Hello again

I have been MIA – again. While I have been pretty busy – because we’re all pretty busy – it’s essentially a lame excuse.

My focus of late has been on my better health, getting my big girl capris out of their twist and bitch-slapping myself back to reality. I’m doing fine. I’m not slacking. I’m not faltering, failing, fucking up. I’m locking down my negative girl and letting reality seep in … which is that things are good and the sky is still up there above me.

It is August and the grand plan has been to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Florida. M and I were thinking after Thanksgiving, but G and K have commitments that make that just about impossible. Since we have the more flexible schedule, we are now looking at the week between Christmas and New Years. K has the week off at her new job, and it’s either insanely busy or completely dead for me. This year, I’m inclined to work it out so it is mostly completely dead.

Next problem is that C and A both have to work that week – it’s kind of a no vacation period for them. From my perspective, it will be fine. Unfortunately, this is where the first big hurdle in family dynamics comes into play: managing expectations.

Between air fare and lodging – it’s going to be expensive. Add in attractions like Disneyworld or Universal Studios – it’s going to be ridiculously expensive. M and I will likely get a rental car, which I will build into the budget. And meals out, etc. – cheap and/or economical is not going to be part of that equation.

I am extremely sensitive to it. We have (mostly) agreed we’re not doing Christmas gift exchanges this year in lieu of the trip. I am withholding my consent for us because we are able to contribute cash toward the trip or whatever else they wish to use it for and call it a Christmas gift.

Then there is the concept of together time. This one is trickier.

For us, if M wants to spend 4 days visiting all 4 Disney parks I’ll suck it up and deal. Timing is imperfect – I am envisioning zillions of people and very long lines everywhere we go – but I do this because M really wants to and I want him to be happy. C and A have annual passes and are happy to spend their days off with us visiting Mouseland. While I know G enjoys theme parks, between the crowds and the waiting and it not really being K’s thing, they have maybe 2 days if we’re lucky.

We are perfectly fine with that. K has 4 very close friends who live in the area and of course she wants to see/spend time with all of them, and the rest of us strongly encourage that. Instead of spending money not having a very pleasant time with us, she and G should accept her friends’ offer of hosting them for several days and perhaps rent a car to meet up with us in Tampa once M has gotten his fill of theme parks in Orlando. C and A will also be back at work and their time is going to be limited to meals out with us during our stay, so we will have to find activities to amuse ourselves. This is a huge part of the tradeoffs that come with planning a trip around the holidays.

I am actually not sure K sees it precisely that way, and there will have to be a lot more conversation and communication about plans as we move forward. In my mind we are all going to be on vacation, except for C and A, who unfortunately have to work, But any time we can spend all together will be irreplaceable and should be celebrated.

This is our first foray into a joint family vacation, and I expect there to be a learning curve as we figure things out. But because we’re family, I expect we will be honest about what we want, how we feel, what is affordable, what is financially out of reach.

Now just to make it happen without anyone getting the wrong message or hurt feelings.

Ahh family. On the scale of family relationships as I hear from others and read about online, we are a pretty simple group that actually gets along well. No real reasons for complaint. Right now, I think it is just a struggle to manage expectations.

The elbow and the sock

Today I had a weird elbow twinge pain. Which for me is unusual. Shoulders, knees, even wrists I could understand. But elbow?

I know it was not from the gym – I did all lower body stuff this morning and somewhere deep within my glute muscles some bundle of fibers are bleating out “we don’t like you anymore!” It wasn’t until a couple of hours into my workday that the pain twinges began. I felt fine this morning when I got up and to the gym, and I felt fine through the other trauma-drama of my morning. Around lunch time that I noticed straightening it out completely made this little twinge of pain, but only sometimes. After chatting with my friends about it at lunch as one of this current events of our days, we decided it was stress elbow, because nothing else came to mind.

So after lunch one of the associates comes in with a white crew sock. I eyed is suspiciously and backed away, just in case it was stinky, which earned me an eye roll and assurances it was clean. He says I continually bump my elbow on the arm of my chair, and he sock was to protect it. Thinking about it, I figured okay, agreed that I do periodically have that behavior, and accepted the sock.

Now, this seems perfectly logical to me, but living with M and his many, many cuts and scrapes and injuries from running or working around the house, I thought the intention was that I cut the sock part off the sock and use the stretchy part to protect my elbow. Not very stylish – walking around with half a tube sock on your elbow – but at the time it seemed fine.

The associate who gave me the sock was out at anther firm this afternoon, but one of the other associates saw it on my elbow and did a double take. He then informed me that the intention was that I put the intact sock over the arm of my chair to cushion the impact of my grazing elbow. I was really embarrassed and hyper-responsible me immediately thought I should text an apology and then run out and buy him another pair of socks. But work happens, and all afternoon the guys were cruising by my office to examine my elbow sleeve and tell me about how meaningful the hacked up socks. They are – were – his favorite basketball socks. They were his lucky basketball socks. Those socks didn’t get washed for a year after he won some team won the basketball championship in college. They were his only pair of gym socks. He would be laughed out of the gym for wearing black dress socks going forward. Forget getting married and fathering children; he’d never get another date, having his prized athletic socks hacked to bits.

They were relentless. It reminds me how much I will miss the camaraderie and the teasing, and how special this firm has been for me. Surprisingly, the normality of our days thus far this week – even though I am typically not in the office on Tuesdays – has made it easier knowing these are the last of our days together. Work is getting done, fires being extinguished, everything is running smoothly. For them, next week will mean new faces in various offices and new procedures in how things are managed. I suspect the real transition will begin Monday morning.

Until then, this is my office, this is my crew. They can joke around and tease and try to make me feel ashamed of hacking up a coworkers loaned socks. I did run out and buy replacement pair after work, and they are waiting on his desk. And the legend of me and my elbow sleeve will live in infamy.

It is as it should be. I don’t do that much truly dumb stuff all that often.

And my elbow? It feels better. Maybe it’s purely psychosomatic, or maybe the sock sleeve did something beneficial. Or maybe it’s all the laughter of the afternoon. I am now sure it’s the result of all the mousing this week – editing a lot of invoices and writing a lot of emails. Yet another silver lining of using my MacBook more during the workday.

 

Fear, anxiety, friendship

One of my very best friends is in the process of long-term recuperation and rehabilitation from a very serious illness. His return to health has been an arduous journey and is not over yet, but he has been improving and all our hopes are for a full and complete recovery. Along with that, though, we are really hoping he will be capable of flying home within the next month.

Not going to lie – it’s been extraordinarily difficult for him to go from strong, active, and vibrant to this point of weakness, much less active because of his health, and having to fight to recover in all sorts of ways that are unfathomable and unimaginable to me. As far as mood, it’s been an almost textbook cycle of anger, depression, resolve, and wanting so badly and trying so hard to get back to baseline normal. Physical recovery and moodiness aside, there is a cognitive relearning curve in many areas that has been occurring concurrently.

He is family. M and I would no more turn our backs on him than fly to the moon by flapping our arms. Does not make it all rainbows and unicorns to cope with and to watch despite our care and commitment.

I preface it this way for a couple of reasons. It seems the closer we come to his return, the more unraveled he seems to be becoming. Thing is, I don’t care what he looks like – how skinny, how hairless, how much muscle he has lost. I don’t care about his memory loss and what he has had to struggle and battle to recover. I don’t care if he wallows in self-pity and must try to climb out every single day. I don’t care about any of that at all. I want him to be healthy, be all he can be, and his recovery is just short of miraculous in how far he has come in 9 months. Being him home and nearby where we can help and hang-out and communicate in more efficient and effective ways that the geographical distance presently allows is our ultimate goal. The rest we can cope with and fix. In a lot of ways he sees it, but depression, anxiety, and fear make him unpredictable in how he may react.

My Pollyanna-ness gets on his nerves; I know it and try to temper it. However, we tend to communicate primarily via email and online chat, occasional Facetime, text, phone call. I have ongoing concern but am not hovering and wringing my hands over him. Don’t want to see or read my sunnier outlook? It’s fine to delay or even delete my communications. It’s also fine to tell me to shut the f**k up. We’ve been friends for a very long time, and as I said, he’s family; he can say that to me without penalty or long-term hurt feelings on my part.

But our affection and respect is mutual. I know this, and I know his situation and circumstances are unusual. I make huge allowances and give him a whole lot of leeway.

The last few weeks, though, have been trying. With my work-related situation, he has been a most supportive rock and sounding board for me. It is part of what makes him special to me, that he is so stable and sensible much of the time. Outside of me and my issues, though, he’s been a pain in the ass. He’s been alternatively empty shell bright and fluffy to surly and snarling in general conversation. Frankly, I generally prefer the surly and snarling; I can work with that by snarling back. The bright and fluffy? I may as well be chatting with the cardboard cutout of him about the f**king weather.

Over the weekend he sounded in good spirits, but almost too good. Flying is painful for him, makes his brain literally hurt from the pressure. Knowing he was boarding a plane causes anxiety and fear, which he of course does not want to flat out admit, even though it’s the big giant dancing pink elephant in the room. I get it; I didn’t push. I also restrained myself from asking yesterday how the flight went, instead asking him about a Jordan Peterson video series on biblical stories, wondering if he knew it was available and/or started listening. He barked back that he wanted to “put a bullet in his brain to make the pain stop and I wanted to know what he’s listening to?” That’s actually fine – pain talking; I am also grown-up enough of a big girl and can take it. I didn’t reply right away, knowing his head is hurting and not wanting to make the situation worse. Told M that flight had not gone that well, and figured I would write an email instead. Before I got an opportunity, though, got another text that stated “Don’t fucking email or communicate with me any further. Done for now.”

Ouch. Rational Pollyanna in me understands this is pain talking, but it smarted. I resolved to honor his wishes, and when his head stops aching and he wants to talk, I am not going anywhere and we can and will hash it out. Family is family; we say shit we mean in the moment and regret later. Unfortunately. And if this is the worst way we treat one another (and it pretty much is), we are surely not that bad.

So there’s that.

Then this morning while I am at the gym, M gets a phone message from a hospital in Berlin regarding friend J. M had been outside feeding/playing with the cats and getting Cheepers situated in his cage when the call came in, so he came back to a voice mail asking us to call. M texted me and I immediately ceased what I was doing and practically ran out of the club. By the time I got home, M had returned the call and was told it was a next-of-kin notification that friend J was safe, being treated, and his doctor had been contacted. Unfortunately, there was no consent to share information about his condition, but it was policy to notify us.

Under the best of circumstances, this would freak anyone out. Family member in a hospital in another country – fear, anxiety, worry are all normal emotions. Unfortunately for me, this brings flashbacks to the dreaded school phone call regarding my daughter, perfectly healthy 12-year-old, falling ill at school on a Thursday and being told less than 24 hours later that she is brain dead and not going to wake up ever again. My emotional reactions are overreactive and warranted. The fear – oh my, deer in the headlights has nothing on me in this situation.

While we are frantically calling his regular physician to try and find out what’s happening, friend J calls himself when he learned we had been contacted to explain that had happened and reassure us that he is fine. Simple accident – woman fell into him, he fell over and banged his head on a doorjamb. Because of his ongoing recuperation and head injury, his coworkers insisted he be seen by emergency doctors. He was to be released soon and is fine.

I listened. He sounded normal, angry with the staff, assured me that it’s nothing serious. I listened, said okay, handed M the phone and went to throw up. Fear and anxiety released.

In the moments between the hospital conversation and him calling, our last interaction played and replayed in my head. Would his harsh, angry, frustrated-with-his-life words be the last thing he said to me? Is this what 25+ years dissolves into?

It was several moments of awful, hollow feelings. So many years, so many good times, great memories replaced with his last couple of messages on his part and retreated silence on mine.

No clear answers. I don’t want to be angry with him, yet I am. I don’t want him shitting all over me because he’s having a hard time, but I’m allowing it right now. It seems we still have time to sort out the sibling crap in our relationship. But for a few minutes this morning, I had the dreadful certainty that I was going to be living with my regret for all I coulda/shoulda/woulda said.

I do not want to ever live with regret. But my emotions are as highly reactive and hair-trigger ready to fire as they ever get, with this week’s final days on the job and dealing with this today.

I am going to let this sit awhile. I am not going to reach out directly, because my feelings are pretty raw. What I would likely say right now – you’re a selfish, self-centered jerk engaged in an ongoing pity party and I hate you right now – is mostly unproductive.

And now I’m really, Really angry, the kind of angry that comes from a big giant scare and the relief that it was a false alarm. Since he also reads this blog from time to time: I’m really angry and it’s all your fault, you ass. Doesn’t mean I won’t get over it, forgive and forget. Eventually. But interactions with me could be HELL between now and then.

But right now, friend J, I hope you stub your toe or get an irritating hangnail.

My silly life

I’m not sure anyone’s life is truly silly, but sometimes I come here to write about something profound and all too often – I got nothing. Which is probably just as well; my version of profound could be more wool-gathering, navel gazing on the price of avocados … and I don’t even eat the darn things (it’s an M must-have food).

Of late here, I have been massively overwhelmed with stuff. Work stuff. Family and friend stuff. Health stuff. Random idiotic social media stuff. Me and my usual first-world problem stuff. For the most part, the overwhelming load has been serious and worthwhile – serious illness and surgery, potential job changes, health reports (all good!), and just the volume of work-work and with a side of too much having to talk to people whether I want to or not. I do not do well in chaos; I am a planner and at my core, I need structure and organization to be my best and to stay in my happy place. Chaos is what creeps in while I’m not looking, when I am distracted with all the other worthwhile stuff happening all at once. And please, please do not take that as complaint. I am part of a family, a community that makes me feel whole, human, and living up to my best potential, and I would rather have a lot of things going on with people I love and adore who wish to share and receive feedback and thoughts than not. It has just been perfect storm of everyone having things going on all at once and the work-work skies opening up and flooding my schedule.

Sleep remains the great equalizer. If I am getting adequate quantities of good quality sleep, I can handle most anything with aplomb. I know things are getting truly out of hand when I am getting 6 or 7 or 8 hours of sleep and still waking up feeling tired and as if another 6 or 7 or 8 hours sleep would be beneficial. As I tell M, it truly is not the quantity of sleep hours for me so much as the quality of the hours I get. Usually I conk out and am out for however many hours straight, wake up as if reset has been hit, I am refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of a new day. The last few weeks, I gradually fade and then mind stays awake and thinking and processing rather than resting. Does not leave me at my best come morning.

The past week, I have made more conscious effort to get to bed on time and to be more mindful about going and staying asleep. Did it work? Not really, and I resorted to sleeping aids a couple of nights to help kick-start the process. But today, I can report that I feel more like my usual self and ready to address the imbalance in my schedule and life.

I think there are too many things that sound so fun and so cool and so exciting. I know that work has been crazy and I have been neglecting my “yes, but …” function. Instead, I nod, smile, give an enthusiastic “no problem!” response, only to deflate massively when I remember that this is item number 10,012 on my to-do for tomorrow. Not good. For the most part, I have clients who trust me to manage their affairs in a timely manner so they are not being penalized for tardiness. Part of that is training on my part, asking them about this, that, the other thing on the timeline and ensuring I have everything with enough time to get it done. Every year, tax season and filing deadlines throws everyone into a last-minute tizzy, and last week was culmination of all that.

Thinking about all these things this morning, I am taking steps to reclaim the balance in my time management, which is really all this current stressure is all about. Specifically:

  • Make a list of all presently outstanding work-related project, prioritize, and plan time for the upcoming week.
  • Update my weekend to-do list and finish clearing it.
  • Inventory the pantry and freezer, grocery shop and restock.
  • Reset alarm reminder for getting to bed and being asleep.
  • Pencil in some “me” time for reading and reconsider implementing some cardio exercise to accompany it (whole other blog post).

My need for a fairly structured timeframe for getting shit done is not for everyone, but it tends to work best for me. Because I have both a full-time job and a self-employment business running simultaneously plus a husband and family/friends I enjoy, this is truly the only way I keep my life and projects working and on track. Somehow I have either gotten lazy about my to-do lists or overwhelmed and busy and letting things fall through the cracks until they become an immediate crisis that must be dealt with.

Already, I feel better about things. Already, I feel like a load has lifted and things again look happier. Already, I have a lot more optimism about my ability to get shit done. Balance is possibly possible. But for me it takes a little advance planning and makes the effort less burdensome.

My silly life? Yes, probably. But it’s the only one I have and I need to make the best and the most of my days.

 

From nervously glad to horrifically sad in less than 12 hours

Yesterday one of my closest friends texted to tell me he was likely to be undergoing a surgical procedure to correct a brain injury. This has been an ongoing issue for several months, so it was big news that he was finally getting scheduled and ready for it. While happy and excited about it, I am equally terrified of the potential side effects, complications, unexpected consequences. I seem to have no healthy outlet to express that anxiety – after all, it was almost 9 when he texted to tell me and I could not go back to the gym for a third workout. So overnight I was plagued with nightmares and poor sleep and woke up with a blinding headache that pushed me to push back my exercise until after work. Not the end of the world, and I know I will be calmer about this whole process once I have more information, including specific date and time range for the procedure.

Open my email this morning and first thing I read is from one of my private clients – his 13 year old son has taken his own life. I do not have a way to react to that; in the moment of reading the words, having my mind process the meaning of the words, I find catching my breath impossible. Such situations, expressing sorrow is so very inadequate. Nothing I can do, nothing anyone can do. Something I understand all too well, life changes in a blink.

Both events have triggered strong emotions within me, and I find myself flailing around in search of safe harbor. POSITIVE safe harbor. Last thing I want or need is to be seeking out chocolate and soda and things that will make me ultimately feel worse. I ended up skipping out on my practice this morning because of aforementioned blinding headache and tentatively bailing on a Wednesday night thing of practice with a tribe member and friend. But I may change my mind as the day progresses. Or I may go to yoga with one of my friends here in the office.

Choices, healthier choices, are obvious and available to me. I could go to the gym tonight in my crappy mood and mini band walk and do enough lunges and squats to burn myself out and kick-start the endorphin production. I could blog here and at my health and fitness site more. I could turn even infinitely more selfish and ignore the long list of to-do projects at home and read more. Or I could even get more assertive about clearing out that list of to-do projects.

Before all this, I had a post brewing about K and her career stuff. We have become close, K and I, and she confides and bounces ideas with me all the time. I love that. As much as she is enjoying her present job, she has now been there more than 1.5 years and has yet to have the performance review/salary adjustment that was promised year when here hiring supervisor left and she took on that role and responsibility. First it was to be at the beginning of 2017, but it’s now been 3 months and not a word has been said. The job has expanded considerably and has far more responsibility, yet her present supervisor and his boss really have no clear idea of all she does. While compiling that list and preparing to ask for a meeting, she had been doing research for other available opportunities and essentially hit the motherlode.

While not actually serious in her search, she did apply for a couple of other jobs that are similar to her present role and a good match for her experience. For one she was asked for compensation guidelines, and I said to offer a range that was at least 10% more than what she is presently making. The range presented started at $10K more than her present salary and he immediately invited her for an interview. Score! Except she’s not sure she wants to commute to their offices (across town from where they live and through downtown) and she is not 100% sure about the job. But it would be good experience to interview and learn about another industry. Then there is a second job for one of the larger and better employers here in town, applied for on Sunday, contacted for an information pre-screening interview by phone yesterday (passed with flying colors) and now going for the first face-to-face interview today. This job starts at $15K more per year than she is making now, has a better insurance/benefit package, and is less than 10 minutes from home (versus her 30 minute commute now). These are very happy events.

For me as well, while not looking I also acquired another new self-employment client. It is a small job, probably less than 10 hours per month, but potential for more work exists in the future as they grow. It’s interesting project work, though, so in truth I might have gone for a lower hourly rate just to get the work. Thankfully he didn’t even blink at my hourly rates, which is partly due to the glowing referral from an existing client. I am delighted with that.

I recognize how little room I have for complaint in my life. M remains the imperfect guy who is just about the perfect partner for me. I have jobs I truly enjoy and the husband with enough going on in his own life to allow me a lot of room and freedom to pursue my jobs and healthy lifestyle that benefits both of us. Both my kids are living independent lives and blazing their own paths through adulthood.

For every old friend I have had abandon our long friendship in light of my lifestyle changes I seem to have acquired one or more new ones that are more like-minded, encouraging, supportive. Relationships are like living organisms that are left to grown and change organically as time passes. As I have come to understand more fully and continue to learn to management my expectations, I am far happier and more secure in the progression of my days. So when the truly bad days do hit – like today – I am not flailing around grasping at anything that will somehow comfort or make the awful fade even a little bit. Not precisely sure what I am going to do, but I have an associate standing outside my doorway prodding me to join them for a healthy lunch and walk around the block.

As far as choices for coping go, that’s a good place to start.

 

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.