darkemeralds: Grafitti on the Steel Bridge showing two robotic figures and signed "The Fool" (The Fool)
Why the Cult of Hard Work is Counterproductive, an absolutely wonderful article by Steven Poole published in New Statesman a couple of weeks ago, goes into "why doing nothing may be the best thing for your well-being and your brain."

Though it's a British article for a British publication and doesn't even mention the word "American," it has a huge bearing on a discussion of American-versus-European concepts of work and leave time that several of us were having here on my journal a few days ago.

Stealing sick leave and other bullshit notions )

Poole takes on the very idea of productivity (tracing the word itself right back to its first use by Coleridge in the late 18th century), and pretty well demolishes it as a moral construct. He ends on this lovely note:

...it is not necessary to abandon the notion of “productivity” altogether. We all like to feel that we have done something useful, interesting or fun with our day, even (or especially) if it has not been part of our official work, and we might harmlessly express such satisfaction by saying that our day has been productive.

This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity – as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult – has nothing to do with its value.

Well worth the reading, and what's more, the comments are excellent and actually add substance to the article.
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Empty Room)
I quit making New Year's resolutions a lot of New Years ago--total recipe for failure, in my book--but given that this January 1 will also be the first day of the rest of my life in a more particular way than every other day of the world, I'm giving it some thought.

The thing that has given my life its structure more or less continuously since 1970 is suddenly going to drop away. My external motivation for getting up in the morning, grooming myself, wearing decent clothes, leaving my house, and (in recent years) getting exercise will be no more.

I don't yet have a clue what will replace it. In my limited experience of unemployment, the lack of structure is not my best friend. But the key word is "limited." Will a month of do-nothing nightowl-dom be enough for a more natural structure to start appearing? Two months? How could I know? I've never tried it.

What's more, the fact of having a job has been one of a very few connections I feel to "most people," a broad if rather shallow patch of common ground. Google Plus keeps reminding me to list my workplace in my profile, because without it, I'm only 80% complete.

So, what new scaffolding will I build to keep my life from dissolving into a puddle of undifferentiated time?

I have no idea yet. I should probably be terrified. Maybe I am terrified and I just don't know it. How does one feel at an event horizon?
darkemeralds: A bike in the dark, decorated with white lights, its wheel rims bright reflective white in the flash (Christmas)
Today is the last paid holiday of my career.

Though it's true that Americans don't take much time off compared to, say, Europeans, I'm still very cognizant of the generous plan my public sector place of employment has given me all these years; how many days they've paid me not to be at work.

From the very outset, when I was a just a wee Word Processing Clerk I (anyone remember those?), they gave me ten days of vacation, twelve of sick leave, and three personal days per year.

The vacation-day count has gone up along with the workload, so that when I turn in my badge next week, they're going to pay me for all the vacation I haven't actually managed to take for the last several years. That drop in the retirement bucket will make an audible splash, I can tell you.

As to sick leave...well, I learned an important lesson in my early days. A woman I worked with was singled out for praise because she had never taken a single sick day in, I forget, something like three years. Her reward? A free day off. It was obvious to me that she could have skipped the praise and had twelve paid days off in each of those years.

(Also, praising someone for the "virtue" of naturally good health is, at the very least, annoying.)

In short, I've never been afraid to "call in well" when I needed a mental health day. I'm pretty sure that's why a) I never climbed higher in the organization and b) the benefits of retiring at the first possible moment outweigh the big pay cut I'm about to take.

Besides, they don't buy back your unused sick leave. I'd've been dumb not to use it.

Back to work tomorrow for a few more days of toil in the fields of the System.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Well, it's pretty much all over except the deletion of personal stuff from the hard drive, this career thing I've been doing for the last thirty-something years. Twelve days left, only seven of them actual workdays.

My immediate coworkers, honoring my request not to have the sheet-cake-in-the-conference-room shindig for me, took me out for a couple of drinks and fancy bar snacks the other evening. It was upbeat and pleasant, and comfortably detached. I liked it.

As several people have pointed out to me, these send-off do's, rather like funerals, aren't for the benefit of the departed leaver, but the folks watching you go. So we did the thing--there was single malt involved. And snackies involving duck and smoked seafood, so, yum.

And then, one of my coworkers, a young up and comer, announced that she's taken another job, and her last day will be the same as my last day, and she had no objection to the office shindig, and our supervisor asked if I would object to making it a shared going-away party and could she please have my name piped in frosting onto the sheet-cake alongside my coworkers...and coworker asked if she could please bake me an apple pie...

...and anyway, I'm on my way in to the sheet-cake-in-the-conference-room shindig after all. But at least the spotlight will only be 50% on me.
A sheet cake with frosting flowers and good luck script

Update: I went. People said nice things. I think it was okay. But I will never ever feel like I know how to do this sort of thing right.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
The very pleasant, cheerful bureaucrat who helped me fill in all the blanks in my retirement paperwork this morning shook my hand when we were done and said, "Retirement is such a different thing today than it used to be. You have a whole new life ahead. I wish you the best."

I walked back to the bus stop in the October morning, looking at the perfect sky and the yellow trees, thinking, "I want to remember this day." It was a big occasion. I felt like celebrating, but it was 10:00 on a Monday morning and I had to catch a bus back in from the suburbs and go to work. So I texted a couple of "Woo hoo"s to people, then rode downtown and got myself a four-shot mocha. Then I went to work.

Only 63 more days.

View of Chapman Square in downtown Portland on an October morning, with brilliant yellow ginkgo trees and a bright blue sky
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
First of all it's October, and truly October-ish outside--cool, sunny, smells like apples and leaves? You know.

Second of all, I had to work today. You'd think this would be a bad thing, but I don't actually mind working on Saturday once in a while*. I get a lot done. I got a lot done. I like the quiet.

Third of all, two bike rides in the perfect. One of them took me past the goats again.

Fourth of all, a hot order of fish and chips from the Irish pub on the corner, and Volume Two of S.U. Pacat (aka [livejournal.com profile] freece)'s Captive Prince (which, dear god, where-have-you-been-all-my-life, is fantastic) just queued up all fresh.

So really, my life is perfect.

*And also? There are only thirteen Saturdays left in the whole world where this job will be an issue.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
After being an absolutely vile human being yesterday (mood swings of a sort) and kind of hating myself for it, I was grateful to put in twelve hours at work today. Less time to dwell on my vileness.

The long workday was broken up by a couple of walks. It was gorgeously autumnal, and Eleanor needed work, so I rode her to the shop on the east side before work and walked across to my office on the west side, then back to the shop in the afternoon. The altered route took me past one of Portland's stranger and more charming features.

Go figure )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
This happened a week ago:

Two countdown screens showing 100 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds, and 99 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds
Retirement Countdown

so the "My Typical Workday" meme (which I spotted on [personal profile] lamentables' journal) seems like a good way of celebrating, since there will only be a few more of them.

Mememememememe )
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
It’s lovely, it really is, to have absolutely no further career ambitions (or that nasty sense that I should be more ambitious). Absent those drives, it is VERY EASY not to give a fuck anymore.

When I say I don't give a fuck anymore, I don't mean that my work is bad. I still care very much about quality. It's more about quantity, really. "Do your job, but don't do too much of it," as Jennifer Marlowe once said in WKRP in Cincinnati.

God, it's such a relief to be free of all the authority issues, all the insecurity, all the FUD of the workplace. As the days tick by (159 of ‘em left) and any threat of punitive action recedes further, I become more relaxed. When I walk past the boss’s office with my lunch dishes I no longer really worry whether he’s thinking I spend too much time taking lunch breaks. If someone comes to my desk and catches me on Twitter or something, I sort of shrug inwardly.

("Punitive action?" you inquire. "What kind of place have you been working in?" It's not about the workplace, it's really about my dad. And it's not really about punishment, it's more about rejection. 'Nuff said.)

Mind you, those authority/guilt issues aren’t gone--not from my psyche--and I probably still need to work on them for my own peace of mind. But it is absolutely wonderful not having them foremost in my brain every second of the workday. I had no idea how pervasive they were till they started evaporating.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I was just standing here eating broccoli when it occurred to me how odd both of those things are. I switched to a standing workstation a couple of months ago, and somewhere in the last year or two I've finally managed to make vegetables a part of my everyday life. I believe, but can't prove, that each of these changes has been good for my health.

So I got to wondering what else I've changed in the last few years.

Turns out, quite a lot. )

29/30: RUI

Jun. 29th, 2013 07:44 pm
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Here's something you don't see every day: a drunk post from [personal profile] darkemeralds.

Okay, not, like, super drunk. After the stupidly annoying Saturday I had to spend at work today (two hours that turned into seven), I rode home in the 90 degrees (dear Phoenix and Las Vegas: I'm not complaining! Really!), then had to put every garment I had on into the laundry basket, take a cold shower, and re-do myself in order to go meet my sis for dinner.

I ordered a drink when I got there. "Gin 'n' Juice" was the homey name of the delectable cocktail that tasted of lime, grapefruit, rosemary and...um...something else yummy. Then I ordered another one.

I'm a cheap date. Two drinks and I'm ridiculous. My sister, a long-recovering alcoholic with a keen eye for "problems" was probably beginning to have doubts about my being the immune family member.

But you know what? It was fun. I talked more readily about more things than I usually do, and it probably doesn't hurt me to over-share a bit with my own sister. Right?

I slowly pedaled the ten or so blocks home on traffic-free back streets. Which, okay, Riding Under the Influence. Inadvisable but not the end of the world. And I did combine the gin with positively prodigious amounts of delicious dinner.

Note to self: balance, locomotion and control are pretty much autonomic: the problem is judgment at intersections.

Home without incident. Now for an evening of dumb TV and knitting. And hydration.
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: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
My supervisor just told me that my annual performance evaluation is due in four days. We usually start sooner on this dreaded, tedious task because it takes hours, but today I finished it in ten minutes.

I should have been this relaxed about it 25 years ago. )
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Screenshot of a countdown showing 197 days until retirement

Less than 200 days till retirement. And still not much of a clue what happens after that.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Some people may recall that I have a well-meaning but workaholic colleague whom, for reasons, I refer to online as "Norm."

Lately, as my retirement impends and my job description morphs to cleanup-and-closure, I've had less and less to do with Norm, and it's been lovely. Norm has, however, handed a project off to me to finish up. I think he sees it as the peanut-butter jar with the stuck lid: if I can get the lid off now it's because he loosened it.

I see it as my task to de-Normify the project (which is to say, cut a lot of self-important workaholic bullshit out of it).

So anyway, the day I took over the project, the customer appointed a new project manager for their side. And guess what?
  • He looks like Norm
  • He acts like Norm
  • He talks like Norm
  • His name is fuckin' Norm
I am not kidding. He has the same actual first real name as Norm. It's...the eternal recurrence. Or something.
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.

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