Communication follow-up and life imbalance

I had lunch today with my client who allowed his anger to overwhelm his common sense (posted here). Once the anger and frustration faded, he recognized the error of his ways and reached out to apologize. While I accepted it on the phone and in text, I did state we needed to have another conversation about it when he returned to town. Hence our lunch today.

Ours is typically a good and productive partnership, and I am actually quite fond of  him. However, he was both professionally insulting and personally rude and offensive. It is not something I can let go of easily, and without actually talking it out, I would likely have had to terminate the alliance completely.

I am no one’s whipping girl. If he had a problem with me or the work product I have produced, it was not the forum to express it and absolutely the wrong way to discuss it. While there is a childish side of me that wanted to have my own temper tantrum and lash out, I took the higher road and wrote it all down instead. It was my only hope of remaining calm and professional.

The conversation went well, the air is a bit chilly but clear and will warm back up with some time and settling of his current problem. At the end of our meal he presented me with a couple of restaurant gift cards, equivalent to about 5 hours of my time. He knows I probably lost more sleep over his behavior than that, and he is genuinely remorseful. Not exactly sure how I feel about it, but accepted the token at face value and with polite thanks. I will give one to G and K and the other to trainer J. While M loves sushi,  he is not eating it at the present time, and I eat there frequently enough for business that I regularly get plenty of teriyaki chicken. Better to give to those who will appreciate and enjoy it.

Anger is a challenging emotion for me, in that I do not know have to relearn every time how to express it in a healthy, non-destructive manner. If I try to suppress it for too long or allow it to build layer by layer, it leaks out in snark in unguarded moments and usually with my nearest and dearest. Poor M – some of our biggest fights have been because I’m an emotional time bomb from something completely unrelated. This time, I handled it pretty well for the most part. I was clear, direct, and did not try my level best use my words to beat him into a bloody pulp for offending me so fiercely. Lest you think too kindly toward me, I really wanted to use my words to beat him into a bloody pulp and then fire his ass. M has been coaching me about how not to do that every time I bled off some steam about it since it happened.

The silver lining in all this? It magnifies that there is some work to be done to help me cope better.

It’s February 12, and I made it almost 6 weeks longer than last year before reaching out to TM for our annual appointment. While we are in touch socially and talk books and about life in general, we have not had a Professional Consultation in more than 10 months.

I am perhaps overdue.

Last year, it was all about confidence. The better health quest had officially launched a few months earlier, close friends were dropping me like I had some unpleasant contagious disease that spread via social contact, and I was struggling to simultaneously manage negative girl and cling to the insecure, fear-based lifestyle that had been part of my life for most of my life. Growing up is hard, especially when it seems to really start at 54.

This year, it seems to be more about managing emotions and stress and expressing both in a healthier manner.

Everyone has problems, issues, negative baggage and shit in their life they wish would magically resolve itself and dissipate. Work, relationships, family, friends, lifestyle, or all of the above, I don’t know a single soul that is happy about the state of their lives all of the time. Or even much of the time.

A truly crippling side effect of keeping secrets much of my adult life has been managing my emotions. Being angry – I have LOTS of anger – but how to expel it from my system without using the nuclear option on every single bridge is an ongoing life lesson. In prior work TM has taught me a lot of ways to cope with negative emotions, but I know it has been impossible for me to absorb enough of those lessons to fit every possible scenario.

So back to his office I will go, to obtain the next chapter in adultier adulting. Hopefully it will be as productive as last year’s work.

Communication and misplaced anger

I strive to be professional in my employment pursuits. I am close to many of my colleagues and very fond of my private clients, which sometimes makes it harder on me to just do the somehow negative tasks in front of me and explain or deal with the occasionally strong emotions of the other players in that slice of the business world.

A self-employment business client is caught up in a shitstorm and has been needing a lot of extra time and support from me this month. It has caused some friction and stress, because my schedule is pretty full during the first quarter of every year anyway, but unless I literally cannot carve out enough time to do the work I am reluctant to say no. Since he is a great client, typically a pleasure to work with, I have rearranged my evening and weekend work schedules and pushed through to get what he needed completed within deadlines.

Unfortunately a good outcome is not forthcoming. And that makes it harder for me to muster genuine positive energy and enthusiasm to continue to push through and do my job. I am a professional, though; I actually push harder and expend more effort in hopes of finding a better solution to resolve the problem.

This morning I gave up my sacred exercise block for a conference call (client is presently buried in snow on the other coast) and in a moment of stress and frustration his temper flared and he snapped at me about the quality of my recent efforts for him. Professionally and intellectually, I understand he is frustrated, unhappy, and under stress with the issues he is facing. The comment was an emotional outburst and not meant to be taken personally. However, words matter. Personally and emotionally – someone says in very plainly that I am doing a “shit-worthless job for them” in the matter at hand, it is nearly impossible for me not to take it personally. I was very much taken aback by his vitriol, particularly as it was not a one-on-one interaction, and while he has since apologized in text (after we hung up I had to run through the shower and get ready for my day job so did not answer the telephone when he called me back), my reply was neutral. I know further discussion is warranted – he lost his cool and said things that felt far more like a personal attack than disappointment or distress with my work product. Unfortunately now is not the time; he has far too much on his plate and it is not a conversation I wish to have by phone.

Sometimes I wonder if I am tough enough to be self-employed and to take the flak that occasionally flies from an executive’s mouth. My emotional response made me glad we were not sitting in the same room, because it is far easier to maintain my composure and rein in my own temper being alone in my office. Once the call ended, though, I had the angry cry and the raging inside my head of how dare he treat me so poorly.

Cooler heads do prevail. I know he knows his show of temper was inappropriate and directed at the wrong person. I also know I will overcome it. But I have learned (the hard way) that to allow this sort of disrespect toward me even once sets a bad precedent for future interactions, so we need to have a calm, grown-up discussion about what he said, how I received it, and why it should not happen again, particularly when it is a meeting with other people. If that conversation does not proceed as I hope, then our professional association will have to end. I know it is a luxury to not having to tolerate being disrespected or abused by someone paying for my services, and I know I am fortunate to be able to cut ties and not be stressed about income and paying bills.

But I hate when my days start like that. Possibly why I would rather be at the gym, presently my happier space. Something to look forward to tonight, even if the tradeoff is being in the club at an unusual, potentially busier time of day. I will make it work. Plus M is cooking tonight, so one less thing to think about.

Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

My life has indirectly been touched by the issues dividing our country. Trainer J is a Berkeley grad and close friends of his were physically assaulted in the February 1 melee on campus. Listening to an interview J’s friend’s gave on what happened to them, I am so saddened and so struck by the very personal nature of the story and upset by the continuing narrative.

I am not a terribly political person. I tried to write about it yesterday and failed. The anxiety and fear surrounding the divisiveness in our world right now makes me hesitant to even relate the story here in my own blog.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead. To thine own self be true.

In truth, I am truly appalled, disgusted, and angry about what has happened, yet not at all surprised. I live in California, within a reasonable driving distance of Berkeley and San Francisco, accurate hotbeds and depictions of the liberal and progressive thinking that has dominated the federal government the last 8 years and continues to dominate the governing authorities of California. My little townie suburb is the epitome of the flyover states; referring to it as a redneck hicksville is not far off the mark.

Like most others I know and speak to routinely, we are struck by how those whose lips move and present sincere-sounding platitudes of tolerance are so gravely intolerant. Living in this state my entire life, I understand how desensitized and business as usual such behavior seems to me. Except now it has indirectly hit home for me. Someone I care about has close personal friends, practically family, and they were assaulted, beaten, because they wanted to attend a lecture by a man whose views the UCB campus roundly and publicly condemn. It hits far too close to home and for my comfort. I want my home state to be better than that. I want people to be better than that.

But I’m a realist, and I understand that the extremes of both sides of any argument get the most attention, make the biggest splash, and strongest impressions. Unfortunately it also makes more acceptable and allows people to show little or no restraint when it comes to their emotions.

Except for those of us trying to maintain boundaries of restraint, common sense, and civility toward one another. I know what happened in Berkeley is simply par for the course in the day and age we are living in, but it’s still very hard to swallow.

Yesterday while I was driving to the gym, a truck ran a red light near my home and made a left turn into the intersection I was traveling through. I saw him in plenty of time and was able to drive around without incident. However, he followed and drew up alongside me as I was making a left turn, and then made an illegal left turn alongside of me, then proceeded to match speed with me as we traveled another couple of blocks. I slowed down, he slowed down. I speeded up, he sped up to match and stay right next to me. When I looked over, he was making faces and flipping me off. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began taking photos of him. While driving. As the flash goes off, the truck sped up and away from me.

It struck me at the time that in the civility war, common sense and restraint are losing. In the quest to be right, to WIN the arguments at any and all costs trumps all. Intimidation, violence, and falsehoods are the norm these days. An impartial press? Not for a very long time. Social media is a powerful influence; everyone has a voice. Even those of who blog about our quiet little lives have our space to share our thoughts and express our opinions.

Thing is, thoughts and news shared via blogs is not unbiased reporting of facts and events. Same is true of Facebook and other social media platforms. And equally unfortunate, great swathes of our population cannot tell the difference between the hysterical “sky is falling” screeching and the impartial dissemination of information and reporting of events.

I used to think, to have hope, that my children and future generations would go to college and learn to think more analytically, more rationally, be smarter and brighter and better than me. I had this hope for a cycle of continuous improvement, that they would be better, smarter, kinder than those I know and grew up with. The years pass and I lose a little of my shining hope that the world will be better place when I leave it.

What I see now from my window is how my peers have made mistakes and missteps, how overindulging and smoothing the pathway of growing up has resulted in this paralyzing fear of making mistakes and loss of entrepreneurial independence has been stifled. And that’s what I see – homogenization and attempts to reshape everyone so we all look alike, think alike, and act alike. Is there safety in numbers? Cries of diversity seem to contradict the slow, steady, march to be a somehow kinder and gentler people by government decree and enforced by government authority.

I am not a political person. I respect reasonable people and any differences in opinions. But violence and intimidation have crossed paths with me. And I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate having my right to drive to the gym impeded or people harmed for sport.

Even here on my own blog, I stepped back and away for month because of an unpublished troll who was unrelenting. Before today, what I talked about was routine reporting on my life and times. It’s not harsh or harmful to anyone else. Peace, balance, life is hard. It’s unfair. There is no regulating fairness. Or making people behave appropriately and try to be better, kinder, and gentler versions of themselves.

I’m back!

I had not intended to stay out of sight quite so long, but life happened and time the days slipped away from me. While I have been keeping up with my better health posts on the new blog, I have been trying to scrape off a few trolls and do some housekeeping over here. Still not 100% convinced all is well, but we shall see how it goes.

While I was away, our front yard landscaping was completed.

Our neighbors probably think we are tree haters, but in truth we do not enjoy plants and things that require a lot of maintenance. We do not spend a great deal of time out in the front yard, so we told our landscape designer we wanted something without any plants. As it was we ended up with far more big rocks than I imagined, and the flagstones were a last-minute decision as well, but we are delighted with the way it turned out. This does not mean we won’t change our minds in the future and remove the white dolomite in favor of the salt and pepper that makes up the riverbed.

We do have a large granite bolder near the front that has what appear to be places to set a potted plant or something else. I keep having visions of setting up a GI Joe doll in climbing gear as if freehand climbing up one of its faces. Or some realistic mountain goat or bear figures standing on top the rocks surveying their kingdoms.

Other than the yard, things are good. Very busy with work-work and trying to get things done around the house. If I could just ship M off for a month or 2 and erase his memory I could have this place ship-shape and our possessions dramatically reduced. But since we both live here and want to stay happily married, we negotiate. But me having more minimalist tendencies and he more “I might need this” type frame of reference, it’s hard. Probably a life long work-in-progress.

But the yard is done and looks nice to our eyes. That’s the important thing.

Hope you are all doing well out there!

Welcome 2017

When discussing the weather, everything is relative to what you know, what you are accustomed to enjoying or enduring. Growing up in northern California, anything below 50 degrees feels wintery to me. Today was particularly wintery, as there was quite a bit of moisture in the air, the wind was blowing, and I was outside much of the morning standing around handing out drinks and such to runner people. The annual new year’s day fun run that bunches of M’s friends do – I helped out a bit this year and about froze off the better butt I am in the process of building. Despite being bundled up, it was still very cold out there. I regretted not going for the hot yoga class instead for the warm, sweaty and grossness of it all.

Been a pretty quiet, uneventful day around here. With the front lawn remodel M has been doing a lot of laborer type work, and he has a back spasm going on right now that is truly ugly to watch when it happens. Because of that, he’s been lying on a heating pad much of the afternoon (we met G and K for brunch food after the fun run) and I have been doing a freezers and pantry inventory and purge. Oh my, 11.5 months of discipline out the door the last couple of weeks. I know I ate more junk, more sugar, more awful crap food the last 2 weeks than I have all year. Detox officially begins tomorrow, but I was tossing crap left and right this afternoon. I do not even feel guilty for the food waste.

Other than a final short at-the-office work week, things are going to get a bit hairy this month. I’m returning a full-time 36-hour base schedule at the firm (versus my present 30 hours week). How I get my hours done is actually irrelevant to my bosses; I am in and out so much of the time during my work-from-home days and on the weekends they know I typically work more than 40 hours per week as it is. Big difference when I am feeling on the hook for a 9 hour day versus have a lot of play and flex for 30 hours in 4 days, but that’s all in my head. Most likely little will change, other than my hyper-responsible self wanting tracking my schedule and hours more carefully at first.

I have a busy month for self-employment clients as well and a lot of work on my plate. But oh well – at least January and its particular set of deadlines and headaches only occurs once a year.

This sounds mildly terrible, but I’m really glad the holidays are over. I don’t know that I have another holiday day until May, but that’s okay. I am actually looking forward to getting back on track with a regular, predictable schedule of work and such and not having so much socializing and go-go-go on deck and on my mind all the time.

Normal life. I look forward to its return every January.

Rocks, cars, year-end brain dump

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I actually feel on the verge of feeling crappy. I know that sounds sort of vague and mysterious, but I have felt “off” since last night with a stomach ache that is not going away yet not getting worse. Bad food was my first choice, because M and I ate a quick fast-food-like dinner last night (Noodles and Company) while out doing a zoom-zoom-zoom through landscape places. Landscape designer (and M’s best friend) REALLY wants us to consider at least a tree in the front yard, despite M telling him repeatedly that he’s doubtful I will go for such an idea (yep, still resisting it). However, when M brought it up, I did thaw ever so slightly on the idea and suggested maybe the lace leaf maple M is so fond of? Except (1) it will likely die because of our black thumbs and general negligence, and (2) lace leaf maples would not occur naturally in the simulated granite forest we are created. My good natured “So? Who the f–k cares? This is our rendition completely not based in reality,” was agreeable to M, but he/we are sensitive to our friend’s talent and business. We don’t want to be THAT friend and client.

So we went to the landscape superstore to examine tree possibilities. Hated all of them. No way do I want something in my yard that has to be groomed to look like cake pops or columnar swirls – as if either of those things occurred naturally in the wild. In the end I caved and agreed on some pretty ground cover that occurs naturally in our mountains and will not spread and overtake the entire front space, grow too tall and need to be trimmed every 3 weeks, and not require sprinklers or drip system to keep alive. We shall see what landscape bestie says on Monday.

Anyway, something is not agreeable with my virtually cast-iron stomach. Mildly nauseated, low energy, sort of yuck. But I thought the gym might make me feel better, and for the most part it did. I say it that way because for as empty as it was, every single machine was occupied and no fluffy cuffies were deployed. Frustrating, and I was not in the mood to negotiate or wait them out. So abandoned the rest of my lower body List and finished up with my dumbbell matrix. Now just feeling general malaise and like I’m trying to become ill. Yuck. So not the way I want to end 2016 or start 2017.

Yesterday, the rocks in my head became the rocks in my yard.

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12/30/2016 – We have rocks! Granite boulders delivered and placed.

Yep the granite boulders were delivered. Took them 2 hours to place them just-so, as the rock place owner is an artist and has an artist’s temperament with rock placement. Still, the yard is truly starting to take shape.

 

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12/30/2016 – Retaining wall. One more row of stones and capstone to add.

Monday the rest of the retaining wall stones will be delivered, and M and I are going to a couple of landscape places to check out their decomposed granite and such today. I know, I know – such an enthralling life I am leading today. Honestly, I don’t much care if the decomposed granite is light gray or reddish gray, but M wants what he wants (lightest gray possible) and would like to know in advance so as to adjust his expectations.

I will mostly be happy when the dirt is no longer being tracked everywhere the way it is right this minute.

But after 2 years of waiting, our front yard will finally look like we have done something to make it attractive. I am delighted with the way things are progressing, and even if I do relent and we get the tree, I will insist upon nice decorative rock at its base. Our expensive tastes already have it selected for this application if it comes to that, because it will be a small enough area to justify the cost.

I was putting fuel into my car this morning and contemplating the filthbomb it inside right now when a brand new version pulled up on the other side of the pump. I drive a 2013 Rav4, and after 3+ years it has just over 30K on the odometer. This is essentially less than 10K mile per year, and M and I have tentatively agreed that we keep it at least another 3 or 4 years before deciding whether or not to upgrade or get something else.

Temptation is everywhere, though, and while admiring it’s 2017 twin, I was idly thinking maybe we should advance our timetable, upgrade sooner. This is the terrible accountant in me coming to the surface, because my car is practically brand new, extremely reliable, and the present level of filth bomb interior will be restored to its usual clean and tidy state with a vacuum (yard dirt is everywhere even though Rav lives in the garage) and a dust rag. M’s car is approaching 200K on the odometer and is our primary go vehicle, so our dollars are better spent ensuring it continues to enjoy its present level of robust good order. I don’t know what it is about a brand new car; perhaps I am influenced by the new car smell? A good interior scrub, having M hand wash and detail the exterior and I’ll be over the moon again abut my car. But for a few moments I was dreaming of bright and shiny objects I do not really want. I am far more comforted by the replacement car cash building and driving our paid-for vehicles.

And in all fairness, I’m not 100% sure I want another SUV when the time comes. M will always have an AWD/4WD SUV because of his hobbies and places he goes. Me, my next car could be a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Or a Rav with a bigger, more powerful engine. Things may change with environmental regulations under the Trump administration, so probably best to wait and see what happens with cars on our present planned trajectory.

M and I have been discussing our plans and projects for 2017, and this may be the year when we do not have a big home improvement. The deck last spring and the front landscaping now pretty much leave us wanting to let things settle a bit before we decide on what to do next. This year was so busy, hectic, crazy with both kids getting married and then C moving to Florida, so we may need to revisit our plans and priorities for the new year. Definitely we will want to go to Florida to visit C and A, but when is in question right now. Summer does not appeal to me in the slightest, G and K would also like to go, but they have a destination wedding in Mexico in March, so it does seem more prudent to let some time pas and savings build for them to join us. I like the idea of October, but M kind of wants to go to Portland and visit our friends up north and support them in an ultra race. He may also go to Colorado to support his bestie at Leadville, and while he would love for me to go as well, I’m not that excited about the idea. The primary reason I like the Portland event is that a lot of our runner friends up in that group have non-running spouses that I genuinely enjoy hanging with. We shall see.

Work continues to be an evolving adventure. While a bunch of my tiny self-employment clients have found other accountants to help them, I did pick up 2 new regular clients that I could not turn away. When one of my existing long-term private clients refers someone to me I always say yes, no matter what. I doubt I will regret these addition, although I feel mildly intimidated by the volume of catch-up that must be done and the challenges of working and educating them to avoid such mishaps into the future.

Sometimes it seems the biggest disconnect that M and I suffer is the fact that he is essentially retired and I feel as if I am only just now cresting my peak working years. While I have zero resentment about being the breadwinner in our relationship, he feels some hesitation to pursue his hobbies and interests when larger cash outlaws are involved. I’m grateful for our baseline communication, where we can talk about things honestly and openly and figure out whether or not we can make things happen. That he might travel without me is of no consequence; if I really wanted to go I would make it happen. Fact is I truly love the work I do and it satisfying the little slave-driver within that keeps pushing to do more, more more, as well as the organizer who wants to find balance and manage the time I have available.

My hope for the new year that the quest for balance continues to evolve into a life that satisfies my needs as well as fulfills more of my wants. In 2016 I came face to face with the idea that success in personal development is not just a fluke or something that happens to the gifted and the blessed. Persistence, hard work, discipline have their place, and surprisingly, I am capable to stepping up when it matters. Perhaps I always have been capable, yet not quite ready to embrace and accept that it happens even when not gifted or blessed with any special talents.

The desire to learn and challenge myself in new ways sparks joy in unique and exciting ways, and pursuing the various tendrils of new and evolving interests is invigorating. Either commingling that with my jobs or finding time to prioritize my pursuit is part of what makes my life interesting. I am, at heart, a very simple soul.

I do love the beginning of a new year. If I view every month as a chapter in my personal book, I see a year as a volume in my book of life. I am always excited about new beginnings, fresh starts, resets. For me, 2016 was an absolutely amazing and wonderful year. The plan is to continue to build on that, and with the zeal of the born again, I plan to make it happen.

Happy new year, everyone! Please be safe tonight.