darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
Only, not in a farting way. We had our annual whole-building fire drill this morning. The entire World's Tallest Basement emptied out into Terry Shrunk (aka Round Brick) Park.

Shuffling down fourteen very-crowded, poorly-ventilated flights of stairs is hard on the psyche and on the knees, but emerging into This Perfect October Day was balm to the soul.

Crowds of people in the sunshine at Terry Shrunk Park, downtown Portland, following an evacuation drill in the Portland Building
Some of my coworkers, squinting in the light.

Then some of the coworkers I like best invited me to join them for lunch, so we went to the Lotus Card Room down the street and ate sauteed Brussels sprouts.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
While I stand here listening to Coffitivity and more-or-less patiently waiting for the lieutenants of finance to finish closing the damn fiscal year already, I found an ancient approach to mental health, Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek Philosophy, by a guy named Jules Evans.

Jules admits to having wrecked his own mental health with drug use in the 90s. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with its roots deep in Stocisim, was his road back.

I'm especially impressed by this statement (because I feel like I'm right at this very crossroads in my own mental health journey):

...after 10 years of practising philosophy, I wonder if it leaves something out, if it’s too rational, self-controlled and unemotional... this year I have started researching ecstatic experience, and how people can achieve euphoria through music, dancing, drugs or the passionate love of God. As a friend put it recently: 'Back on ecstasy, eh?'

He has a book, of course. Good advance reviews.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's Fiscal New Year's Eve here in the World's Tallest Basement--one of several key Last Times in my career.

Fiscal year-end is, as usual, a complete cluster-fuck. Frantic people trying frantically to finish financial transactions before the money goes away in this most frantic of bad fiscal years have made it Frantic City around here all day. Makes me feel so important!

Tomorrow morning--yes, Saturday--I have to be back here, nine o'clock sharp, to help guide the ceremonial closing of the books. If all goes well, we can get out by noon, whereupon I shall be free to sally forth in the too-hot sunshine and maybe go check out a couple of Pedalpalooza events. I'm considering Let's Go Bike To Queers (an LGBTQ celebration of Pride and the defeat of DOMA), at least to ride by and ding my bell (not a euphemism) in solidarity on my way to The Tiny House Tour.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
  • IF you're stuck in an annoying and irrelevancy-filled two-hour meeting with Norm, and
  • IF you sit at the far end of the conference table, and
  • IF you have a smartphone, and
  • IF you have either wifi or a data plan you don't mind using, and
  • IF you're near retirement and really don't give a damn that you don't look very engaged in the subject of the meeting
THEN you can accomplish a remarkable amount of research on your novel rewrite.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
It's one thing to dream of retirement--to have put up with the abundant irritations of a public sector career for 27 years before seeing that magical "no work AND pay" scenario appear over the horizon.

It's another thing to have retirement be only 300 days away. Then it gets kind of weird.

My supervisor told me last week that they're not going to replace me. Budget cuts are such that my remaining coworkers, who've already absorbed the job of one retiree, will also be expected to absorb mine. Part of me is saying Thank god I'm not stuck here and part of me is saying Hey! What am I, chopped liver?.

And they've started taking tasks away from me. Almost my entire brief for the next 300 days is legacy stuff--knowledge transfer, cleanup of old outstanding items, documentation of a job which no one besides me, in the history of this organization, has ever done. I'm not sorry to have tasks taken from me (Norm is welcome to them) but it's kind of unsettling. It's like, I dunno, Jenga or something. My career is imminently just a pile of blocks.

But what's even weirder and more unsettling is this realization that the price I've paid for the relatively secure retirement that lies before me was my entire adult life. I came to this organization as a temp a few weeks before the Challenger disaster, ferchrissakes, and here I still am. There is precisely one thing I can buy with that investment, and I'm buying it in 300 days.

There's no moral to this story. I made my bed, etc. And it was a pretty good deal. It's just...stranger than I anticipated.
darkemeralds: (Now)
I've been experimenting with the first of Neale Donald Walsch's three "Secrets to Ending the Struggle and Making Your Life Work," the one that says:
  • Your growth process is complete
  • You were already fully evolved when you got here
  • You don't need to become who you are, you just need to be who you are...
...and so forth.

For an uptight perfectionist like me, the obvious place to start was to put self-improvement on hold for a bit; to resist the temptation to fix just one more problem, read one more self-help blog, try one more method.

Trickier than it sounds. )
darkemeralds: A young woman circa 1945 is intent on her knitting. Caption "Knitting For Victory" (Knitting)
It's been a fairly hellatious (or is it hellacious?) seven weeks at work, with many hours of much-bitched-about unpaid overtime and one or two moments of dubious sanity, but it's over in a couple of hours, so yay! I do hope to get caught up with everyone as my crazed schedule abates a bit.

Meanwhile, I'm here in the World's Tallest Basement on a freezing Saturday night, waiting for my toes to thaw and counting down to the exciting moment when the patched system comes back online for final checkout. Which should be in about one minute.

Here I Am


As if in celebration of my impending freedom, the postal carrier today brought me goodies!

O Frabjous Day


(The knitting for men will not involve any of the yarns in the box--I'm not that unkind. Those yarns are for MEEEEEEEEEE!)

So when I get home tonight, I plan to play with my new toys.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Cross-posted to Google+

Melinda, the adviser at ING who manages the deferred compensation portfolio for my employer (and who is therefore very busy helping hundreds of us late Baby Boomers prepare to retire), is a sharp, savvy woman.

The last guy I went to was at least fifteen years my junior. His office featured studio portraits of his lovely wife and several handsome matching kids, as well as prominent insignia of his religious convictions. I'm not sure he could actually see the likes of me, and he certainly couldn't see my point of view on life any better than I could see his. His financial advice, unsurprisingly, bore little relationship to my wishes and none to my strengths or talents.

Melinda, on the other hand, said, "Yeah, you work [in the World's Tallest Basement] for twenty, twenty-five years, and that's it, you've had it, you're burnt out. And yet you're still active, fit and healthy, and you want to enjoy life while it's still enjoyable."

Well, yes, Melinda. That's it exactly. Thanks for sayin'.

I don't have final figures yet, and nobody's pretending that I'll be able to retire like a queen. Unlike so many Americans, however, I have a retirement fund, and I have access to a full coverage health plan whose monthly premium will be no more than the rent on a modest apartment.

So really, all I have to do is scale back by one modest rent, and retirement is within my sights!
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Tra-la-la. I'm at work on a Sunday morning because I just couldn't bring myself to come in on a dry Saturday. Somehow, yesterday, between sleeping till the crack of 10:30, and having a typically revelatory conversation with [personal profile] ravurian that lasted through the middle of the day, and writing, as a result of said conversation (thank you, R!) a couple of brilliant-if-I-do-say-so-myself paragraphs of the new novel, and a mad bout of wool-winding (not, as [personal profile] ravurian himself would say, a euphemism: I was frogging some unsuccessful knitting projects and putting the yarn up for another day, and to say that I became a bit obsessed with the balls my new ball-winder makes would be to state the case mildly), and knitting practice swatches for my hyacinth Arpeggio, and watching Sherlock, it was suddenly 3:00 a.m. and not only was my Saturday gone, but also three hours of my Sunday.

So anyway.

Here I am in my gray cubicle at 11:30 on a rainy (OMG rainy again) Sunday morning. And yet still procrastinating. I couldn't find the light switches, and of course this is the World's Tallest Basement, so it's not as if light pours in at the tiny and widely-spaced windows near one of which my desk is not situated, so I'm in the gloom with a desk lamp and the comforting glow of my high-productivity dual monitors. And we don't run the HVAC on weekends, so I've got my little hot-flash fan running. And we also don't open the garage on weekends, just to inconvenience those pesky Sunday terrorists, so Eleanor O is parked down on the porch instead of safely indoors.

And Eleanor O is wearing all her baskets because as soon as I'm done procrastinating and I get an ass-covering-modicum of work done, I need to go to Trader Joe's, New Seasons, Fred Meyer and Sally Beauty Supply to buy all my crap for the week, and then stop at my mom's to drop off Sherlock, because fandom knows no age limits and she's a huge Bendy fan and bought the DVD as soon as it came out. For the subtitles. Uh huh.

So anyway.

Work. I can do this. I can! I focus my mind, and as I do, I begin to remember what the hell task I'm supposed to be accomplishing. It's coming to me now...
darkemeralds: Hellfire and tormented faces with caption Yay Hell (Yay)
I want so badly to bitch about my job. Norm is driving me batshit. There is too much detail. I'm making my own life miserable by resisting it, fighting it, swearing at it, and sighing a lot.

I'll chalk my despairing hatred and anger today up to the holiday and the stresses of major lifestyle change (that cutting of 40% of my accustomed caloric intake that I've recently undertaken) as well as to the job itself.

Today, I had the sense to get up and leave before I actually raised my voice. If the leaving was more of a flounce, well, fuck, I'm only human. I conceived an urgent and immediate need for two jars of Marmite, which can only be found at World Market.

World Market is situated in a non-bike-friendly part of the city center, considerably up-slope from the World's Tallest Basement, and I worked off a lot of steam just navigating there and back.

Now I have Marmite, an extra hour of exercise that let me indulge in some delicious chocolate, and the happy prospect of a) Norm being on vacation the rest of the week and b) ME BEING ON VACATION NEXT WEEK.

Here is an odd photograph wot I took this morning.

Reflection
Reflection
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Something kind of interesting just happened here in the World's Tallest Basement.

Norm, my co-[over]worker, just told the boss that he's been having some very bad low-back problems and will be seeing a doctor tomorrow and might take the day off.

After the boss left, I turned to Norm and I said, "Norm," (I said) "Let me give you the benefit of a small piece of advice. I was once out of work for 18 months because of a low back problem..."

This is a true story. I described how a high-powered but sedentary job finally stressed me out to the point where my body took over and laid me down. A year and a half: that's how long it took me to recover. I didn't describe the more lurid aspects of the L4-L5 Herniated Disc Tango, such as having to literally crawl on my hands and knees to the toilet. But I will if I think he needs to hear it.

I also didn't actually say to Norm that this is a large part of my reason for taking a moderate and easygoing attitude to my job today. I think the message was clear.

I did remind him that everything currently on our shared plate of All You Can Eat Work will keep for a few days longer.

Maybe it's a turning point. I hope it's a turning point.
darkemeralds: Photo of duct tape with caption "May actually prevent head explosion" (Duct Tape)
After a lovely three-day weekend of cool sunshine, bike rides, pleasant online conversations, long sleeps, and other defining characteristics of good weekends, I'm girding my loins (or are they loinesses?) to return to the World's Tallest Basement tomorrow.

I have Taken Steps to re-balance my mind in relationship to my suddenly-doubled job.

First, I've made an appointment with a counselor for Wednesday morning through the Employee Assistance Program. We're going to discuss work styles, learning styles, and stress management. There will probably be several sessions.

Second (and this doesn't sound like much but it IS), I've made an appointment to get my hair cut. Tomorrow. In the middle of workday. By the really good haircutter. I've been putting it off for weeks because I haven't wanted to take the time away from the office. Well screw that. My current hair style is supposed to be super short, and right now it's grippably bushy, and driving me nuts.

Third, I've been working really hard to curb my emotional overeating, and it's making a big difference in how I feel while I'm awake, and how well I sleep. Also? Kale is my latest food discovery and I've been eating it by the bunch. I can't begin to tell you how odd this is for a person to whom the entire range of edible vegetables was asparagus and spinach up until a couple of weeks ago.

So, wish me luck tomorrow. It's when I begin to restructure my job.

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