Friday, April 11, 2014

Be Gentle with Yourself

My life is in shambles. I haven't made it to CrossFit all week, with the exception of Yoga on Wednesday. Yes, this is what constitutes "shambles" for me. Which I realize is highly melodramatic. I mean, my husband and I both have good jobs, we have a nice house, our friends and family are basically happy and healthy. We have really good lives.

And yet, every time I have a week or so of not doing something consistently, especially something I enjoy, I feel like my entire world has fallen apart.

This week, some of the problem has been due to scheduling--I've had a lot going on after work, which is  my fallback position for when I don't make it to CrossFit in the morning. Also, we spent Sunday celebrating a cousin's birthday, so none of my usual Sunday routines to get ready for the work week happened.

It occurred to me while thinking about this post that many people probably have a thing like this--a thing that they enjoy doing that they just haven't managed to get to for a while because there are other things going on in their lives. Or maybe that they haven't felt like doing, even though they also feel like they should be doing it.

This is especially problematic for me because I suffer from (am living with?) chronic depression. I suppose in the whole scheme of depressed people, mine isn't that bad. I've never been in a position where I couldn't get out of bed. I don't know if that's because I'm strong-willed, less depressed than others, or because my depression started in about 6th grade and there was no way my mother was going to let me lie in bed all day instead of going to school.

Anyway, the problem with not feeling like doing something when you have depression is that it's very hard to tell if you don't want to do something because you're depressed, which would indicate that your depression is worsening, or your medications have stopped working or whatever (I'm not a doctor, this is just my experience). On the other hand, I'm sure non-depressed people have weeks where they don't feel like doing something and all it means to them is that they need a break from it.

I had a boyfriend once who, when I was in the throes of negative talk about everything I wasn't getting done, would say to me, when you beat yourself up like this it makes me sad, because you're beating up my sweetie.

While that relationship is long gone, I try to remember those words. Because it's helpful to remember that even when you're not happy with yourself, chances are good there's someone else who loves you just the way you are. Look at yourself from their perspective: do the people who love me care that I've missed a week of CrossFit? Probably not, or at least not in a way that they're disappointed in me about it.  Do they care that I missed out on my Sunday get-ready-for-work routine? Again, probably not (honestly, they probably can't even tell).

We all have busy, messy lives, and I think it's important to remember to be gentle with our selves when we're not doing everything we thing we should be doing, or even want to be doing. Don't beat yourself up
over something you didn't do today because there's always tomorrow to try again, and no one is perfect.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not enough experience

This is a picture of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
In the past week, I've had two different sets of disappointing news at work. The first is that I will not be going to India to teach business skills to women in rural villages (how awesome is that opportunity!), and the second is that I'm not being considered for a position in our Finance department because they are looking for someone with more experience.

I understand. I really do. They want someone with 5 years finance experience. I have about a decade of accounting experience. That sounds like the same thing to someone not in the field, but it's really not. It's really actually a fundamentally different way of looking at data.

There are a few things about this decision that trouble me. The first is that when I looked over the job description and talked with the managers, everything sounded like stuff I can do. Because I'm smart. And I have a degree in Finance. And because the accounting work at my last company was both more complex and more analytic-based than what I'm currently doing.

This is a picture of a disappointed boy. I think it looks like Sad Christopher Robin. 
The second troubling thing is that I really want out of accounting. Accounting is dull. (I'm sure people in finance might argue that finance is dull, but that's not the point.) The point is, I never meant to become an accountant. I meant to use accounting as a way of getting a job after college, and as a way of getting into a good company so I could eventually do something useful. Well, I've had no problems getting jobs. I'm at a good company. It's apparently the next step that I'm struggling with.

To be fair, I've been at my current company less than two years. It's just that I've been an accountant FOREVER. When I went to grad school, I had no idea that almost 5 years after graduating, I would still have the exact same title on my resume than I did before grad school. Somehow that seems to miss the point of all of those classes (and all of that  money we spent).

As I understand it, the people who don't want to hire me for their finance roles do want to use me for some project work, which is both good and bad. The good side is that they'll get to see how amazing I am and that will hopefully make them more inclined to hire me when another role opens. The bad side is that I'll essentially be doing finance work for free. Sure my hours and my salary will stay the same, but there is a definite pay jump between my level in accounting and the equivalent level in finance.

On the bright side, until they decide what to do with me, I have time to blog at work.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Marathoning, in retrospect

I recently ran a marathon. And it was terrible. It was the worst run I’ve ever had, and it was the slowest marathon I’ve ever run, second only to the marathon that I stubbornly ran despite my torn calf muscle.

A marathon is 26.2 miles, and a lot can happen in those miles. Runners twist ankles, fall, bleed, and acquire new and mysterious injuries. Professional runners die running that distance. Marathoning has become increasingly mainstream in the last few decades, but it is not for the faint of heart.

My running partners and I set a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. A sub-4 hour marathon is a 9:09 pace. It’s a good clip, but not impossibly fast. This was to be my fifth marathon, and I felt confident it would be my best. I knew my weaknesses, I knew how to train, I knew what it felt like to push myself, and I knew how long those last 1.2 miles were after already having run 25 of them.

I created a training plan, and bolstered by my enthusiasm and the promise of blueberry pancakes, my friends and I proceeded to knock off mile after mile. We ran up and down hills. We ran in the fog. We ran in the sun. We ran past beach volleyball players with hateable bodies. You know—those tan women with sun-bleached hair who make wearing a paper bag look like couture. Yes, even distance runners hate those people. To be fair, the lone male among us loved running past the volleyball girls.

At mile 14 of the race, my last running partner dropped behind me. I thought as long as she could see me, she’d keep up, but after the race was over she told me she developed severe thigh cramping—something that’s never happened before. At mile 14 I was about two minutes ahead of where I needed to be based on the meticulously plotted racing strategy developed by my sister, who is a 2:55 marathoner. (That’s the insane pace of 6:40 per mile. I sort of hate her, too.)

Two minutes was a nice lead, but not enough that I could sit back and relax. I wasn't worried that I had gone out too hard—my sister and I anticipated this and figured any lead I had was padding for when something unexpected happened up ahead. I just didn't expect it to happen in the next three miles.

By mile 17, I was behind schedule. By mile 20 I was running 12-minute miles. And by the time I saw the finish line, I was just glad to stop running.

My husband and I have a code: he watches me race, and when he sees me, he says “You’re doing great! See you at the finish line!” and I answer “Yes!” This exchange informs him that I’m fine and planning on finishing this run, no matter what. As he says, “You better show up.” Not finishing this race didn’t even cross my mind.

When I look back on this race, all I can say is that it got very hot and very humid very fast. My training was great and I didn’t suffer any unexpected injuries. You can only do so much planning for the weather. The week before the race, my friends and I knew it was going to be hot. We drank extra water every day to stay hydrated. But you can’t train for a marathon the week before the race. By that point, if you haven’t done the necessary work, it is already too late.


It is disappointing to set a goal and not achieve it, but this marathon wasn't a failure. I finished the damned thing, and I did so with the support of my husband, my sister, and some good friends. It was okay that I didn't meet my goal, because my family and friends were still proud of me, and I was, too.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Advice for a college graduate

I recently received the following letter from a friend:

Hi Virginia,

My daughter Tess is graduating from the University of Arizona in May. As a gift I am giving her an advice book, advice from 100 people I respect -- people like you. 

The question I'm asking respondents is: "If you could offer a college graduate only one piece of advice which, in hindsight, you wish you had been offered, what would it be?" 

If interested, please respond by March 30th

So far, responses have ranged in length from one word to around 250 words. My suggestion? Be brief, be memorable.

Also, let me know how you wish to be identified: 1) name only, 2) name and title, 3) name, title and company. 

A graphic artist and I will put the book together and present it to Tess on her graduation day. 

Thank you in advance.

This is what I wrote back:

What a great idea and thank you for reaching out to me!

One piece of advice that I think of often are the lyrics to an Eagles song "City girls just seem to find out early how to open doors with just a smile."

But what I would say is:

Do what terrifies you: your successes will be sweeter than you dreamed, your failures will be less than you imagined, and if you end up in the middle, well most of life is lived in the middle, so what are you worried about anyway?

Thanks,
Virginia


What do you think?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Changing my life: TMD is ruining my life.

I have TMD. Here's a link to an article about it. Basically, it's the worst pain I have ever been in, and your face says Fuck You, I'm going to be unbearably painful and keep you up at all hours of the night no matter how much ibuprofen you take (for the record, I'm averaging between 2000 and 4000 mg a day. At some point, I'm sure my kidneys and liver are going to reject all of this and my stomach is going to start bleeding, but on the upside, maybe it'll lead to death and then I won't be in this kind of pain anymore. Yes, it really is that bad).

As I was telling my husband this morning, it's the kind of pain that makes you think really crazy things, like if someone took a hammer to my jaw and broke it and we wired it shut and just started over, maybe that would be better (and hey, as an added benefit, I'd have to be on a liquid diet, so I'm sure I'd be skinny).

And since it's Halloween today, maybe I can find a zombie to just bite off that part of my face. The downside is, then, wouldn't I be infected with a zombie virus and I'd be inclined to prefer brains over, say donuts?

And unrelated to all of my problems, because I have an awesome boss, and I work at a company where you can, in fact, go to the cafeteria and get not only a costume, but also face paint, my boss went there to get zombie face paint (maybe to help me with my TMD problems, despite the fact that he's dressed up like a pumpkin), and came back with a wizard hat for me. Which is sort of funny because this morning I took a shower. (Go with me on this.) I normally shower on days I work out, which is really fine, because I exercise almost every day. But yesterday and today I didn't make it to the gym because I was up half the night in pain. So I totally wasted time showering today, because everyone knows Merlin never took a shower.

So, what I have found works best for managing the pain for TMD is two Vicodin and a shot of tequila. Which is the way all healthy, well-adjusted adults deal with their problems, right? Because it causes the pain to go away COMPLETELY, and I sleep through the night, unlike the rest of the time when I wake up between 1 am and 3 am praying that my face explodes and ends the misery. And I know I sound like I'm being dramatic, but I'm really not.

And for extra fun, another coworker got me a Captain American face mask. So now I'm wearing both a Merlin hat and a Captain America mask.


Captain America mask

Merlin hat

Captain America mask with Merlin hat

My "magicy" face to go with my Merlin hat
Um, yeah. There's really no reasonable way to end this post. 





Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm going to change my life

On my drive home from work today, I decided I needed to change my life. I'm really bored. Like back-in-high-school bored. And so I fill up my time with a lot of things, like going to the gym (which is actually good, because it's healthy and because it exhausts me so that I don't remember that I'm so bored). And then I started thinking about how much fun I had last year with NaNoWriMo, and how much I'm looking forward to it this year, too. And I thought, maybe if I spent more time writing, I'd be less bored. Which got me thinking that I need to change my life.

As maybe weird (or maybe not) as this sounds, I think the first place to start is with my diet. I love to exercise, but I wouldn't have to do quite so much of it if I ate just a little better. Which, of course, to me, means I should first focus on eating up all of the stuff I shouldn't be eating that's sitting around the house. Or I should just be eating up all of the random stuff in general so that I can start this program with a clean slate. Which is how I ended up eating mystery soup for dinner.

A few months ago, when I was feeling totally overwhelmed by the amount of random food being provided by my CSA, I chopped it up, mixed it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, and roasted it. Then I froze it, figuring at some point in the future I'd want soup (by my calculation vegetables in liquid equals soup). I did date the bag (from May). So tonight, I dumped that bag of roasted veggies into a pot with some frozen broth (I'm not sure you can freeze broth, but I did, and we'll see if I'm still alive tomorrow), tracked down my immersion blender, blended the shit out of it, and called it dinner. (This sort of activity might be why my husband hesitates to leave me home by myself).

So then, here are some other random things going on. So my company is giving away a free super bowl commercial, and all the employees get to vote on the top 20 finalists. I realize I just did a very bad job of describing the contest, but whatever, you'll have to deal. The point is, I'm super excited about the finalist I voted for, Goldie Blox, because they make engineering toys for girls, and I really think I should have been an engineer if anybody had ever told me that there was some other math-based career path than teaching. But I'm old, and I have two non-math related degrees, and a bunch of student loans, and going back to school sounds like the worst thing possible to me right now, so I'm just going to bitch about missing out in some other alternative universe future. But I don't want that to happen to your girls so check this out. (By "this" I mean the link I posted above.)

So then, my coworker shared with me this thing she bought to sit on that makes her chair so much more comfortable, so I have to have one. And while I was Amazoning (yes, that's a verb), I figured I should do some white elephant shopping. Last year I totally scored big time and received a Black Santa Pornament. It is awesome. So I thought I'd regift it and get him a girl. You know, so he wouldn't be lonely. But the only one I could find on Amazon looked like this, and I didn't want to spend $20 on her. Because I have standards, people. So then I did some more internet searching and discovered that there's an insane amount of this sort of stuff that you can't order directly from the manufacturer. Instead, like the perv I've apparently become, I have to go to some other third party to buy my girly pornament.

So then I thought, what else would make an awesome white elephant gift? Tactical Bacon, that's what! But I didn't want to spend more than $20 on that, so I started looking at some cheaper options. And I found Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit in a Sardine Can, Canned Unicorn Meat (that you apparently can't actually eat, although based on the Harry Potter premise that unicorns are more or less sacred, you probably shouldn't even think of owning their meat), and Zombie Jerky, that you can apparently eat, but maybe wouldn't want to.

So now I have too many white elephant options. And I haven't technically been invited to a white elephant party. Oh boy. This might be why I need to change my life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommend to me years ago by a friend, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it. Jeannette Walls's childhood is so bizarre to me that I actually had to double check that this was a memoir and not a work of fiction.

Jeannette's parents are beyond free-spirited, which is both awesome and terrifying. Her father, an alcoholic, is chronically unemployed, and her mother is completely not interested in raising her children. Her father is brilliant, but because of his drinking and his general hatred of anything organized (unions, the government), can't hold a steady job and the family moves around a lot, eventually settling in a mining town in West Virginia. Her mother fancies herself an artist (but refuses to get glasses because she likes the way she sees the world) is a more confusing character...she has a teaching degree, and at times is gainfully employed, but she keeps saying that she's tired of taking care of everyone else and just wants to focus on herself and her art (which drives me bananas because she has four kids to feed).

Jeannette's parents are a mixed bag. I loved that one Christmas, when there was no money for presents, Rex (the father) lets each of his children pick out a star and he gives it to them...I thought that was very creative. On the other hand, there might have been money for presents if either parent kept a job.

Jeannette and her siblings learn to take care of themselves and each other and become remarkably well-adjusted people.

My one complaint about the story is the lack of dates...I had a hard time gauging how old the children were, and how to place it in context of how old I was at the same point in time.

Jeannette manages to tell her story in a way that empathizes with the plights of her parents and doesn't subject itself to whining and undo self-reflection...she never says, if only my parents had done this or we had that growing up things would be better.

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