Friday, March 12, 2010

A new skill

I recently finished watching the entire run of Alias on DVD.  Naturally, I now want to be Sydney Bristow, if only because Michael Vaughn is HOT. 

My dad used to say I should combine my love of acting and international relations and join the CIA.  I would laugh and tell him that there's a difference between acting on stage and acting for my life.  But I always wondered about the ability to shut off one part of your life and replace it with another.  In Alias, they called this "compartmentalizing."

Yes, I know Alias is not real.  But, according to Master Internet, "compartmentalizing" is a real skill that is taught to people with dangerous jobs; it allows them to set their emotions aside to focus on the task at hand.

My job is not dangerous.  I work in the arts.  We don't fight wars, make vaccines, feed people, or provide shelter.  And our work isn't rocket science; at least not in the "if I make a mistake I could blow someone up" kind of way.

My job is, however, fast-paced.  In the dictionary under "multi-tasking", there's a picture of anyone in my profession.  We tend to do a great many things, with our Modus Operendi consisting of hundreds of emails a day, lots of collaboration, committees and soul-searching, and the occasional burst of creative frenzy thrown in to keep things interesting.  

Recently, my job has been testing my mettle. But the last three days have reached a new level of intensity.  And in the middle of it, I suddenly stunned myself by choosing, quite calmly, to shut off the side of my brain that was incessantly churning over a problem I couldn't solve.  I realized that the problem would be there when I came back to it.  And I knew the next moment, the next conversation, was important.  So I just shut it off and moved on.  It was a completely liberating experience. 

I have no scientific idea why it happened.  A mental survival mechanism?  Perhaps. I'm not going to analyze why it happened, but choose to be glad it did.  And I'm going to hold fast to the belief that I can keep doing it, and be healthier and happier because of it. 

I'm not ready to go under deep cover in the East European mafia or anything, but I do have a sense that I might make it through the next few months with my sanity intact.  That's something.

Now if I could just score a really hot and sympathetic "handler" who whisks me off to distant lands and whispers into my earpiece while I'm in marketing meetings, life would be just about perfect.

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