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Mrs Always On

Updated: May 10

Late in 2019 *Sharon was given a role which was exciting and a huge responsibility. Everyone had such high expectations of what she was going to achieve in the coming years in this role. She describes the fact that she was affectionately known as “Mrs Always On”, this in itself should have being a warning bell, but she also liked the sound of it, describing it as sounding buzzy and vibey and important”. Being the “Mrs Always On” for the largest capital markets trading desk in Africa was probably a much larger animal than she could eat, especially considering her vegetarianism. She stops to think, as one would about these conversations and asks “How do you know if someone’s a vegetarian?” and giggles at her own joke “They’ll tell you”.)

She explains that she got very adultly as she started putting together a number of achievable and already in progress goals and some less achievable goals for her first year in office. “Mrs Always on” even had a 60 day plan.

Sharon explains that when the suggested threat of a mutant viral pandemic sweeping onto our shores became a foregone conclusion, the teams had to come up with a plan to ensure that the largest capital markets trading desk in Africa could continue to trade, even if everyone was sent to the furthest corner of their homes to keep away from the virus. And who did they call on? “Mrs Always On”.

However, Sharon was not alone, she had an amazing team of unlikely people rally together, and came up with a plan. There were some amazingly creative solutions to problems and the team delivered what was quite easily 12 months work on any other day in just 6 weeks. It was a spectacular achievement by any standards. Sharon explains that she would go to battle with that motley crew of people that just pitched up and pitched in, if required.

Sharon says “but just like that the carpet was pulled out from underneath me. I’ve always been a bit of a cruiser, I suffer from anxiety, demand perfection of myself and have known bouts of depression, but mostly I’m a happy-go-lucky person who has no real goals and goes wherever the wind blows me, taking on things that I have no idea how to do and stubbing my toe as I learn. I’m a quick learner and I’m a people’s person who tries to make a positive impact to people’s lives wherever I go. Mostly, I’m just a cruiser”

Sharon describes the enormity of the pandemic and says “but this COVID-19 thing totally kicked my deck chair out from underneath me. I never recovered. I was late for every meeting. Every deliverable. Every event. Everything. I barely brushed my hair on some days. In winter, I basically just wore my pyjamas from my bed to my office. Luckily I’m a showerer otherwise, I wouldn’t have even bothered with that”

The pilates ball had become my office chair. My back ached because I had the wrong work environment and so the Pilates ball brought some relief. I didn’t feel like working. I felt like sitting outside in the sun with my dogs. And then when I did actually do that, I berated myself for days about it. I got side-tracked by everything and so finished nothing. Every once in a while, I would revisit those goals and the 60 day plan, and I would laugh and sometimes cry about how I had achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Of course, rationally, that’s not true because getting everyone working from home was not nothing. But other than that, I can’t say I did anything last year. Thank goodness that was something quite spectacular or else I would be jobless right now!”

Sharon says “I was tired. All the time tired. I was once diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and this was the same. Only now I wasn’t a 20-something year old that could be sick whenever they wanted and their work wouldn’t be missed. Now I was a grown up with a proper job that meant something to a lot of people. So, I was tired. I was late. I didn’t know what was going on most of the time. I felt like a fog had descended over my brain and even my neurons were having bouts of latency. And because I demand perfection of myself, the self-flagellation escalated until I did something I’ve never done before, I took two weeks leave over Christmas. I love working through Christmas. The vibe is relaxed. There are no wasteful meetings. People are nice. Things slow down and you can think and get pesky admin done that has stood dormant the whole year. But in 2020 I was just fried. I just couldn’t. I totally checked out. I switched off my phone and I was disciplined about just leaving my phone switched off in a drawer next to my bed. It was bliss. I had to do a total adrenalin detox. I slept a lot. Didn’t do much else. Just slept and hung out with my dogs, who slept a lot too. I came back to work in 2021, cautiously optimistic, but still expecting to feel as shit as before, and I haven’t. I haven’t felt that overwhelming exhaustion and that I’m failing at everything. A peace has come over me. An acceptance that I did okay last year. That I managed to make it through the year. A gratitude that my family have remained safe throughout and a real sense of duty to those who have not been so lucky, that I should not feel so very sorry for myself. I am much calmer now”

Sharon decided to shake it all up and buy a new house and move to a new province! No wait! Not just buy a new house, build a new house. She says “ Actually, I think it’s just this peace that I have found. It’s a peace that says, I am good enough. I have done well. I am doing the best I can. So, I can go and find a home that represents this peace. A home far away from the city. A home where I can recreate myself in a peaceful setting”

She stops for a moment and say’s “I sound like I’m an emotional, adolescent hippie kid. But I’m in a fairly senior role in one of the largest banks in Southern Africa. I’m full on corporate, yo! You’d think that I’d have my shit together by now. People think that I have my shit together, but they don’t know how close I came to throwing in the towel last year. And so, I suspect there are many competent people who appear to have their shit together also struggling with stuff they feel guilty about struggling with. People struggling with things that are normally quite easy, like brushing their hair in the morning or making it on time to a meeting. People beating themselves up for being late with an inconsequential report when, in fact, everyone else was late with their report. If you’re reading this and you’re one of these people, know that I didn’t brush my hair today. I missed a meeting and didn’t apologise. I interviewed someone and they’re excited to be working with me. I had to apologise to someone for not doing something that will take me 15 minutes to do and I was supposed to get it to him last week Friday. I’m doing this instead of that, I spent 30 full minutes with my dogs and I praised the painter for the great job he did on the wall I’m about to sell. I ate avo, mango, yoghurt and eggs for breakfast, a bag of potato chips for lunch and a piece of chocolate for dinner. And all of that is okay. Because the world as we knew it has changed and all this nonsense about our being kind to people because everyone is struggling at the moment is most poignantly applicable to yourself, myself. The reality is that we do have our shit together. Although it’s still shit, it’s together shit.

If you are finding that things are different and how your perception of the world has changed, it is normal. The world and the people in it are evolving and so are you.

13 Ways to be new in a new world.

  1. Take pride in yourself and celebrate the small and big successes that you had along the way.

  2. Identify how the new future looks and how will you be showing up for it.

  3. Release yourself from previous have’s and have not’s.

  4. Stop measuring yourself against others, each one has their own journey at their own pace.

  5. Be gentle with you, increase your positive self-talk and really listen how you speak to yourself.

  6. Take up something new that will motivate and keep you interested, even if they are different to your previous goals. The world is different now and so will your goals be.

  7. Play with animals, feel the sun on your skin, do cloud watching. Meditate or not, but take some alone time, without the guilt.

  8. Stop looking for an external element to fix the internal, recognise and understand the trauma and move it through and out the body.

  9. Praise other people, vocalise others strengths and beauty, they may just need to hear it for the first time.

  10. Ground yourself, and practice kindness to yourself, through self care.

  11. Find your lighthouses, those that resonate in teams and in relationships are appearing in your experience at this time.

  12. Feel your heart centre.

  13. Become creative and do those things that co-create with others and build communities.

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