18 October 2002
It's a good thing we're taking off for the Shakespeare festival in Ashland (Oregon)
This has been a very difficult week and by noon today, I was realizing that I was in
danger of serious burnout. In truth, it's been developing and I'm not quite sure what I'm
going to do about it.
"Overinvolvement" has been my middle name for my entire life. Maybe it's time
to sit back and assess how much involvement a soon-to-be-60 year old can handle.
The burnout is manifesting itself right at this very minute because I'm sitting here
writing a journal entry while there is a stack of work staring at me. I fully intended to
come right home from work and plunge into it, get it all finished before we leave
tomorrow. But I've been home for an hour and haven't done a lick of work. I have, however,
played a couple of games of Free Cell, fixed a snack, watched Dr. Phil (in the
background--I wasn't even interested in it), read e-mail, caught up on Steve's discussion
board, and am now writing tonight's journal entry.
What needs to be done before we leave? Well, the psychiatrist went out of town this
week (which took the pressure off of his work for 2 days) but he will be back tonight and
I have 3 tapes of his, which he is definitely not pressuring me to do, but which I know
I've had for a week--and he'll have more next week. I did an interview with a friend last
night for an article that has to be written and submitted to the newspaper before we leave
for Ashland. And Dr. G rushed through his dictation so he could be sure to give me his
tape for this week before I left--and I still haven't finished last week's tape
(heck, I haven't even STARTED it!). So there are two tapes of his which need to be
Taking stock, that is 5 tapes to be transcribed (6 if you count the tape I made during
the interview) and an article to be written.
And I'm sitting here writing a journal entry.
I've always said that I work best under pressure. That has been my modus operandi
throughout my life. Tell me to get it to you "whenever is convenient" and I'll
put it off for weeks. Say "I must have this in an hour" and I'll get it for you
in 30 minutes.
Somehow in the last few months, I'm not able to do that. I sit here at 9 p.m. and I
start feeling sleepy so I decide to sleep until 4 a.m. and then get up and work. In the
past that has worked too, but now I get the sleep and get up, listen to those
voices and just can't settle down. I pace the floor. I find other things to do. I
just. can't. do. it.
As I type this, I think that the problem isn't the work per seit's the voices.
I've listened to the psychiatrist's voice for more than 20 years. He dictates clearly. But
he rambles. He stumbles. He changes his mind. I fix a lot of stuff for him because I can
do it in my sleep. His voice drones on and off into oblivion. The phone on his desk rings
and jolts me out of my seat. It goes on and on and on. The dictation equivalent of the
Chinese water torture.
And then there is Dr. G. My part time job (4 days a week, 4-5 hours a day) has grown
into an expected 5 days a week, and averaging 6-9 hours a day without a break. Dr.
G piling on the work. Cleaning his desk by giving me stacks of work, then calling me back
to help with a patient and then complaining because my desk is so messy. I spend 1/4 of my
time just trying to keep the desk neat so it won't offend him (I never succeed). He never
gets angry. He just makes comments. (It was delightful to go visit the office
manager of the gyn office where he works on Fridays and discover that her office makes my
desk look neat and tidy!)
To leave that and come home to his dictation--more of that voice--is just starting to
get to me. This may perhaps improve when he gets voice activation software so he can
do his own notes and eliminate the middle man (and paying the middle man--me--contract
prices). But I suspect he offended the folks who were demonstrating the system because
I've contacted them twice with an offer to buy the system and they are stubbornly refusing
People tell me -- "quit. Just quit."
I wish it were that easy. Oh it's that easy in theory. I'm sure the psychiatrist could
find someone else, but there's that pride thing in the back of my head. I've done this
work for him for twenty years and the thought of having someone else doing it kind
of causes a little pang. I want him to retire. I don't want to give his work up! (I
am a bundle of contradictions)
As for Dr. G, I could probably give up his transcription and it's just damned stubborn
pride that prevents me from saying "I just can't do this. I can't do it all."
So if I'm suffering burnout, it's my own damn fault. I have options. I have choices. I
sit down here and struggle with trying to force myself to put on those damn earphones, and
plug in the damn malfunctioning transcription unit (that's another biggie--it's not
operating properly and every time my foot slips off the foot pedal, it backs up two
sentences worth, so for every dictation I do, I have to listen to it a bazillion times
more than I need to--and definitely a bazillion times more than I want to). And
each time I do it, I make the choice to continue doing these after-work jobs for another
But I sure would like some night to just come home and not do a bloody thing except
maybe cook dinner and maybe watch a little TV before going to sleep. I can't remember the
last time I did that (or at least the last time I was able to do that with a clear
conscience because all the work was actually caught up).
OK. Diatribe over. Now it's time to put on those damn earphones and plug in the damn
malfunctioning transcription unit so I can go to Ashland with at least a somewhat clear
conscience. Any bets?