Bloody Work!

According to my strapline, Squatting Toad provides inspiration and podcasts for people who create in their spare time. And it does. But what if you don’t have spare time? What if your work is so stressful, you’re too worn out at the end of the day even to watch rubbish telly, let alone create anything? As far too many of us know, this happens.

In my last podcast, my interviewee Angharad, made reference to having to put her love of amateur theatre to one side when she had a stressful job. Of all the things we talked about, this haunted me the most. It was just a single comment, almost an aside, but I keep coming back to it in my head. It is why, after all, I started Squatting Toad. I had a stressful job until recently (happily I don’t now and neither does Angharad) and felt bereft as I watched people around me pursue hobbies and make things and do things, whilst I was Googling ‘funny cat videos’ and eating cake.

Now, ‘stress’, when it comes to work, can mean different things. Maybe you work in the kind of profession where any hint of weakness or inadequacy can mean a fast track to car park with a cardboard box full of your desk knick knacks.( Actually, I doubt many City bankers are reading this, but let’s suppose.) Maybe your work is so boring and repetitive and that very lack of stimulation is causing anxiety. Chronic boredom can close down your brain to new and fun ideas, as well as leaving plenty of space for full-on guilt about earning money for, well, nothing.

Mostly, let’s be frank, what causes work stress is other people. Bullying and/ or incompetent bosses head the list. Lord knows, I’ve been there and it hurts. I mean, really hurts to the point where you start to believe you have even no right to enjoy the very things outside of the working day that make life a bit more tolerable. The ‘Sunday Dread’ you feel before the start of each working work kicks in earlier and earlier to the point where Saturday’s breakfast is a depression-riddled write-off. Oh, yes.

I find now that I don’t suffer from the dread, anxiety and misery and I can look back on these times a tad more dispassionately, what is welling up now is anger. I’m angry that I still know people going to work, living the misery, and just about keeping their heads above water. And it needs to stop. Now!

Much has been written about how organisations can improve and make their workers happier and more engaged. Not a lot of what’s written, at least nothing I’ve read yet (and I’m reading a lot about this), tackles the most basic of human needs. By that I mean, respect and kindness. Why does your horrible boss think it’s remiss of him to show these basic courtesies that we are all entitled to? In most cases, it’s because he’s afraid of looking weak. And yes, sorry, I do mostly mean ‘him’, not ‘her’. This need to be ‘in charge’ and be ‘the boss of you’ and make you unhappy in the process conjures up the schoolyard of old and the bullies who nicked your sweets and made you cry. In no other field of adult life, except work, is such behaviour tolerated on such a huge scale.

Nobody, but nobody, neither the CEO or the receptionist, has the right to tote their own emotional baggage into the workplace and use it to corrode the well-being of others.

So, what can we do? Well, I, for one, am going to write about it. It’s a small contribution, but this needs to be out in the open. Why? Because we all need to feel respected and valuable for one thing, and because I want my experience to count for something. Write what you know, they say. I know that work isn’t working like it should, because I’ve lived it. It’s not just me. If you are happy in your job, living without stress, just ask around. You’ll soon see it’s not just me.

All these years in the workplace, all this reading and research I’m doing. It’s opening up something fascinating and, I hope, redemptive, for me and others.

Come on, if we’re not happy, how can we create? And that brings me full circle to what Squatting Toad is here for.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Watch out for posts and podcasts on this very topic, always with an eye to creativity, but also a meditation on work, which takes up so much of our lives and our energy.

In the meantime, do have a listen to my last podcast, if you haven’t already. Why not take up amateur theatre, if you need an outlet? Or listen to previous episodes about all kinds of creative endeavours from music to crafting.



Mel X


The ‘Lament’ of the Stressed Out Worker

‘If only I wasn’t so stressed, I could be so happy.’ Sound familiar? Even when you count your blessings, there’s always a ‘but..’.

I try a lot of things to de-stress, but there’s little that has the power of music. As I settled down to write this, my background listening was the old Scottish folk song ‘MacCrimmon’s Lament’. Truly beautiful. A little mournful, perhaps, as MacCrimmon died in the Jacobite uprising. If I have one regret in life, it’s that I can’t play a musical instrument. I have a gut feeling I’d be quite good, but play more with my heart than my head. Technical prowess would be forgotten in the moment, a bit like when I was ballroom dancing as a child. All pouting features and wavy arms but no footwork. So I listen, I consume.

For the podcast, I interviewed a friend of mine last week. She holds down a full-time job, but spends hours of each day crafting and making. She was very clear that it relieved stress and made her happy. No mere consumer, Emma. You can see and even buy some of her work here:

How do we create the virtuous circle that makes us happy enough not to be stressed, so we can do the things that make us happy?  We’ve just got to push through and make those changes. Right now, apart from being busy getting the podcast ready, I am really working on making life changes. And that in itself can be stressful, but with the potential for great rewards.

Do read fellow blogger, Patti Clark’s, latest post:

Of course we know that being happy is good for you, but the research quoted here shows just how detrimental unhappiness can be.  Now I’m stressed thinking about that! No, seriously, it’s really inspiring.

So, what can we do? Consuming culture is a good place to start. Music lifts the soul. Art can do that too. Even a good bit of telly. But Squatting Toad is about being creative, so let’s create. You’ll hear more from Emma in a podcast soon. But let me know what you’re up to, what’s taking the stress away, and what’s making you happy.

In the meantime, a couple of tunes for you. The aforementioned MacCrimmon’s Lament

And one that really does lift my spirit

Enjoy and stay happy and creative.