And why am I here?

We all know the Bobs.

We all know the Bobs.

It’s a simple question I ask at practically all of the meetings that I attend.  Sure, I was invited, silently beckoned by the electronic summons, so innocuous, almost tempting.  But, more often than not, it’s a time sink.  It’s a meeting to talk about things, poke holes in potential action plans, and ultimately get nothing accomplished — except perhaps the scheduling of another useless gathering.

I’d like to think that as a person moves up in a company they would have more importance.  In some cases that is true.  They are true leaders, setting the tone of the operation, making things happen, clearing obstacles to success. But from what I have seen, it’s almost the opposite.  With an elevated position, there is more noise.  More obligations without action.  More “steering.”  What is that?  “Steering.” More committees.  More meetings.  I could see that as you get further up the corporate ladder, you could endure hours upon hours of meetings, conference calls, contact meetings, and reviews only to look back at your day and truly not be able to concretely answer the question, “What did I accomplish today?”

Maybe I like slaying the dragons too much, putting out the fires.  But it lends itself to a sense of accomplishment.  It makes you feel like you’re moving the ball forward.  There may be many balls, and the movement may not be great, but there’s still progress.  And after listening to Marcus Buckingham talk about playing to one’s strengths, it makes sense — you should find ways to not only practice and apply your strengths everyday, but also to deliver that sense of accomplishment when the clock tells you it’s time to go.

One recent example I had was a seemingly ridiculous request that was made of a co-worker of mine.  As is the norm in my workplace, it involved taking the output of another system, shuffling and repackaging it, and creating yet another periodic task to maintain. . . just in case there may be some value in it one time out of 50.  The exercise was futile.  Could it be done?  Absolutely.  Was it the best use of my co-worker’s time?  Absolutely not.  So, how could I make this into a positive?  Go for the strengths and the interests.

Enter my love of Excel and Access.  Very nerdy, yet very useful. My friend shares some of my interest in these programs, though not to the same neurotic extremes.  But, it was an opportunity.  An opportunity for me to practice and develop something that I enjoy and am good at, and an opportunity for her to expand her knowledge base in something that could be useful to her in the future.  So, that’s the direction I’m taking it.  A “teachable moment.”  At least when all of this is said and done, I’d be able to provide a tangible answer to that daily question that would make the difference between slowly slogging through the parking lot, wondering how much longer I will be able to endure this to proudly  strutting to my car wondering when the next time I will get to feel this will be.  Big difference.


I’m back?

So, I’m guessing the unique interaction of brain chemicals that has brought me back to the blog comes from a good long run, the promise of a day off, a trip out of town, some Californication, and, of course, some vodka.

It’s just such a promise of possibility.  What could be. What I could do.  What I have done. Some freedom.  Following my passion. . . whichever one strikes my fancy that day.  Some time away from the normal day-to-day grind is a good reset button. Something to make you stop and think.  Of course, what do I see myself as?  Definitely not as what my current job has me.  I’d love to be a writer, a teacher, a programmer, a speaker.  I could do those things all day, just for fun.  Getting paid for them would be a bonus, of course.  There are mouths to feed and tuitions to pay.

But, I’m glad for the distraction, the delusion that a few days off offers.  A mental health day.

Just getting my thoughts out there does, in some ways, seem quite therapeutic in an of itself.  And I don’t know if I’m alone in being somewhat inspired in watching Californication.  Perhaps I am.  It is likely Hollywood-ed up, as they say.  But there is still something to be said for a character such as Hank Moody that puts it all out there, says what they think, and does what they want.  Of course, the whole distraction of a television show is just that. . . a distraction.  If children are shown throwing up, it’s a comedic bit.  If there is a marital battle, it’s a drama to which I have no connection, and I can feel relieved that I don’t have to worry about such things.  It’s a re-direction of real life.  An escape. A divergence. Completely devoid of responsibility, the need for seeking resolution, or action. It is just a passive endeavor.  And that is what probably makes it such a draw.

But for me, it pushes me to be something else.  And I don’t know why the character of an alcoholic, sex-crazed, poor role model, irresponsible parent and partner speaks to me so much.  Maybe it’s envy.  Wishing to be like that.  Wanting to shed all of the artificial and true responsibilities to pursue the more bacchanal life.  One can dream. One can dream.

I really can’t figure out why I’m still playing Hay Day.

But at this point, it’s more of a compulsion than a game. Not that I planned on it, but I stayed up late last night to make sure I could get the right crops planted to make my next boat shipment. Really!?! C’mon. There are so many more productive things that I could be doing with my time. Reading. Sleeping. Working out/running. Grading papers. But I’m not. Maybe I should just supplement feeding digital cows with my writing/blogging/journaling for a while until I stop caring if that idiot farmer Greg one plot over gets the soybeans he’s been looking for.
I suppose that I can see the draw. A hearkening back to our agricultural roots, getting up early, working the land, slowly expanding our livelihoods through the sweat of our collective brows and the strength of our backs. Except with one finger. And nobody cares if the pigs starve or the sheep freeze. And, really, who would eat bacon pie?!?
But, really, psychologically, it kind of makes sense. A twisted, digital sense of accomplishment. Finishing a truck order, filling all the ridiculous little boxes for the Tom Sawyer riverboat… Sometimes that might be the only thing I could think of that I actually “DID” in a day. In a world of painfully successive meetings, conference calls, vision sessions, collaborative reviews, and audits, selling pumpkins, sweaters, and chili popcorn (is that a thing?) feels like an accomplishment. Moving the ball forward in some minuscule way.


Birthdays, Life, and Change

Birthdays are completely normal time to look back at your life, see where your are, where you have been, and, sometimes, to better think of where you want to go. My birthday was last week, and it definitely gave me pause to think about how far I’ve come, and potentially how little time I have left in the grand scheme of things. My wife, K, and alcohol were definitely part of that pause.
My birthday, in an of itself, was uneventful. I did get to go to the movies with my wife. Not groundbreaking, but considering the last movie we saw together in the theater was The DaVinci Code, it was notable. No big fanfare to the day, no party, no presents, a few texts and phone calls wishing me a happy birthday. And that was fine with me. Not FINE in the passive-aggressive, I’m going to remember this in six months when we get into an argument kind of way. Just fine. I mean, I’m 37. (In a row?!?) It’s not divisible by 5. It doesn’t mark a turning point in my life. There are no Hallmark cards marking 37 as a “thing.” So, yes, I was (and am) fine with it.
As I look back at my life so far, the one question that I could definitely see my younger self asking my present self (should George Carlin come back in a phone booth to my driveway) is: “You’re doing WHAT?!?” This could apply to may different aspects of my life: work, family, “hobbies.” I could pick any one and drone on for a while about any. . . which I will likely do later. Don’t think you’ve gotten off that easily. . . but I am struck by just the idea of constant change.
Sitting here today, I don’t know that any of us could believe that things would be drastically different than they are right now. We grow older, maybe get some new stuff, American Idol picks a new flash in the pan, but I suppose we all feel like life will be just the same as it is today with minor modifications. I have come to realize that’s not the case. Things can change. But, more precisely, we can change things. We can change ourselves.
This was most clearly brought to my attention by my wife, K. As a bit of background on her, she is a remarkable woman. Beautiful, funny, capable, loving, determined, and more than a bit OCD. Yet the one things that she excels at is selling herself short. In most all of the attributes listed above, she’ll sell herself short on most all of them. . .except the OCD. She’ll cop to that one. But the area in which she has impressed me the most recently is in her ability to change, and her willpower to change.
K and I started dating over a decade ago. And since then, alcohol has been a constant for both of us. Our jobs at the time were stressful, and we used booze as a means to lessen (or at least temporarily deaden) that stress. We grew, over time, to be dependent on it, whether we wanted to it admit or not. She plateaued at a bottle of Merlot a night, while my poison was Jack Daniel’s at a handle a week pace. We would give it up for Lent, and swear off of the sauce on more than one Monday morning, but we always came back to it. It was out “fwuffy bwankie” (or fluffy blankie), as my son would say. It made us feel better, it wasn’t “necessary,” but we were sure the hell happier with it.
So, this year, we once again gave it up for Lent. And during that time, K swore off of it. Done. Case closed. Now, there were no meetings, no interventions, none of that. Just a decision. And for over six months now, she’s not had a drop. She made up her mind and it was done. Game over.
There have been “normal” times since then when drinking would be considered part of life: parties, visits, vacations, special occasions, etc. She just decided she was done. And I am thoroughly impressed by this. The woman that I love, and the mother of my children is amazing, and, to me, a testament that change can happen.
I have made some changes as well, but those are stories for another time. For me, in the back of my head, it will always come down to, “Well, if K can walk away from the wine, how hard can this thing be that I want to try?”