Saint Lawrence Boulevard or boulevard Saint-Laurent (its official name, in French) is a major street in Montreal, Quebec. It is nicknamed The Main. It attracted artists. Novelists Mordecai Richler, Michel Tremblay and poets Irving Layton, A.M Klien and Leonard Cohen were all influenced by this area.
I was about twenty-two years old, living in a super-cool apartment near the Main.
My roommate was invited to a Halloween costume party and was encouraged to bring her girlfriends. It was a loft party on the Main, which meant the hipsters of the day - writers, dancers, painters, filmmakers and musicians would be there. And we would be noticed and perhaps find boyfriends.
I had never been keen about Halloween costumes.
Mostly, I lacked imagination and never knew what to be or wear. But for this Halloween – on the Main – at a loft – with a cool crowd, I decided to dress-up. I found a pair of green hospital scrubs. I was going as a nurse. I cuted up my look with pigtails and extra freckles.
My friends and I walked into the sounds of good music and the feel of a happening party.
It was a matter of minutes when I spotted at the end of the loft a handsome man in a white suit. It was Leonard Cohen. My older brother had turned me on to Cohen years back and I loved his music. I knew Susanne off by heart. Who didn’t?
Circling him were beautiful women a few years older than me, sophisticated in a way I wasn’t.
Tall and slinky, in high heels, tight dresses, cut out backs, slits up the side of their dress and perfect make-up and hair. And there I was in a shapeless and oversized pair of green scrubs, with pigtails, fake freckles and running shoes.
My mind worked quickly. In what I feel now was sweet naivety, then, was plain old- fashioned cluelessness.
I thought to sing the song Suzanne for him. I believed if he knew, I knew, the words to his song, he would see me as worthy. At least worthier than the slinksters. I moved closer to where he was. I started to hum quietly the words under my breath. I imagined only I knew the words. And then, in a flash I realized this would be the most humiliating event of my life if I cranked up the volume and sang aloud Suzanne.
Something clued me back in.
I left the party immediately, vowing never ever to wear a Halloween costume. I kept this promise to myself until last night, when I dressed up as the Tango Fairy or Witch, as the case may be, and danced the night away.
The moral of this story, make that morals:
p.s. Not a Halloween passes that I don't think about Leonard Cohen - please re-post if you are his Facebook friend
We were walking in the woods on the weekend. The path was deep in fallen leaves, which rustled with each footstep.
The talk turned to planning a winter vacation, but we couldn’t seem to agree on a destination offering the right combination of climate and things to do.
So, with the fear of approaching winter in mind, I said somewhat desperately over my shoulder, as we shuffled along in single file: “Maybe we could just go to a nice resort.” (I dislike resorts and couldn't believe I said that.)
“Sure, that would be great,” said my non-resort-loving partner.
And I said with some wonderment, “You would like to go to a resort?”
“I love New York and so do you,” he said.
I stopped, realizing ‘resort’ in my head had become ‘New York’ in his ears due to the natural static of rustling leaves and huffing breath on a hilly path, overlaid by the interference of expectations and preconceptions.
And we had a good laugh about it, imagining the misunderstandings that might have followed had things been cloudier between us.
The miracle of communication
As we walked, the talk moved on to a recent theme of mine: The absolute miracle of achieving clear communication.
So much gets in the way of clarity and understanding, even on the simplest of subjects.
Barriers include the varying expectations, states of mind, and biases of the people on either side of the conversation. Assumptions or preconceptions. History. And the interference of static, no matter what the source.
I wish I had a prescription to offer – in regard to the saying and hearing sides of the conversation – but don’t.
What I do have to offer is this: If you, like me, believe that clear communication is somewhat of a miracle, then we won’t take it for granted.
And you have to work at it, even if the subject is vacation.
It seems lately that every second conversation or media story is about how much stress, frustration and sheer exhaustion people feel in the workplace. Worries about competence and the value of work seem to be on the rise, too. Complaints about physical aches and pains, as well as the deterioration in previous healthy lifestyle habits, are multiplying.
Corporate cultures – make that workplace cultures – are built around different values and visions, which partly affect the way employees, colleagues and superiors interact during the workday. People also work in such varied physical environments – factory floors, cubicles, open-plan offices, and home offices, to name a few – that it is impossible to arrive at a one-size fits all approach to prevent or cure the emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion people are feeling on the job.
It is a complex problem with no easy solutions or fixes
For the individual on the brink of a burnout, this is a serious individual and societal health problem. Complaints broadly focus on:
Hard-working conscientious employees often cope with increased demands by working harder and longer. These employees often:
I’m sure some employers would have the view that some employees:
What can you do to help yourself?
Here is a sampling of some practical ideas to overcome challenging life-work difficulties, and to either avoid and or recover from a burnout.
I hope some of these can help you:
Sometimes, we are working in the ‘wrong’ place. The environment just doesn’t suit our personality. For example, if you are someone who values an egalitarian environment, and likes flexibility and creative work, then a rule-based, process-oriented and hierarchical culture is probably going to leave you unhappy. Some of us know from the outset what would make a good fit, but most of us learn from trial and error.
If you want to figure out and evaluate your options, it’s worthwhile talking it over with a coach. That's where I come in. The outside perspective can make a difference.
My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.