As it does mean that we need to somehow uncover some amazing artistic talent of painting water colours, and post them instagram, and every comment on how amazing they are. Curiosity, is such a gentle word, that the stakes automatically seem so much lower.
My journal is a daily curiosity, about what is going to spill out onto the page. Thoughts that I didn’t know I had, what I’m really yearning for. Logic and emotion pours out and meets in the middle, and ends with a period. I’m starting to be more curious, and less anxious with the unknowable. Most importantly, take a breath, things/emotions/the world never stay the same.


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