Style over substance

When did the world become so shallow? The way to get on in any aspect of life now seems to be to talk a good game and have the right image rather than to actually be good at doing something concrete. Who cares what the content of anything is when you can spin it to being brilliant regardless.

Now we are paying the price for years of this nonsense. So many people in positions of leadership and responsibility in all walks of life are there because they whole heartedly supported the nonsense spouted by those that preceded them, and so the cycle continues. There is a huge vacuum which demands capable, intelligent leaders instead of sound bite and strategy machines.

This is particularly frustrating for those of us who are different from the perceived norm. It doesn’t seem to matter how good you are at your job if you won’t say everything is brilliant and insist on challenging the nonsense. The house of cards that keeps those who are at the top in place is so fragile that no challenge can be tolerated. The era of dealing with challenges using well supported arguments is long gone.

As I’ve said before, I cannot stop myself from challenging nonsense, and am therefore a constant victim of the now normal response of shoot the messenger. Secure leaders answer questions, they don’t just try to shut up those who ask them.

We all need to push harder to get to the heart of issues and to bring legitimate challenge back into acceptable behaviour. Let’s not be sheep. Let’s stand up for what is right not what looks good or what the spin doctors feed us. Let’s make substance more important than style again.

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Little victories

Some days are not good at all. I know this is the case for everybody, not just me, but when you have severe depression those bad days can be very difficult to get through.

One strategy I want to try to use more to get through bad times is to focus on the small things that have gone right. I am writing this on the bus home from work having persuaded myself to walk the first part of my journey instead of catching another bus. It’s only a little thing but it is a victory on an otherwise pretty bleak day.

I am not good at seeing the positives I achieve. I need to do better on this. Some of these positives are things I have resisted doing, like posting on the work intranet what I really think about the latest nonsense initiative.

Someone said to me years ago that when you are struggling, just getting up and getting on with the day is a big achievement and I agree with that. Of course, I’m much better at encouraging others about that than seeing it in myself.

Little steps and little victories can and do lead to bigger things. I need to put mods value on these little things instead of wanting to jump straight to the big changes. That doesn’t work, however impatient I am.

Keep taking little steps. You get there in the end.

Trying to keep quiet

An explosion is coming. I can feel the pressure building up inside me and it’s more than likely going to have to come out sometime soon. I just cannot sit back and watch so much nonsense unfold around me at work for much longer.

I have been temporarily promoted to what is in theory a leadership position, so have been trying very hard to be corporate and bite my tongue, none of which comes easily to me at all. I say in theory because I actually now have less control over my work and anything else than I have had for years. One result of this is that I currently have no work to do because others are insisting on micro-managing who does what and when they do it.

Some people would probably love having no work to do but I absolutely hate it. It makes me feel worthless, unwanted and excluded. I warned my managers weeks ago that if they kept bringing in more people as they were doing, some of us would soon have nothing to do. I was assured that that would not happen. Now it’s happened. I have told my managers the position and had no reply. I am at my wits end.

I generally cannot stop myself from pointing out when the emperor has no clothes on. Unfortunately he seems to have taken up naturism as a way of life. Why would you focus on the actual work when you can make a wordcloud? Why would you write the papers that need doing when you can have endless pointless meetings? Why would you share out the work sensibly and use the skills people have when you can leave people twiddling their thumbs to satisfy the need of others up control every detail?

I don’t know how much longer I can go without losing it. I am already avoiding certain people because I know I very likely won’t stop if I start speaking to them. I know different things are obvious to different people, but when it is obvious to everyone except the leaders that there are major problems and they won’t listen when told nicely what do you do?

I feel like I am watching a huge car crash unfold in front of me day by day while being forced to do nothing to stop it. I don’t know how much longer I can go without trying to stop this nonsense. I am now battling with my own integrity.

Something needs to change very soon. I hope it’s not down to be to make it happen but it usually is and I will then suffer for saying what many are thinking. My fuse is burning. I just hope it’s a nice long one.

Where is my hole?

Most of my life I feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Or rather a uniquely shaped peg with lots of spiky bits and odd shaped sides trying to fit into a round hole. I’m not the only one, though I am the only one exactly this shape, and I don’t mean my need to lose some weight!

So why do we persist in building a society full of round holes? Where are the other shaped holes, or, better still, the jelly like material that will mould itself snugly around whatever shape is put into it?

We like to say we embrace difference but it is actually much easier to treat people as identical sheep. Then it just becomes crowd control.

I believe that we all have a fundamental and essential responsibility to be ourselves and to challenge situations which stop us from doing so. I come at this from a neuro-diversity angle, but the issue is much wider than that.

Everyone is different and everyone has different and wonderful things to offer. But when we all squeeze into identical round holes these glorious differences are shaped out of us like uniquely shaped lumps of clay being shaped into identical mass-produced plates.

We must all stand up for who we are. There is no normal. No one perfectly fits the round holes we are directed towards everyday. Make your own hole and make it fit you, and help others to do the same.

A dry stone wall built with skill from rocks in their natural state is so much more beautiful, and probably stronger, than a wall made from uniformly manufactured bricks. When we are all ourselves there are ways for us to fit and work together perfectly, it just takes a bit more time and skill to find them. Stop trying to get rid of your rough edges and find other stones that have gaps they fit into. And definitely stop trying to make others into boring bricks because it makes life easier for you.

We are all different so how did we get to this place where we are all being forced by society to try and be the same? It’s time to take a stand.

What on earth is everybody talking about?

Once again I am sitting in the middle of a noisy open plan office wondering why so many people find it essential to spend most of the day talking, either on the phone or face to face.

I have had a number of different jobs where I work and I have never found it necessary to spend more than a few minutes each day talking in order to get my work done. I simply don’t understand what people find to talk about so much.

I know that this is related to my autism and I am very task driven. But this need to discuss every aspect of everything including personal matters is just beyond me. Many of the conversations I can’t help but overhear due to the excessive volume used seem so utterly banal and achieve nothing. I’m obviously missing the gene that makes talking as important as breathing to most people.

But I am left wondering just what on earth everybody is talking about. Not because I am nosy, although I am about some things, but because I just don’t understand.

Still, the longer I live the more things I realise I don’t understand, especially about people. I certainly don’t understand myself and I haven’t got a clue about other people. I’m glad we are all different but I’m very confused!

Starting my escape tunnel

Getting up and setting off for work this morning after a wonderful long weekend doing very little reminded me just how much I hate my current job. I long to escape from the nonsense, the noise and the mismanagement.

But I also know that the only person that can get me out is me. This brought to mind those wonderful old stories about war time escapes like the wooden horse and indeed the more recent Shawshank Redemption.

In all those cases the tunnels took a long time to dig, a little at a time. But they had to be started. At some time, somebody took the first teaspoon full of dirt and started digging.

This is what I need to do. Start digging.

Start exploring what I can do to move on to something new. I know that it will take time and I am not good at things like that. I am much more of an instant gratification kind of person. I know I will flag and get frustrated. But I must do this. I must dig the tunnel so that in the worst case where I do not escape I at least know that I did everything I could to try.

Time to find a spare teaspoon.

Nothing is obvious

We take so much for granted. The sun rising, air to breathe, water coming out of the tap. But also we instinctively tend to think that others see things the way we do.

Some of the time this is true. Almost everyone agrees that helping kittens stuck in trees is a lovely thing to do while tripping up strangers is not so nice.

But there is a great deal of middle ground, and not just in terms of judging right from wrong. There are often threads on social media where people admit to only just realising things that now seem obvious, like the tabs in the end of the box of tin foil to hold the roll in place. We all see things differently in different ways and to different timetables.

The term neurodiversity is generally used, including by me, to refer to autism and other such differences. But in fact we are all neurodiverse. All of our brains are unique and different. It’s just that some of us are farther from what is perceived as normal than others, though I would reject the whole concept of normal when it comes to people! It is impossible to define and nothing to aspire to in my view.

But because all of our brains, and indeed all of our experiences and life journeys are unique, it is really unfair to assume that anything is obvious without checking. That doesn’t mean being patronising and treating everyone like a toddler, but it does mean not looking down on or belittling others when they see things differently or cannot see or understand what is obvious to us. To do the latter is to start on the rocky road to bullying.

I truly believe that every day is a school day. Nobody knows or understands everything, or even more than a tiny part of everything. As Chris Tarrant used to say, the question is only easy if you know the answer. We surely need to treat one another more kindly and recognise that nothing is obvious to absolutely everybody, and there is nothing wrong with that. If it were otherwise we would all be the same. Now that really is a horrific thought.

Sweetie

I have just been described by a friend at work as a boiled sweet. Hard and crunchy on that outside but soft in the centre. I like that description.

I know that I am often hard on people at first meeting. It’s a defence mechanism. I have been hurt in so many ways by so many people that I dare not just open straight up to a stranger. I know that this may be unfair on others as I assume them to have malicious intent until proven otherwise, but I find it necessary for my own self-protection. The experience of letting someone get close and then attacking me is a nightmare that I will do anything to avoid repeating.

I know that I am different, a bit of a weirdo and not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s fine. I have no wish to be liked by all. I have often said that I would rather be right than liked which is why I struggle to get on at work where the culture seems to be the exact opposite. The expected answer to “jump” is not only how high but also to say what a marvellous idea jumping is and how it will make the world a much better place, even as we jump off the edge of a cliff yet again. What they get from me when I’m told to jump is me asking what they mean by jump, why I should jump, what a successful jump looks like and arguments as to why it really isn’t a good idea at all and can’t we just get on with the real work. I can’t imagine why they find me difficult!

So I am a boiled sweet, but a lot more than I’d like still gets through my hard shell. Things hit home even if I appear to laugh them off. I remember things said to me and about me long after the person who said them has forgotten them and they still hurt.

So perhaps this boiled sweet needs a new outer coating of Teflon!

Anxious about nothing

There are a couple of things happening at work today that are causing me to feel anxious. The problem is, I am 99.9% certain that neither will be bad news in any way so why am I so worried?

As soon as I hear about an announcement or any kind of meeting with my boss my pulse starts racing and my stomach starts flipping. I hate it. No amount of rationalisation seems to help. It’s the same argument I made yesterday that knowing gravity makes you fall doesn’t stop the impact from hurting. But in this case there will almost certainly be no negative impact at all. What is wrong with me?

I’ve always fancied being like Mr Spock, relying on logic and keeping pesky emotions out of things. But I never manage to do it, especially where anxiety is concerned.

I do think I am starting to worry less generally as my life improves and I am more in control of things. But I hate this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that so easily becomes almost paralysing.

There is so much I want to break free of. Today, anxiety is right at the top of the list.

Scarecrow tactics

Those of you who are of a certain age and who grew up in the UK may well remember the great Jon Pertwee as Wurzel Gummidge. Wurzel was a scarecrow who got himself into all sorts of entertaining scrapes that naturally all worked out well in the end.

This has flashed back into my mind today because of one wonderful ability that Wurzel had that is sadly denied to us humans. He could, when it suited him, change his head. Wurzel kept a collection of heads he used for different situations. His thinking head is the one that I remember, but I know that there were others. When he wanted a change, he just pulled off one head and put on another.

You can probably guess where this is going. The way my mind feels at the moment I would love to switch my head for a different one for a while. My current head really needs to go to a repair shop for a thorough overall. I simply don’t know if I am coming or going most of the time at the moment.

There have been no particular triggers, no disasters and in theory my life is going better than it has been for years. And yet I keep wanting to burst into tears. Nothing holds my attention. I can’t see the point in anything.

I know that this is my depression with a side serving of my autism. But sometimes knowing what something is doesn’t help deal with it. If I fell off a cliff I would fully understand that it was gravity that was causing me to accelerate rapidly towards the rocks below, but that would do nothing to lessen the impact.

I remember that when I was young I once went to a fancy dress party as Wurzel Gummidge and won sixth prize. A sign of things to come?!