Someone please remind me that I am, indeed, Irish/Scottish/English/Whatever other EASTERN European ethnicity, and not, in fact, the Italian/Latino ethnicity that I always wished I was…
I said so myself… I might have been wrong.
This idea of using the daily photo prompts to take pictures and write blog posts, seemed like a thing. It really did. Clearly, though, it was not a thing I could keep up with. And I’m so bad at letting these things go and moving on from them that when the first time I didn’t get it done, I thought, “Well, shit. But that’s ok. I’ll just double up tomorrow.” And of course, “tomorrow” came and went and no pictures were taken and no posts were written, and before I knew it, I had a backlog of pictures to take and post and I didn’t know how I was going to make that happen and suddenly, it’s been, what? two weeks since I wrote anything.
But really? I mean, really!
Let’s take a look at the prompts I did not fulfill, shall we?
January 8th: “Lucky Number”
Okay. So I actually had (or rather have) a decent way to accommodate this. I don’t really believe in “luck” per se, and as such, I don’t really have a lucky number. I do have a favorite number, 23, which comes up in my life frequently and without reason, but I wouldn’t call it a lucky number and I couldn’t give you a discernible reason for its prominence if you asked. On January 9th, K and I went back to the tattoo shop where I got my latest tattoo done. She got a new tattoo, adding on to one she’s had for several years. (In fact she got it at the same shop where, and within a few weeks when, I got my first one.) We went together, and when he was finished with her new tattoo, he cleaned up, set up fresh equipment and did my touch up/repair/augmentation work that I alluded to. As it happens, I incorporated the number 23 into the additional art and could have taken a picture of that for the photo prompt… Except it didn’t happen until the day after the prompt and wasn’t really ready for photographing for many days after that. In fact, the tattoo as a whole, still isn’t. It’s been two weeks today and much to my surprise, and displeasure, it still isn’t healed. The sun rays done in the colors of the pride flag, were touched up and extended farther onto my shoulder, which, can I just tell you, was not a pleasant experience! For some reason, those blocks of solid color have taken a long time to heal. They’re much better now, but there are still dry and scaly patches that are bothersome and difficult to resist the urge to pick and scratch – which is disaster for a tattoo.
It’s already evident that I will have to go back for at least one more touch-up, but that most likely won’t happen until May. My swim class starts up again tonight, and while I don’t expect our instructor will actually have us get in the water tonight (he didn’t the first class last semester), I wouldn’t be able to anyway, because it’s not smart to get into a public pool, while a tattoo is still in this scaly stage. I think I’ll be okay by Monday, but I don’t know for sure. Fortunately, it’s the first night of instruction and it’s about getting comfortable being in the water and floating, ducking under the surface and kicking against the wall. If I have to sit that out, it will not be a big loss. Strangely, I am equal parts excited and trepidatious about class starting up again. I really enjoyed the class last semester (and will again) but I also haven’t been in a pool since the last class I attended last semester. I’m sure whatever endurance I’ve built up has been lost. I just hope I haven’t taken too many steps backwards in terms of technique…
January 9th: “Natural”
The instruction was to take a picture of something natural or created naturally. The possibilities for this are endless, and yet, with what was available to me, fairly boring. The same goes for the follow-up prompt the next day…
January 10th: “Man-Made”
Take a photo of something made by man. In a lot of ways, this would have been even easier, because everywhere you look you can see things that are made by man. But that almost makes the prompt uninteresting, because I could easily have taken a picture of my television, or my furniture, or my computer, or… Well, pretty much anything in my house that was not fresh produce. And since I didn’t leave the house that day, the photo would have been something in my house. It quickly becomes uninspiring.
But you see, this is an ongoing problem in the realm of photo challenge photo taking. If I don’t leave the house, then the opportunities for the photos are greatly reduced. If I do leave the house, do I really want to lug my camera around with me everywhere I go? The answer to that is two-fold, because yes, I do want to take it with me everywhere I go. And, NO! I don’t want to have to carry it around and keep track of it and make sure it doesn’t come to any harm everyday, everywhere. Anyway, while I’m unemployed and have limited reasons to leave the house, I spend days at a time inside my home and therefore have far fewer options for creative photos that meet the challenge and don’t become redundant.
January 11th: “Looking Down”
Once again, without leaving the house my options were limited to looking over the railing of the stairs leading up to my front door, which would be… concrete sidewalk, or very poorly maintained grass in the side yard, or looking out a window. Which wouldn’t really be “down” so much as “out”. Of course, I could have taken one of those ubiquitous pictures of my feet, or of my shoes on my feet (which I don’t wear in the house), but that’s not particularly interesting in my mind. Pass.
January 12th: “Something colorful”
I didn’t leave the house. Like the song says, “Second verse. Same as the first!”
January 13th: “Makes me Smile”
This one I actually could have done, with only the smallest bit of cheating. I always figure that the point of the Photo-A-Day challenges, is to take a photo that day that goes with the prompt, however, I was actually with K when she took the photo she posted for “natural”, only it was “lucky number” day. Maybe it’s the thought that counts?
Anyway, I took this picture of Lil’B a couple of weekends prior while we were on an outing to the Hyde Street Pier and exploring some of the ships that are moored there. Lil’B always makes me smile. So if you don’t worry about the fact that I already posted this picture once, or about meeting the date, then it’s all good. 🙂
January 14th: “Three Things”
This one might actually have been pretty interesting. The instruction was to take a picture of three things. “They might belong together, or they might be totally random”. But of course, by this time, I was a week behind on this endeavor, and in my mind, I couldn’t have participated in this one without having done all the ones that came before. This leads to my new challenge for myself to be further discussed at the end of this post.
January 15th: “Black and White”
This prompt is much like the “upside down” prompt in that, with modern technology, any picture can be black and white with just the press of a few buttons. I could have made a picture black and white using settings on my camera, or using iPhoto to edit it that way. There’s no real challenge in that, and once again, I only left the house to work. Irony being what it is, I could have taken a “selfie” at work and posted that, since my uniform for most bar tending jobs is a white shirt with black pants, tie and vest. But again, I didn’t want to bring my camera along to work.
January 16th: “Sun”
The instruction was to take a picture of the sun. Of course this was totally doable, even without having left the house. But again. I was too far behind.
January 17th: “Tiny”
Does this really need any explanation?
January 18th: “Happy Place”
I wouldn’t even know where to start with this one. (Plus I worked again, that day.)
January 19th: “Breakfast”
“Take a photo of your breakfast, or where you were for breakfast time.” This was a Lil’B Sunday. I picked him up earlier than usual so we could go to the Oakland, Zoo. I slept through breakfast, and well? Really? Does anyone really want a photograph of my bed? I don’t think so. I took lots of pictures at the zoo, though I haven’t yet had time to edit them. But those photographs had nothing to do with the prompt.
January 20th: “To Do List”
I suppose there might be something interesting in this. The instruction was to take a picture of the actual list, or a series of pictures of things I did. At the moment, my to do list, is only in my head, and it’s so long that it’s actually debilitating and nothing gets done. Something I absolutely must work on. But anyway, this photo prompt wasn’t doable either for many reasons.
January 21st: “Blue”
Sometimes they’re just too easy, which I guess I shouldn’t complain about. While I am not consciously aware of having a favorite color, or a strong preference toward any one color, until recently, a quick glance at my closet would have told you that blue is unequivocally my favorite color. Finding a blue thing to take a picture of would not have been difficult. Then of course, there’s always this:
Heck, even the blue Honda over my left shoulder was mine. That’s the car I traded in for the Mustang. (Don’t talk to me about the monumental difference in gas mileage. I will cut you!)
And that leads us to today, January 22nd: “Nice!”. The instruction just says, “take a picture of something nice”, which, again, could be anything. Hell, I could even just direct you to scroll up an inch or so. There’s something pretty nice! Maybe I’ll take some additional pictures today, maybe I won’t. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyway, my new challenge for my self, as alluded to with January 14th: “Three Things” is to not get so caught up in the idea that I have to post one thing before I can post something else. Especially when that one thing is something that I am avoiding doing for whatever reason. Maybe that thing will get posted, maybe it won’t. But I shouldn’t let that thing prevent me from posting other things. I have, in the past, had a problem with holding back on those thoughts because I hadn’t posted the other thing yet, and then I end up losing lots of ideas that I wanted to convey. Probably this won’t lead to anything earth shattering, but at least it should help me keep my writing muscle exercised… Lord knows it’s the only one that’s getting any exercise.
A couple of years ago, I began reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books. For those who don’t know, the earliest of this series started out as a recurring installment in the San Francisco Chronicle, the local news paper. I imagine it was sort of like reading a soap opera. The books take place in San Francisco and center around a young gay man, Michael, and his naive, mid-western suburbia transplant neighbor turned best friend, Mary Ann.
One night, while reading one of the early volumes, a reference was made to an actor by the name of Tab Hunter. The first thought that popped into my head was that “Tab Hunter” sounds like a made up name (it is) of a porn star (it is not), yet, in spite of not being a connoisseur of pornography, the name seemed vaguely familiar to me. I never did find out why, but in my investigation I pulled up his IMDb page to see if I would recognize him, or might have seen him in anything. While I’m sure to have seen him in some of his late career television guest roles, nothing jumped out at me, but as luck would have it, he had starred in a film adaptation of Damn Yankees!, a play I had the opportunity to see in the mid ’90s and very much enjoyed. It also happened to have significant relevance to my, as yet unpublished (in fact, still unedited) novel I was writing at the time.
While I perused Tab Hunter’s IMDb page I noticed that he was quite a handsome man in his youth, though, to be fair, he’s not a bad looking man now, considering his advanced years. Anyway, I became curious about him. Along with adding several of his appearances to my Netflix queue, I also checked out a copy of his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential, from the library. It was there that I learned a lot of interesting things about Tab Hunter. Most notable to me, especially at the time, is the fact that he is gay, and while Hollywood (and society) would not allow its leading men to come out publicly, in that day and age, Tab never really made much effort to hide the fact either. In fact, he claims, in his book, that he never really gave it much thought, never questioned whether it was who he really was or what he was supposed to do or be, and he never felt the need to make a declaration about the subject either. It was just who he was, and he never gave it a second thought. Too me, that seems like some pretty forward and progressive thinking, even by today’s standards, not to mention in the 1940s and 1950s! Tab Hunter Confidential is Tab’s life story beginning with his birth on July 11, 1931, in New York City, as Arthur Andrew Kelm (later Arthur Galeen) and ending with his quiet life on a secluded ranch near Santa Barbara, California where he still lives with his “partner” (I hate that word in this context) of 30 years and their many animals.
In the final pages of the autobiography, Tab describes being at his mother’s bedside as she lay dying. His mother had been a hard and difficult woman who never quite accepted who he was, choosing instead to ignore that part of his life and never discuss or confront the situation. His description of the woman reminded me quite a bit of my own mother and her general reaction to the news when I came out to her, and so when he describes reading a poem to her on her deathbed, a poem that I felt was very poignant, I found it quite moving:
I felt that this poem was a powerful message, and words to live by. It became the foundation of an idea; an idea which began to shift and grow in my mind. Over time, it began to take shape until it became something real.
I hadn’t planned to write about this, or share any pictures, until all the touch ups and augmentations were complete and it was completely healed, but circumstances intervened, and here we are.
Today’s prompt (and it actually still is today, as I’m writing this. Go me!) is Words To Live By. While I originally thought to find a way to photograph my favorite quote, “Stop laughing! You can’t fix stupid!”, I decided to try for something that is hopefully a bit more uplifting. So instead, I now present, in all it’s imperfect, incomplete glory, my fifth tattoo. The largest, most elaborate tattoo I’ve gotten so far, and certainly the one with the most meaning and significance behind it. (Not to be confused with the most sentimentality, which is still tattoo number four, all the way! Which, as it turns out, I don’t think I wrote about here… Hmm…).
I gave my basic concept to the tattoo artist who created a more elaborate, and better than I could have imagined, design. The poem, I think, is pretty self explanatory. The rest represents baring oneself before God, concealing nothing, and basking in the knowledge of God’s grace, mercy and love. With this tattoo, I proudly demonstrate the certain knowledge that I am a child of God, loved and blessed, free of judgement and condemnation, and that it is not a contradiction to be gay and a Christian.
The finished product is not perfect, however. As you can see in the third image, the first line at the top, “If I relax” the I and the r are too close together. The artist assures me that he can fix that and I certainly hope he can. It was definitely a disappointment when I took the bandage off after I got home and realized that the letters were so close together that it looks like an h “If helax”. The sun rays, in the colors of the pride flag, need to extend further onto my shoulder, chest and back than they do, and they definitely need to be filled in more. He told me as he was doing the tattoo that they would need to be touched up. Blocks of solid color that large rarely heal perfectly on the first pass. It is also my preference, and he says he can do it, for the colors to be a little more bold and primary, as they appear on the pride flag.
Finally, only after I’d had the tattoo for a few days and had looked at it regularly did I realize, it just doesn’t quite look complete to me. I have an appointment for this coming Wednesday to have the touch-ups and corrections done and at the same time, I’m going to have him do some augmentation to frame the tattoo in a little better. I’m thinking more flourishes, similar to what’s at the bottom of the poem along the sides and around my arm, meeting on the inside. That should be quite an exciting experience since the skin there is quite tender and soft. It does not go through a lot of abuse, being on the inside of the arm and, therefore, it will be much more sensitive than the outside of my arm was during the original application.
I’ve written about my first three tattoos previously, here, so I won’t get into them now. If you’re curious, check that post out. I had intended to link to the story of tattoo number four as well, but it seems that story hasn’t been written… yet. I will. I promise. It’s a good one.
Once again, I’ve been sitting on a “post” that I wrote weeks ago and e-mailed to myself but never posted. And once again, I feel like I can’t move forward until it’s been posted. Some of what’s here is no longer relevant. That will be explained eventually. Meanwhile, I must get this posted so that I can move forward… somehow.
This was originally written on October 2, 2013.
The noise and the supply of bullshit seem to be unending. It’s abundantly clear, now, that The Guy doesn’t care about me in the least. I shouldn’t be surprised. I shouldn’t even be hurt by it. But I am. He fed me this bullshit song and dance about talking to people about the disruption, but he remains just as guilty as the rest, and just as guilty as he’s always been. Seems like utter hypocrisy to me. He, the one person I’ve spoken to at length about this problem, doesn’t care to be cognizant of his contribution. So why would he believe anyone else would.
He just walked by my desk and said good morning. Why? What’s the point? He doesn’t talk to me at all, except to say hi and bye. Sure it’s polite, but we are past polite. I can’t stand the sound of his voice. The sound of his laugh. I hate seeing him. I wish I could get out of here and NEVER COME BACK. I can’t wait for that day.
Only it has to be under my own steam. There’s no way I can survive being unemployed again now. It’s just not possible. Yet, my boss is threatening to fire me, when you boil it down, because I’m depressed. She says I’m being unkind to people, but she can’t give me an example of it. All she says is that it’s “a tone”, it’s “intangible”, but “it has to stop.” I really do not know what she’s talking about, as I have made a concerted effort to be as neutral as I can manage with people. I’m not happy and I don’t have the power within me to pretend to be. Of course it’s not OK to be rude to people and it’s not my intent to be, but if I’m doing something wrong, I don’t know it, thus, the reason I need specific examples. (Meanwhile, I’ve actually received several complements from my customers recently, telling me what a great job I’m doing and how invaluable I am to the organization.)
A big part, maybe the biggest part, of why I’m unhappy, depressed now, is because of him. He is directly responsible for breaking me. I’m not saying I don’t have any responsibility for my circumstances, of course I do, but he was reckless and irresponsible and he toyed with me and my emotions. He created this situation and I’m the one left to deal with the aftermath. I’m trying to do just that, I’m trying to deal with my issues. I’m doing the best I can. But these things take time and my boss is not interested. And now she wants to extend my probation, like that helps anything. We’re never going to see eye to eye. We’re never going to agree on how things should work. We’re never going to agree on what “this industry” is like, or what “good customer service” looks like.
It’s just hopeless.
I NEED TO GET OUT!
On Friday, October 18, 2013, five and one half months into my six months probation, I was informed that I was “a square peg trying to fit into a round hole”, (that’s an actual quote), and that I was being “released during probation”, which pretty much means they can terminate my employment without notice, without warning, and, apparently, without any documentation of a problem.
The meeting with my boss and the HR representative (someone I had spoken to multiple times about the issues I was having with my boss and my concerns for my well-being, and who never once offered any sort of supportive or encouraging advice) took place at 3:30 that Friday afternoon. Just half an hour before everyone was to meet up at a local brewery for happy hour to celebrate The Guy’s birthday. Two separate calendar invitations were sent out about the happy hour and two separate calendar invitations were declined by me. I’m sure he didn’t expect me to attend, but I can’t help but imagine that some people were surprised I wasn’t there and must’ve asked about me. Either way, I know that my boss sent out a terse e-mail the following Monday morning informing the entire staff that I was not longer working there and to come to her with any outstanding or new requests.
I’ve never seen or heard from The Guy since that day. I can’t say I’m surprised. I can’t imagine what his response was to the news. Probably relief, though he’d act like he was sad for anyone who’s paying attention. I can’t imagine he acknowledges any sort of responsibility on the subject, even though he does hold some. It’s just as well really. I don’t know what I would have said or done if he had contact me. I need to wash my hands of him, and this is the only way to do it, but it still makes me a bit angry.
(Ironically, as a direct result of conversations that took place around the difficulties at work, I’m taking an “anger management” class right now. That’s a whole post in itself and I’ll discuss it further later, but one of the concepts in this class is that “anger isn’t real”. They suggest that anger is just a mask for pain whether it’s physical or emotional. That said, I wonder why I would be hurt that someone I don’t want to have anything further to do with wouldn’t bother to check on me after finding out I had been let go?)
Regardless, I am out of that situation, away from him, never have to see or speak to him again. I can start to “wash that man right out of my hai–” oh. Well, you get the idea. (I wonder if anyone will understand that reference without clicking the link.) I no longer have to deal with the stress of a job that was never right for me in the first place. I don’t have to deal with a boss who is chaotic and disorganized and disrespectful, and sexist. I don’t have to deal with the film of grit and filth that was a permanent fixture on my beautiful new car, from the asphalt plant or sand factory, both of which were on the other side of the fence from the parking lot.
All of these are good things. Nevertheless, I am still unemployed, living in one of the most expensive parts of the country, with a brand new car (and payment, gas and insurance to go with it) and not nearly the resources I had the last time this happened. If I don’t figure something out pretty damn quickly, I’m going to have to make some drastic and very unpleasant changes, I’m just not sure I can face.
Anyway, my first priority these days is earning money and finding a new full time job, but I think about this space often. Maybe now that I’ve gotten the last of these written-elsewhere-and-emailed-for-later-posting posts posted, I can come back here more frequently, even if it’s just to post short updates on the current goings on in my life… like this:
I’m hard pressed to understand why it is that I can’t seem to muster up any more self-respect than this. Why would an otherwise intelligent man continually subject himself to the whims of a person who doesn’t value him? How long does he go on making excuses for someone who doesn’t communicate? Who toys with his emotions and shows no more concern for his well-being than to completely ignore him all week-end and then offer up some mostly useless excuse for why?
Anyone with a modicum of self-respect would have washed his hands of this a long time ago! So why can’t I?
I doubt myself. That’s the only answer I can come up with. I doubt my worth. I doubt my judgment. I doubt my sense. Because what if I’m wrong, and this guy is the guy that I’m meant to be with and I’m just dealing with some incredibly painful, seemingly interminable growing pains at the start? Twenty years from now, will I be looking back at this time and appreciating the struggle we had to go through to spend the rest of our lives together?
I doubt it. I think it’s far more likely that 20 years from now I’ll be looking back on this time and kicking myself for not washing my hands of the whole thing faster. Probably from my deathbed, where no one will be there to hold my hand and see me off.
Most of the time I feel like he’s toying with me. He doesn’t want me. But he doesn’t want to let me go either. He likes having me hanging on and when it seems like I’m about to let go, he throws me another bone. It’s cruel really. We have these deep emotional conversations and I think yes! Finally we’re getting somewhere! But then his behavior doesn’t change. He still doesn’t respond to his text messages in a timely manner. He still ignores the ones that make him uncomfortable. And he still offers up worthless explanations.
He has all the control. I’m not sure if he realizes it or not. He might. He might be doing it on purpose. Or he might have no idea.
But in my own sickness, I’m afraid to hurt him, so I don’t say anything, and I continue to just hide in the corner and wait for his next scrap of affection knowing it will never be enough.
During my therapy appointment the other week, Deb offered me an additional form of communication I was previously unaware of, in the form of encrypted e-mail messages. The idea was for me to have an outlet of some sort as I deal with the emotional fallout of my recent… can it really be called a “break-up”(?), with The Guy.
I didn’t take her up on it. I mean I made it available to myself, but I never actually used it. I didn’t know where to start. I felt – I feel – compelled to make my writing logical, and fluid, with a clear beginning, a middle and an identifiable end. It needs to be… Entertaining seems like the wrong word… But certainly it needs to be interesting. It needs to hold the reader’s attention. So I wrote a little bit here. Targeted, specific stories to convey the strongest of my current emotions, and the utter defeat that I feel. But I never wrote to Deb. I thought about it a few times, but I just didn’t know what to say. I have no idea how it works. Would she respond to my e-mails? Would it just be a dumping ground for all the crap that I’m thinking and feeling? Would it result in stored up ammunition to use against me in our next session?
I have no one else to talk to… The couple of people I started to talk to about this, gave me songs and dances and bubbled over with platitudes that don’t interest me in the slightest. As I mentioned on my Facebook page (and then subsequently deleted)
“The next person who tells me how awesome / amazing / special I am and how lucky somebody is going to be, damn well better follow it up with a declaration of love, and gratitude for how lucky they feel to be that person.”
I’m absolutely sick and tired of being told how great I am and that someday, somebody will want me. All I hear is, “I’m sure there’s someone that would want you… It’s not me, but there’s bound to be somebody somewhere…” The fact that it took 38 years to find one person with whom I thought there was a real possibility (and proved to be dead wrong) would seem to suggest that, in fact, there might not be somebody somewhere who will want me. I don’t think anyone has done me any favors by ignoring that fact and pretending everything is bound to be just hunky dory.
As it happens, there actually are a few other things going on in my life right now that don’t center around The Guy and the resultant breaking of my heart. Admittedly, my broken heart and the litany of emotions that result from it (hurt, sorrow, anger, depression, resentment, jealousy, fear, loneliness, desperation…. Just to name a few) are highly prevalent in my mind and I do frequently come back to them. But there are other things in my life, things that are affected by said broken-heart-induced hysteria.
In the meeting I had with my boss last week, the one in which she offered up a different (but equally problematic) cubicle for me to try on, she also told me that I really needed to think about whether this was the right job for me. She said that I seem to get really frustrated a lot and… Actually I don’t remember exactly what she said, but the implication was that I’m not being nice enough to people who come to my desk. She asked me when I started, and when I reminded her of the date, she said, “Ok, so you’re about halfway through your process.” We had been discussing the fact that I’m process oriented (something I was very clear about in my interview) and that we don’t have enough processes for how we get things done for people to know how to ask for things. Process was, I’m quite certain, a misspoken word on her part. She meant probation. The organization where I now work has a six month probationary period. And as much as I’d like to come up with a better explanation, I can think of only one reason for her to mention that in the context of that conversation.
Now, in addition to all those feelings I just listed above, I’m also feeling threatened, and vulnerable. I suspect she is thinking about firing me, and my only option is to stuff down all my feelings and pretend that everything is great and wonderful in my life, and welcome each new frustration– er, interruption as if it’s the greatest thing that could have happened to me. I’m supposed to never let on that anything is bothering me… Even though, everyone else does at one time or another.
In a recent ill-fated text conversation with The Guy, he made a comment about me “snapping at folks”. I don’t believe I am. But if I am, I’m unaware of it. What I am aware of, is that I’m struggling with a lot of negative emotions without possession of any coping skills to make it better, and in spite of that, I have been very deliberate about not taking that out on other people. There was one instance when I vented some anger about a specific thing to but not at my manager, and I do admit that I was wrong about the thing I was angry about, and wrong to vent in that moment, but I also give myself credit for the fact that it was an isolated event (to my knowledge) and that I’ve actually done a pretty good job of containing my feelings… Or so I thought.
But now I can’t help but wonder. If my boss is telling me that I’m not being nice enough to people, and The Guy says I’m snapping at folks, and I’m not aware of it…. Well, what does that mean?
I admit that I’m not happy right now. I have lots of very good reason not to be. I also admit that I do not possess the proper coping skills to compartmentalize and separate my personal problems from my work life, which, admittedly, would be better. But from where I’m sitting, there’s a huge difference between not being happy and bubbly when I talk to people, and being aggressively angry with them. I am under a lot of pressure and stress right now. I get that my stress is not someone else’s problem and I don’t mean to make it so. But who is to say that “how can I help you” spoken without a smile is less appropriate than “how can I help you” spoken with one? I may not be happy to speak to someone at any given moment, but I still give them my complete attention. I still acknowledge and fulfill their request as efficiently as I can.
I’m actively searching for some affordable and feasible anger management or stress management programs. I can, and might, write a whole separate post about the anger management thing. It’s a very touchy subject that stirs up a lot of feelings on its own. But if what I’ve been interpreting as emphatic passion, on my part, is being seen as anger to everyone else… maybe that’s something I need to look at. There’s no question that I experience a considerable amount of stress. I imagine the two are related… But it’s a lot harder than you might expect to find what I need, when I need it.
So, I’ve thought about writing e-mails to Deb… multiple times. But… It’s like my fingers are a funnel. They take the big, wide-mouthed vessel full of emotions, a vat of roiling, battling, conflict, and as the emotions roll around and around in the vessel, making smaller and smaller concentric revolutions, they reach the narrow mouth of the funnel, only to find that they all want in at once. And the battle is amplified there as everything tries to escape at once.
My funnel is clogged and I don’t know how to clear it all out.
I’ve been at my new job now for about three and a half months. Long enough, I think, to have a feel for how the foreseeable future will go. I’m disappointed, to say the least. I was so optimistic when it started out. I wanted to believe that I had found a good place for me. It was presented to me as an incredible opportunity to help establish the Facility Management department for this new organization and really build something that could be great… Not unlike the opportunity I thought I was presented to build something really great with The Guy.
When I started my job, my boss was in the middle of moving a big group of people from the main site of our parent organization, into our satellite location. I understood and accepted that in the middle of this project was not the place to involve a new employee who didn’t know how anything got done in the organization. It would have taken my new boss longer to introduce and explain things to me than it would take to do them herself, so she did. She did give me small tasks along the way that contributed toward the project; tasks which gave me enough insight into what she was doing to see that there were some definite inefficiencies. One of the matters that was focussed on in my interviews was the fact that I had ten years experience in Facility Management and had done a number of large scale project moves for my previous employer. I’ve dealt with multiple outside Facilities Groups, IT groups, outside move coordinators, moving companies, furniture companies, etc., etc. I know a thing or two about moving a hundred or so people all at once, and I know what’s pretty standard operating procedure for moves like this, because I’ve seen the same tactics and techniques used, over and over again, among all those different entities, without fail. So when I saw that my new boss wasn’t using these techniques in this large scale move, I saw an opportunity to make some suggestions and utilize my “expertise” to help make things easier and more efficient in this new organization.
When my new boss asked me to create a spreadsheet for the telecommunications group that would be dealing with the relocated workers telephone needs, I asked her why were were starting from scratch, and after explaining to her the industry standard of a single spreadsheet with all the information for the move, which is then shared (after being frozen – no more changes) with all the functional groups, thereby reducing the likelihood of human error, her immediate response was, “Oh we can’t do that here.” When I asked why not she said, “They won’t go along with it.” Then, as I was recreating the wheel, because “they won’t go along with it”, I pointed out what I felt to be some missing information from the spreadsheet she had me making, and her response was, “I don’t think they need that. I don’t want to confuse them.”
(As a quick side note, in my early 20’s I worked for about 3 1/2 years in the telecommunications industry. A lot has changed in the ensuing years, but I know a bit more than the average Joe, about how these things work.)
The day that the phone tech came to do the phone work, it was a complete cluster #@(%, and when it was finally sorted out, the tech told me, next time if you could include blah, blah, blah in your spreadsheet, it would help clear this up really quickly.” In case you really didn’t already see it coming, “blah, blah, blah” was the information I told my boss I thought we should add and she said she didn’t think they needed.
I could now go into a whole long list of examples of what’s been happening in the three months since, but really that one sentence summed up the whole thing. She doesn’t think this, or she believes that. I make it a habit not to question the advice or opinions of people who know more about the subject at hand than I do. If the opportunity presents itself, I will ask clarifying questions to educate myself, but I do not question their judgement. My boss questions everything. And she makes decisions about things that she is not an expert on, frequently. One such instance of this, resulted in me, as the person who is actually managing the project, and on her orders, questioning the judgement of the person who knew more than I did about the issue at hand. I was forced to ask the contact for a new quote for something because my boss didn’t think the dimensions originally quoted were necessary. The contact was offended by the inquiry, gave a very gruff explanation to both myself and my boss, about why the dimensions she had quoted were the recommendation, (all things, by the way, that I had already told my manager) and in the end, we left the quote as was, but not before I alienated the contact (who happens to be the property manager for the building we’re in – someone I have to deal with frequently) and wasted everyone’s time unnecessarily. All because my boss wouldn’t accept the judgement of someone who know more about a thing than she did.
Last December, while I was unemployed, and finishing up what turned out to be a single semester of college classes, I was diagnosed for the first time in my life with having Attention Deficit Disorder. I was quite surprised by the diagnosis, but it also explained a lot of things that I’ve struggled with my entire life. Like the fact that I am incapable of blocking out distractions and annoyances. I overhear conversations at restaurants and comment about them to my table mates only to find that they don’t know what I’m talking about. I hear absolutely everything that goes on around me. Always have. As it turns out, this, among many other things I’ve experienced are classic ADD symptoms.
This is relevant to the story because, in my job, I’m sitting in a cubicle, something I haven’t done for 11 years. Not only am I sitting in a cubicle for the first time in over a decade, but it’s a pretty small one. There’s not much storage, and by the nature of my job, I’m responsible for lots of little things. And I literally mean things. Sitting on my desk right now, are five iPhone5 cases, waiting for someone to ask for them. There’s a box of AA batteries, because randomly and frequently, people come to my desk to ask if there are any AA batteries anywhere, but my boss doesn’t want to add them to the community supply room because they will disappear. I have a box of badge holders, and after-hours access cards, because people randomly stop by asking for one or both of those things. I still have all the old files from the Project Manager whose desk I inherited. He’s the one who managed the development of the space and operation we’re currently running, and he was expected to hang around for a while, only during the three weeks between my accepting the position and starting my job, he announced and then left to take a new job at another division of the organization. I haven’t just trashed the files because I can imagine there is bound to be some valuable information in them, but I haven’t had any time to review them and find out, either. Clutter is the enemy of the ADD mind…
In addition to the clutter, there is also a nearly never ending stream of noise.
On one side of my cubicle is my boss, who frequently calls out my name to talk to me over the cube. She asks me for information, or how to do something or, if I have done something, or to please do something. She frequently asks me to go check something, or go find out something. Quick, little things, that generally shouldn’t take long (unless someone sees me walking around and wants to take that opportunity to ask me a question or request some service I don’t have a chance of remembering when I get back to my desk) but which are interruptions to whatever I’m doing at the moment. And as a person with ADD, returning to a task after having my concentration disrupted, and picking up where I left off is nearly impossible. (I’m aware that lots of non-ADD people have similar issues, but not many ADD people don’t.) Most of the time, these requests from her, seem very much like she’s trying to wrap up whatever she’s working on and this little piece of information is crucial to that, but having to go and get it would derail what she’s doing. I totally get that, because I tend to put off going away from my desk to get information, so that I can finish things that I’m working on, and wouldn’t I love to have a minion that I could send out to do my bidding. But see, unlike the minions who spend their “downtime” playing games and pulling pranks on one another waiting for some instructions, I am actually diligently working on my own tasks and projects that were given to me by the same boss who is now sending me on her little gofer runs. When I return to my desk after, I’m lost and it takes a while to get my concentration back… if I can do it at all.
On the other side of my cube, is a really sweet woman who I have a lot in common with, in terms of our backgrounds and how we came to be where we are in life. I like her a lot, I enjoy my conversations with her. She’s one of the reasons the office celebration of my birthday happened. And when her birthday came up a couple of weeks later, I made sure that we did something for her. Everyone loves her. She’s awesome! And, she has zero internal dialogue. Absolutely everything that enters her mind, comes tumbling out of her mouth. And she does it at a normal speaking voice. She would do it whether anyone was around or not. People frequently come to her desk to talk to her, both about work stuff and not.
The office is a former factory, and it was decorated with an industrial look in mind, only, usually when that’s done the ceilings are much higher. This building was finished with only slightly higher than standard ceilings, and zero ceiling tiles. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you non-Facility Management types out there, but one of the biggest reasons to have those tiles, is to absorb sound. It prevents the noise from the air conditioning units and duct work above from carrying into the work space, and it prevents the sound of the voices of all the people in the office talking at the same time from reverberating around the room. WE DON’T HAVE THAT!!!
There have been a couple of smaller moves that have taken place sense I started my job, and I have had nothing to do with any of them. Well…. That’s not true actually. I’ve not been involved in the planning of them, but my boss has happily handed off the menial, manual labor tasks that related to them. For example, I got to order, assemble and distribute “welcome kits” of office supplies to the desks of the new occupants; something that took hours of my time, caused me to sweat like a pig in work clothes and environment (something I absolutely HATE and makes me very cranky) and in the end proved to be a waste of time as the people we were moving in were not new to the organization, already possessed most of what we offered, and most of them discarded the items the day they moved in.
And speaking of manual labor, there have been a number of things that I am responsible for that were not discussed in my job description, or in my interviews. Things that, had I known, I would have thought twice about taking the job. For instance, I’m responsible for receiving, sorting and delivering the mail every day. I’m also responsible for receiving, opening, sorting, recording, and distributing any and all packages that come in. I’m responsible for keeping the office supplies inventoried and replenished, and as if that weren’t bad enough (at least it is to me,) the supplies are located in ELEVEN different places in our four story building, because on a whim she decided we needed office supply way stations spread around the building so people didn’t have to walk so far to the central supply room to get them… in our four story building. These tasks can take anywhere from half an hour to six hours depending on the day and what we’re receiving.
I am the highest paid mail room boy in the area, but my job description doesn’t even mention it. Meanwhile, my job description does mention lots of other things which I’m still held accountable for, but barely have time to get to.
The presumably unintentional understanding (at least I assume it’s unintentional) that is established every time someone new comes to work in the building is that if they need anything at all, just ask me or my boss. Every new person get’s a tour of the building, and that tour always includes the locations of our desks and the introduction that we are the people who “take care of everything in the building”. I have heard more than one person tell the new employee “If you need anything at all, these are the people to talk to, and now you know where they sit.” The problem is, we don’t really have a viable alternative to offer them. (Speaking of industry standards, I don’t know of another Facility Management operation anywhere, that doesn’t have some sort of ticketing request system for people to submit there service requests on-line.)
Because we are introduced this way, and because we don’t have an alternative to offer, people – especially brand new people – really do just come up to our desks and interrupt what we’re working on to ask for what they need. Mostly little things that simply aren’t that urgent. More often than not, they’re things that people should be asking their immediate supervisor for.
I really like the people I work immediately around. I haven’t been able to say that for a very long time. But it’s true. They’re all friendly people. They’re all nice. I had barely even been working there for a month, but when word got out that my birthday was happening, a bunch of them took me out for drinks after work. I genuinely like them! And I completely can not function around them, work-wise.
In the earliest days of my employment, I told the chatterbox behind me about my ADD. I didn’t do it to make her feel bad, or to complain about her. In fact I don’t remember how it came up, but I told her about it and she acknowledged it in the context of the conversation. She knows it’s an issue. Not long after that, I told my boss the same thing. I told her that I’m really struggling to focus and concentrate in the environment. In a subsequent conversation I reminded her of the ADD, and the difficulty I’m having being able to focus on my work, because of all the noise, and the constant interruptions. She asked me what I thought the solution was, and I told her, unfortunately, I thought I probably needed to move. She told me that if I moved then she had to move and asked me to give her some time to think about a possible solution. I did.
Last week, in the middle of a meeting with her, I asked her about it again. “I know we’ve discussed this before,” I said, “and I know you’ve heard me, but I can’t tell if anything has come of it.”
Before I could say anything else she said, “This is about the noise and distractions.” She didn’t sound angry, but she didn’t sound particularly positive or helpful about it ether. In the end she offered to let me “try on” another specific desk in the same suite and see if that helped. If it did, she had no objection to me moving into it. But in proof that she doesn’t really understand or get what I’m telling her, the cube she offered up, is right by the entrance to the suite, along the main route from the opposite side of the suite to the shared kitchen which is three desks down from the cube she offered me, and not enclosed in the least. Plus it’s just outside of the office of one of the loudest people in the whole suite. I haven’t tried it out yet, because my laptop has been on the fritz and I’m not going to move my whole desktop and two monitors for a “try on”. But IT will return my laptop tomorrow and I will try the new desk, so that I can speak with authority about whether or not it helps.