Post-Vacation Reflections

Welp, I did it. I went on vacation and survived. Everyone got along, we all had as much space as we wanted, and I got to enjoy having a largely unstructured week. The most frustrating part of the trip was that people would talk about doing something in the morning, I’d set an alarm accordingly (to ensure I was up and ready to go by the discussed time) and rarely was that true of anyone else. Which wasn’t really a big deal since I could just play video games or read or go for a walk or anything else I desired, so all things said and done, it was a pretty great trip. I do wish I came out of it feeling more rested, but I also didn’t spend more than an hour laying in bed, feeling super depressed before coming in to work this morning, so I think I benefited from the rest. Another week or two would have been better, but it would also have been better to have won the lottery, so I’m content with what I got.

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Dusk Reflected In Windows

The final moments of my work day follow a similar routine. I empty bottles, sort pens and notepads, turn off my fan, unplug my lights, settle my sweatshirt and jacket into place, steady a mask on my face, sling a bag over my shoulder, and perform three quick keyboard shortcuts on my computer. As I linger for a moment, still uncertain after years of practice that I have performed the proper functions, I feel the familiar weight of my bag, now light for the empty bottles and lunch containers, slip from where I had slung it to its familiar position. It will stay there, despite my best efforts, as I move down halls and through doors to leave my workplace behind in favor of the outside world, my car, and whatever my evening has in store.

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I Need to Rest Sometimes. I’m Not He-Man, After All

As time passes and the vagaries of life interfere with the plans I’ve made, I’ve thought long and hard about what I would do if I didn’t write a blog post one day. I had originally planned to write every blog post a week in advance, try to avoid referencing anything time sensitive unless I was going to insert it ahead of other posts, and not sweat it too much if I didn’t have a post for a day. After all, this is supposed to be fun for me, right?

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Working From Home (Maintenance)

Sometimes, it can be really nice to roll out of bed, yawn your way to your computer, sleepily boot it up, and then get to work because you’re working from home. All your favorite beverages are stocked, you don’t need to worry about when to eat your lunch, and you don’t need to hurry out the door while you keep an eye on the clock so you can avoid the worst traffic without being late for your first meeting of the day.

Other times, you do it because your AC is broken, there’s a leak in the ceiling where there shouldn’t be any water TO leak, and your refrigerator is either dying or somehow got unplugged and the massive thing is too big to move on your own without severely damaging your floors. Then you wind up sweatily eating all the frozen food you had while using bags of ice to cool the stuff you can’t (or won’t) eat quickly in your voluminous camping cooler, all while keeping a nervous eye on the yellowing patch of the ceiling.

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Saturday Morning Musing

When this eventually posts, I’ll have been awake for five hours and working for at least three. Not because I have to, but because I’m a team player and mostly looking for something to for a bit of overtime that doesn’t require staying late during the week. Actually, it’s mostly the latter, though I’ll admit I do feel a little compelled to help out because the work needs doing.

The team I work for, “The Misfits” as we aptly call ourselves, given that we create stage machinery for use in theaters while working for what is ostensibly a theater lighting company, are in the middle of moving to a new location at our facility. It’s an entirely new section of the building meant to house all of Research and Development. Plus Marketing, it seems, which was a weird last-minute addition I think happened because they wanted to work in the cool new building. That’s an understandable sentiment, really, and it should be fine since this new building is a part of my company’s plans for growth. You can’t hire more people if you’ve got nowhere for them to work!

I’ve been with this company, and a part of this team, for almost two years now. I love the people I work with, I love the job I’m doing, and this company feels like home in a way my previous one never could have. I still struggle with impostor syndrome sometimes, mostly when I’m doing something like pushing a new process I’ve developed or trying to solve a problem that isn’t my responsibility, but that’s growing less over time as my coworkers and my manager support me. Which is probably the biggest change from my last job to this one. If I see a problem that needs fixing and actually do the work to figure out how best to fix it, people here see that and do their best to support my efforts rather than try to tear me down or get me to believe that everything is fine the way it is despite constantly complaining about things (which is literally what happened at my previous job). Even if doing all the work and trying to be the extrovert needed to push whatever changes are needed leaves me exhausted and unable to move from my couch to my kitchen at the end of the day, I know it’s worth it. Knowing I’ll be able to go in the next day and see everyone pulling with me rather than pushing against me (okay, maybe not EVERYONE, but most people) makes it worth it.

I don’t exactly wake up in the morning and feel excited to go to work, but I don’t dread it. Personally, I prefer it this way. Being that excited about something sounds exhausting and draining. I’ve got enough going on these days without spending all my energy on being excited about going in to work. I like what I do, the company I work for, and the people I work with, but genuine excitement is a rare thing for me. I spend a lot of energy trying to stay calm and relaxed as part of dealing with my anxiety and OCD, so I then to be enthusiastic without being excited. More of an enduring constant application of personal resources than a quick expenditure of emotional energy.

It’s a nice change, from two years ago. My life isn’t perfect and neither is this job, but it’s a good deal better than it used to be and I often find myself in need of a reminder. Not because I think it’s worse or because I’m miserable about something, but because it’s important to keep in mind how much things have changed over the years and how that change has tended toward being a positive change rather than a negative one. As I struggle to deal with all the curveballs life is throwing me lately, I need to keep myself focused on the arc of my life because it’s difficult to remember during times like these that the general trajectory is upward. It hasn’t always been, but it is right now.

It’s not something that snaps me out of my depressive episodes, but it’s something that makes it a little easier to rest at night or to release the tension I’m holding in my shoulders. I don’t think there’s any way to snap myself out of this one I’m in right now since it’s probably the first legitimate externally-sourced period of sadness I’ve experienced in a long time and it’s a time-oriented thing. It’s not going to go away for a while. It’s something I’ll need to learn to live with and part of that is contextualizing it. Finding where it fits in the landscape of my life. It’s going to take a while, but enough reflection and contemplation will get me there eventually. All that remains at this point is to make the time for them and that’s going to be difficult since I’m shorter on time than ever before.

Sorry if today’s post is a bit of a downer, but yesterday’s poem should make it clear that I got some back news just recently and I’m still trying to deal with it. I hope your month is going well and I hope you’re having a good day.

 

All Natural

It was one of the parks in the city big enough to let you forget you were surrounded by concrete and glass. Lucia wouldn’t know he was there.

His phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket, saw her face, and silenced it as he fought down the rising panic. It was only three in the afternoon and he had plenty of time. As the panic started to win the battle, he hauled himself to his feet and started walking toward the parking lot.

Half an hour later, his bugout bag in hand, he bought a greyhound ticket. Once he got to the state park, it was easy to find someone willing to sell him camping gear. He had plenty of money and most of the people he saw didn’t really want to be camping anyway.

It was early morning by the time he began setting up camp. There was no way anyone would be able to find him. He basked in that peace for two days, surviving off the fat of the land and drinking from crystal springs. But then he approached his campsite one night and heard voices.

Abandoning his gear, he immediately turned around and headed toward the nearby mountain. He walked through the night and didn’t stop until the sun had set again. When he gave up trying to sleep, the sun was rising. He walked toward a cliff to check his surroundings. As he admired the beauty of this national park, his phone rang. He pulled it out and answered.

“Hi, Lucia.”

“Sweetie! Where have you gone?”

Adam pulled the phone away from his face and bellowed. “You’ll never find me, you devil.” He threw his phone as hard as he could, watching it sail into the distance, and shouted after it. “I quit!”

Saturday Morning Musing

When this post goes us, I’ll be busy attending to my soul and mental well-being by going on a hike with a small selection of my favorite people. After several weeks of being too tired to do much and a constant lack of days we can all gather, those of us who are available tomorrow are just going to do something regardless of the fact that half our group is missing. It isn’t ideal, I’d rather spend the day with all of them, but I need to get active and to spend time with people who help me forget myself for a while. With all the stress and anxiety that have been building the past three months, I need to ignore my desire to stay home alone to work on processing review suggestions and actually go do something I know I’ll love.

I’ve always enjoyed walking. I like losing myself in my gait as I wander from place to place, maybe listening to music or just taking in the sounds of wherever I’m at. Hiking is a sort of extension of that, because it takes me out of areas that always grate on me, cities with the constant hum of cars and neighborhoods with the quiet noises of people going about their daily lives. If you pick the right hiking location, you can go the entire hike without encountering anyone. You can embrace the quiet of nature and the irritating hum of modern life that most people only notice when it’s gone disappears completely. You can lose yourself in trees and the quiet emerald peace of a nature at its strongest. If you’ve picked a place with some nice elevation changes, there are a ton of great places to stop and admire the world around you. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the horizon and having an unobstructed view of the sky and there’s just something wonderful about getting both of those things as a result of being on top of something that rises above the area around me. Only in hiking trips can I get all of that at once.

Even though I’m going with my friends, I’ll be able to enjoy that. These are all people who know me well enough that there are no awkward silences to fill. I don’t need to worry about how to maintain a conversation or how to segue from one thought to another because they all just get how my mind works enough to not always need an explanation. I can just be myself around them and their presence doesn’t intrude on my sense of peace and quiet. For the past several years, we’ve always done at least a couple of hiking trips every month, though we’ve been doing fewer of those lately because of how busy everyone has been. They’ve been some of my fondest memories and include some of my favorite pictures. All of the background pictures you’ll ever see on my blog are pictures I’ve taken while hiking. If I could, I’d do all my thinking and writing in a spot that overlooks the surrounding area and has an unobstructed view of the entire sky. My dream house idea focuses mostly around a taller tower with what is essentially a glass dome on the top so I can sit up there and read or write as close to the sky as I can get. Heck, the whole thing might just be a tower of some kind. But it would have to be on the side of a mountain or on the top of a tall hill somewhere. That would be amazing.

After hiking, I’m planning to do the Pokemon Go Community day since I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the game now that I don’t have my ex to give me a reason to keep playing it. I don’t really feel like it “our thing” anymore, thankfully, but I still wonder if I’m just wasting my time on something that isn’t really adding anything to my life since I have a tendency to play the game alone and let it distract me from the main purpose of my frequent walks. It’s so easy to bring alone and leave running in my pocket, but I’m not good at ignoring it when it’s in there and will start to feel anxious if I don’t check it for a while. It works the same way as notifications on my phone do. If I know they’re there, it will always cause me more stress to just ignore them than to skim through them and either open them or dismiss them. In order to save myself from needless stress, I’ve started disabling certain notifications on my phone and setting up hour-long notification silences so I won’t notice when they show up until the hour is over. I’ve also removed most time-waster games from my phone for the same reason. I also repeatedly install and uninstall Imgur as I cycle between just needing something to kill some time and realizing that I’ll just sit on the couch and browse through Imgur for an hour instead of going to bed or starting my writing. Which is why I’m still on the fence about Pokemon Go. I definitely benefit from still having Sudoku on my phone because it often works as a way of doing some mental stretching when I’ll feeling particularly tired or fogged up from how focused I’ve been on my work.

It’s a really nebulous balance and I’m probably going to be working on it my whole life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to just figure out how much work to do and how much relaxation to put in and when it’s already to simply escape instead of doing something genuinely relaxing. Even though I love writing and reading, they’re still work. Even though I’m super excited to start reading all of the amazing books people have written and mentioned to me on Twitter, there’s still a lot of work to do just to find all the links, titles, and authors. I want to just wake up in the morning and dig right in to my to-do list, but I need to take time to relax and hike and let my to-do list remain undone. I’m still doing at least four hours of writing or book recommendation collation a day, so it’s not like I’m slacking off, I just always feel like it’s hard to justify taking the time to wander through the woods or spend a few hours walking around the city with some friends while we catch Pokemon. I’ve only got so much time, after all. I want to get the most I can out of it and it’s, no matter how long I live, I don’t think it’ll ever be clear how to do that.

 

Friday Morning Musing

I have a great poem I’m working on that I’ll post soon, but I’m almost literally frying my brain in a reduction of stress and Overtime this week, so I’m saving it until I’ve got the time and energy to make it as good as I know it can be. I really want to write more poetry and actually stick to my plan of posting a poem a week, but it takes even more energy and time than writing a long piece for every Tuesday’s Coldheart and Iron post. When things are stressful or super busy, I just don’t have the energy and the past few weeks have been both. I’m still amazed I got something up for last week. I’d like to say I’ll definitely have it done for next week, but I might actually have to work this weekend (a first at my current company), so we’ll see how it goes. No promises, but I probably want to get a poem posted more than you want me to post a poem.

As much as I hate my long hours and how tired I am, I still appreciate that I can work these long hours and actually get paid for all of them. I know a lot of people still working long weeks who don’t get adequately compensated, either because they don’t get overtime, because they’re salaried, or because their hours are split between several low-paying jobs and would get fired if they asked for overtime pay or anything like that. Thanks to paying off my car loan, I appreciate my current position even more, since I don’t even need overtime to make ends meet or have a little freedom in my finances. It feels good to get paid.

On the other hand, I’m only working this long because of some questionable organizational decisions made by some of the people I work with and, while I’ve got a plan to fix our processes so this doesn’t happen again, it unfortunately hinges on a lot of people who would rather complain about problems than fix them. To be entirely fair to them, they mostly do that because they’ve tried to fix them and nothing worked. Only one or two of them are frustrating and they’re frustrating for incredibly different reasons that actually cause each other, to some extent. It’s a kinda weird situation if I’m being honest. It creates and perpetuates itself. If I could figure out how to harness the energy that goes into it, I could solve world hunger or the looming energy crisis when the world runs out of oil and all we’ve got left is renewable resources my current government is refusing to harness. I’m a bit bitter today, sorry.

I’ve been struggling to stay focused and forward-thinking lately because I’m seeing a lot of parallels between my current job and the I job I left because it was destroying my soul. The reasons I’m staying late every day are matching up what happened at my old job to sink me further into depression and crush my soul, ultimately forcing me to quit in order to save my mental and physical health. They’re not nearly as bad yet, but the fact that I can draw any similarities between them is incredibly worrying. I still think I can head these problems off before they show up and I’ve actually got people on my side in my current job (including my manager), so I should be able to avoid another situation where I need to choose my livelihood or my health. That was a pretty awful decision to need to make and it has had a lasting impact on me. I actually almost had a panic attack today when I realized what is happening now is incredibly similar to how things started going wrong at my old job. Throw in the fact that I’ve had a few “I told you so” situations already this summer with people at work and I’m having a hard time believing things will wind up different, despite tons of evidence to the contrary.

I still hope they will be, though. I’m nowhere ready to abandon ship yet and I really want to believe I can change things so everyone is happier with how things related to my job work. And it will do that, if everyone does their part. I’ve spent the last year and a half listening to people talk about what they want, how things should work, and what bothers them, and this plan should make no one happy but everyone content. Well, I’ll be happy if it works, but that’s because I take incredible satisfaction in a job well done rather than because I tweak the process so it make my life easier. It’ll actually give me the most extra work since I’ll be taking over a few things that either no one does or that other people aren’t doing the way the process requires. Stuff like running meetings, holding people accountable, and enforcing the agreements we make during meetings. I’ll basically be setting myself up as the benevolent dictator of testing and, as long as everyone agrees to let me rule them, we shall have peace and prosperity.

Sounds real nice, right? I figure it has a twenty-five percent chance of working, given that it requires people granting me authority over them in certain matters. It’s a lot like democracy or peace treaties. It only works so long as every agrees to play by the rules and then actually plays by the rules. If you start breaking the rules or altering them to help you at the cost of others, then it all falls apart. It also didn’t hurt its chances that it requires people to actually follow-through on the commitments we’re making to have each other’s back and stand together at all times so we can actually gain some authority for me to wield. There are a lot of points of failure, but even a partial adoption would be great. I honestly wouldn’t mind if someone else wound up with all the authority. I’m not much of one for the spotlight and I really dislike conflicts or confrontations, both of which would be common for whoever winds up with all the power since they’d actually have to wield it against everyone at some time or another.

Still, it’s better than keeping my head down and hoping things get better on their own. Change has to start somewhere and I value my time too much to let it get wasted like this. I’ll do what I need to and I hope that only means taking a stand against poor planning (well, probably a lack of planning) and asserting the right to have everyone’s voices heard when we make commitments.

I hope you have a great Friday and I’ll do my best to get some poetry up soon! These crazy weeks can’t last forever.

Sometimes, I Make Myself Sick

Literally. As a result of six weeks of long days at work, late nights writing, trying to get back into the things I care about, and reorganizing my life in a way that works for me, I’ve finally hit the point where I’ve stressed and pushed my body to the point where it has decided I am sick. Well, I’m pretty sure I pushed myself past that point because usually all I need is a good night’s sleep to not feel sick and this time, I’m actually sick despite sleeping a ridiculous amount.

Usually, I’m pretty good at maintaining my level of stress so I don’t actually go this far. I recognize when I’m getting close to this point and I pull it back. I take a night or two off from writing or trying to keep up with my friends in the various games we play together. I go to bed early and I actually get seven or eight hours of sleep at night. But I haven’t done that consistently in the past six weeks and now I’m paying for it. My head is pounding and congested, my throat feels like it’s lined with sandpaper that grates against it every time I swallow, and I’m just miserably sick enough to make everything sound worse than it is because my combination of symptoms is difficult to relieve without opting for something that’s going to make me sleepy. As I’ve already slept more hours since last than I’ve slept in any two nights this week, I think I’d rather do some reading, play a game, or watch a TV show. I mean, my roommate’s cat is being super needy and I’d really love to just occupy the couch for a few hours of cat snuggling and anime watching. But that’s hard to enjoy when all your day-time medication does is clear your congestion a bit.

Anyway, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what lead me here between dreams about being a badass post-apocalyptic warrior using magic spears that can turn into magic axes or, when turned into on giant magic sword, can shoot giant pillars of holy fire at the evil scum I’m destroying so my people can be safe. If the swords, spears, and sword weren’t taken from fantasy games and books I’ve been reading, I’d seriously write that story. It’s a really good one. I still might, if I come up with a fun way to change it. Maybe that’ll be the next serial story once Coldheart and Iron is finished. It’d be fun to write since apparently I have a thing for apocalyptic stories turning up in my dreams.

Back to the topic at hand, though. My reflections have led me to believe I missed a lot of the warning signs I usually see. Because of the success I’ve been having lately, I’ve been feeling more fired up and ready to push toward my goals than ever. I’m only halfway through August and, thanks to a couple (mostly this one) reviews that got shared by the creators of the comics I reviewed, I’m only a couple of days away from having my best views month ever, despite the fact that my daily views have dropped into the single digits for the first time in over a month. In addition, the long hours at work have been paying off and I can finally see the light at the end of the debt-tunnel. I’m six days away from paying off my car loan and I’ve finally gotten my finances into order so I can guarantee a delightfully high minimum monthly payment. I’m working my way back into being socially active online after a mental health break that turned from two weeks into three months and I’ve been able to perform well in the video games I play with my friends thanks to a few things finally clicking for me.

I’ve had a lot of successes, lately, even if they’re really only small wins in the war for a big win, but they’ve been all I needed to keep relentlessly pushing forward. I’m pretty sure part of me recognized a fall was coming, though. This whole week I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out where all of my time is going since I feel like I’m not writing as much as I could be and I’m definitely not sleeping enough. I even bought a whole pile of notebooks so I can start journaling and tracking what I do/how I feel every day in an effort to find any habits I can improve. I think that’s going to pay dividends eventually, when I can look back through it and find out what stuff might be affecting my mood over the long-term. In the short-term, I’m hoping it’ll help with productivity because I’ll actually be writing out everything I want to get done, both at work and at home. Tangible to-do lists always seem to hold more sway in my mind than intangible ones on the computer screen.

I’m on day two of journaling and I’ve already had to move some to-dos around thanks to being sick. I don’t have the mental fortitude to write a poem right now and I obviously didn’t go to work so I can’t do any of my work tasks. They’ll carry over until Monday, though, and I’ll have a decent chunk of writing time this weekend, when I’m watching my youngest sister. Our parents are doing some traveling so us older kids are taking turns keeping the youngest one company. Thankfully, most of my siblings live around Chicago right now, so I won’t have to travel much to help. Just this one weekend.

Which is why I’m just gonna go back to bed now. I’m already tired again and I have a lot of driving to do over the next two days, so the more I rest now, the healthier I’ll be for the weekend. I hope you have a great day! Check back tomorrow for a return to our regularly scheduled programming!

At End of Day

When the day is done and the fire’s stoked,
When the night is fresh and the world is cloaked
In star-soft mantle of darkening blue
I still have one last job to do.
I compile the words I have found,
Feeling out their shape and sound
As I sort them into categories
In preparation for all the stories
I haven’t had the chance to tell,
Until the fire’s down to a sullen swell
And the first glimmers of morning sun
Tell me that my work is done.