Sunday, June 21, 2009

Assertiveness training (if that's ok with you)

"I'm doing stress management and assertiveness training next week. A corporate gig."
My sister nearly choked on her soup.
"You? Assertiveness? What did they say? Hey - you're going to do this assertiveness training next week. Without pay. And you just nodded, ok, sure.... right?"

Um. Something like that. No. I am getting paid. Really. Just that, they sold it as an assertiveness course but its not geared for that. Its a stress course. So please just - make it into an assertiveness course, whatever, just, you know, throw in a couple of extra exercises...
Er, ok. Sure, Whatever you say.

Stress management, me?
She who has been eating her lunch at 4 pm because she forgot/ didn't have time/was rushing out the house and left the lunchbox on the washing machine...
Driving and putting on lipstick in the rearview mirror because she's late but she just can't arrive looking like, well, like that.
That funny feeling of - whats that brushing up against my earlobe? Oh, its my shoulder.

Yeah. Right.
But it was fun.
Me and nine stressed employees in a training room. I made them dance, I made them meditate, I made them breathe, I made them look at the deep beliefs underlying their stressors.

It's always the same with those corporate gigs. I gird myself for a long drudge of hard work. The ennui of powerpoint and melamine desks and carpeted rooms with canned air and poor coffee. But inevitably, you get to play with an interesting bunch of real South African DNA. On this gig, there was the poor-me desperately unassertive pet-lover, grappling with big family issues. There was the balding SA version of Ricky Gervais who made sweeping comments, old South Africa style about Zulus being a war-like nation (this was somehow a stressor for him, I didn't quite get why). There was the giggly make-a-joke-out-of-everything woman who is traumatised by Joburg crime and has a desperate need to control her environment and all the people in it. The shy first-born in a family of 9 siblings (father has two wives) who feels burdened by the need to bring his dispersed family together. The just-out-of-varsity bright young thing who is just biding her time in this job. The hardened credit-controller who thinks she has no issues with assertiveness, its everyone around her who has the problem.

I love these courses. They are exhausting. But there's something very rewarding about working with the raw matter of peoples' problems, stresses and organisational miscomforts. And trying to release some of that stuff, and forge new pathways. A two day course is a pathetic amount of time to do this, of course, and next time, I'll politely say that I think it might be better if they tailor the course towards proper assertiveness exercises, instead of asking us to make the shoe fit, magically. If that's ok with them, of course.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Out of Office Autoreplies

My dear friend JC (you know who you are) recently introduced me to McSweeneys, that fantastic writing project/community, with their breathstopping beautiful periodical books. Where have they been all my life? In their own words,

"McSweeney's Quarterly Concern publishes on a roughly quarterly schedule, and we try to make each issue very different from the last. One issue came in a box, one was Icelandic, and one looks like a pile of mail. In all, we give you groundbreaking fiction and much more."

Straying from my task of hammering out a script ( I loathe writing to deadline it makes me cross and rebellious), I wandered onto the site and found these out of office autoreplies. by Jim Stallard.

I love them. And what a cunning and elegant way to disappear for a while, which is precisely where my fantasies have been this morning.

Let's see...
I will be at my desk from 5pm until 6pm daily, while you are stuck in traffic.

I will be out of the office until September when the weather improves. Please direct urgent enquiries to my therapist.

Students, I will not be responding to any more emails this month. I have already invoiced for the hours we spent together.

I will be out of the office indefinately until I become a successful fiction writer.

I have forsworn email, blogging, twittering and facebooking until further notice. Its a bet I have with my husband and a lot of money is at stake. Please don't tempt me.

I will be spending this week at the bottom of a well in the hope it makes me as good a writer as Murakami. You may send small folded paper aeroplanes down but please only do it at midday. Food parcels also welcome.

I will be by the bear cage at Joburg zoo for the remainder of this week. No sudden movements.

What's your out of office autoreply this week?