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Feeling Stressed About Work

I am at home today, it is after office hours but the culture at work is one which prioritizes work over everything and everyone else. My boss sent a text message over a matter which I judged I had no control over and pressed for an (unreasonably) immediate solution. As this matter required another party to work on, I grew increasingly stressed and anxious that the party was uncontactable. Outwardly I had to be mindful and present to my family, but the contradiction between keeping a calm external disposition and the internal stirring and swirling of my mind meant I needed to create space for myself from these set of feelings.

My three guests:

I am having dinner with the other guests in the inn and a commotion echoed through the hallway from the library area. The arguments began to amplify in volume and intensity as the three regulars approached the dining area in a heated debate. I was meanwhile assuring the guests at the dining table, Playful and Peace, that everything is alright. They had just begun dinner and I barely warmed my chair after serving out the last dish for the main course. I was opening a bottle of red wine as Stress barged past me, brushing against my shoulder. I was irritated and could sense frustration rising in my chest, but kept my focus on pouring the wine into the decanter.

The infamous three swiftly took their seats at the table and unceremoniously grabbed at what food was available to them while carrying on their heated conversation. I sensed that it was about work. These three - Stress Anger and Anxiety had been working together for the past 9 years and over time I had observed that the arguments had grown intense and more frequent. As a partnership, they would bring in a third party among the three to resolve deadlocks and if all three were at loggerheads, they would rope me in as well. That is when I usually get mired in their emotions and as the innkeeper, I felt responsible for calming things down among guests and for other guests to have a pleasant experience.

This time was no different, I stepped in to mediate but got caught up in their emotions that I too became frustrated. What frustrated me was also that such events kept recurring and I had limited success in resolving their conflicts. Thankfully this time, the other two guests came across the table and pulled me away to the kitchen. Playful being a child, was innocently asking why these 3 grown men were quarreling like kids fighting over a toy! Peace held his hand and stooped lower over his ear and said, "because they are young at heart!" At that chuckled at that comment and observed the quarreling from afar. The provocation this round came from Anger. Anger had insisted that he wanted Anxiety to work to an unreasonable timeline and had questioned his reasoning and methods in managing Stress. Stress felt stressed by the added pressure and Anxiety grew more anxious because he could not control Stress and manage his work deliverables. This resulted in Anger feeling more upset and his anger spewed out through his trembling hands and a face flushed red with rage.

Had I not observed from the kitchen, I would have typically stepped right in between all three of them and got the worst treatment in trying to help them out. This time I was observing them accompanied by the added commentary with sound effects of "pow!", "swish!" and "ooooh!" coming from Playful as he acted as the emcee for this heavyweight title fight between Anger and Stress while Anxiety refereed. It was then where Peace turned to look at me, and remarked that it was usually more hilarious seeing them throw punches through me being in the middle of their path. It was then that I realised the futility of trying to solve all their problems. It was a matter for them to resolve being partners for 9 years and I was trying to keep the peace for the sanity of my guests. However, the spectators in the kitchen were rather bemused and entertained by all of this!

At this moment, the message became clear. Peace was basically implying how foolish I was in trying to solve everything. I had no control over how people would act or react, and I had no obligation to make things good and well for everybody in this guest house, even if they were my guests! A good host simply had to be around to clean up the mess, to lend a listening ear.

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