I never wanted any more than
I could fit into my head I still remember
Every single word you said and all the
Shit that somehow came along with it
Still there's one thing that comforts me
Since I was always caged and now I'm free “
-From “Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters
I admit I am jealous. I wish I could sing that passage at full volume in one breath like Dave Grohl (at least, it sounds like he does it one breath) but I cannot. I always have to take at least two, sometimes three intermediate breaths, especially in order to carry out that last screaming sentence. This sounds great in my car. I hope I haven’t disturbed any of my fellow commuters with my cathartic performances.
The song itself took on new meaning for me since I looked up the lyrics a few months ago, on THIS LINK from the Foo Fighters website. I thought I knew most of the words, and I did, but what really got my attention was the little explanation from Dave Grohl, up near the masthead. When you listen to “Monkey Wrench”, it soon becomes apparent what is meant. He doesn’t want to be a problem for someone else. When I read the explanation, though, it presented a nuance I had not previously picked up: to cease to be a problem means to end that relationship in which one is the source of the problem. The song is about relationship between individuals, but could easily be applied to groups, or even a relationship with oneself.
Twisted, no? It came to mind this past week as I was ruminating (cursing and screaming) on having been laid off from my job. Why is that? Because whenever something has gone wrong in my working life, especially this extreme, I never really stopped to consider the consequences of my own behaviors. In the past, my own ego was getting in the way, obscuring the real events before my eyes and the feelings in my own heart. My first bout of unemployment years ago was triggered by similar events as the current crisis. But at the time I gave no mind to own behaviors prior to the layoff. It was not until years later that it hit me that maybe I had been too cavalier in my approach to building a career. I suppose there were things I could have done, hours I could have spent, that would have made me less of a target come layoff time. This was my Ego blinding me; I thought I was gold-plated and bulletproof. When I got laid off, it was THEIR problem, a mistake that THEY would realize after I was gone, suckas!
In short, I was a foolish young man. It continued, for years and years. I made three job changes voluntarily in the span of about sixteen years, each time after slowly increasing unhappiness that I believed to be the result of circumstances entirely external to myself. Ha. What a fool I was. Tricked by my own ego.
So it was with my last (lost) job. This time it was different, and I knew it. Since the death of my first two children in 2003, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my own head, trying to figure out what really makes me tick. In that time I slowly came to understand the reasons behind my unhappiness: I kept taking jobs that repeated the mistakes I was making. This time, I knew in my heart that what I was doing (project manager) was not what I was suited to do. But I did it anyway, for the money, for the security, for the sake of justifying my degree.
Too bad I wasn’t doing something that also made me happy. I had the epiphany earlier this year that I was indeed very unhappy, and it showed. It affected my performance, in ways subtle and far-reaching, and not nearly as invisible as I convinced myself they were. The people around me knew it as well. Most of them were too nice (or maybe too polite) to confront me directly, and thick-headed as I was (my nickname as a baby was ‘The Bull’) I knew but didn’t acknowledge the fallout. There were times where I was probably not as discreet as I should have been, and I am not so naïve as to think that had nothing to do with me getting the pink slip. Was it the primary or sole reason? No. The economics of the situation say otherwise. I’ll take some cold comfort there.
But I do know this: I was becoming, perhaps had always been, my own personal monkey wrench. My heart and my subconscious were acting out, because my conscious mind was blinded by ego and an inability to admit that mistakes had been made. Thus, this layoff I take to be a sign. It is time to start making the tool work for me, instead of being worked by the tool.
“Don't want to be your monkey wrench
One more indecent accident
I'd rather leave than suffer this
I'll never be your monkey wrench”
Well said, Dave Grohl. Ha! The Foo Fighters helped me see the light!