Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Trial by audit

I haven't posted about work for a while - mainly because it's been loads better than when I used to moan about it: the one day each week that I'm doing art and art-related stuff is so much more than enough to compensate for the most challenging days that might occur. So, the rest of the week, if (or when) shit happens, I feel much more centred and able to deal with it: the impact on me of having the opportunity to develop art practice in a group setting is incredibly sustaining and nourishing.

But right now, to use a phrase I hate, it's a real rollercoaster. That's right folks, a real rollercoaster! Ugh. The auditors are in and they're looking at our fine toothcombs with even finer toothcombs, and then submitting those even finer toothcombs to the utmost scrutiny whilst uttering buzzwords and phrases such as quality, choice, measurable outcomes and a sausage dog which pisses milkshake. Not sure about that last one, but it works for me (well actually it doesn't, but what the hell).

We're right in the middle of this. I might find out tomorrow that I don't have a job to go back to since the powers that be, having previously overspent, are now ensuring that services which don't deliver quality, choice, measurable outcomes and - perhaps - milkshake-pissing sausage dogs, aren't going to be around for very long.

I'm calm, perhaps in part because I had a complete meltdown last week. Ensuring that one's written records over the last 20 months are robust enough to withstand the finest of toothcombs - and then finding out, one working day before the audit begins (that's right - one working day), that a fundamental part of the written records has changed, and that one needs to revise all of one's written records accordingly - takes its toll, but allows one's perspective and priorities to come into sharper focus.

I now personally feel more equal to the Kafka-esque machinations that are required, once again, to complete the task at hand (regardless of whether it's ultimately successful or not).

But I also feel like I did in the fortnight when I did jury service some years ago. I was serving as a juror on a nasty, depressing case: the fact that I was having to deal first-hand with many nasty, depressing issues in my job, meant that this felt like a holiday. Not that I took the issues at hand lightly, not at all: but the fact that we, as jurors, were quite literally compartmentalised, ie in our own little box - and that our task was to observe, to listen, to take in information, and not to take action or make decisions, meant that I felt pretty unburdened by the matter in hand.

Others on the same jury found it stressful, confessing that they weren't sleeping as well as they might, for example. I'm not trying to say that I was an altogether more calm, relaxed person than they were, for that's surely not the case: but I was perhaps more able to process the kind of issues that were being dealt with in the trial, given the kind of things which would regularly crop up in my main job, and which would sometimes necessitate direct intervention.

There was an earth tremor one night during this time, everyone at court talked about it the next day (it was in the papers too) - but I had slept soundly throughout.

When it came to the deliberations however, that's when it hit me. This was the point, of course, at which our thoughts and decisions would potentially have a very big impact on those involved in the case. I felt very engaged in the process - we twelve jurors had an excellent and extremely thorough level of debate over the course of two days - and I took an active part in it from start to finish.

But this was the point at which it weighed heavily on me. I still slept well, but - once out of the courthouse and back home - I wasn't the same. For a good few evenings, I shut myself down - if the phone rang, I didn't answer it, and I made no attempt to ring or otherwise communicate with anyone I knew. I brooded, I threw myself into the tasks I would normally carry out - cooking, domestic chores, going out for a walk, working on music, whatever - with great intensity, most of it to shut out the raging noise generated by the sense of what felt at stake, and what level of responsibility lay with me.

I'm feeling a bit like that right now. There's been so much information to process - and break down, and discard, and start anew, and reprocess over the space of weeks and weeks, if not months - and right now is crunch time.

So I've felt for days that I'm shutting the rest of the world out. I think it's more the case that I just don't have the energy to let the rest of the world even have a peek in at the moment.

Whatever the outcome, it will pass.


Katherine said...

I understand this reaction. It's quite normal and sensible. What a crazy time you are in at the moment.
I do hope your dog gets better, 'though. That's the bit I'd be worried about. And what flavour?

Fire Byrd said...

Knowing that you had the power to put a person away afterwards would have been a shock to the system, as you were taking liberty away. And right now that potentiallly is being done to you in the shape of your livliehood, whether you're any good at it or not. You are the prisoner in the dock awaiting a verdict here. No wonder you have shut down somewhat.
big hugs though, cause whatever the verdict you are still my friend.

trousers said...

Thanks, katherine - it's good to have it affirmed as being normal and sensible: because while I know that to be true intellectually, it feels a bit intense really.

Erm, let's not talk about the dog....

fire byrd, exactly: you've cut this right down to the bare bones. Though in terms of the Kafka reference, the verdict will be regardless of the level of my innocence or otherwise. Many thanks - and a hug right back to you - for your valued and constant friendship x

Butch Boo said...

Sure it'll all be OK



Merkin said...

'. . . .pisses milkshake'?

One Polish slang for a blow job is 'to give someone an ice cream'.

brand man shaking said...

Where there are those that "piss milk-shakes" I will be around.
Can I have your telephone number?

Reading the Signs said...

Shutting the world out is a skill that I actually covet, Trousers. Never was very good at it and sometimes it's essential.

Measurable outcomes etc. - I can hardly bear to see or hear the words, but they remind me why it was such a good idea to get out of where I was working when I did. When the "paperwork" takes longer than the real work - that's when you need to get the milkshake-pissing sausage dog. It works, Trousers, believe me.

trousers said...

Thanks butch boo, I think my attitude is that I'll have to be ok, regardless of the outcome: that's the important thing, really.

We won't know the outcome for a few weeks yet, though I gather we've made a positive impression. I'm not going to make any assumptions based on that though.

merk, once again I've learned something new.

signs, it doesn't feel like a skill, more an instinctive response: in some situations I dofind it very difficult to switch off or to stop worrying (something which thankfully is but a fraction of what it used to be).

Thankfully these days I can compartmentalise the measurable outcomes aspect of it all, given that I've got the focus on creative stuff for at least one day each week. Oh and thanks to developing a thicker skin and much cynicism ;-)

DJ Kirkby said...

Ooooohhhh...fucking audit(s). xo

trousers said...

Sounds like you feel my pain dj - do tell if needs be x

Nell said...

I can identify with this on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start. Let's just say that right now I am trying to deal with personal issues (boyfriend in hospital since last Sunday following a week of serious medical incompetence) vs work issues (not having been paid for the last 2 months without a word from my boss) while trying to get some sleep each night and generally keep things together. Lots of empathy and hugs, Mr T.

PS. I don't fancy piss-flavoured milkshake, whatever kind of dog it comes out of. Call me fussy.

trousers said...

nell, this sounds like a case of oh bloody hell in relation to everything you mention: email me if needs be.

But thank you for the empathy, and - in return, if there's anything I can do, just let me know. Hugs to you too xxx

ps - the milkshakes aren't (necessarily) piss-flavoured...erm, anyway...

Ms Melancholy said...

I fear I have come to the party too late, as usual.

You have all of my sympathy. I left my very similar job to yours, when we were instructed to fill out paperwork confirming what previous paperwork we had filled out. I couldn't work out whether it was Kafkaesque or indeed Pythonesque, but my main concern was that only one other person in the team shared my view. So, I say thank goodness that you can see the idiocy as it only serves to confirm your sanity.

I want one of those sausage dogs. Please.

Much love,

Ms M x

trousers said...

Thank you ms m, your sympathies are most welcome.

I would say, really, it's a mixture of both the kind of -esques (Kafka and Python): and thankfully, everyone in our team sees the sheer absurdity of it all. I think that's the main thing which has kept us going, the moments of meltdown and frustration being quickly offset by a much needed ironic distance. And the fact that we get paid some sort of wage ;-)

The sausage dogs seem potentially popular: I fear I may be too late for the Christmas rush though..