Tuesday, May 24, 2016

23rd And Me

So this weekend was our 23rd Wedding Anniversary.

That surprises me, just a little bit.  Not so much the fact that it is 23 years - good heavens, I had no real conception of how long we would make it in the first place - but on people's reaction.

I posted a short comment and picture on Facebook, mostly about the dinner and only (I thought) coincidentally about our anniversary.  I received a great deal of support and like and comments and "reactions" (whatever those are supposed to be).

My first thought was "Is 23 years really that rare?"

It does not feel like some kind of worked for accomplishment, not like trying to lift a caber and turn it or the constant worry about if a garden will take.  In a way, it was just sort of showing up - and continuing to show up.

It is not like I think people imagine it would be.  There are bumps in the road.  Long periods - sometimes years, it feels like - of lingering issues that seem to hang around.  And perhaps it is a common complaint, but marriages of this length are scarcely like those of the movies.

I still midlife crisis every now and then, of course. As I alluded to earlier,  sometimes it feels like everything is the same - and will continue to be same, time without end.  The exotic allures, the course of "freedom" beckons.

And then goes away, of course.  There are commitments to keep and bills to pay and children to be responsible for and pets that need attention.  That is the nature of this life, and certainly I have been around enough to grasp that most of what I see is only the side I want to see, not the side as it actually is.

And there are compensations, of course.  I wish I was conscious of all of them.  But one, I think, I now know:  most people think that you sticking with it is something special.

And perhaps that is not all a bad thing.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Lightning Storm

Last night and early Sunday morning, driving through New Mexico, we came across a lightning storm in the distance.

It originally started as a small set of distant flashes that was noticeable; as we got farther from the last town the sky really began to light up to the northeast.  Sheet lightning in a night so dark you could not make out the clouds until the lightning cast the outlines and the shadows the clouds.  Strikes in a night that you could see the entire bolt hit the ground in a blazing outline, sometimes so bright and accurate that the lightning seemed pour out its fury on the ground, at other times to to curl around itself as it went down.

On and on it went, sometimes continuing on faster pace, with strikes and sheet lightning alternating lighting up the sky almost to the point of  brightness, other times the strikes few and far between, illuminating the darkness like a piercing flickering candle.  As we continued to drive we steered around the edge of the storm, pacing it for a good two hours through the changing landscape and descending elevation until we finally passed beyond its edge and into the general clouds beyond.

At one point, looking over the New Mexico terrain that sloped down and then up into the distance, I saw a single light sitting in the middle of the pool of darkness that was the ground.  That was the place to be, I thought.  Living out beyond anyone else, just sitting on the porch at night and watching the lightning light the sky and the ground in turn.

I am not ultimately sure what that says about me and my desire for aloneness and beauty.  What I do know is that in that time I found a piece of my soul dancing in between heaven and earth, descending and rising on the bright flashes on a dark night.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Reorganization 2.0

So today we went through another corporate reorganization.

I was not caught in the major reorganization, which was significant.  But I was caught in a minor one, which was significant enough for me.

I have changed reporting structures again.  The dual form of reporting up was not working, so there is a new single line of communication - essentially what we had for almost 7 years until about a month ago.  That system worked, apparently - just not with me.

There has been a "leveling".  I have been stripped of 3 of my 4 team members, who are now reporting on equivalent level up - a team I have spent 7 years building.  My job responsibilities, while not quite redefined, are shrinking in scope to well under half of what they used to be.  And instead of reporting directly to The Head, we are all reporting to a Subhead who reports to The Head.

I have, in other words, been practically demoted.

I am not happy.  I have indicated this, both to The Head and to The Subhead.  I am essentially capped:  I am precisely one level below The Subhead so the chances of moving up are rather limited.  Even more so arguably, as with reduced areas of responsibility come reduced abilities to make the sorts of impressions and do the sorts of work that get the sorts of attention that makes such things possible.

Everyone is sympathetic, of course:  of course we understand, it is for the betterment of the company, there will more opportunities for growth and expansion, do not feel like you have been put aside, it is really for the better.  You are doing a fantastic job, keep up the good work, and we are 100% behind you.

I am really, really trying not to be bitter about this.  Really.  It would be lying to say it is not hard - except I have no-one to direct the bitterness at.

There is little enough to do about the situation, of course:  what is done is done and to be anything less than 100% supportive will brand you in ways not good to consider.  On the positive side, I am still employed.

But all that echoes in my mind is the ringing sound of echoes getting closer as the potentialities of my current position - and perhaps my career - shrink in like an old volcano sinking in on itself, leaving only a crumbling cones and broken lava tubes to mark its passing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Memories and Images

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to others.

It used to be quite a mystery, of course: people would leave our own circle of living, leave our own geographic area, and then would disappear off the face of our known earth.  Perhaps we would hear of them from a friend of a friend or a relative, but they had effectively moved beyond our own orbit.  We might picture where they were or what they were doing, how their lives had gone.

Now, of course, we have the Internet.  And Facebook and Linked In and 40 other ways to keep in touch with other people.  And yet, I still find myself wondering what has happened to others.

Oh, I can find them of course.  They will pop up as soon as you search for them.  But all it is now is a carefully crafted image, what one wants everyone else to see.

To be fair, I do this as well.  My "On-line presence" (sounds so official) is in some ways very different from the way I would present myself in my more personal space.  Part of it is essentially image management - after all, everybody (including your company) can find you now.

But the mystery is gone, in a way.  No longer does one wonder where those others are or what they have done.  It can easily be found out - or rather, the image can be found out.    But them, who they were or who they are, has become submerged beneath that image.

Which makes it sadder, in a way.  Before one had to imagine.  Now one has the outer image without the core.

It strikes me as strange that in this world of interconnected technology, we find ourselves more isolate dfrom such memories than we perhaps ever thought possible.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Drained II

An epiphany of sorts today.

I realized, as I sat at my desk balancing visitor after visitor with requests for information or questions and e-mails clamoring for attention amidst coming and going to meetings, that I simply do not have the energy to maintain this sort of working life.  I have no time to recharge.

I am, by every test I have ever taken, an introvert - so much heavily so that I almost always top out the chart.  This surprises some people when they see me interacting in social settings - I can be witty, personable, engaging - the life of the party.  This works, as I have come to understand, because that is not a taking of energy by others but exchanging of energy with others.

But what I am doing in my workday now is completely different.

Everyone has a need.  Everyone has a question.  Everyone wants something from me - if not in person, then via e-mail.  This has become my day, a steady stream of individuals coming with questions or requests.  They are most good natured about it of course, and I suspect scarcely any of them wish me ill will, but still they come.  And ask.

There is no exchange of energy in these interactions, no building of excitement - just a steady drain of energy as one after another, people come with their needs.

And leave me mentally and psychically exhausted.  Literally.  I have nothing left to give by the time I leave for home.  Add to that a commute approaching an hour or more and then another group of people at home who have a different set of requests and needs for interaction and you can see where this ends up.

I have often wondered over the years why I can stand commuting to the extent that I do.  I truly do not mind the concept of long drives - and now I know why.  It is a small chance to recharge from the daily drainage of energy.  It also explains why I set such aggressive goals at the beginning of year yet always seem to lose steam, or how I can come out of a weekend ready to go and find myself with nothing by Wednesday.  I have given myself time to recharge via vacation or weekend - but the batteries do not have enough regular down time to maintain that level of energy.

What to do about the situation, that is the question.  It is not as if I can wall myself away from everyone (oh, how I wish!) and recharge time seems no more likely to appear now than ever.

But it is the germ of a concept and realization, the fact that I require a more balanced approach to my interactions to pace myself and (really) make myself the most functional me that I can.   People are not going to like it.

On the other hand, I surely do not like the way I feel now and how my life is working out.  Ultimately, that should trump all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Iai On A May Evening

Last night I went out to practice iai.

Yesterday was a Monday, the sort of Monday that has you swearing that you will submit your resignation letter in the first 10 minutes after arrival and never really improves after that.  The sort of Monday filled with meetings that never really seem to resolve anything and a commute that leaves one drained just in time to try to generate something of a personality.

And so I went out to practice iai, increasingly my refuge (along with writing) to maintain my sanity in a life seeming gone not so bad as bland and tasteless, a sort of endless poi dish that one takes day after day knowing it is nutritious but having no other redeeming qualities.

At first I began almost going through the motions, doing the most basic of kata to warm up; then,  I began to notice the world around me.

The sky was that blue-green that almost defies description, the color that only appears right at evening and right before morning, transient as the moment just before sunrise  and just after sunset.  The weather held its coolness from the morning rains with a light breeze, mocking the fact we already halfway through May.

Our yard is exceptionally green this year, an outcome of the rather large amount of rain.   Our new resident hare, Joey (so named by Nighean Dhonn) was out about an evening silfay, cautiously eating the grass while watching me practice.  Fireflies began to pepper the yard, far more than I have ever seen any year since we moved here, their yellow-green luminescence moving in and out as if they were teleporting across space instead of moving through it.

The crickets (or frogs, I am never sure) sang their background chirps as the high pitched squeaks announced the evening bats out for the hor de' oeuvres of the night.  A random toad,  as pale as the concrete he hopped across, appeared out of nowhere   on his way to a rendezvous with a nameless appointment he did not seem inclined to share.

All of a sudden I found myself practicing iai not alone but in the midst of world going on about its business - or rather, kindly welcoming me into its business.  I was no more a stranger to this dance of movement and sound and light than any of the other creatures there.

In a sense, I think it was iai in its most pure form, of being one with nature as one practice the forms, sliding in and out of the fireflies, not alarming the hare, seen as nothing more than a thing of shadows not to be feared by a toad.  The sky in its strange and seldom appearing color reflected the purity of form to which the apprentice always strives:  memorable yet not standing out, unique yet blending into the balance of whole.

I cannot say that this moment made up for the day before.  I can say that it gave a sense of peace and serenity where none previously existed.

Monday, May 16, 2016