Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why I never get anything done: Adulting gets in the way

I am so ready for some utter nonsense.

I work for a company that is pretty flexible in allowing people to work from home, or at least my manager is. Which is a good thing because I needed to be home to wait for the installation of our new washing machine. It would be even better if the washing machine was now washing part of the mountain of laundry in the garage, but it's not. Because the installation guys aren't allowed to work with corroded pipes, and evidently the pipes in my garage are corroded. (I feel like this is the beginning of a dirty joke, but it's not. It's just my life today.)

So I called our plumber ("where did you find this guy?" Captain America asks me. "From the business card on the fridge," I tell him. "It's going to cost us an arm and a leg," Captain America tells me.). The plumber cheerfully offers to come over tomorrow at 4:30. It's not perfect, but then this whole thing isn't perfect. But I can make 4:30 work because I have a flexible and understanding manager.

I open up outlook to send my manager a calendar notification telling her that I'll be working from home again tomorrow afternoon due to this plumbing debacle only to find that my internet is no longer working. I go into the office (I've currently taken over the dining room table for work because we've recently had a heat wave and the dining room has a ceiling fan but the office doesn't) to restart the router, and I press the restart button. And nothing happens. The lights don't blink on and off, there's no clicky sound of a button being pressed. Nothing.

I decide to use our old wireless router (we've very recently changed wireless service providers), which for some reason is still plugged in and working just fine, despite Captain America's cancelling the service. The old router is working just fine on my phone, but not on my laptop. It wants some sort of 8-digit all-numeric pin that the laptop is claiming is on the router. There is no 8-digit all numeric anything on my router.

So I unplug all of the routers, plug them back in, and track down about 95 different passcodes, Meanwhile, I've checked that we don't actually have a laundry emergency (Captain America has exactly one clean uniform left, so we don't need to go to a laundromat tomorrow), and I go to text him this information. And there's some sort of weird voice text bar sitting over my text box. So I can't actually see the words I'm texting. Which of course would be fine if the words I'm writing actually ended up in the text, but as autocorrect can be quite the bitch, I really can't rely on that. Fortunately, I'm just texting my husband and he already thinks I'm nuts.

I give up and call Captain America. Captain America asks me to reschedule the installation of the washing machine for Friday, and to call our internet guy to see if he can figure out what the problem is. Then some garble comes over the radio and he says "I'm at work. I have to go." I'M AT WORK, TOO, I want to shout. But of course, by this point, he's off saving the world and I'm only yelling at a bunch of uncooperative technology.

Fortunately, by this point the internet is working again, and I'm able to google my iPhone problem. And the solution is to power off my phone. Of course it is.

While my phone is powering on/off I email my manager to explain to her a) why I haven't actually accomplished a single thing since I left the office, despite being on line for 5 hours, and b) why I'll need to work from home again tomorrow afternoon. She writes back and says, "Oh. I forgot about you."

Clearly my job is impactful.

Friday, October 2, 2015

So much to do, so little time

As I was preparing to write this post, I was actually thinking, is this worthwhile, or should I not post about this and instead move on to something else? But then I remembered that I actually liked blogging, and that in the time I was spending thinking about doing it, I could just write the damn post. You're welcome.

As you many recall (or not, since I'm an inconsistent blogger), I am working on a year of transformation. One thing I've been working on is learning to see myself accurately. This is important to me for many reasons, but one of them is that I'd like to grow my career. I'm very smart. This is not the problem. But I know I don't have the interpersonal skills I need to get where I want to go. Because frankly, I don't like people. What I'm learning, however, is that I don't have to like them to get along with them.

Anyway, because of all of this, I've been reading a lot about how the brain works, especially as it relates to emotional intelligence. Which is one of the things I could be doing now if I weren't writing this.

I recently asked a friend how a would-be-writer (this is how I would classify both of us. We've both written books. We don't have agents. We know we can write. This whole rejection letter thing is just part of the process)...anyway, I asked this friend how would-be-writers managed to have day jobs (because: bills! standards of living!), find time to write, read about the art of writing, read books in their genre, query agents, and do functional things like exercise, laundry, and grocery shopping.

Her response was: poorly. Then she noted that this may be why writers are over-weight alcoholics. (Before you get all worked up over this accusation, I seriously doubt writers, as a population, are more overweight and alcoholicy than non-writers, it's just that working in more-or-less isolation makes you forget that no one else is particularly good at adulting, either.)

I'd like to get back to the "poorly" bit, though, because everyone I talk to, specifically all working women I know, feel like they have too much going on and/or they are dissatisfied in some aspect (or aspects) of their life. So much, in fact, that they don't think they're doing anything well. Obviously we're all doing stuff "good enough." Our bills are paid. Our families eat. We have jobs and dental insurance.

Here is a list of stuff, in no particular order, that I'm not doing as well as I'd like to:

  • Eating food that's actually good for me
  • Exercising enough to meet my goals
  • Sleeping enough to not be a bitch
  • Whatever my job is (I just changed roles, so I'm sort of off the radar as work is transitioned, which is nice, but also makes me feel like I'm not contributing enough)
  • Blogging enough to have a following (why do I need a following? As a social media platform for that book I haven't published yet? I don't even know)
  • Editing my book into something that can be published
  • Outlining my new book so editing it will be easier than this one (ha ha ha!)
I know. My mother is going to take a look at this list and tell me to cross half of it off as unnecessary. Honestly, this is too many things to focus on. So what I'm actually working on is getting enough sleep. 

I've been doing a lot of reading about sleep (sleep, the brain, and yet my next book is about zombies. I'm not really helping myself here at all). Everything I read says, in a nutshell, that sleep is THE THING that will make everything else better/easier/more efficient/prettier/more baconier/and in general more awesome. Sleep helps curb food cravings. Sleep helps your tummy know when it's full. Sleep makes exercising easier. Sleep makes thinking (presumably part of my job) easier. I'm sure sleep will help me focus enough that this blog isn't a rambly hot mess, sleep will make me a smarter writer. And sleep will make me less bitchy. If only I had a nap desk!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If you can't articulate a problem, does it exist?

What do you call it when you have educated intuition? I'm actually not even sure if that is a term, but it should be, or at least there should be a term for it. What I'm talking about is not the sixth-sense sort of intuition, but more the sort of intuition you have about something you're familiar with.

For instance, I know a woman who bakes a lot of bread, and she can look at the dough and say "Not enough yeast" or "It's too sticky" or even "I can't make bread today--it won't rise in this weather."

So far, she's never been wrong with these assessments, but I can't see what she's talking about. Bread-making is not my skill-set. (I am very good at baking, but bread-making is a whole other branch of culinary chemistry.)

In general, this educated intuition is good--it's why I can do a high-level review of files and find the error. It's how cooks know to add a little more of one seasoning and not another. It's how we make a lot of day-to-day decisions that we may not even realize we're making.

But this educated intuition can be frustrating, too, when either you don't have it, or you can't access it fast enough.

I was recently at a writing conference where possible titles were being suggested for an as-yet unpublished work, and I knew that the facilitator was listening for a certain rhythm, or cadence, or structure as he rejected titles or put them on the mental "maybe" list. But I am not a professional writer (yet) and I don't have years of experience (or any at all) in the publishing industry. I couldn't hear the difference between suggestions like "The Stone of God" and "God's Stone." (Which one would you be more likely to buy based on title alone?) (Also, if you google image these two phrases you get some similar, but mostly different results. Crazy, right?)

This is frustrating because as a would-be author, I want to market my writing in the best possible way. I want a title that works for the book, catches publishers' and readers' eyes, and is easy to promote. But I have no idea what this sounds like.

Similarly, I work with a woman who is very familiar with her field (we call her a SME--subject matter expert. Oh corporate America and your acronyms!), but when we're in meetings lead by strong personalities, she sometimes pauses before she speaks and by the time she decides what to say, the meeting has moved on to a new discussion point. When I asked her about this, she told me that sometimes she hears an idea, and it clicks around in her brain for a moment or two as she processes it. So she's nearly always a beat behind.

This is unfortunate in two ways: when her educational intuition says "that's won't work" but she can't pinpoint why, people move ahead with plans that have already been tried, or don't have enough data to be useful, or have some other limitation, when a more useful solution could be found if the matter were discussed a little longer. Secondly, when she hears something that sounds workable she doesn't speak up, so the rest of the room doesn't know that they're on the right path.

So obviously, in the first example, experience is a huge help, but it's also fairly easy to google book titles in your genre, or *even crazier* go to a book store and look at what sells (fantasy, for example, has a lot of titles where the structure is The [object] of [some location, person, etc.] as in The Sword in the Stone, while historical fiction uses a [Main character's name]:[His/her unique identifier] model, such as Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World.

But what do you do when you can't access the data quickly? Should you interrupt the meeting and say, "I think you're going to find some problems with that suggestion, but I'll have to get back to you on them"? That sounds pretty lame. And you don't want to schedule another meeting to resolve something you thought was already resolved but turned out it wasn't, although this sort of thing happens all the time.

The problem, it turns out, is in the ability to articulate the problem.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Getting rid of stuff that's not working

As part of my Transform campaign, I'm working on making some changes in my life. But this process is largely trial and error. After reading Gretchen Rubin's book about habits, Better Than Before, I learned that the reward system largely does not work (e.g. If I lose 10 pounds, I can buy myself those cute shoes). Nonetheless, I still harbor the idea that if I do all of this hard work, I should get some sort of treat. I really don't know why this is.

I did learn that I am motivated by external sources, not internal (this was a bit of a surprise to me, too!). This doesn't necessarily mean other people--I love watching the little arrow progress around the treadmill's track signaling that I'm closer to completing another lap. But, this is also why I'm doing a sugar-detox diet with friends. Left to my own devices, I think I'd only be eating scrambled eggs and veggies. And I'd be doing a lot of crying. And I'd probably give up after about 5 days.

Part of this Transform journey is figuring out what works, but another part is figuring out what doesn't work. As it turns out, I really don't like exercising in the morning. When I lived in Oregon, I could manage it because I would work out with friends who lived in the same apartment complex, and we would use the complex's gym. Convenience, it turns out, is super-important to me. I am more likely to exercise at work, even if they don't have all of the equipment I'd like to be using, than I am to drive to my local gym. Mostly because I'm already at work.

I'm more functional when I have time to get up slowly. This morning I got out of bed at 6:40 am and left for work at 8:40 am. I'm pretty sure most people do not spend two hours getting ready to go to work, but I like to sit at the kitchen table and read while I eat breakfast, and whenever I don't do this, I feel sort of off-rhythm all day. Sometimes I do productive things before work, like pay bills, but most of the time I just read.

I've discovered that meditation does not work for me, at least not right now. It simply became another thing for me to do, and while I was meditating, I really, really struggled to turn off the "monkey mind." In theory, that's sort of the point of meditation--to be able to turn off the monkey mind, but I actually found my pulse speeding up while I meditated instead of doing whatever it was I needed to do IMMEDIATELY AFTER I FINISH MEDITATING. So I decided to stop trying to meditate. I might try again in the future, but right now, it is not a good fit.

As it turns out, this Transform project is also a project of self-discovery!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Not yet

I am a chronic over-scheduler. In general, I say it's because there are so many interesting things to do, and my job isn't one of them. But, alas, I have bills to pay! So I try to maximize my "free time" to the point where I literally fall asleep on the floor mid-post-run-stretch.

This is maybe not the healthiest approach to life...especially since I'm no longer in my twenties, when you can still conceivably beat up your body and get by. So, I'm practicing making "not yet" decisions.

To be clear, this is not a form of procrastination (like my constantly changing outlining of my novel may or may not be). This is for stuff that I'd really like to do, but there is no realistic way for me to do right now. This is not something I get to say about making credit card payments, going grocery shopping, or even scheduling dental appointments. That would be procrastination.

"Not yet" is for great ideas: we should go to Peru! It will be amazing! Yes, I'd love to go to Peru, and I'm sure it will be amazing (I mean, hello, llamas!). But, not yet. Let's put that on the 5-year plan.

"Not yet" is for decisions I don't have to make right now. Would I like to be a life coach? I think so, but I'll need to look into it a lot more. Is this something I can realistically take on right now? No. Well, then not yet. I cannot become a life coach yet.

"Not yet" is about realizing that there is a time/money/energy gap between many of the things I'd like to do, and my current availability to do them. It doesn't mean I can't ever do them, it just means I can't do them YET. It means I'm actively deciding to postpone decision making on things that don't need a decision YET. It means I can relax about some of the nebulous anxiety around ALL OF THE AWESOME THINGS I COULD BE DOING IF ONLY I WASN'T STUCK AT WORK!!! I'm just not doing those awesome things YET. It is not about giving up, or quitting; it is simply about acknowledging limitations, including that I can't possibly be doing everything all of the time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The tragedy of jogging

Somehow, I have become a jogger. I used to be a runner, but I am now sufficiently slow that I do not feel that "run" is the verb that accurately captures my forward momentum, or lack thereof.

As you have probably guessed from the title of this post, this is not a development that I am pleased with.

A friend wants to run the Portland Marathon in 2016, a race that I've already completed three times. Immediately after finishing my most recent marathon (not Portland), I swore I would never run another again, but as my running partner prophesied, I'd change my mind. (She didn't. She's still over marathons.) Which means I have a year and 5 months to turn myself not only back into a runner, but back into a marathoner.

I have several books related to running, including anatomy, specific workouts, and even a few memoirs. The first step is, honestly, to lose some weight. Not because I'm trying to be skinny, but because I'm about 25 pounds over my  marathoning weight, and that's a lot of extra weight to carry for 26 miles. (I blame all of the thug muscles I've gained doing CrossFit. And the squats. Don't get me wrong, I still love CrossFit. But for me, CrossFit and marathons are not compatible.)

I'm trying to up my running (and cardio in general) to get to a consistent number of miles a week so that I have a base on which to build a training platform. (At least I sound like I know what I'm doing!) Oh, wait, I do know what I'm doing! I'm becoming a runner again. I'm becoming a marathoner again. I'm transforming my self and my life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Virginia does not share hot chocolate!

My company is doing a 30-day meditation challenge, in which everyone who is interested is invited to meditate for 15 minutes a day for 30 days. We have some group sessions on campus, and we receive links to online resources, as well as daily inspirations. This is today's inspiration:

As I'm sure you can imagine, I don't find this particularly inspiring. 

I signed up for this meditation challenge because meditating is part of my transformation ideology. And actually, deliberateness is, too. I want my life to be less hurried, less rushed, less frenzied. But I find that whole sentence above to be confusing. 

I don't want to come back to this day, as if it was the final day of my life. This day has been spent at work, doing workish things. I would rather come back to Saturday, when I bought Captain America the smallest hot chocolate in the world because he wanted two sips of mine and I told him that Virginia does not share hot chocolate! (Also, I asked him, remember that time we went out to dinner and I was starving and you finally took me to get something to eat? And he told me, that's every time we go out to dinner. He understands me so well!)
This is so much more inspiring, because it is so silly! And, Captain America reported that it was THREE sips of hot chocolate! He even got a bonus sip!