Back before my cancer days, I was a little energizer bunny. I love what I do for a living, and I do it well and often. I worked late, I worked weekends, I worked at home. If I didn’t get carsick, I probably would have worked there too. I took everything to heart. Every catastrophe, every fire that had to be put out, every stress that came to bear, all came to roost on my very capable and strong shoulders. I woke up in the middle of the night chewing on problems of the day before. I jumped into every mess feet first, and wrangled that monster until it was untangled and beautifully clean.
When I first began to think about going back to work after I finished treatment, I was both excited and concerned. I had been off for a year while I had surgeries and treatments. I was ready to re-join the world of the living. But I was nervous about how difficult it might be to maintain enough strength to be the employee that I had always been. That was important to me.
When I went for my first interview, I began having panic attacks. I decided that perhaps I wasn’t ready for my re-introduction to society. For the next six months, I waffled between the desire to work, and the urge to crawl back into my blanket fort where I was safe. But at long last, the day arrived. I fell into the perfect situation, just what I had been looking for.
I soon discovered that stress was running rampant through my co-workers. There were many to choose from, deadlines, system changes, staffing turnover. Or as anyone in the corporate world will understand, just another day at the office. I worried that I would get sucked back into the mayhem. Two things that are quite bad for you after cancer are stress and fatigue. They weaken the immune system, which can encourage the growth of more cancer. I know I need to control the stress in my life.
It turns out that I needn’t have worried. I have a new-found operating philosophy, a mantra so to speak.
I just don’t care.
This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy what I do, or that I do a sketchy job. On the contrary, my standards for my work are as high as ever. But it’s a waste of my time to be drawn into emotional garbage over work. Crisis at the office? I’m there for you. Let’s analyze the problem, brainstorm the solutions, and make it happen. Get me some coffee and set me loose. But I’m not going to waste any of that time gnashing my teeth, being angry at anyone, or worrying about meeting deadlines. I’m just going to work as hard and efficiently as I can to complete the job. But the other half of the equation is that I am learning to be more realistic about what I can actually accomplish. I may produce miracles, but I am much more methodical about getting there.
I won’t lie to you and say that I am in a constant state of zen everyday. But I am much more at peace, and I feel more calm and comfortable confronting challenges. Cancer didn’t break me, and neither will my career. This may be the most important life lesson I’ve learned to date.
Even energizer bunnies need to re-charge now and them.