Thursday, March 31, 2011

Once Again, The Signs of Spring

Sliding out of the weekend into this week we encountered the first true days of spring here. The birds have returned. The trees, bushes, and plants are exploding in a variety of colors, releasing all their wonderful pollens to torment the allergies and today the temperature is supposed to reach 80 degrees or above. Unseasonably warm, but not a record. Last night was the first night in a long time that I fell asleep with the windows open. Simply beautiful.

Today is effectively my Friday. I took tomorrow off so I can head up to SF for the long weekend with friends, attending Wondercon and just enjoying that mostly beautiful city. Late yesterday afternoon I finished a sizeable piece of work that was among my main priorities this week, so I am moving into the weekend with a relatively clear mind, at least work wise. I was going to take Monday off, but I decided that I am most likely going to come in anyway. I have a meeting that I would like to attend on Monday morning and we will be approaching some decision points on another project and I’d like to be here to sort of shepherd them through. I may work a short day, leave early in the afternoon to catch a movie of something.

But, all of that is stuff for another today, what matters most of all is that – spring is finally upon us in all its glory. I was telling T.R. this morning about an encounter I had yesterday with a California Jay. I was walking around the building here at work and there was a California Jay perched on a tree branch near the sidewalk. He was in the process of establishing his territory and he was not going to give me an inch, fiercely challenging me as I approached and walked by. I am certain he puffed up as I walked away, proud of his determination! Once again, the signs of spring.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost In A Task, I Contemplate Work And Happiness

It retrospect, I had sort of an interesting weekend, since I find myself with additional things to write about that happened over the weekend. This particular one happened Thursday night. At the end of the day I often take “work reading” home with me or I take specific problems that need to be solved home, so I can think about them without the external distractions of the office.

Thursday, as I sat in the quiet living room, I started reading the supporting documentation for a problem that had arisen. I read through it all (about one hundred and forty seven pages), took several pages of notes, and then turned the problem around in my mind so I could make sure I was considering all the facets of it as I searched f or a solution.

I lost myself inside the problem for a couple of hours – and that is a great feeling, to be so involved in something, imaginatively, creatively, intellectually, that time seems to slow and cease to be relevant until suddenly you reach the end. I didn’t solve the problem, indeed, I came to the preliminary solution that I couldn’t solve the problem. There are some problems where the overall cost of solving the problem exceeds the value gained by solving the problem – so you make the decision to accept the problem as a routine bump in the road and get on with it, anticipating a certain failure rate or a certain turbulence rate. This was one of those problems where the cost of reducing the turbulence associated with it rapidly outweighed the cost of the turbulence.

That also brought me to one of the things that amuses me. I have no problem telling either my customers or my management that “the cost of solving X is prohibitive”, yet in the corporate world you often run into those “Jedi Mind Trick” moments where the conversation looks something like this. “There is a problem in X.” “There is no problem in X. You’re mistaken. This is not the X you were looking at.” I am always amazed and amused when that happens, especially since most things, once your defined and identified them, can be accommodated or avoided or overcome – but pretending it’s not there is kind of strangely pointless.

Still, at the end of the day, it was a great feeling to be “lost in a task”. I haven’t felt that in a while, in large part because of the overarching shadow of stress I was liv ing under, which manages to squeeze as the fun out of things. It was nice to have fun at work. One of the things I’ve always loved about this job, about my accidental career, is I have been amazed over the last fifteen years how many times I have simply flat out enjoyed myself. I always count myself very fortunate for that aspect of my job, even as I watch many of my friends and acquaintances struggle within the shadows of their jobs.

That brings me, unintentionally, but finally to a heartfelt piece of advice for strangers (and strange readers) who are in a profession or a job that does not bring them happiness – get out. Life is too short to suffer for eight hours a day. Sit down and do the calculus of your job – measure the goodness and the badness, measure in equal parts the joy and the sadness, the brilliance and the B.S. and if that measure doesn’t fall in your favorite, stand up, drop your badge on the desk and say “okay, I am done” and move on to the next phase in your life.

You can think of a thousand reasons to stay trapped in your present circumstances, but always remember two things – life is sudden, it can and will change rapidly, without your consent or consultation, and second – with perhaps some very rare exceptions, always remember that any and all corporations will let you go in a heartbeat, the moment the numbers turn against you. So, if your heart has been telling you it’s time to go – just go, don’t wait. The stars never align perfectly.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thinking About The Monkey Mind

Let me take something I jotted down on my Blackberry as my jumping off point for today's entry.

"I wonder sometimes at the wars I fight inside my head. I wonder - why? Am I so undisciplined I cannot control my own thoughts? Or do I move toward conflict like a moth moves toward a flame, beguiled and doomed."

I jotted that down over the weekend - now, I don't actually remember exactly when or where, but it was at some point when I was out running errands. What I was referencing was the ability of the imagination to take something (an event, a conversation, an encounter) that is unreal - and spin it toward the negative. I may be walking down the hall at work and I start thinking about a teleconference or a meeting that is coming up and in my brain I start running through all of the possible negative encounters that might arise.

Now, according to my stress therapist, some degree of rehearsal is good - for example, if I am going to call a customer and I know that the customer is going to be challenging, or going to act or react in a certain way, then some rehearsal is a good thing because it allows me to enter the scenario prepared.

However, sometimes I have a tendency to spin entirely imaginary encounters to the negative, to rehearse for contingencies that are never going to happen. Now that I am more aware of this, when it does happen, I am able to intervene, to take a closer look at the imaginary circumstances and conclude that the probability of them happening is very small and so successfully set them aside. There are a variety of techniques that work for this - my favorite is to visualize the particular thought stream as a monkey, sitting on your shoulder, picking at you. Then, consciously, pick the monkey up, set him down and send him scampering on his way. That is probably just because I happen to enjoy visualizing everyone I work with as a Flying Monkey, from the Wizard of Oz.

But, what still continually amazes me is that all to often I have to pull my thought stream back in, I have to send the monkey scampering on his way, because while I wasn't watching the thought stream took the imagination into a negative place. I suspect that is probably the next level of discipline, preventing the mind from going there. Beginning in a good place and staying in that good place - being realistic, being pragmatic, but also being benevolent and compassionate. Imagine positive and affirming encounters and incidents, when that is appropriate. (The reality of the work world is simple - not ever encounter is going to be positive or affirming, given the very ordinary distribution of people's attitudes and behaviors. But, why imagine it as such?

It is something that periodically has me scratching my head, and probably will for a while as I work my way through it. So, feel free to set your monkey down over hear next to mine and they can amuse themselves while we enjoy the day.

(It turned out to be a truly beautiful, if a bit cold, California evening - with blue skies and sunshine, trees opening up and blooming, pollen count rising, and a cool wind blowing. Spring is here, but Winter is just not quite ready to let us go.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Three Movie Day

Friday (my day off) was a truly lazy day. During the course of the day I saw three very different movies.

First, I went down to the AMC 14 Theater and caught "The Lincoln Lawyer" - which was better than I had anticipated. It is a solid little crime thriller with an excellent cast, including many of the supporting actors. It is meticulously plotted, foreshadowed, and pretty flawlessly delivered. If you like that type of movie, I would definitely recommend it.

Second, I came home and watched the musical "Nine" with Daniel Day Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judy Dench and Fergie. It was also an excellent movie, though entirely different. My favorite number in the film was Fergie's "Be Italian". (There is a link if you're unfamiliar with the movie, the song, or the artist.)

Then, as I wound down the evening, I ran through the channels to see if there was anything worth watching, one of my personal favorites for a thoroughly enjoyable movie was on - John Travolta and Uma Thurman in "Be Cool". So, I finished up the day laughing and enjoying that movie, including the excellent part played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

I'd recommend any of those three movies without hesitation - all for different reasons, but all worth watching. Then, today (Sunday), I got together with my friends and we all went to see "Sucker Punch". Well, as much as I would like to say that Zack Snyder hit a home run - uh, no can do - there are about thirty minutes of excellent film there (the WWI and the WWII scenes) there rest of it is pretty much a clean miss. There really isn't a plot. There really isn't a theme. Snyder sampled widely for themes and images and unfortunately he sampled...a lot of bad movies. The only thing worst than that is that - if he didn't realize what he was doing, well, that is whole other level of "Bad Movie".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Far End of the Building

I work in a very long building. It is about a third of a mile from where I sit to the far end of the building. That really comes in handy when the weather is less than desirable. It means I can take a short (or long) exercise walk and never leave the comfort of the building. Today is one of those days.

I woke this morning to the sound of pouring rain. I drove in through the waves of heavy rain. At lunch, I walked across the parking lot to the deli listening to the sound of the giant rain drops popping against my jacket. It’s pretty impressive. It’s also pretty wet. We’re moving through successive waves of storm fronts here, but Pacific storms have a great wild beauty to them that is hard to describe. The feel of them, the texture of them, the taste of them, is different from storms in other parts of the country.

So today, with the scent of rain, I walk to the far end of the building and enjoy both the storm – and being safe and dry in the storm. That dichotomy fascinates me. The experience of the storm is radically different when you cannot come in from the storm. I recall quite vividly more than a few times in my life when I couldn’t come in from a storm, both physically and metaphorically. It is the shelter from the storm that enables us to enjoy the storm.

Whether that storm is physical or metaphorical.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Rainy Mornings Commentary

I woke this morning to the sound of pouring rain. It was nice to just lay there, snuggled tightly under the comforter, nice and warm, and listen to that liquid hushing sound. We’re bracketed by spring storms here, but the gray, wet, and cold is alleviated by the knowledge that spring is rapidly approaching. Hot Coffee and T.R. were an excellent start to a rainy morning.

One evening last week, as I worked at my computer in the spare bedroom, I could hear the birds singing outside, calling to each other and calling to spring. The trees have not yet blossomed, but they are heavily budded and just waiting for a short run of sunshine to explode in waves of pollen and cascades of color. I am looking forward to the visuals, just not to the pollen.

The commute into work this morning in the rain was kind of serene, except for the moment near Kaiser on Lawrence Expressway where the woman in the Toyota decided to try and share my lane – at the same time I was in it. That was a nice little thrill.

The office is relatively quiet this morning, which is nice, and I am making good progress through my action items list. This is my short week, so it is already half-way over, with the weekend waiting right around the corner.

It should be a nice weekend – Saturday I will socialize with friends and then Sunday a bunch of us are going to get together to go see Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch”, which my friends have been anticipating, since they enjoyed “300” and “Watchmen” (or as I like to refer to it – “The Giant Blue Dingus Movie”).

Then, of course, next weekend a bunch of us are going to head up to San Francisco for Wondercon 2011, which should also be a great time. I hope the weather lets up on us, as I recall that last year’s trip to Wondercon was also a rainy affair.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Morning Song

I was slow moving into this morning. I am not entirely sure my body didn’t fight off a low level brush with a cold or the flu last night. I slept deeply and pleasantly enough, but woke with a bit of an all over ache. I slipped out of bed, made a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, and then just kind of sat there in my chair for a while, listening to the intermittent sounds of morning before I climbed into the shower. I felt a bit rejuvenated after the shower, though I considered staying home from work, just on the general malaise of the morning. Now, it might also have been the weather, since we are in the middle of a nice rain storm, with another cascading in behind it. We definitely started spring this weekend, as the newscasters said, “wet and wild”.

I had a good weekend, for a stormy weekend. Saturday was breakfast and a movie (“Paul”, which was very funny), then an afternoon of watching programs on the DVR, reading, and just hanging out around the apartment. Sunday was a near repeat – breakfast, then I went out to pick up some new business shirts for work, ending up near the Cupertino Square AMC Theatre. Since I happened to be right there I dropped over to see what was playing – and I happened to be five minutes before the start time for the new Bradley Cooper/Robert DeNiro movie “Limitless”. It turned out to be a pretty good movie. Then, I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at home, doing some incidental cleaning, making a pot of sausage and vegetable soup (also a candidate for Monday morning’s general malaise), and watching several episodes of “Outsourced” On-Demand with Comcast.

As far as incidental reading is concerned I am reading a pair of books right now – “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelley (Non-Fiction) and “What The Night Knows” by Dean Koontz (Fiction). So far, they are both good reads. The Koontz is light and fast, I just started it this weekend and I am already about one fifth of the way through it, most likely I will finish it up this week.

So, I have to say, all in all it was a good weekend and it should be a quiet and productive week, with quiet, reflective, and stormy evenings at home. I still have to one task on my major to do list ahead of me – the eleven boxes. I think I am going to approach that as the project of this week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Turn About Twice

I had an amusing start to the day.

First, I slept in an extra hour, in part because I am still adjusting to the change to daylight savings time and in part because I planned on starting the day with a visit to the lab so they could draw blood for routine testing. So far, so good.

I drove over to the lab and spent a few minutes walking around the complex because it was strangely laid out (probably the result of organic growth over time). Eventually, I found the door into the lab, then proceeded to sit and wait. The actual process of drawing blood took all of five minutes, if that. The technician was good and there was nary a pin-prick of pain involved. But, the sitting, waiting, and paperwork filled the better part of thirty minutes.

Successfully drained of blood, I set out to wind my way into work. Unfortunately, it was during the height of commuting traffic.

I dropped down to Steven’s Creek, curled around and headed for 280 N. Fortunately, I could see it was completely stopped ahead, so I took 280 S. instead (wrong direction number one). I went down to City College, got off the interstate, turned around and got back on 280 N., heading for 880 N. I could instantly see that is was also at a complete standstill, so I did a quick lane change and found myself on 17 S. (wrong direction number two). I headed down 17 S. and decided…not to play with traffic any more. I dropped off at Hamilton, drove down Bascom to Goodies II and stopped for breakfast of Huevos Mexicanos, hash browns, wheat toast with orange marmalade, and a cup of black coffee.

After breakfast I headed into the office – this time, it went smoothly – 17 N. to 280 S. to Sunnyvale-Saratoga north, then into the office just in time to make the first meeting of the day! Almost perfect timing. Except for the whole ending up heading in the wrong direction twice.

On the plus side of the day though – a nice bit of time spent with T.R. to start the day, a nice extra hour of sleep, a skilled technician at the lab, and an excellent breakfast.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A More Focused Night

I definitely moved through today with more focus than Tuesday. I would probably credit most of it to having completed the first pass at the messy data analysis - it was both a load off my mind and it managed to let me slip out of the analytical portion of my brain. Work-wise, today was mostly weaving in and out of meetings - I think I had one complete, non-meeting, hour at the end of the day which allowed me to take care of a few things and get the deck stacked for tomorrow. I've only got three meetings tomorrow, so it should be a relatively productive day.

I definitely came home with more focus than I had last night. Last night was the rambling night I documented, but also a quiet night - I basically just sat in the stillness of the living room and read, then wrapped the evening with TR and fell fast asleep. Tonight when I got home I felt far more engaged. I watched a couple of programs I had stored up on the DVR ("Glee", "Chuck", "V", and "Mad Love"), I put a couple of miles on the exercise box, and I boxed the old PS2 and all the associated bits, pieces, and games for donation. It still works fine, but I haven't really played any of the games in, well, years. It was time to let it go. Time to set it free. Someone can buy it for $20.00 at Goodwill and get many hours of simple enjoyment out of it.

It is kind of strange to me how I seem to move through my simplifying in waves. I've pretty much stripped my possessions down to things that are either actively used or purposefully saved for another purpose or time. I went through my bookshelf the other weekend to see what I could donate there and to my surprise, I was really only able to purge less than a single shelves worth. What remains are art, poetry, and functional (in use) reference.

I still have one significant area to purge and it is one of the "big" to do items on my list. I have a dozen boxes stored in the spare bedroom - they are a mixture of old personal papers and miscellaneous keepsakes. I suspect I will be lucky if I will be able to pare it down to six boxes, but even that will be six less anchors holding me in place.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Randomly Streaming Thoughts

I think the end of the day officially begins when I come in the door, regardless of what time it is. Today was a fairly long day - twelve hours had elapsed before I graced my own apartment again. Most of the afternoon at work was spent in report massaging - pulling together data from three disparate reports, normalizing it, and then reassembling it in a manner that coaxed the meaning from it. Alas, there was no happy ending for the report. The happy ending was that I got to go home and I won't have to worry about scrambling to complete the report prior to the meeting tomorrow, at which point we are going to discuss the report.

It was a nice enough weekend - low key, enjoyable. I saw "Battle: Los Angeles" which was amusing for what it was. I had breakfast with friends, which was amusing for what it was. I did some wandering, I ran some errands, I did some laundry, I practiced pool, I watched a pair of Roger Corman movies, I watched some "Better Off Ted" on DVD, I finished reading "Replay" (Excellent by the way), and I am nearly finished reading "Helmet for My Pillow" by EB Sledge (one of the Marines on whose work Tom Hank's HBO series "The Pacific" was based. I did some incidental housecleaning.

Monday was a little on the hectic side - I worked virtually, since I had a series of appointments that ran through the morning - Doctor, Post-Office, and Miscellaneous. They all went fairly smoothly and I spent the afternoon working from home as well, so that by the time evening fell I was already in home and already tired. I actually took a nap for a while, then woke, then spent time with TR, then went back to sleep, then dreamed dreams I don't really recall. Then I woke up and went to work and well, we know how that ended (with me walking in the door at the start fo this entry). I am planning on writing some more about "Replay", since it was such an excellent book, but tonight my brain is still collating and normalizing data, so I figured I would let it run it's course while I did sort of a streaming thoughts thing here.

Let me check and see if there is anything else streaming through my thoughts - hmmm, not that I can see. I will take that as a sign to end this here! Goodnight.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Weekend Starts With Archer

I wrapped work today, ran a few errands on the way home, stopped and picked up some Japanese food (a chicken and salmon bento), ate dinner, then took one very long soaking hot bath. An excellent start to a three day weekend. Fed and refreshed, I've been spending the evening winding down and watching "Archer" On-Demand. If you haven't seen it, Archer is a seriously bent and funny cartoon running on FX.

Here is a link to Archer.

So, sliding into the evening and I am definitely looking forward to the weekend, but, I am afraid the bath has me a little too mellow, so any thoughts I am having are fleeting. Which is not a bad thing.

I Love This Dilbert Cartoon


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Being and Rambling

I came home from work tonight in the mood for a simple dinner, so opted for an egg white omelet with cheese, topped with salsa. It was pretty tasty and hit the spot I was aiming at. I often find the best meals are the simplest meals. The simplicity of a meal allows the purity of the associated tastes to come through. Though, in light of that, I am not really sure it applies to salsa, which can be a pretty complex concoction.

I moved pretty smoothly through the day today (Tuesday). Monday was a bit chaotic at the office, compounded by my having woken up so early in the morning. Last night when I got home I fixed dinner (grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches), took a long soaking bath, and then settled in to watch a couple of programs on the DVR (I caught up on "Justified" with Timothy Olyphant), and capped the evening with T.R..

Last night, I slept well, and then I made it a point to linger in bed this morning, not overly long, just long enough so my body understood that I was lingering. I slipped into the office, worked for a while, attended a cycle of meetings, took lunch, then back to massage some reports. I am working on a custom report request from my management that involves welding together some disparate data elements, so one of the first steps was to normalize the data as best I could. It was intensive and detailed work, and I've probably got a couple of more hours to go, but I should wrap it up tomorrow. Once the data is all normalized, analyzing it is far easier.

My boss is out of the office for four to eight weeks, so my anxiety level was a little high on Monday, but is settling down now - I am sure things will progress smoothly. However, that certainty didn't really help to pull the anxiety down. I could feel the stress getting to me Monday morning, so I made it a point to stop - take a walk, breathe, have a snack, and then resume working and that approach to resetting the day seemed to work fairly well. I am not carrying the full load for my absent boss, she did a good job of delegating it across her analysts, so that helps a lot too.

Tonight, I really don't have a plan and I realize I am just kind of sitting here, typing, and rambling. Sometimes good insights or commentary arises in the semi-aimless writing, but expecting that would be a little optimistic tonight. Tonight is a night of just being. Purely and simply.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thinking About The Adjustment Bureau

This afternoon I saw "The Adjustment Bureau" with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It was an interesting movie and I enjoyed it very much. It addresses the question of free will versus predestination in an entertaining fashion. It doesn't really have an answer to the question - since it is a question that has bubbled around in human philosophy for a very long time, with a wide variety of answers, some possible, some probable, and some just...there.

It generally doesn't take much to set me to contemplating free will versus predestination. I pretty clearly come down on the free will side. We shape our lives through a succession of choices - constantly, to greater and lesser degrees, at every decision point we reach in our life. I think the best we can do is try and make those choices as consciously as we can and to be as aware of our choices as we can.

Outside of the immediate events in front of us it's almost impossible to predict the specific future. However, it is fairly easy to predict the general future - and predicting the general future is often sufficient enough to become a truly life altering event. The more consistent choices you make, the greater your impact on the general future.

It's hard to discuss this topic without soaring off into the stratosphere. I just tried to write an example, but ended up soaring off, so I thought I would retry it as simply as I can. Let us say you have a choice of A or B as a possible general future. In order to reach that general future, you need to make ten specific choices. If you simply choose "more instances of A than B" in your specific choices, than you will land in the general future of A. The more instances of A you choose over B, the higher the probability that the final outcome will be A. It really is that simple, no matter what you decide A is. We are, or we become, what we feed through our thoughts and our words and our actions - the big choices in our lives are the direct result of the small choices in our lives, so by focusing on the small choices we will eventually realize the big choices.

To often, people abdicate on the small choices, believing that they can wait and simply make the big choices. You really can't. It really doesn't work that way. Often enough you make the big choices in life unaware, you make them as you are making the small choices. Each little thing shapes the big things.

So, if there is any object lesson here (and in the movie), I would say it is simply this - consistently make the small choices and eventually the wait of them will influence the big choice. (In the movie, because Damon and Blunt consistently make the small choices - when the time comes, they realize they've already make the big choice.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Electra Glide In Blue

I woke up this morning as I usually do, in the still hours before dawn. The eastern sky was just starting to turn to a pale shade of blue. Spring is not here yet, but I can feel it approaching. I love the sound of birds singing in the early hours of the morning, thought they haven't yet opened up with their full symphony yet.

With a cup of coffee and a few slices of wheat toast I decided to run through the list of upcoming movies on cable to set the DVR. While I was doing that I stumbled upon MGMHD which was playing the cult classic Robert Blake movie "Electra Glide In Blue". I remember seeing the film when I was a very young man, so it holds a special place in time for me. I settled in with my coffee and watched it, beginning to end. It is definitely a slice of time, firmly grounded in the era (1973).

When I find myself sliding into nostalgia I often wonder "dang, was I ever really that young"? The answer is yes, of course I was. There have been a lot of miles and adventures and misadventures between here and there. I have to confess to having enjoyed most of them though. A few I could have done without.

Anyway, if you've never seen the movie and you can find it, it is worth a watch.

My plan for today is to move easily through the day. I want to keep it nice and relaxed this weekend. Just ease through the pleasant late winter day.

Here is a link to a YouTube video of the end song "Tell Me" by Terry Kath (also very much a slice of the time and place).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Unexpected Evening

I am sitting in the living room of my apartment with the patio door wide open. According to the thermometer it is 59 degrees outside and sliding down from a beautiful day. The evening was especially beautiful tonight, calm, balmy, with just a hint of a breeze. It was an unexpected evening.

I am sitting in the living room, mostly in silence. I can hear the ticking of the clock on the kitchen wall, the clock that is slowly losing time - a minute or so a day. I don't know how long I have had it, probably well past it's life-cycle, considering it was probably less than $20 when I bought it long ago. I have two other clocks visible from where I generally sit in the living room, both of them satellite clocks, so I really have the kitchen wall clock more out of habit that anything else.

There is the sound of the refrigerator kicking on, the compressor and the fan, not loud, but a soft white hum in the background. There is the sound of my fingers dancing over the keyboard here on my laptop, writing this entry. If I close my eyes and listen there are incidental sounds coming in through the open door, the sounds of traffic and distant, indistinguishable voices, some belonging to children, some to adults.

The evening seems to be moving slowly, which is nice considering that my principle complaint over the last year or so has been the speed with which time is passing by. I have adopted a mantra that works, at times, when I am feeling overwhelmed by the pace of this life and that is a simple "slow, slow, slow" to remind me that a lot of the pressure, a lot of the rush that I feel is self-inflicted and that I do have it in my power to take a deep breath and slow things down.

I wonder at the passage of time, I wonder at my perception of the passage of time. I haven't gotten any magical insights or penetrating observations - time passes and I experience it's passage at a variety of speeds. Evenings like tonight seem rare, when I don't feel rushed and I don't feel hurried and I don't feel like there are a dozen things that I should be doing instead of simply just sitting here. I am just sitting here.

I was going to go sit outside for a while tonight, but I learned to my amusement that I had put the seat cushions on my favorite chair out a little early - and it rained on them - and the only thing I would have gotten sitting down would have been a wet butt. I can pass on that tonight.

My beloved T.R. is traveling for work, and I always miss her when she is. Her work can be very time consuming, twelve to fourteen hour days, a quick bite, a hot shower, sleep and repeat tends to lead to the whirlwind passage of time, or perhaps to a sense of timelessness. When she is traveling I miss her and I practice patience.

So tonight, on this unexpected evening, I am practicing simplicity and patience and silence.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Sound of Pebbles

When I find myself under stress one of the visualizations that I have found works fairly well for me is to imagine each item of stress as a stone pebble and then slowly, one after another, drop the pebbles into a tin bucket, listening to the clang of the bucket as the pebble rattles around inside of it. I am not really sure why this particular visualization works better than others for me, but it does.

I was working on filling the bucket up today. During the course of the morning I accumulated quite a few pebbles. At lunch, I walked down the street in the rain and had a bowl of so-so vegetable minestrone, a green salad, and a glass of iced tea. When I finished lunch, I walked back in the rain and then walked to the far end of the building and back, imagining those pebbles hitting the bottom of the pail as I walked.

I often speak in general terms of the stressors that I find myself under, but I thought I would take a slightly different approach today and show you all some of the pebbles I dropped into the bucket.

Pebble Number One: I exchanged texts with my brother this morning, god love him. He is one of those people that he cannot help but correct you, even if what you are saying is a simple statement of preference. I had mentioned to him that my preference was for black coffee – upon which he promptly texted back that my preference was wrong. Now think about this for a second – “I like black coffee”. “No you don’t.” What’s the point of that whole exchange. Other then getting under my craw. It’s actually a hot button of mine when you are stating an opinion or a preference and people tell you it’s not your preference or opinion? How the heck do you respond to that?

Pebble Number Two: I have an incidental table in my living room, near the door, where the odds and ends of things land – keys, wallet, pocket stuff. It has a tendency every now and then to catch things and become cluttered. As I was picking up my stuff this morning I noted that it was cluttered (largely because I knocked some small things off). That was just irritating. This pebble fortunately I can do something about – tonight, when I get home, I’ll quickly sweep the crap that has landed there into the trash can and that will be the end of that. (On a side note, I am obviously a pen kleptomaniac. I buy and use one type of pen, the Zebra 402 in medium black ball point, however, inevitably all kinds of pens end up on the incidental table. I have no idea where they come from, since at work, I also use the Zebra 402 exclusively.)

Pebble Number Three: Traffic. ‘Nuff said.

Pebble Number Four: I am working a small project here at the office and it’s a thing that causes me some level of vexation. There are certain questions in my line of work that keep getting asked over and over and over. The data that underlies the questions never actually changes, hasn’t in the fifteen years I’ve been in this specific line of business. But, every new leader feels compelled to ask the same question and then disregard the same data. I have been at this long enough that I always feel a tremendous sense of déjà vu when the questions get asked.

Pebble Number Five: The inability of probably ninety percent of the corporate world to run a meeting that actually sticks to the agenda. Everyone always wants to either hijack the meetings and talk about something unrelated “while we are all together” or drone on and on about something only peripherally related in order to get face time.

Pebble Number Six: People who complain about things, but never to the actually people they should complain to them about. In the work environment this usually involves something minor that they should talk to their manager or HR about, but they won’t actually take the positive step to seek resolution since, I suspect, they really just would rather complain.

Pebble Number Seven: Loud people either talking in the hallway or on their cell phones. I always have to fight the urge to go stand right next to them and pull out my cell phone and go “Oh my god! You won’t believe how loudly this guy next to me is talking on his phone. Here, listen!” And then hold the phone up toward them.

Pebble Number Eight: Micromanaging by managers who really don’t have the slightest idea what is going on, but feel compelled to be involved.

And when I feel that urge rising up, that is when I know it is time to take a long walk and let the pebbles fall into the pail. (Clank, clank, clank, clank…)