I've been thinking a lot lately about the nature of anger, bitterness and jealousy. I've found it striking me a lot the last few days, over someone being rude, or being jealous of someone.
There's something in me that likes being angry. It feels like righteous anger sometimes. I should be angry. This action deserves anger, deserves retribution. I should feel bitter over this thing in my life that I have or don't have. It all makes perfect sense, you see.
Of course in reality it's pointless. Anger is a natural reaction, but in the end it serves nothing. At best it might push you into action, but it won't be sustainable action. Anger can't fuel you forever. It burns out, over time. And if you let it burn out, it leaves a mark. A scar, for lack of a less melodramatic term. I've found it's better to try and extinguish it. Honour your emotions, of course, but don't give them entirely free reign.
But it's funny, really, how difficult and unnatural that feels. How it feels like, to me, turning away from a car wreck, leaving the last chip, letting the insistent phone ring through to voice mail. It feels like I must experience it. I must feel the anger and bitterness, as I deserve to, as I should.
It's better to be mindful, though, as a friend reminded me yesterday. Stay here, now, not in the past or the future. Turn your mind away and focus on what you can do here, and now, to feel better, to do better. Maybe that's reaching out to a friend, watching something funny, or typing out a blog post on your tablet.
I worry, often, that my bitterness and anger is too heavily scarred over. I'd like to be a happier, positive person, but I worry that deep down I'm angry, bitter, and won't be able to change. I'd like to think though that worrying about that, that saying no, that is not what I want, will help.
I hope so, to be honest.
I had kind of a funny weekend.
I slept in on Saturday, but woke up and made a giant to do list of things. I spent the weekend crossing things off it, doing a ton of tasks including house item shopping, exploring downtown Oakville, trying out two new recipes (including trying my hand at banana bread), preparing lunches and breakfasts for the week, doing a ton of laundry, getting started on some gardening, pressing pants, dropping off dry cleaning, even fitting some WoW in there.
About the only thing I didn't do was exercise, but I ate fairly well.
And yet I went to bed feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Like I hadn't accomplished anything. Like something was missing. I'm not entirely sure what. Maybe because I wasn't social? Because I didn't really progress on any of my goals? I did learn new recipes, I cooked for the week, but it felt just like spinning my wheels. Like I was running to stand still, to quote a U2 song.
I'm not sure what the solution is here. Maybe exercise. Maybe social engagements. Maybe just to realize that having a clean house, cooking healthy and keeping my life organized is an important part of achieving my goals. I was saying to a friend today that the old proverb about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step is kind of incomplete.
It also includes a fuck-ton more single steps, too.
I thought I'd post a quick update as to how the cats are doing. I think most of you follow me on Twitter and will know some of this, but just in case.
For those just tuning in, my cats, Ender and Bean, spent most of the first week hiding from me, usually in the basement, occasionally in my box spring. I did my best to feed them, draw them out when I could, and generally support them in any way I can. I worried about them a lot but, eventually, they've come out, and no essentially own the house.
It's been funny to watch their personalities come out more and more. Ender, who was the first one to come out, is now the calmer of the two. She demands attention less, tends to hang back, and seems more relaxed in general. She'll have moments where she will be constantly on me (particularly when I'm on my laptop) and seems to love to headbutt my head in a loving manner which just MELTS MY HEART. She's quieter overall, less of a talker, but is often out and about, just less…frantic. She's very sweet overall, though, but I try to make sure and give her extra attention, as she's nowhere near as demanding as her sister. And she's definitely the more subservient one, to Bean, the dominant one.
Bean, the one who hid and never came out for a week, has now become the most social, affectionate, people driven cat you could ever hope to meet. She will almost always come and greet me when I walk in the door and tends to follow me around the house. She will regularly jump up on my laptop, and likes to hang out on the kitchen table. Every morning when I open my bedroom door (kitties do not get to sleep with me) she will rush in, meowing a greeting at me, and jump on my bed, often rolling over and asking for a belly rub. She likes to hide behind my (sheer) curtains sometimes, and will always meow at me and jump up when I'm doling out food, desperately trying to eat out of the can. I wondered for a while if I was under-feeding them, but I think they just like the wet food (they have plenty of kibble all day). Bean is usually the one to jump in my lap, and will do this adorable thing where she will stand on her hind legs when you're petting her and pull your hand away, trying to get as much pets as humanly possible. She's definitely the talker of the two, and if I do close her out of my room I will hear about it for a few minutes after.
It's been interesting watching their interactions with Buddy, a cat I'm looking after for my parents right now. He's a big old tomcat, easy going, but a talkative one, and a little demanding of attention. They've slowly accepted him and seem to still be working out a pecking order (which will be shot when he leaves in a week or two) but it's been interesting watching him integrate with them. In the mornings, now, when I open the door the three of them will come in, Bean running in and hopping on the bed, Ender and Buddy wandering in as if saying "Oh, hey, s'up?" They do much the same thing at night, now, trying to rush in before I close the door, wanting to hop onto the bed and try and attack my feet under the covers. I've taken to shaking a bag of treats and dropping a few outside to lure them out. Which is probably a bad precedent to set. But, eh.
I love these cats, and they warm my heart, and I am SO glad to have them in my life.
I do still want a dog, though. But these guys are my companions, so it'll have to be a dog who likes cats. Just saying.
You know when you have something in your head and you seem to see it everywhere?
For me, lately, that's been the idea of stepping up and asking for what you want. I seem to see references to the idea everywhere I go, on TV shows (HIMYM last night with the jacket), articles on reddit, blog posts, conversations with others. And not just asking for what you want, but asking to be included, organizing things yourself, and asking to come along when you see others doing something cool.
I've always avoided this partly out of a sense of humility. Am I asking too much? Am I being impertinent (a cardinal sin!)? What if I'm not wanted? Is there going to be that awkward silence when I ask and everyone looks at each other going "what do we say?" I can still recount for you so many, many times that's happened, and that fucking HURT. Of course there are many times someone has said "sure!" but those stick in the mind of someone with self-esteem issues far less. They don't reinforce the belief system that I'm worthless, you see, so why remember them?
That lack of self-confidence is a big part of it too, of course. It's a big part of so many aspects of my life, sadly.
So what I've relied on in the past is for people to read my mind and know what I want. I feel like I read people pretty well and I assume people do the same. I'm also the type to try to include everyone and so I have a tendency to invite everyone along, to try and bring as many people as possible in, to try and make sure no one feels left out. Not everyone's like that, and people read people differently. Someone could see from a few refusals to hang out on my part that I don't want to, and not that I'm just going through a bit of an introvert phase. When I think someone is cool and want to hang out, I assume they'll ask me when they want to, not that they'll wait for me. They're busy, I'm sure, and I don't wanna bug them.
I think it was a reddit post where someone said "You can't expect people to be psychics." And it just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I can't. And I've been assuming people know what I want, the things I want to do, the people I want to hang out with.
So I'm trying to step up a bit more. Not just in saying "Hey, can I come along?" but saying "Hey, let's hang out." "Hey, come over to my place!" (Seriously, so nice to be able to say that). I'm realizing if I don't do that I will end up a hermit, as there's some part of me that would be very happy just hiding in my house every evening and weekend, and that doesn't really further anything other than saving on cab fare or gas money.
The tough part is that some people will say no still. I'll still get that awkward look from some people when I ask to be included. There will still be people who I'll try to include, and I'll get nothing back from. Developing the thicker skin to handle that is the real challenge. Asking about people, trying to reach out and include them, that's easy. Dealing with rejection is hard.
In other news, sun rises and dogs and cats continue their feud.
A quick update written from the train during an internet dead zone. I had been playing WoW, but for now, I'll settle for writing until my 3G and tethering comes back.
A very dear aunt of mine died about a week ago now. It's truthfully the first person close to me in my life I've had die, and it's a little odd. It's odd to think I likely won't see that person again until I cross that same bridge they now have.
At the same time I've been sick enough that life has consisted largely of work, sleep, come home and do whatever I need to to feel better (usually, WoW these days). This is, essentially, what I have to do when sick. No working out, and the bare minimum of social engagements. If I go traipsing around Toronto, I will stay sick for longer.
I took two sick days, and took yesterday as a personal, catch up on sleep, write my eulogy, rest and sleep in day. I told work this was exactly what I'd like to do, and asked them for it. Didn't demand, didn't tell them I was taking it, said "this is what I feel I need; if you think we can manage it, I would appreciate it. If not, that's your call." I'm glad I did, and I'm glad they granted it.
I've looked at the Scintilla prompts but they all come out being Aunt related or sad in general, as that's kind of where my mind is going these days. Regrets and loves lost. I'm working on getting out of it, and party of that is sitting here, on this train, in business class, relaxing and enjoying my laptop and a bit of WoW. I've been thinking about the best way to pay tribute to my aunt, but I have no ideas yet. I've written a nice eulogy, I think, or one of several. She would likely encourage me to go on an adventure, to seize the day, to create the life for myself she never had. I'm still debating as to how.
I am starting to think some change needs to happen in my life, though. My time at my home is so wonderful, so full of joy, rest, discovery and creativity. My time outside of home? Not so much. But no one will pay me to stay at home and discover who I am and share that with the world. I don't think so, anyway.
Anyway, this is distinctly a first world problem, don't get me wrong. But I wanted to share where I could, what I could.
I'm doing the Scintilla Project for the next two weeks. Go sign up and join us, or read up on the other folks doing the Project! It's a great blog roll of people.
Today, I'm choosing Prompt B:
Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….).
(Technically this is something I did, not something that happened to me, but still good!).
How To Buy the Perfect Home
- Procrastinate on it a lot. Live at home for as long as you can stand. Waste money, live paycheque to paycheque.
- Set really high, unrealistic goals of places to live. Bemoan this a lot.
- Change to really low goals. Look at tiny basement apartments with huge commutes to anywhere in dangerous neighbourhoods.
- Procrastinate until something in your life changes. This can be a job, weight loss, until you've saved x dollars. Change this a lot to make sure you never really quite achieve it.
- Housesit for a friend whose place in the city you once thought would be perfect for you. Discover it's not, at all. Recognize that there's nothing wrong with it, but just that you don't want to live in the same area you thought you did.
- Help friends move into a beautiful house, far away from everything, but absolutely stunning.
- Realize that you could likely afford their house, or something like it.
- Talk with another friend who's disdainful of the city and loves the suburbs. Listen to her thoughts and consider them.
- Browse real estate sites incessantly.
- Get family and friends in on this as well.
- Randomly, and suddenly, decide you've saved enough and it's time to start.
- Reject many places out of hand based on pictures on the internet. Nearly ignore what everyone is telling you and don't visit that one place you don't like the look of on the net.
- Go visit that one place first and realize it is basically perfect and everything you want, and some things you didn't know you didn't know you wanted.
- Visit other places you thought were awesome and realize the pictures made them look good when really they're terrible.
- Make your realtor work on the night of a big sporting event to help you put in an offer lest that couple you saw looking buy the place out from under you.
- Take the signed back offer.
- Wait a few weeks until everything is absolutely 100% finalized.
- Rage at people who pressure you for things. Do so quietly. Yell at your phone a lot with it not being on.
- Once purchased, wait until the last possible second to move in. Realize suddenly how emotionally difficult this is.
- Once there, host party ASAP. Bring people around as much as possible. Clean house incessantly.
- Lighting BBQ on fire at least once is recommended, but optional.
- Fight off loneliness with alcohol and food.
- Expand cooking repertoire. Learn you really love your own cooking. Use exploring new city as an excuse to order lots of take out, initially.
- Get two adorable cats. Watch them hide for a week, then wish they'd hide as they climb all over you.
- Write blog post from your laptop, next to your window, and quietly realize that, yes, this is the perfect home for you. Maybe just for right now, but it is.
- Thank blog post readers for reading til the end, and stop talking in some kind of weird passive voice now.
Hi! I'm Tom, and this is my Scintilla Project post, day 1.
That sounds so formal. But I feel like I've introduced myself many times. I am a nerd, an HR guy, a gamer, a Canadian, a blogger, vlogger, homeowner, friend, Servant to Cats (I used to say cat owner, but they didn't like that much).
Today for Scintilla, we have the option of talking about a time we were drunk under age, or a story from our first job.
I'm going to go with a bunch of little stories about my second job instead. DANGER ZONE.
Mainly because I did not get drunk under age. In fact, I resisted alcohol for a while, until I got a little pretentious in university and decided I wanted to drink scotch and fancy, foreign beers. I was turned off alcohol initially, I think, because I was an uncool kid (well, I thought I was cool, but all the drinking kids couldn't see the inherent awesomeness of Star Trek and video games) and because my main exposure was my Dad's Coors Light. I'll tell you, I can drink almost any beer you put in front of me, except Coors. Damn.
My first job was painting for my Dad in the summers between school. It paid well, but I can't say I loved it. Lots of time outdoors, lots of early mornings, slightly later nights and occasional weekends. If I was a more outdoorsy person I suppose I would've loved in, but it tended to involve a lot of traipsing around in dog shit ridden backyards, dealing with bugs, dirt and paint. And for a pale kid allergic to just about everything in the summer, this was not ideal. And, to be honest, I came away with very few good stories.
After university, I got a job working for the federal government in one of their offices doing data entry. It was a pretty good job overall. Good hours, good pay, nice people. Some of them a little jaded, but good people. The summer afterwards they cancelled the program I was hired under, and I went back to painting.
The summer after that, however, I was hired back again, and asked to work the front desk. Now, this was an office where you could get copies of SIN cards, apply for Employment Insurance and check the status therein, and a few other government services. I dreaded working the front desk. I'd never done sales or reception or anything of the sort before, and I'd heard some of the horror stories others had told me about how some people would act and treat government employees. I was tossed out there with precious little training, the front line representative of a huge government with thousands or programs. What follows was going to be a few short snippets, but one story ended up ballooning up a bit, so just the one. I have more, like the time a guy threatened to kill me, or the time we accidentally triggered a near lockdown, or the time I was nearly given a cushy high paying job, or the time someone attempted to bribe me.
An elderly woman came in to apply for a new Social Insurance Card. This is actually a pretty big deal; that card contains a number with which you can do some very terrible things, so we were required to ask for certain documents to prove a person's identity. A driver's license, library card, credit card, passport, Subway Sub Club Card, nor almost any other document you may have with you, will be accepted. Birth certificate, citizenship card, permanent resident card or work permit. The thing is, technically none of the other documents prove you have the right to get a SIN card. They prove you can drive, read, shop at Subway, or travel as a Canadian citizen, but not that you're able to work in Canada.
I know, it's stupid. I never got why passport wasn't accepted, but alas, my job was to enforce the rules and, sadly, to inform this sweet old lady that, no, she couldn't get a new SIN card, and would have to come back with her birth certificate.
"What? I have my driver's license!"
"I'm sorry, miss, we need your birth certificate in order to issue a replacement SIN card."
"It's your primary means of identification. It shows your citizenship, the driver's license doesn't."
"Can't you just look it up?!"
"I'm very sorry, miss, we can't, we need your birth certific-"
"Oh, SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!"
She stormed off to the nearby phones that linked to the central government lines. I paused a beat, looked to the next person in the massive line, smiled with what I can only assume was very little conviction, and said "Next please."
The rest of the people in that line were quiet and kind, I found. However, a few minutes later, the same elderly lady started waving at me and pushing in front of the line. Now, I don't know whether I've always had this pet peeve, or whether this developed during my time at the government, but to me, those who demand to skip the line, for "just a quick question," who think cause they're "just here to drop something off" they can jump ahead of everyone, who think they're too busy or important to wait in line with the rest of the plebs, those people deserve a place in a Special Hell in my mind, with child molesters and people who talk in the theatre. To this day little pisses me off more, as someone in line or someone managing a line, then someone who hangs out near the front hoping to get whatever they need taken care of ahead of everyone else. It doesn't matter why. YOU DON'T DO IT UNLESS YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER.
"They want to talk to you!" she said urgently, gesturing to the phone she had gotten ahold of. "Sorry, I was here before," she said, sweet as can be, to the person I was talking to. "They want to talk to you!" she repeated to me urgently, with a hint of warning in her voice, as if I was about to get a stern talking to. I look to my coworker, who nods, as I step away from the desk to pick up the phone.
"Uh, hello, this is Tom, from the office."
"Hi, yes, I've been speaking with this client and I wanted to know why you didn't offer her the Old Age card?"
"The fireworks card?"
"Um, I'm sorry, I have no idea what that is."
"You know, the card senior citizens on Old Age Security can order over the phone that has their SIN number on it."
"…No one told me there was such a thing. I'm new here."
"Oh, well, she can just call in and order that without the birth certificate. Here, hand her back the phone and I'll explain it to her."
I handed back the phone and waited a minute. She nodded happily through it and, after jotting down a number to call, hung up.
"Oh, I'm ever so sorry!" she said to me, suddenly sweet as sugar again.
"It's okay, miss." I said impassively, a small, fake smile on my face. She did seem somewhat distraught, I'll concede, but I can't say I was in a very forgiving mood after being sworn at, loudly, in public, for doing my job to the best of my ability, and then told off about not telling her something I didn't know.
So, next time you encounter a bitter, beaten down public servant? Cut them a teensy bit of slack? There's no excuse for rudeness, or not doing their job, but these are people on the front lines, often dedicated people who really care about what they're doing, even if they may not show it well. Give them a break if they're not super cheerful, eh?
When recently changing jobs I went from an office with 13 other people in it to working for a company that employs over 150 000 people. Not all crammed onto my floor, of course, but the number of people I interact with on a daily basis has increased a fair bit.
It's posed an interesting issue for me on a social interaction basis. Again, this is one of those things that I feel like I missed in school.
When do you say hi to people? Do I say hi to every person I was briefly introduced to in my office tour? For those long hallways, what's expected? A short, slightly loud conversation, asking how the person is, trying frantically to recall their name and something, anything about them? Is that too personal, too much? Is a simple "hi" enough?
I find myself often copping out. Doing a smile and a nod if I catch their eye. Doing an anemic little mumbled "Hi" as I walk by with a wave that doesn't come above my waist. It's a cop out, truly. I worry about putting myself out, about saying hello confidently and the person…what? Not replying? Not wanting to talk to me? Somehow intimating my lack of worth and interest and responding appropriately?
When I explained this to my therapist her reaction, as it is many times, is sheer awe at how wrong I am about myself, how hard I am, how much I assume about others. She challenged me to say hello to everyone I walked by, loudly and confidently.
Shit's TOUGH, yo.
I've been doing it, though, mostly. Sometimes I get no reply. Sometimes I'm still too quiet. But I'm trying. Making an effort. Working on it. Shockingly, no one has looked on me with disgust that I dare speak to them.
I'm still not really clear though on what to do when you've greeted someone already that day and walk by them in the hall again. A hi again? The look away? The intent stare at the smart phone as an escape?
Seriously, awkward people, what the fuck did you DO before smart phones?!
I didn't cook much when I lived with my parents. It didn't really make sense for me to; we had one kitchen, I arrived home at the same time as everyone else, and it wasn't much extra for Mom to make more dinner. Even for lunch, she still makes my Dad's lunch every day, a little extra for me was something she was happy to do.
So since I've moved out I've been doing a lot of cooking and food prep for myself. I lived alone for many years and cooked for myself, of course, but they were often simple, unhealthy meals, and there was a lot of take out during those years, too. So this is, in a lot of ways, new to me. And I've been having a blast with it.
I've started off making simple meals, simpler than would have satisfied my parents, and a lot of repeats, but things I enjoy. This recipe has been my starting point. A relatively low cal, chicken based dish, with lots of veg. I started off making it just as suggested, until I realized I knew the recipe, such as it was, by heart, and could play with it a bit. I used different spices, cooked some things for longer, used different veggies, threw a bit of olive oil into the mix, cooking some quinoa to make things last longer (though they sadly didn't help overly much, I can eat a ton of this stuff). But I started to want different things, so I moved onto roasting. Simple veggies chopped up, tossed in some olive oil and spices and threw them in the oven for a while. Put a chicken breast in and has a nice, full meal.
For lunches, I've had a lot of simple ones. Yogurt, a small jello, some carrots (pre-bagged on Sunday for grab and go!) and often some sort of main. Maybe leftovers from last night's dinner, though lately I've been working at getting more veggies into the mix. A cucumber, cut up, tossed with feta cheese and some light salad dressing, makes for a great lunch. I want to add a bit of heft to that one, though. Maybe some more cheese, or even some pre-cooked meat chopped up and mixed in. I find it doesn't always fill me up, and that is a concern.
For breakfasts, my go-to has often been these egg muffins. I tend to play with the recipe a lot, often using peppers in place of broccoli, turkey bacon in place of sausage. They're great for grab and go, of course, but it means I have to plan ahead and make time over the weekend, which is where I often fail. Otherwise I've been trying to make myself a small sandwich with some peanut butter and whole grain bread, an apple and some yogurt. A good breakfast is important, and I don't just mean that as an after school special. If I don't eat something decent and substantial during that time, I'm starving and tend to overeat at lunch, ducking out for something extra outside of what I bring.
A lot of the big thing for me is making it all as easy as possible, so I have fewer and fewer excuses to buy lunch and breakfast. I won't pretend there haven't been days I have, cause sometimes it definitely doesn't come together, but I work at it. It's a learning experience, like anything.
One tip, though? Be careful with cayenne pepper! I used it like regular pepper and had a batch of chicken and veg that made me cry every time I ate it.