Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tackling the defenses

I'm curious: When you are the recipient of criticism, how do you handle it? (I almost called it "constructive criticism" but is it constructive if it doesn't encourage the recipient to change her behavior? Is it somehow constructive for the giver, even if not for the recipient?)

I've thought a lot about that un-stellar review--still rankling nearly two weeks on--and have come to a couple of important, even potentially constructive, realizations.

If I take the "opportunities for development" and honestly compare them to how I, deep down, feel about my own job performance, they have merit. I do have a combative attitue toward my boss. I do sometimes substitue my judgment for his. I do not get all giddy about new technology on a theoretical level: if I can't see the near-term value, I do back-burner it till it's needed.

Truthfully, as bad as it felt, it was not a bad review. It was a difficult review, but it was not a bad review. There were more positives than negatives. It's just that I'm not used to seeing those negatives at all. My boss felt compelled to provide criticism and it could not have been easy for him. Some of his reasons and reasoning may have seemed suspect or even silly to me, but he honestly felt that they were important points and, you know, he's the boss. If I were he, I would probably have expected more from me, too.

My defenses are oddly, unconsciously nimble. Without thought, I parry and deflect (and get murderously pissed off) instead of ingesting and appreciating and owning external criticism. Even when a part of me knows the criticism is justified and that I would like myself better if I found a way to accept it--maybe even actually change the undesirable behavior--I usually throw up my shield anyway and fight, fight, fight. Then I feel like a bad person, not just a person who has handled something badly. (And I haven't even talked about my unceasing, obsessive self-criticism and how that makes me even more raw and pissed off when I start getting it from outside as well, but that's perhaps a post for another day.)

I live in a world where there is very little criticism. I work in a highly privileged realm of wealthy, well-educated, competent people for whom politeness and consideration and a job well done are the norm. I am accustomed to meeting or exceeding expectations and being politely thanked for it. Minus the under-four set, my family members are generally in the same mould: considerate, supportive, non-confrontational. Occasionally, I wonder if that's part of the problem, if other people deal with criticism well because they specifically learned to deal with it as part of their daily lives. Do I need a foul-mouthed football coach to identify my weaknesses and berate me every day till I can handle criticism like a grownup--till I can actually take it constructively?

Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Expect the expected

Today I had my annual performance review. It is the worst review I have ever received, at any job, at any stage of my twenty-year career, bar none. Sitting in a windowless conference room, reviewing my boss's myriad dissatisfactions with me and trying to keep myself from Saying Something I Would Regret Later, I distracted myself rather successfully by imagining how quickly I would forget this humiliating review in the unlikely event that I was pregnant. That worked really well until, quite unambiguously, my period arrived. And I had another hour of condescending, self-esteem-pummeling review to sit through.

What a fucking day.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Let Go, Let Hog

I gave up on this cycle after the last post. The LH surge went on, and I gave up. I ate some tasty pork parts and didn't shower for a day or two. We could have continued, some day I'll probably tell myself that we should have, but it felt fundamentally unproductive. I considered it, figured the odds of success were remote at best and then enjoyed the rest of my weekend.

That, right there--that was the odd part. I enjoyed the rest of my weekend. I was glancingly irritated, I was intermittently wistful, but I was completely fine. I wrote off an entire cycle because I couldn't be arsed to have more sex with my husband; hell, I couldn't even be arsed to keep peeing on sticks to see if I ever, in fact, ovulated. My period will arrive at some wholly indeterminate point in the next few days or weeks and that will be that, and at this moment, I am fine with it.

It's so strange to me, this sanguine acceptance of my own lack of effort, my lack of control. It feels, frankly, like a drug. Why am I not pummeling myself for laziness? Why am I not berating myself for giving up on one of the dwindling cycles my tired ovaries have left? Why is my sky not falling? Why am I not acting like, you know, me.

Do other people actually live like this, full time?

I have to laugh at myself. Today, I logged back on to a site I used pre-IVF to track my cycles. Bored and a little curious, I flicked through a couple of years' charts--and, lo and behold, I spotted another cycle in which my body went all batshit with the surge, six straight days of positives. I have no recollection of it, but there it was, just the way I entered it back in 2004. So, perhaps I overreacted just a little bit, thinking that this latest one was the doom-ringing harbinger of approaching menopause. I mean, it could be, but it wasn't last time. Of course, I was 34 last time, not 40, but still...gives me a little more room for optimism.