It’s been strange going back to work (well, working from home anyway). I went from doing nothing to working full days with a full workload. Suddenly, my time is not my own anymore. I had just gotten into a routine for cooking, housework and exercise (yes, it took me 3 months..don’t judge). I wasn’t happy with all of this being disrupted. I am quite resistant to change. When I was younger, I would get so irritated when plans would change. On a Friday, if we were supposed to go to my grandma’s house for lunch but then it was moved to dinner I would become really upset and would be in a bad mood the rest of the day.
I have improved over the years. I still have bad reactions when things are switched up on me. I need time to process things and prepare. A lot of situations make me anxious, so I think I need time to “psyche” myself up for the situation at hand. It’s not a great flaw to have when you are in a high-pressure, high-stress job. Plans would have to be cancelled last minute because I had to work. It looked like my day would be straightforward but then I was given 5 new things to do that would take me days. I couldn’t ever relax at work-if things were quiet I would just be waiting for the next piece of work to land on my desk.
My boss at my first job was tough. She will have her own post. She slashed at my confidence andI found myself feeling out of place and miserable. I would walk around the office with my arms crossed in front of me, protecting myself. The work was really hard and every day I would wake up with a pit in my stomach dreading what the day would bring. I shrank into myself. I changed. I eventually had a breakdown and I was signed off from work for a month.
I started going to therapy and this is when I learned the word “resilience”. I have come to hate that word. My therapist described it as an elastic band; you have to be able to stretch when the pressure is on and not snap under it. Since then, I’ve seen it in so many work-related literature and training sessions. I’ve seen it in job descriptions. You know what it means to me? When I read “resilience” in something relating to a job, it’s code. It means you have to be able to take extreme pressure, stress and any shit they throw at you. The employer will not worry about your health and they do not care.
They now have “resilience” and mental health workshops and training in many workplaces. How about if management gets some training on how to treat their employees like human beings? How about not letting abusive bosses and bullies stay in positions of power? I’ve seen so much bad behaviour in different companies that tout this mental health and wellbeing stuff, it makes me sick when I think about it. It’s all just a tick-box exercise. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s the private sector after all. The hypocrisy makes me so angry: just stop pretending!
Resilience, of course, is important. I only object to it when it’s used to exploit people. I see it as a polite/coded way of telling people they need to take whatever is given to them, no matter how bad it is. In my relatively short working life, I’ve seen so many people around me break down, cry at 10 pm at their desks, worry about missed deadlines, constant fretting over mistakes. It’s just unhealthy. I don’t think we are supposed to see our colleagues in such distress so often. That said, of course, we all do need resilience to be able to get through life because it is hard, you will feel pressure from all avenues and you will find yourself in difficult situations.
ACTION: What will you do to be more resilient today?
I wasn’t sure what to do for this one. I’ve had to develop many mechanisms to help me get through. When I’m at work and it gets too much, I pause and step out for a walk. I walk until I calm down. I text my husband. Or I call my mom.
I don’t call her enough. If I don’t text her in two days she will call my husband and ask if I’m ok and what’s happened! She always worries about me. It annoys me sometimes, but it shouldn’t because I am the same way. If my husband is out and I don’t hear from him for a few hours I start worrying. Has something happened? Is he ok? Has his phone been stolen? Where is he? They do say that you become your parents, I will tell you that is very true as much as you don’t want it to happen.
I called her and my dad to tell them about going back to work. Since I’ve gotten married I’ve been keeping things from them. I won’t be honest when I’m sad, when I’m having problems with my husband, when I’m having problems at work. My mom gets really worried about me. I don’t want her to worry, she lives so far away from me. I don’t think she expected me to marry someone outside my community and live abroad. This is the choice I’ve made, so I want to make sure she thinks I’m happy and this is best for me. I don’t like to admit it, but I do feel guilty sometimes.
I see how my husband’s family are tight-knit, there are always people around, there are lots of grandkids and I feel bad I can’t give that to my mom. My brother and I both live abroad and she misses us all the time. It frustrates me that I can only go back for 2 weeks at a time. When I was younger, I always wanted to get out. I didn’t like living in my hometown. I didn’t fit in the culture, I couldn’t stand the materialism and people always comparing themselves to each other. Everything was a competition. I never thought I would be in a position where I would want to move back home.
I think now that I’m married it’s different. Being a single girl in an Arab country is hard, even in a progressive one. People judge, people compare, people talk. I remember when I was home over the summer holidays, I was going to go out with my friends and my dad asked me where I was going. I told him we were going to a cafe. Then he asked if they served shisha. I was confused-why does that matter? He said women shouldn’t be smoking shisha. I said ok, what if I go but I don’t smoke? Then he said I still shouldn’t go because it’s a “bad environment” and it is shameful to be seen in such a place.
I understand what he means. In our culture, family honour is very important. It’s dishonourable for a woman (not for a man) from an honourable family to be seen in places that are not “good”. If a family wouldn’t go, you shouldn’t be there. But now that I’m married, it’s much less important what I do.
If your husband is ok with it, then it doesn’t matter! As my mom once said, “you’re his problem now!”. Thanks, mom! It’s one of the reasons I chose my husband. I wanted to marry someone who could see me on his level and not expect me to fall into these narrow expectations. I wanted someone who would support me in my career and aspirations and not try to control me and dictate my life. So, life back home is much better now with him. I can stay out late, go where I want and do what I want (within our cultural and religious limits of course!).
Another reason I want to move back is that I miss my parents a lot and I value so much the time I have with them, so it pains me being away. Our relationship has changed a lot and I appreciate them now. I took them for granted while I lived there and I do feel sad about it. But I was a teenager, more often than not you hate or resent your parents at that age I think! Whenever I’m talking to kids or teenagers I always tell them to listen to their moms and not to give them a hard time. They’re doing their best and they love you.
I regret the hell I caused her. I was mostly a good kid, but I had my rebellions here and there. I kept so many secrets from her and she knew it. Top tip: moms know everything so don’t bother hiding stuff! I think I am hard on myself sometimes, I was much better than a lot of kids but I still feel bad.
Now, I call my mother when I feel alone, stressed or sad. I didn’t think I needed her, but I do. I don’t always tell her how I feel, but she always makes me feel better anyway. Sometimes things look really bad to me, but when I talk to her she makes it simple and it doesn’t look as scary anymore. There’s a comfort you find in your parents that is hard to find elsewhere. When I talk to her I remember that whatever happens in life, my parents will always love me and I have somewhere to go.
My mom also believes so much in me. She’s always made me feel like I could do anything and be anything I want and be successful. It’s sweet and innocent-mom, of course, you think I’m great you’re my mom! There’s a saying in Arabic: “القرد في عين أمه غزال”. It literally means, “the monkey is a gazelle in his mother’s eyes”. I often think about that when my mother praises me. Again, I’m being hard on myself but I can’t help my thought process!
I have more to say here, but I think this post has gone on long enough. I feel really blessed, alhamdillah, to have such loving parents. I really hope one day I can make it up to them and give them even half of what they have given me. We have had a rocky relationship and they’re not perfect, but they’ve helped me achieve all the things that I wanted even if they didn’t necessarily agree with them.
Until next time,