Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Disciplined Focus on the Basics

It looks like I have, temporarily, fallen on a different rhythm, a more work driven rhythm.  I got home last night and basically went into vegetable mode, due to the hours I’d worked.  I went to sleep early, about 8:00 PM.  As a result of that decision, I woke up about 2:00 AM, spent thirty minutes or so reading, and then managed to go back to sleep until about 5:30 AM.  When I woke at 5:30 AM I was rested and ready to move smoothly into the day.
I had an interesting dreams - it was a work related stress dream, where I was struggling with various aspects of the project that I’m working on.  My biggest worry bead is this: We’re currently “working without a net” on various portions of the project, were working without anyone checking our work, we’re working without an process of peer review and without many of the necessary project controls.  As a result, I have a persistent fear, not so much that I am making a mistake, but that I am missing something entirely - and I simply don’t know I am missing it.  The same holds true of mistakes - I am well aware that I could be making some terrible mistake and simply be totally unaware of it.
That was the anxiety trigger that tossed and turned my dreams last night, but in the dream was the possible solution.  That is one of the things I love about the way the subconscious works, the way it is continually seeking an answer, and then when it finds something it thinks will work present it to use in the form of images.
In the dream I was preparing to go on a raid of some sort.  It was somewhere in the dark hours of the night, I was in a room lit by a lantern, and I had all my equipment laid out on the floor, meticulously counting each piece, ordering everything, making sure all of the basics were accounted for prior to the raid.  I woke up with the realization that was the approach I needed - a simple and disciplined focus on the basics.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday In A Mood

Well, I have started Monday in a mood.  I don’t know if I didn’t get enough sleep last night or if I am overwhelmed by the work facing me or a combination of both. I woke up shortly after six and proceeded straight into a clunky morning. (The opposite of a smooth morning.)  First, I am tired, as if I didn’t sleep well last night.  Then, it was a morning of small irritations, from trouble putting my contact lens in to spilling coffee on myself, it was just a morning that went slightly off track and stayed there.  I tried to slow the morning down and break the patterns of the day (which is what I am trying right here as well), but that has not been particularly successful.  Because I was running a little late through the morning I ended up in heavier than normal traffic on Lawrence Expressway, in part due to the hour and in part due to a heavy fog that was slowly lifting.  I made it into the office and mood is just kind of staying with me.
One of the thing I know, when I find myself slipping into a mood like this, is I need to change my pattern, I need to change the direction of the day.  I have found that one of the best ways to do that is to try and focus down on things that can give me a sense of accomplishment. If I can string a few of those together, then I can salvage the day, otherwise the day is pretty much a waste of time. So, I find myself locked in battle with my mood.
So, to try and alter the course of the day, I am going to try and pick some low hanging fruit, harvest them, eat them, and then try and tackle some more difficult things a little later in the day. I feel in a writing mood, so I may take the opportunity to draft some longer emails, or perhaps to do some documentation based writing and reset the day by focusing on something that I enjoy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Classic Mustang

A true piece of automotive Americana. Beauty incarnate.
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Tiny Pumpkin

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Easing Into The Weekend

I am glad I made it to the weekend.  The workday wasn't too bad - it was Friday, so it was relatively quiet from a customer standpoint, meaning I actually had time to do some regular O&M work.  I took it easy through the day - slept a little late, conversation with T.R., easy drift into the office, then a leisurely lunch.  I came home at the end of the day, stopped to get a haircut, took a shower, had pizza for dinner, and am now alternately reading and watching "Ancient Aliens" into the night.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Glass, Full

The day was one long meeting or nine long meetings all strung together.  Either way, the end result was the same.  Though it was a smooth start to morning, including time with T.R., the first meeting threw me headlong into a foul mood. I don't mind consulting on other parts of the project, but I dislike it when people attempt to off load their work on me, especially since I have a full project load myself. 

There are two analysts assigned to developing some custom reporting - the only challenge for them is neither of them has the depth of knowledge to design the reports they need to design.  Like everyone else, they're under heavy pressure from upper management - so, in the meeting today, they attempted to foist the detail work off on me. 

Now, under normal circumstances I am always glad to help - but these are not normal circumstances, so I refused to commit to the task unless management decides to assign it to me.  If I am a glass of water, then I am a very full glass of water - we can always pour more water in, but some of it is going to splash out. 

So, after that meeting put me in a foul mood I struggled through the morning.  At lunch, I decided to log out, commute home, take a nap, and try and reset the day. It worked and I was able to salvage both mood and productive out of the afternoon.  Then, a simple dinner (grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches), and an easy slide into the evening.  In a short while I am going to slip into bed and read a few chapters in "The Cloud Atlas".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Self-Evaluating On A Failing Project

I had an interesting problem today.  Like many companies ours requires us to provide self-evaluations periodically through the year, as part of our performance review process. I'm not a fan of our process, I find it bureaucratic, unresponsive, and mostly pointless.  Today's task had its own set of challenges. How do you do a self-evaluation on a project that you think is failing?

I started four times and realized each time that I was sliding into a litany of complaints about the project as opposed to an evaluation. One of the difficult tasks in regards to the project is that many of the traditional measurement points are irrelevant. In project work the most common form of measurement is performance against schedule, against the project and process milestones. However, in this case, our project and our process are all over the place.  We're not following any standardized process except, perhaps, in name only.  We've certainly pretty much ignored standard milestones.  So, how do I self-measure my performance?

After a couple of tries I ultimately decided on simply stating things as they were and highlighting the parts I was involved with, then giving some emphasis in regards to the things that were above and beyond my current assignments.  It is a strange thing because, in my view, the overall project is pretty much a horribly run dismal failure - yet on the project there are many people doing solid, professional, creative and imaginary work.  It is the classic incident of succeeding in failure - but, to succeed in failure requires enlightened management, and I have no faith that my upper management is enlightened.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I worked a 10 hour day today - and it feels like its a short day, which, of course, compared to other days it was.  It was a relatively productive day overall, but I was glad to get home.  I split the day pretty evenly between project related work and O&M work, so it was a nice balance.  I am relaxing into the evening watching some TV (Raising Hope, The New Girl) and reading (The Cloud Atlas).  It feels nice to give the brain a break.

Today was our first real rainstorm here in the Bay Area, which was nice.  I loved the scent of the rain in the predawn hours. This is my favorite time of year, weather wise. I love the warm days and cold nights, I love the bite of fall in the air, I loved tucking into a cool bed under a warm comforter.  Pure creature comforts.  Speaking of which, I think I am going to settle in for the rest of the quiet evening here.

I'll leave you with a link to a great music clip.  This Florence and the Machine with "Breath of Life".

Monday, October 22, 2012

Work, Cloud Cuckoo Land, and The Cloud Atlas

It was a long day at the office, with some pretty serious stress peaks in the early morning. The thing that sent my levels climbing was being pulled into a schedule meeting.  In an project, managing a schedule is a full time job. To that end, we have a master scheduler.

The problem with our current project is...he is not very good. In my current role, on this project, I do not have schedule control responsibilities (though, I have been pulled in a couple of times to write part of the schedule, but that is another stress point). Because our scheduler is not very good, he has to have everyone present in the meeting, for when he runs into things about the schedule he doesn't understand - which is all the time. Prior to departing for vacation my boss had provided schedule updates and estimates for the two meetings I got called into today.

So, basically, all I did was say "as was provided". A pretty much pointless waste of two hours.  The rest of the day though, I plowed through writing a new set of requirements.  Here is the challenge that I ran into - I have a portion of the project that is current in the test cycle - and yet, at the end of last week they added what translated to 150+ new line items for the requirements document.  Too crazy.

I would give you a nice entry about my personal life but I didn't have one today.  I worked about eleven hours, came home, ate a simple dinner, took a short nap, then got up and watched the presidential debate, while answering the occasional email on my corporate Blackberry. I do have one bit of feedback - I think presidential candidates should be wired with Tasers and when they fail to answer the question asked, they should be shocked.  In about three minutes both of the candidates would have been laying on the floor, twitching. A pure evening in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Fortunately, I plan on recapturing some good hours this evening by reading "The Cloud Atlas", which I started on Sunday and I am already enjoying.

Semi-Random Monday Thoughts

Naturally, after I went to bed early last night, I woke up early this morning.  I dreamed last night, but I don't recall the content of the dream, only knowing, on waking, that I had dreamed. I like the still hours of the morning, when it is dark outside, when you can hear the world waking up. It is the perfect time to have a cup of coffee and just savor the moment.

I had a strange thought this morning, or I wondered if it was a strange thought, I wondered if I am entering a midlife crisis, given the assorted challenges I've been feeling at work.  I have been there for thirteen years, going on sixteen if I count the three years I spent there as a contractor.  That is a long time and it is possible that I am simply ready for a change.  There is a change coming, and I hope the end of it is going to be good, but the change is that the company has sold the building we're in.  So that means, sometime over the next year, odds are we are going to move to another location.  I hope it goes well - and I am actually looking forward to it. I really don't like my current office - we are deep in the interior of the building, so that means there is no natural light, at all, in our work area.

I also wonder if that awareness of the passage of time is starting to weigh heavier upon me, psychologically.  I certainly have an awareness of lost time, stronger then I used to.  Specifically, the time that I am often most aware of is the "time in between", that is the time that is wasted in between doing the things that I enjoy doing.  There is a surprising amount of it to me and I am very aware of it.  Still, it seems to just slip away.

Ah well, today is going to be a full day, so I think it is time for me to start my morning by splashing through the shower.  I am deep in Grove Park envy this morning.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Simple Weekend, More or Less

It was a nice weekend, though work felt like the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  My calendar is mostly clear tomorrow, so I should be able to pull a productive day out of it.  I worked for a couple of hours today, but I couldn't really say that I accomplished anything significant. It was more of a shuffling of data in different directions.

Sunday was a mellow day.  Had breakfast with Bob and Tony, then stopped to pick up a couple of new pairs of blue jeans, then up to Edgie's to play a few hours of pool (I won, 4 out of 7 games), then Patxi's for a pizza, a leisurely after pizza walk - then home to Mythbusters and the Walking Dead and a quiet evening reading The Cloud Atlas.

In short, it was a very ordinary Sunday, which is just what the doctor ordered.  I hope I have a productive week at work and I hope everyone else has a productive week, because we have a lot of ground to try and cover in way too few days and hours.  I am going to try and not psych myself out over the whole thing - going to try and stay focused and stay productive, but that is never easy, especially not in the environment that we currently find ourselves in.

I am enjoying sitting in the quiet of the living room, reading, this evening, since I've turn the television off. I think I am going to slip into bed early today, just so I can read and ease into sleep, to prepare for the week to come.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quote From "The Cities of the Plain"

"He knew that our enemies by contrast seem always with us. The greater our hatred the more persistent our memory of them so that a truly terrible enemy becomes deathless. So that the man who has done you great injury or injustice makes himself a guest in your house forever. Perhaps only forgiveness can dislodge him." - Cormac McCarthy, "Cities of the Plain".
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Helicopter - Spring Creek SD

My sister send this a little earlier today - a fire fighting helicopter filling it's tank from the Spring Creek dam in South Dakota.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Going Easy

I went easy today. I didn't sleep well last night.  It was a hot night so I went to sleep with the bedroom window wide open and the overhead fan spinning.  About three thirty a.m. there were some people standing out across the street having a conversation near their car and one of them had a voice that was at the perfect timbre to irritate me and prevent me from falling back to sleep.  Then, once I was awake, my monkey-mind seized on a word related problem and basic went berserk with it for an hour or so.

I woke at about my usual time, splashed, bleary eyed, through the shower, then had a good conversation with T.R., who headed off to Grove Park for a long weekend. I had breakfast with Tony at Goodies II on Bascom, then connected with Bob for a day of mostly wandering around.  I am looking for a small L shaped desk.  I did not find was I was looking for, though I came very close at Ikea.  I've got a particular place I want to put it, where I currently have a pair of tables, so I am being kind of picky about what I select.  I may look around some more to see what I can find.

After that, I came home, watched "Elementary" with Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Mille, took a short nap, had dinner and that watched a great little movie that I highly recommend if you haven't scene it - just for the sheer strangeness of it.

The movie is "Attack the Block".  The premise is that aliens arrive on Earth and the first one runs into a pack of touch street kids who kill it.  The rest of the movie consists of the kids defending their block from the alien invasion.  It's definitely an entertaining piece of film.  In a couple of minutes here I am going to curl back up in bed with "The Cities of the Plain" and work toward the end of it.

I have "The Cloud Atlas" stacked up behind it, and I want to read it before I see the movie - the movie comes out next week, so I will probably miss it on opening weekend.  That, then, was an easy day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cormac McCarthy - Cities of the Plain

It was a crazy cascade of a day.  I basically worked from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM.  I did knock a few things off the list, but a large portion of the day was spent going from one meeting to another.  Chaos carefully layered on top of chaos, with a few flying monkey's thrown in for the entertainment value.  But, even with all that, it was mostly a positive. There was one meeting during the day that was frustrating, largely because their were so many people on the meeting, and I wasn't even really sure what most of them were doing there.

I swung home for a simple dinner at about 3:00 PM, but pretty much immediately popped back online to keep working, through I did watch an episode of Ghost Hunters while I was working. I finally broke it off and called it an evening, then spent a wonderful hour on the phone with T.R.. Now, with the windows open and the fans blowing, I am settled in to unwind before calling it a night.  I reckon I'll watch about an hour or so of TV, then curl up with "Cities of the Plain" and keep reading.  I did realize the other day where the title of the novel comes from:

"And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow..."  Genesis 19:29.

Given that this is a Cormac McCarthy book, I can imagine it is going to turn out to be a bit more than a distant allusion. I read an amusing quote from him the other day on Good Reads:

"I don't know why I started writing. I don't know why anybody does it. Maybe they're bored, or failures at something else." Cormac McCarthy

There are definitely times when I have to agree with that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Girlfight - Michelle Rodriguez

It is a warm fall night here in California and I've settled in for the evening after a long day of work.  Work was, fairly productive, by the end of the evening.  So, I decided to watch a great movie that landed on my DVR.  If you've never seen it before, I highly recommend it...

"Girlfight" with a young Michelle Rodriguez in the title role is an amazing little movie, both for the great story and for the love of boxing. Michelle does an amazing job in the movie and her transformation into a boxer is great (and the result of much training as part of the movie).  By the end of the film she moves like a boxer and she has developed a boxers lean muscle - it is pretty impressive. I often wonder how much the influence of that early movie carried on into her later "tough girl" roles. Again, it is a great movie and well worth watching.

Other than that, it has been a busy, but productive week at work. I do seem to have managed to work my way through the logjam that dropped on top of me at work last week. I manage to knock two of the things off my immediate list.  Given the chaotic nature of this particular project, I keep finding that it's taking me three times as long to finish straight-forward tasks, largely because of the constant interruptions and the failure to get the requirements adequately locked down.

Ah well, one more official day to go this week - though I am sure I will be doing some work, perhaps a lot of work, on my days off, as frustrating as I find that. Using all of my zen tricks, I have managed to keep the overall stress at a low roar.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Opening With A Stress Load

I thought I would take a slightly different tack toward the day by writing an entry first thing in the morning, rather than later in the day.  I'm not sure I picked a good day to do it - I woke up this morning carrying a fairly heavy anticipatory stress load, due to the pressures on the project at work.  I usually carry stress in my neck and shoulders and I can definitely feel it already.

So, I think it is going to be a day where I am going to have to use the array of stress reduction techniques that I possess to move through the day - and this is actually one of those techniques - acknowledge and accept that you are under a heavy stress load and that you are going to have to change up your behavior to compensate for that load.

I am going to start by following this entry time with a bit of time on meditation, and then take an easy commute into the office and try and stay focused through the day.  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Challenges of Juggling

It’s early Monday afternoon and I am at the office.  I started work at 5:30 AM today and, given that it is now 1:30 PM, it dawns on me that there is a reason I feel tired.  I’ve already worked an eight hour day.  Five of those hours were spent weaving in and out of meetings, which can be exhausting in its own right. I am fighting, but not for much longer, a compelling urge to go home, take a nap, and then try again after an hour or so.  That is one of the drawbacks of starting so early in the morning - but the time you get into the afternoon you are pretty much finished, at least as far as anything detailed and creative goes.
I find that the early morning hours are the best for me.  It is then that I feel at my intellectual and physical peak.  It would be nice if I could figure out some way to have multiple mornings through the day. Perhaps a rhythm of work, sleep, work, sleep, work would do it.  I do feel I would be more productive if I have the opportunity to take a true nap midway through the day. I may have to try that one of these days when I am working virtually.  I often find that when I nap I don’t actually go to sleep - but I do slip into a different mindset when I am taking a nap.
I find I am really struggling at work and I am struggling with getting all the parts of the project I am working on organized.  I feel like I am juggling multiple balls and I can’t get a rhythm established, that every time I just start to find the rhythm, they change it.  They change it by adding new balls or by taking existing balls away, or both. It can be, at times, maddening. I try to pull back, to focus on one thing at a time, but I find that is very difficult when I am trying to move through an environment of constant interruptions. It’s like trying to juggle when someone keeps randomly pushing you in one direction or the other.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oscar Worthy - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Time of a quick entry - but not much.  It is about ten minutes until the start of "The Walking Dead" and I am definitely looking forward to it. It was an interesting day on many fronts - it started with a conversation I have been wanted, from there, into breakfast at the Hickory Pit with Tony.  After breakfast, we stopped at Fry's, then Target, where I picked up "Prometheus". Then, a quick dash across the street and we saw "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".  From there, home, two hours of work, then back out to get Patxi's pizza in Campbell. After pizza, a quick turn around, a dash home, time to write an email, then right into this moment - with five minutes to go before the season premiere.

Let me simple say - two of the first truly Oscar worthy films in a single weekend - "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" and "Argo".  I am going to look forward to the fall movie season and I hope we get some truly great movies.

"Perks..." is a great movie and demonstrates what an amazing actress Emma Watson has become.  She is the heart and soul of this movie and dazzles in virtually every scene she appears in, conveying a beautiful and fragile humanity.  All of the performances around her are as amazing.  There is not a false note in this movie, at all.  I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Two Movie Day - Argo and Seven Psychopaths

Today was a two movie day. First, I saw “Argo”, and then “Seven Psychopaths”.

 Of the two movies “Argo” was definitely the better movie. It was directed by, and starred, Ben Affleck. If you haven't seen the trailers or read the publicity about the movie it concerns itself with the rescue of six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis. It is a simple, taut, tale. It is alternately funny and intense. Alan Arkin and John Goodman bring much of the comic relief in the movie as a makeup artists and the producer, respectfully. I would definitely recommend it, it's well worth the price of admission and it demonstrates that Ben Affleck has turned into a very good director, at least in my opinion

“Seven Psychopaths” was a more uneven movie. Parts of it bordered on brilliant, but parts of it missed entirely. The cast was outstanding, but unfortunately, too much of the writing was self-indulgent. It felt a lot like a scriptwriter writing a movie about a scriptwriter which is always a failing in Hollywood I think. They say you should write about what you know and unfortunately for scriptwriters that means too often they write about scriptwriters. But, with Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Colin Farrell you can hardly go totally wrong. The parts of it that work are worth the price of admission.

After the movie Tony and I stopped at Red Robin for dinner. I had the blue ribbon Burger and steak fries which is pretty good. After dinner I drifted home, I watched a bit of TV, then took a nice nap. I didn't really sleep, instead I kind of tossed and turned, and then eventually gave up and got up. I watched an episode of “Ghost Hunters” and I'm contemplating watching something else off the DVR into the meeting

Today is Day 12 of my personal journey. As such days ago it wasn't too bad. There are always moments when the monkey mind kicks in, when you feel the emptiness, when you're not sure what to do. Then I think you take a deep breath, maybe another deep breath, and you trust to the journey itself. Everything in life happens for a reason or at least that is what I believe. It can be hard to believe when what happens hurts us but it remains to nonetheless. I keep moving forward. I keep taking one day at a time. I keep trying to keep the monkey mind under control.

Is I...Art?

An art installation at the San Jose Airport, taken while I was picking Tony up on the return wing of his visit to Arizona and Minnesota.

The Temple of Steak

This is the Texas Roadhouse up in Union City - the best steak in the area.  Truly outstanding and well worth the drive if you're not from Union City.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Is It So Dark This Morning

Two hours into the day and I just entered my time for the day, only to discover that I am currently at 50 hours.  That stacks up to four twelve hour days, then today.  No wonder I feel punch drunk and unmotivated today. I just walked down the street to get a large coffee and a muffin and as an excuse to get out and wander a bit.  It is cool and cloudy and of course, I was wearing my sunglasses.  About half way down the street I thought - “Gee, why is it so dark this morning?”.  I’m hoping the large coffee gives me some energy to move through the morning and accomplish something, otherwise it is going to be a singularly unproductive day here at work.
I did fall asleep last night within about five minutes of crawling into bed, with my Kindle right next to me.  I made an attempt at reading a short story, but that was all it was, ultimately, a noble attempt.  I slept soundly through the night. On waking I had the vague memory of some dream, but here, now, I don’t recall what it was.  Sitting her, trying to recall it, I ultimately have nothing.
I am looking forward to the weekend, though I don’t have anything planned and I’m sure that I am going to have to dedicate a portion of it too work.  It will probably be the usual weekend - breakfast with any of the guys who can make it, then a movie (I am leaning toward Ben Affleck’s “Argos”, but I think I could be convinced to see “Seven Psychopaths” as well. Maybe I will aim for a double-hitter on one of the days, it has been a while since I’ve done that.
I’ve also got one tiny segment of my spare bedroom/office that I would like to adjust, so I might be inclined to tackle it.  I’m not really looking forward to next week at work.  We are in the crazy stage of the project and there are just way too many moving parts that are destined to break in unexpected ways.  Perhaps the best saving grace is going to be that my direct upper management, my manager and my director, are going to be mostly out of the pocket at a conference, which always takes some of the pointless pressure off.
And, on the optimistic side, if I make some progress through today and the weekend, I might enter next week feeling stronger than I do right now, work wise. Well, we will see.  Meanwhile, it is back to sipping my coffee, eating my muffin, and trying to reach down into my soul and find some hidden well of motivation that I can tap into.  I am not sure I can pull it off today, but I am going to give it a try.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cities of the Plain

What a day.

I went to bed a little early last night, read a bit, and was sound asleep by about 8:30 PM. Consequently, I woke up and rolled out of bed, showered, and was working by about 4:00 AM. It was a frustrating day - I was trying to work my way through my e-mail backlog, but I only made a bit of head way. It seemed that every time I managed to work one piece out, two more arrived.  By the end of the day, I was tired and frustrated.

There was a bright spot in the day, they had a masseur in giving neck and shoulder massages, so I managed to get a massage later in the day. All in all though, it was a lost cause of a day and a lost cause of a week, as far as project progress is concerned.  Tomorrow is a new day, so I get to do it all over again.

After work, I came home and took a short nap, then picked up Tony at the airport, returning from his vacation in Arizona and Minnesota, and we stopped at the Hickory Pit for dinner, then I dropped him off at his apartment. We watched a bit of the VP debate on the TV at the restaurant and then I watched the wrap on the television. I am sure there will be plenty of analysis about who did what to who when and where tomorrow.

It's Day Ten and I didn't really battle the monkey-mind today, though that was mostly due to being overwhelmed in the office and wrestling with my work related monkey-mind, which was threatening to run out of control. The trip to the airport to pick up Tony was a good distraction as well.

My plan for the evening is to curl up in bed and read a bit, then hopefully get a good nights sleep.  I started reading "Cities of the Plain", but it is going to take me a while to get into it, so I might turn to one of my science fiction magazines to read a short story or two.  Of course, there is a good possibility that once I hit the bed I am going to be five minutes from sleep.  I will let you know how that turns out in the morning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wild Flower

This is a small wild flower that was growing alongside a fence near the deli were I went for lunch today. I loved the simple, wild, beauty. It's been a chaotic work week so far, with 19 meetings in the last three days and one more to go to wrap up the day. I'm fried to put it lightly.

I am looking forward to, hopefully, a quiet evening at home. Yesterday turned into a 12 hour work day where I really didn't accomplish much of anything - other then a lot of time spent in meetings. Today was a little more productive, but over all I have been losing ground at work. Its...amusing. My being psychologically divorced from the outcome has given me quite a bit of relief, though it really doesn't change the workload.

Otherwise, today is Day Nine, and my monkey-mind was whirling with a vengeance last night. I woke at about 2:00 AM with a thousand thoughts, so I had to lay there in the darkness, acknowledge them, contemplate them, and then release them.

All told, the process took about an hour and a half. At the end of it I managed to eek out another two hours of sleep. Ah, the paths our minds dash up and down is pretty amazing.

Now, off to my one remaining meeting...
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Apple A Day

It's an eight meeting today. Normally I would not have even bothered to come into the office today, since I'm basically spending the day pacing around and wearing my telephone headset. It all means that, at the end of the day, I'll be completely fried, especially since I threw myself into work at 5:30 AM.

I am sitting in a scheduling meeting today and, to tell the truth, it's a pure fantasy land meeting. But, it's a pleasant enough fantasy land, especially since I've started to us my Zen tricks to not care about the outcome. I just do the best I can and then leave the rest to the flying monkeys.

My monkey mind was pretty attached today, though the rapid succession of meetings kept me busy enough that it never really got away from me, except for a time or two. I walked and breathed and pulled myself back into the moment.  The scent of the apple pictured above was a great tool to pull me back into the moment, smelling slightly sweet and crisp.

When I go through an emotionally difficult time the tendency to second-guess myself runs wild. The thoughts of the day become "what if, what if, what if..." and they spin around and threaten to run out of control.  But, I replay all the conversations, then think about them, consider what is done and not done, said and unsaid, actions taken and actions not taken - and the weight of things usually becomes apparent, painful, but apparent.

Then of course, wrapped inside of it was a great little section from "The Bowl of Sagi":

October 7th
If is a very high stage on the path of love
When one really learns to love another
With a love that asks no return

A difficult thing indeed, but a thing that we can accomplish.

Monday, October 8, 2012

As Smoothly As I Can

I am settling into a quiet night here at home. The plan, if it counts as one, is to watch an episode of "Bones", and then maybe something else. Another program on the TV or DVR, perhaps some more reading in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

On the emotional front, my emotions continue to crash up and down as I try move gradually toward some closure. Closure is never an easy thing - communication helps - but when relationships stutter, stumble, and fall, often effective communication ends and closure becomes more difficult, in large part due to the unanswered questions. 

So, even as we move toward closure I am trying to keep the lines of communication open, at least from my side, in part to help her through it, if she needs it, and in part to help me through it.  Each cycle of communication we have, as we move forward, does bring me closure and for that I am thankful.

The practice of zen non-attachment helps, each day, as I move through the day.  It helps to pull me back into the moment and focus me, which is what I need.  I have a lot of distance to cover I think, but I have the time to cover it.

Work continues to be problematic, today was definitely a Monday, and I've got way too many things moving in way to many directions.  The strangeness of the whole thing is - when it rains it pours.  Sometimes I think stress moves through the universe in unseen waves, washing over us, ebbing and rising according to some unknown tidal schedule.  Tonight, I am going to let it ebb and move into the evening as smoothly as I can.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

On Flow

I tried my best to flow through the day and not let my emotions crash over me too often.  There were moments of course, but there always are.  I am deliberately trying to not over think everything. Trying to just flow through the day, to breath, to walk on the earth, to be present. (All credit to the Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh). So, in the spirit of flowing, in the spirit of being present...

I had breakfast with Bob, over at the Hickory Pit, and from there went over to AMC 14 and saw the new movie, Taken 2, with Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Jensen.  It was exactly what it was supposed to be and enjoyable as a pure popcorn movie.  From there, I met Don at Edgies and shot some pool (lost every single game), and then an early dinner at Red Lobster.  Home, a quick nap, a shower, and this moment.

As I went through the day I was pretty much continuously pulled out of the moment by the monkey mind, by all the unanswered questions that flow through us in emotional times. I am hoping that my mind stills and I am able to enjoy the evening.  I think the shower and the nap helped. Plus, one of my new favorite shows comes on this evening - Copper, on BBC.  If you haven't watched it, I would definitely give it a very high recommendation.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Tides of Life

Well, it has been a day. The tides of life are flowing strongly. I am still too close to the events to write about them in detail here, in fact, many of the details are still actively swirling around in my mind.  My monkey-mind is reaching out there and grasping at various things that are flowing by and I am in a constant struggle of trying to not let it fasten on things.  Additionally, I have always respected the privacy of other people, so I am sticking to that, even though half of the story is mine.  It was an emotional morning and those emotions rose and fell through the day. This evening was melancholy, so I picked up my guitar and wrote for a while.  I have set that aside for now to let it age a bit, but I do have to say I was happy with the outcome.

It is strange to me, but I think all of the reading I have done in the last year in Zen has influenced me.  I am - not grasping. When I feel my hands grasping I take a deep breath and I relax them.  It helps. I try to be as open and honest as I can in this world, and as tough as this time has been for me emotionally, there is no guilt associated with it.  It is an emotionally tough time, in which I am an active participant, but they are the emotions that arise from being attached. Buddha himself left a wife and child to seek enlightenment (which is always a weird thing to think about, in my book).  I haven't left a wife and child, so it is just something to think about.

I had breakfast with Bob, then wandered a bit, through Fry's and Home Depot, then I came home and took a nap.  After the nap,Tyrone and I drove up to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner.  Here, in the evening, as mentioned, I spent some time playing and writing, and then watched a pair of Fringe episodes.  I may watch an episode of Haven next, since it is a little too early to go to bed, and, I am fairly certain, that once I crawl into bed the monkey-mind is going to run berserk for a while before it lets me fall asleep.

Oh, that reminds me, I finished reading William Gibson's "Zero History".  I would highly recommend it, it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I am not sure what I am going to start reading next, but I have some other books in line.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I started the day with a 6:30 AM meeting, then commuted into work, then got a few productive hours working on one portion of the project under my belt before the the cycle of meetings started up. I did manage, during the whole of the day, to complete one thing - and this project is definitely moving forward one simple thing at a time.  I headed home about 4:00 PM, had a simple chicken and cole slaw dinner from JC's, then spent an hour or so on the phone with my mother.  It was, end to end, a full day and that is the kind of day I need sometimes, so I do not get sucked to deeply into my monkey mind.

I've got another meeting at 6:00 AM tomorrow (which is, technically, my off-Friday), then I will go out and get something for breakfast, and follow it up with some additional work. I don't really want to work this weekend, but I do need to, at least to keep the project moving forward. So, I will spend the days weaving in and out of personal things and work things, focusing on one thing at a time.  I am also going to spend some time this weekend in setting up the home office is in the spare bedroom.  I've been saying that for a couple of weeks now and I might actually get to it.

I generally don't do politics, as politics are their own circus, and I am having enough fun over here in my circus. I vote and I am active in the civic life, but I just don't talk about it that often.  Anyway, I saw this image while I was reading the news this afternoon on an aggregating site and it did draw a sudden laugh from me:

Evening looking at the image now, it brings a chuckle out of me.  Ah, the simple things in life that amuse me.

Today is Day Four in this particular portion of my personal journey and I kept finding myself reaching for my phone and then setting it down.  Space.  Breath. Thumb off the wounds.  See, all that studying of Zen pays off. I haven't got any particular insights yet, but I know the nature of insights are that they often take a while to arise.  When I think about it, my brain flies off in different directions and elaborate imaginary scenarios that have little or no bearing on reality.  Conversations that were never had.  Actions that were never taken. The brain playing out a thousand imaginary scenarios, each a distraction from being here, now.  When I catch that happen I think of Thich Nhat Thanh's admonition to - walk, breath, walk, breath - and I pull myself into the moment.

I wouldn't say that I was a fatalist.  I don't think that the future is fixed and predetermined, but I do think that the current of this thing we call life, I think those currents flow in a certain direction and down certain pathways. We happens inside that current is up to us, is influenced by the choices we make and fail to make, but one way or another life moves us through certain experiences at certain times in our lives. We can fight it, we can resist, we can race - but we are still carried by the same currents.  When it comes to the relationships among people, we make our choices, they make their choices, and if we are lucky, we meet in the middle for a while - it can be a long time or it can be a short time.  And I think in there is a simple insight about all relationships.  If you want to meet in the middle, both sides need to move in that direction.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  So ends Day Four.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Memory of Other Wounds

As I walked down the hall this morning I was thinking about suffering. I was thinking about the wounds we get as we go through this life, and about the suffering that we go through because of them. I think that most of the rooms we end up with in life are accidental or incidental. Yes, we definitely get some that are intentional, but, at least in my life, those have been the exception rather than the rule.

This whole "being a human being" is not an easy thing. By being human, we know that there is going to be some suffering that comes with the territory and, short of the spiritual enlightenment that frees us from our suffering, we're going to go through those experiences.

How we react to that suffering, to those wounds, is part of what shapes us. As I drove in this morning, then as I walked down the hallway and sat here in my office preparing for work, I reflected on our ability, as human beings, when wounded, to reach over and put our thumb on the wound and press down! We can, in our minds, intentionally make the suffering we are experiencing in any given moment worse. Why do we do that? What purpose does it serve? What is the function of this human trait?

As usual, I don't have the answer to these questions. But, I can definitely attest that as I drove into work this morning and as I walked down the hall, I had my thumb pressed into my wounds, while my mind conjured up the memories of other wounds.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Auto-Pilot Day

I didn't sleep well last night, in part due to the heat (we have been in the nineties for the last couple of days and last night it didn't cool off until early in the morning0, in part to the attachment of the monkey-mind, in part due to the currents of emotions that rolled through me.  I fell asleep, fitfully, about 10:00 PM, and then woke at 2:00 AM.  After tossing and turning for a while, I read a few chapters in "Zero History" and then managed to fall back asleep for an hour or two.

Then, due to lack of sleep and the monkey mind, I moved through most of the day on auto-pilot.  It took me about an hour to get started, once I had arrived at the office.  I managed to get about an hours worth of prep time in before I entered a long cycle of meetings that ran from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The meetings went rather smoothly, though, largely pointlessly. I made a little headway in the final meeting of the day, so that counted.

From there, I headed home in the heat of the day.  A burrito for dinner, then an episode of "Haven", an attempted nap, then back up and now I am watching the season premiere of "Once Upon A Time" off the DVR.  I've got a few more programs on the DVR to watch tonight, or, once it cools down a bit I might return to reading some more of "Zero History".

I guess, in some ways, today is a Day One for me. Like all such Day One's, I am not really sure what to make of it.  I am certain that, at some level, I am holding myself in check psychologically, letting things surface to be dealt with one at a time, trying to control the flow.  Control of course is an illusion, but we certainly have the ability to influence the course of events by how we perceive of them, by how we interpret them. If we do not attach to them, they do not push and pull us around. We watch them as they flow by.

And oh, crap that reminds me. I've mentioned before, in other seasons, that October seems to be an emotionally laden month for me. It didn't escape my eye that yesterday was the 1st of October - which extends the influence of the month into yet another year.  I could write a novel about October. That, actually, might be an interesting tale. A lot of significant things have happened to me in October over the years.

Monday, prior to the unfolding of the day, I had an insight, and the insight was that I needed to "Break Free" from some of the things that I had bound myself with.  That phrase has been running through my day, and through my brain.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Last Drops of Rain

The soundtrack of the last week or so has been Melissa Etheridge's new album, "4th Street Feeling". It is outstanding, a solid collection, through and through.  Her talent never ceases to amaze me. She writes and sings songs that capture the bittersweet nature of life in a true and honest fashion. I'll probably share the lyrics of some of the songs as I go through the weeks ahead.

The currents of life have been surging around me the last couple of months, with unexpected developments in all aspects of my life. A few years ago and the stress and emotionality of it would have been crushing, but I give a lot of credit to that stress counselor I went to two years ago for reminding me of many of the things I know about managing stress. Layer that on top of the journey I have been on toward a minimal lifestyle and exploring zen and...I still feel the currents, the emotions are as strong as they have ever been, they pull me this way and that, but I do not feel as if they buffet me.

I got an unexpected call tonight that has been, basically, two years in the coming I think. A conversation that has been had a dozen times, with an ending that never was, and tonight, well, tonight might have been the ending. It might have been that last tide that crashes ashore and then ebbs slowly back into the sea. I am sure I am going to write more about it in the coming days, writing that I may or may not share.  But, between there and here I have shed a thousand tears and the tears that remain are like the last drops of rain, that fall, softly to the ground.