Sooner or Later

I actually got out of the house last week quite a bit, so of course I spent the weekend relatively reclusive, save for a trip to the park with the dogs. I went out with friends from work on Friday for dinner, drinks, and a movie. It was a lot of fun, despite keeping me out past my bedtime (which is like 9:30pm).

I know I haven’t been writing my normal heart-wrenching updates full of meaning and intention. It’s not that I’m not thinking those things still, just that in the light of my gratefulness, many of those thoughts become tempered and softer. I enjoy my job and my coworkers, even when it has been slow making friends. For some reason, I always forget that other people need a lot more time than me to decide if they like people (me) or not. I can usually get a “feel” for people within a few minutes to hours of spending time with them. Now, wait, you say, shouldn’t we take longer when getting to know new people? Aren’t you making assumptions by assessing them too quickly?

I don’t like to think of it as making assumptions. I tend to read people pretty quickly and it has always served me well. In the same vein, despite my ability to read people quickly, I often have blind spots depending on the person. I read people, trust quickly, and then forget to re-read those people, meaning that I dole out trust at times to people who no longer have the best intentions. I like to romanticize this flaw of mine, telling myself that it is always better to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, it means I get burned now and then. But I feel that it is an important part of my brand of authenticity.

A candid talk with a friend at work was helpful today. For back story, in our succession planning, my bosses have been asking about what I want for my future–a managerial track or a technical track. Each has pros and cons, of course, which I’ve spent weeks going back and forth over. Meticulously writing lists and playing out possible scenarios in my head. I had a conference call this morning with several coworkers (one here and two in a remote location) that went pretty well. After the call was over, I hung up the phone and almost immediately flew into a frenzy of self-doubt about how “useful” and “efficient” the meeting had been. Reading over my notes quickly. Had everyone gotten what they needed? Did I do things the best way? Had everyone felt heard and appreciated? Did I go into enough detail? Or too much? Did I waste their time?

STOP IT. I know what you’re doing.” I looked up from my notes at my remaining colleague, a bit shocked by the tone of his statement. “You don’t need to doubt yourself so much. It was a great meeting and you’re doing what we should have been doing a long time ago. People appreciate that you care so much, but you gotta give it a break sometimes. For your own sake.” He looked over the edge of his laptop at me, smiled, and then went back to typing an email.

I was grateful that someone had broken me out of my mental spiral of self-questioning. Laughing, I shared my recent frustration with him at having to choose a track and that I was struggling between the ability to be at the bench doing science and being able to lead teams and make a bigger impact. He smirked and admitted that he also had that struggle, but that at least I’d had more opportunities to flex my leadership muscles in my team, which is true. I was grateful for the vent session and also for the wake up call that I had been grappling with a “first world problem” in the presence of someone that hadn’t really had the same advantages. “We both live in the future, so just be open to whatever it brings.” A completely whimsical statement came from a painfully analytical personality and that was comforting to me.

I have no doubt that my job will only get more complicated and trickier as I get deeper into a job role that is both exciting and nebulous, but I know I can do it. I think that every job is really about the people. Cool science is always a perk, but the people make it or break it. Though I don’t know a ton of people yet (or rather they don’t know me well enough yet), I think that I can win them over. And some I won’t. And that’s okay, too. I’m just excited to make some memories. And be around people that remind me to stop and take a deep breath once in awhile.

“Blinded by the glare
I was moving like I didn’t care
But it was more than I could bear
You know I hoped I’d see you there

Staring out the window
I could see into the soul of every passer by
So many lives
So many pairs of eyes

A pure feeling
I’m invisible and magical
If only for a moment
A pure feeling
I’m scared to control it”

“Now I’m flying and everything feels so free
Take me higher, take me
Now I’m flying, and with these broken wings, take me higher
Be free”

“Sooner or later, I swear we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it,
Sooner or later, I swear we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it
Milk and honey ’til we get our fill
I’ll keep chasing it, I always will
Sooner or later, I swear
We’ll make it there
Sooner than later, sooner or later

The fear inside, the hills we’ve climbed
The tears this side of heaven,
All these dreams inside of me
I swear we’re gonna get there”

Halfway, Kentucky

I made it out to Kentucky last week for a few days to meet with some colleagues there working on some fancy projects. It was a good trip, and, though I missed my dogs, I am glad I went out. It was a refreshing trip and, though it was for work, I was able to get in some sight-seeing via taking the scenic route through the mountains of NC and TN. Somehow, no matter where I’m at mentally and emotionally, driving through the mountains with the windows down and the radio on always does something for me spiritually. I especially enjoyed some of the sights. I got to see beautiful farmland and rolling hills on my drive, accompanied by the occasional nuclear tower (or NUKE-YOO-ler if you prefer).


I also enjoyed some of the town names, such as Half Way, KY. Once I made it to Owensboro, I was treated to some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I also learned that the preferred meat for BBQ in Kentucky is mutton. Different, but delicious! They take their BBQ seriously. As well as their banana pudding.



I like my new job, so this trip was enjoyable and not really a needed “break” from the office. More of a meet and greet since I’m new. For the first time in a long time, I am excited to go to work in the mornings and I feel like I can make a positive impact again. My previous job had started that way and gradually changed as my managers changed–this has a huge impact. I went from being able to work independently with a manager that trusted me to working for someone who barely trusted himself, much less any of his reports. This made work infinitely less enjoyable. Being trusted is a huge deal, and I am hoping to continue building relationships at my new job so I can continue being trusted. Not having it makes you appreciate it even more when you’re back in a situation where you are trusted again. It’s exciting, and I definitely work best when I’m not being micromanaged. They also are investing in my development via training and getting my project management certification. Maybe even an MBA in future if I am so inclined.

I haven’t been posting as much, but it’s mostly because I’ve been working on getting my house organized and I’ve actually been enjoying it. The garage is able to contain my car now! Not just boxes! And I’ve been doing some gardening. Mostly container plants so I can take them with me next time I move. My muscadines are filling out nicely and seem to be enjoying running their tendrils over the rough back fence. My peony is going to bloom anytime soon, which is fantastic–I love the giant, bright fuchsia flowers of the Karl Rosenfield. In the future, I’d love to get some darker red varieties and some yellow ones. I also re-potted all of my succulents to give them new dirt. Love the pale green of those. So visually soothing.

I have lost about 10-15 pounds in the last few weeks, as well. It’s slow going, but I’m trying to take better care of myself. Mostly because last year was kind of a shit show for my emotional health which always makes me stress eat and gain weight. It also helps to be back in warmer weather since I am more motivated to get out when it’s not always icy. After a few months now, I know even more than ever that I made the right choice to start this new adventure. For myself and for the dogs. They love it here, too. The city is quirky and I’m still learning about the area, but everyone has been very friendly and helpful. I have met more interesting people in the past few months through work and made some new friends.

My most common emotion these days is grateful. I have a job I enjoy and I’m closer to family now. I have a new nephew as of last week. I have planned time to catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in years. I am taking a vacation this year for the first time in a long time. I also will get to travel to some interesting places for work and continue learning. Maybe after some time I’ll even contemplate dating again. Crazy, I know!

“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees
I never married but Ohio don’t remember me

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
I never thought about love when I thought about home
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
The floors are falling out from everybody I know”

“Well I want you as you are
Not some collapsing star
I’ll wait I’ll wait for good
What else can I do

I don’t want you as a ghost
I don’t want you as a fading light
I don’t want to be the weight you carry
I just want to be the man you come home to every night”

“Well I looked my demons in the eyes
Lay bare my chest
Said do your best
To destroy me

See I’ve been to hell and back
So many times
I must admit
You kinda bore me”

 

My Own Light

Recently, I decided to get a Fitbit and start tracking my steps. This also synced with my work’s health program, so I saw it as a double perk–I’d be able to quantify my steps AND have it count towards points and rewards. I thought that it was a great way to get motivated, and, initially, I was right. I started walking 8,000 steps a day and gradually worked up to 10k. I found myself getting a mini-high as soon as my little Fitbit buzzed to let me know I’d met the next step goal. I would salivate and awkwardly walk in manic circles in my cube to finish off the next goal. I would check my progress on my phone and laptop constantly, the task almost becoming a reflex every few minutes. I had also been doing this with Facebook, as it served as my main social connection to lots of people and interesting news.

Then, one night I realized that I’d gotten home, fed the dogs, and spent the next 45 minutes pacing and switching back and forth between my step counter and Facebook. I hadn’t played with the dogs. I hadn’t gotten dinner. I hadn’t started my laundry or emptied another box to get closer to completing my unpacking. I hadn’t even noticed the time going by. I lost 45 minutes and hadn’t even noticed. I stopped and looked down at my dog beasts, both of whom had patiently sat down on their pillows watching me with great concern. They sighed and looked at me with big, sad eyes.

I had a small epiphany. I have felt stressed lately without really understanding why–I finished moving and I am enjoy my new job and my new coworkers. But I still felt panicky at the end of the day. My chest was always tight and sometimes I’d get heart palpitations, all well-known prequels to a panic attack (I have those once in a while). I realized as I stood there, desperately clutching my phone, that I had gotten lost in comparing my steps with friends. And constantly comparing myself with people on FB. So many of my friends have kids now and others are out conquering the world in science and the arts, making my successes pale in comparison. So, on top of my anxieties from a constant stream of stressful news stories being injected into my eyeballs every five seconds, I had added anxiety from constantly wanting to match my step-measuring buddies.

I realized that I’d taken a walk around our campus at work on a beautiful day and all I could remember was how many steps I’d done. Not the birds I saw. Not the other people out walking. Not the newly budding trees moving in the wind. Not the lovely symmetry of the long line of oak trees along the boulevard.  Not the way the sun hit the stones in the cemetery across the road, making beautiful tapestries of shadows on the hill behind. All the things I’d previously delighted in observing were now obscured by my obsession with counting and quantifying how much I’d done. How many steps. How many steps. Gotta catch em all. I’d forgotten how to enjoy my walk.

I think that the step trackers work well for a lot of people, but I decided, in that moment, that my addictions both to being constantly connected (FB) and to quantifying (obsessive step-counting) were too much. I needed to disconnect to reconnect, so to speak. I thought about how much time I could get back by removing some of the noise from my daily life. Time to work on writing I’ve been desperate to get back to. Time to spend with my dogs and  friends. Time to finally unpack and get my house in order. Time to focus on getting healthier while still being able to enjoy, truly enjoy a walk in the park. Being aware and present so I can focus on all the blessings in my life. That is what I desire most.

I think technology is ultimately a good thing, but I am disconnecting from FB and social media for a while (other than this blog). I still check the news once or twice a day via the interwebs, but I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone and uninstalled most apps. Suddenly, I can breathe again. I can focus. Just since Tuesday, my last day on FB and Fitbit, I’ve spent more time with the dogs, more time enjoying my walks and more time connecting with friends. I’ve also managed to unpack more boxes and finish my taxes. Most importantly, I have slept better. I no longer have a knot in my chest throughout the day. No more pacing or forgetting dinner. More music. More love. Less noise.

This isn’t to say I won’t try it again sometime. Or that I’ll be off FB indefinitely. But, in future, I will use it with intention and not as a time-killer. Cause we don’t get much of that on this big rock, so we gotta be thoughtful about our souls’ investments.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back patio watching the willow tree fronds rise and fall in the crisp breeze, dogs all akimbo in my lap and I’m happy. This is it.

 

“Yes I be speaking my peace up in my seventies
Ain’t worry bout ya threatening me, I’m just being honest
I ain’t buying fear just because it’s all you got left
We just want to make love ’til we wake up
I believe whoever made us envisioned greatness
And you know they want to paint us with the same brush
Wanna enterchain us ’til we fill our grave up
Alright okay but when it’s all said and it’s all done
And I look back at the trophies I won
I will only count one
I’m using my heart for what hearts are for

“You’re the only one that I want
I wanna be around
I wanna be around you girl
I wanna be around
Ooh I wanna be around”

“I know it’s hard
Only you and I
Is it all for me?
Because I know it’s all for you
And I guess, I guess
It is only, you are the only thing I’ve ever truly known
So, I hesitate, if I can act the same for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you

“Love, what did you do to me?
My only hope is to let life stretch out before me
And break me on this lonely road
I’m made of many things, but I’m not what you are made of

Only now do I see the big picture
But I swear that these scars are fine
Only you could’ve hurt me in this perfect way tonight
I might be blind, but you’ve told me the difference
Between mistakes and what you just meant for me”