I started a new role at my work approximately 3 months ago. Where I work there is a lot of movement and I am the 3rd person backfilling the role this year. The lady I work with however has been in her position for many, many, many years – especially given the movement. She is well known and is a wealth of information about the organisation and has been pretty invaluable to me in my learning. I noticed something funny after my first couple of weeks and that was that people would walk past our open office plan area and greet her as they normally did – ignoring me in the process. I wasn’t’ mad or offended – they didn’t know me, probably thought I wasn’t going to be around for long or we just hadn’t been introduced and it’s weird to greet someone if you don’t know their name.
Having now been in this role for a little while I’ve noticed that some of the people have learnt my name or we’ve been introduced and will now greet both of us as they pass through and others still just greet my colleague and act as though I am invisible. It’s semi awkward when my colleague is away for the day and they actually do need to come and speak with me and have to acknowledge the fact that even though I’ve been here for so long – they don’t know my name and what I do. It’s not awkward for me, just for them. All of a sudden they need my help and it’s a little weird.
It got me thinking about how skilled we become at avoiding things in our life.
I used to be an expert at avoiding pain. Out of habit you walk past something and greet the familiar and while you may wonder about the strange intruder – you aren’t prepared to make yourself a little uncomfortable and introduce yourself – ‘Hello pain, I don’t think we’ve met before’. It becomes easier and easier with time to pretend that pain doesn’t actually exist and you spend your time greeting and focusing on the familiar joy and good times. Meanwhile, pain is over there growing in skill and importance and just waiting til the hurt becomes so big you eventually trip over it.
I think they thought I would eventually move on – that they wouldn’t need to get to know me. Why spend time on someone that wouldn’t be there for very long. She probably can’t help me with my query – I’d prefer to talk to someone I know. I’ll come back later when someone familiar returns.
The problem with pain and avoiding it is that eventually the joy goes on leave and all you’re left with is the hurt you’ve been avoiding for the last 3 months. By that time – pain is a fully fledged integrated member of the workplace and you actually have to go through her to get your work done. You actually need pain’s help and while it might have been a little uncomfortable walking up and saying ‘Ok let’s get this over and done with – pain, I acknowledge you’ its way less awkward than the alternative.
Don’t pretend your pain isn’t real, that it’s going to go away on its own or that you can avoid it. You can’t. The more you avoid it the more painful it becomes. The longer you refuse to learn pain’s name, the more it shouts ‘I’m here and I’m going to let you know about it’. The longer you pretend its invisible – the more comfortable and integrated pain becomes. The longer you think it’s going away the more intent it is to stay.
Yes it might have been a little awkward at first, but if they’d just introduced themselves – maybe I could have helped them, maybe pain could have become a friend. I believe that it’s possible to turn the thing you hated most into your greatest triumph. Don’t be afraid of dealing with pain, put a name to it and start dealing with it.