There was an article in The Atlantic this week that described what I regularly refer to as That Sunday Feeling as “low grade existential dread.” That sounds about right. What’s more, turns out there are actual studies that try to define and explain the phenomenon.
Turns out I’m not alone in my Sunday afternoon melancholy and it has been a recognized feature of the end of the weekend since before the formal weekend was even really a thing. I’m not sure if that’s a bit of information that should make me feel better beyond the understanding that misery loves company.
So what did I learn this week? Mostly that Monday ruins Sunday for all of us. Someday maybe I’ll learn something cheery.
When you get use to easing into the week by spending most Monday’s working from home, a Monday thrown directly into the daily asshatery of the office is like wrapping yourself in a cold blanket of angst. Going from a nice quiet Sunday surrounded by books and dogs to a cubicle surrounded by 30 other chattering bureaucrats is just hard on the system. It’s not insurmountable pain and agony, of course. Maybe it’s more akin spending eight hours with your swim trunks full of sand. It’s just unpleasant.
There are two sides of every coin, though. In this case, the obverse is that it’s one more day ticked off the calendar – meaning the work week is 1/5 the way done and there’s still a nice day of answering phone calls and emails from the comfortable precincts of Fortress Jeff still left to come. Don’t tell me I can’t see the brite side of things.
All told, it’s probably just another Monday – somewhere in the middle hump of the bell curve; not great and not awful. If there’s one thing I can count on my inner pessimist to deliver, it’s a constant stream of reminders to not worry, because things can always get worse. I’m quite sure that’s one of those sayings that’s supposed make you appreciate what you’ve got, but for me it’s always been more of a warning that even in the midst of what seems stupid, there’s plenty of room to drive the train even further off the rails… and into the ditch… knocking over a bridge… and crushing a bus full of nuns and children on their way to adopt all the puppies.
So if you’ve ever wanted to know what thoughts lurk in my head on a typical Monday in the office, there you have it.
This was the first Monday I had to actually go into the office in months. Something about staffing and coverage and blah blah blah. I’ll still get my telework day this week, just not as the day that eases me back into the weekday routine of angst, bother, and death PowerPoint.
I know it was a Monday today mostly because when I got to the office and wanted to buy a bagel, I discovered that my wallet, watch, and other small items I carry every day were not where I expected them to be (i.e. in my pockets). Instead, they were exactly where I left them the last time I had returned home from being out in the world of people. Which is exactly where they are deposited the hundreds of times a year I come home from being somewhere else, so it’s not as if they’d been secreted off to a new undisclosed location and chaos ensued.
I can only assume this was my subconscious rejecting the idea of a Monday that strayed so far from the standard. This lack of early morning cerebral engagement means I started off the day doubly disappointed – first, I was destined to spend the day tethered to my desk in the concrete bowels of the building without fresh air or daylight and secondly, I was required to do it without benefit of starting the day with a toasty warm bagel.
I think that nicely encapsulates exactly what kind of day it has been. In fact, I’m going to start a petition to officially change the name of Monday to Double Disappointment. It feels altogether more fitting.
Some Telework Monday’s are an opportunity to engage, do some deep thinking, and apply some rigor to a project or task. Others, by contrast, are every bit as much a shit show as you would ever expect to find in the office.
I’ll just let your imagination decide what kind of Telework Monday today was.
I could try to tell the story by changing names to protect the innocent, but that would imply in some way that everyone involved wasn’t in some way guilty, if even just by association.
As it turns out Mondays are just going to be themselves no matter where you find yourself sitting.
1. Second Monday. Look, I’m 100% thankful for the unscheduled Federal holiday on Wednesday. The unintended consequence of this Executive Branch largess, though, was that this week had what is effectively a “second Monday.” Going back the the work after a bureaucracy-free and relaxing weekend is a regular, recurring minor trauma that fills Sunday evenings with angst and dread. Once the week gets going though, the follow-on weekdays are each slightly less traumatic than the day before. Plopping an unexpected day off down in the middle of the week created an unnatural imbalance in the normal flow – and in doing so made Second Monday feel even worse than regular Monday. It’s hard to believe that such a thing is possible, but there it is.
2. Cubicle Hell. For all of the wonderful management literature written extolling the virtues of “open concept” workplaces, none of them bother to take into account how the average employee may actually require some time to analyze, read, or complete a work product that requires some level of concentration. I only bring it up because of the increased frequency of people holding entire goddamned meetings with groups of 4-5 others spilling out into walkways or shouted over the top of adjacent walls. Multiply that by as many as 5 of these impromptu “meetings” fired up all at the same time, well, you might as well sit back and start counting ceiling tiles because even pretending to look productive under the circumstances is a lost cause.
3. The human tailbone. I’m not a fancy big city doctor, so I don’t know exactly what a tailbone is supposed to do for a person. I reckon it’s mostly like an appendix – except that when something goes wrong with it it doesn’t burst and kill you so much as it stays right where it is and hurts like a sonofabitch whenever you sit down. In any case, it seems to me that there should be some kind of corrective option beyond, well, just don’t sit so much. That’s fine advice, I suppose, when your day isn’t spent tethered to a desk and reading volumes of fine print for the minutia that someone is trying to bury in the fine print. And yes, before someone points it out, I know that Churchill worked at a standing desk. He also worked in the bathtub and I am, clearly, no Winston Churchill.
1. Failure to pay attention. I observe people around me. It’s as much for entertainment as it is out of the general sense that it’s just good policy to know what is or could be happening in my immediate surroundings. It’s the people who have absolutely no interest or regard for anything that extends past their own nose that I find most infuriating. They’re the ones that will pull out in front of you without noticing onrushing traffic, or throw their car in reverse to leave the gas pumps and narrowly avoid hitting the car behind them. They’re the ones who look utterly perplexed when someone asks if they’re ready to order after standing in line for the last fifteen minutes without once glancing at the menu. They’re the ones who stop short in the middle of the sidewalk and somehow look surprised when the next person trips into them. How wonderful it must be to exist in this world without any sense or interest in things happening just beyond arms reach – forget things that happen out of sight. Those might as well be witchcraft. Situational awareness isn’t just keeping an eye open for something in your environment that just doesn’t seem right. Sadly, awareness, whether situational or itherwise if apparently a bridge too goddamned far for 90% of the people living on this beshitted rock of a planet.
2. The shifting sands of Mondays. One of the big “so whats” about telework is it’s supposed to prepare us for working from alternate locations when our usual place of business is flooded, radioactive, or otherwise unavailable for doing business. When the office closes for a snow day, I’m theoretically supposed to be able to fire up my computer and do my job from home (which is a fine plan in theory, except for the part where even though I’m technically on the clock, the other 3000 people who I occasionally deal with don’t have telework agreements and are home not checking their email and phone messages). The whole theory of being able to do everything you can do in your office from a remote location is a fine one and probably true somewhere. I’ve got a situation next week that is ideal for “proof of concept” of why telework is the right answer. The meeting with high profile people is squarely in the middle of my regularly scheduled day to work from home. The most straightforward approach would be to call in and participate in the meeting as if being somewhere other than in the office didn’t make a difference. The actual approach will be to “just switch your day so you can be here for the meeting.” When we proceed from a place that assumes the quality of my work or advice on a subject is driven by where I am geographically, we’ve already lost the fight to build a 21st century workforce.
3. Accusations. In the American tradition of jurisprudence there are two concepts that we collectively seem to ignore when it’s convenient. One is the idea that the accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The other is that the accused has a right to confront the witness against them. In a world where the accuser either cannot or will not produce substantive corroborating evidence or identify witnesses to the alleged crime, accusations remain just that. As much as I would like to see certain crimes where punishment is dealt out first and questions asked later, it’s not a framework I’d particularly want to live under. If the mere accusation of wrongdoing is enough to decide guilt, what’s to stop any of us from seeing Lizzie Proctor talking to the devil?
It’s Monday. That would usually mean I spent the day happily tucked in to my home office with views of the woods and three fuzzy critters keeping me company. Those Mondays, telework Mondays, are something to be celebrated rather than serve as a source of existential dread.
Today, of course, was the existential dread kind of Monday. It’s the kind that required my presence in the 5×5 foot, half walled box I usually only spend four days of the week occupying. I was thrown off my normal Monday by a meeting at which my bodily presence was encouraged if not actually required.
The catch is, some time between signing off on Friday and arriving on Monday the meeting in question got cancelled… with the net result being I gave up a delightfully dreary telework Monday for absolute no reason at all. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.
Sure, I know this is one of those fancy first world problems that everyone enjoys, but since I, in fact, live in the first world, I’m not sure what other type of problems I could be expected to encounter on the regular. I’m not saying that anyone died or was maimed as a result of this series of unfortunate events. All I’m saying is that Monday sucks as a general rule and I missed out on an excellent opportunity to make Monday suck a little bit less.