Wish you were here
I have mixed feelings about holidays. Having survived the workplace equivalent of SAS training, three weeks of commuting in a heat wave, turns out that civilisation does not in fact rest on my sweaty shoulder pads and that I am free to go on holiday. Chin tremblin moment, feeling all redundant and useless to your needs and especially gulp-inducing for those amongst us who tie our identities on the mast of our craft.
What we do says a great deal about us, providing us with a tidy shorthand for answering existential questions. Easier to say “I write about mental health at work” than, “I’ve just never been able to work out what it’s all about Alfie and I work to stop the voices inside my head winning the argument about whether it’s worth venturing out of bed of a morning”. Do you see? Messier and existentially tedious.
On a more basic level work is very often containing. It cuts the existentials short by providing concrete answers to unspoken questions. An allocated lunch break at 1 circumnavigates psychic insecurities about our capacity to care for ourselves and our relationship with food. A uniform tidies up any unexplored question marks about cross dressing. Even in these brutal recessionary times most people get to take a break from work and with it the possibility of rest and being nice to yourself. Whether you embrace it or trash it, the structure of taking a holiday is code for some profound aspects of human life.
In psychoanalytic practice holidays are important and in the six weeks leading up to a ‘break’ you’re encouraged to think about someone else’s holiday. Agreeably, paying to talk about your therapist’s upcoming holiday can feel like a sadistic little game. Let’s spend the next 50 minutes talking about your fantasies about my holiday that you are paying for. Mental pictures of competitive surfing in the West Coast, writing a manifesto for alternative energy or rollerblading into the sunset abound. Despite the potential for establishing a psychic era ruled by Envy and Jealousy I am told that the point of taking breaks is not to make you feel unwanted rather to give you the important opportunity to grow up. Missing people means accepting that we are all separate with our own lives that we are ultimately in control of.
We have to miss each other to be human.
Throughout the summer I will miss you and choose to believe that you will miss me too. Surviving Work returns in September and in the meantime you can listen to the raw-soul-grating voice of SW blogs and stories in the Surviving Work Library here.