Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes Life Throws You A Tea Towel Soaked in Ice Water

In retrospect, I feel like I should have seen it coming.

I have been melancholy the last couple of months, very melancholy indeed, feeling somewhat lost in the current state of my life. I remember January and February feeling like a real gauntlet run at the office. We were far too short staffed and what had felt like a bearable gig for many months had become downright awful.

I was really thankful for my current contract when it came along, because it meant little loss of income, but part of me was feeling like I needed just a little break to catch my breath, even if that break came at the cost of the usual anxiety that accompanies not working.

As it was, I was right into the next gig and I'm only realizing now how much it threw me for a loop. All of a sudden, all these little routines I had built up were removed wholesale from my day to day experience.

Instead of a quick walk across the street to my office from the parking lot, I was walking to work along a wind swept, frozen Lake Ontario in the carnage of the never ending construction that appears to have become a way of life in the city's south end.

I was in a new building, working with new people, processes and completely new clients in a new culture.

All my regular go to spots for lunches and groceries and errands were gone.

All of these things in and off themselves are really quite benign, but I think collectively, it was a lot to get used to right away. I didn't really have a chance to psych myself up for it all and combined with a never ending winter, I slightly lost my sh*t.

Things culminated last week in my being sicker than I've been in a decade. That's what I mean when I say I should have seen it coming.  All the signs were there: the depression, anxiousness, hating my life, feeling overwhelmed, the dishes piling up and piling up.

I ended up having to take the whole week off work as I battled the viral onslaught of aches, fever and coughing.  And yet despite feeling really lousy [to the point where I sat with a tea towel soaked in ice water around my neck and a wash cloth on my head - it didn't look pretty but damn I felt less feverish] last week gave me something I really needed, which was some mental downtime.  It was truly one of those viruses that makes you so sick, you couldn't care less if the world was about to implode never mind anything work related. I completely disconnected. And once I started to feel better, it was almost as if some mental dust had settled, and things I had been wailing and gnashing about in my head just didn't matter all that much anymore.

I've come to some conclusions about things.

I'm not in love [by a long shot] with my current gig, but it's bearable and I can do it. The most important thing right now is to show up, do good work and keep making money.

I need to get out of freelancing. Although it has a lot of benefits, I'm not able to take advantage of one of its biggest, which is downtime. I just don't have the financial slack to, for example, take a couple of weeks or a month off between gigs. [God I wish!] In fact, it's the opposite. I never get any paid time off and it's starting to wear me down. I want to get established somewhere and not be changing jobs every year.

I've started applying for full time roles elsewhere. I'm going to rework my resume also.  I need to get out advertising and out of project management. I find both of them soul sucking and not liking what I'm doing for a living makes trying times seem worse than they really are. I lose perspective.

I'm going to get some vocational testing to see if there's another kind of day job I can do that will be somewhat fulfilling.

I'm going to keep going to spinning class because it makes me feel really good. Though probably not this week given I'm still getting over being so sick.

I'll keep plugging away on the house and getting it organized.

I have to create a space in my home to write.

In short, I'm going to chip away at what I can because that's basically all I can do at this point. I have to make happen what I can make happen and hope the rest falls into place. I just can't let go of my dreams for myself and maybe what I thought I wanted, isn't what I wanted after all. All I know right now is that there are the things I want to make better.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Perception

It's amazing how much your perception can change over the course of a day. I've begun to wonder if I perceive my life in any real way at all.

I woke up this morning, dogged by the same sadness that has been trailing me all week. I still feel, sometimes, so much at the mercy of my feelings and circumstances in terms of how it colours my perceptions of things.

For example, this past week was Daylights Savings Time. We went ahead by an hour, and as usual, the effect on my sleep was brutal.

It was that time of the month.

I'm contending with yet another new contract and trying to get used to everything.

I essentially felt overwhelmed, exhausted and miserable.

I felt mad at my circumstances. And then felt bad that I was mad.

I felt bad because I was in the feedback loop I lately find myself in, which is this: I have so many things that people want. Why am I unhappy?

I am healthy. I am mobile. I drive a nice car. I have a detached home in Toronto. I have a good paying job and the skills to get another if it doesn't work out. I can pay my bills, take care of myself and my pets. I have a kind and loving family. I have kind and loving friends.

And yet none of the above makes me feel any better.

I am unhappy. I feel like a failure. I really hate my life sometimes. Is it wrong to say that?

I have moments on my way to work, nanoseconds of space in my brain, where for just a moment, I am heading somewhere else: to do research for my next book, my play's rehearsal, to the studio to record, to paint, anything but what I am doing.

Where I am and where I want to be seem so far apart and it makes me so unhappy. And yet at the same time, it seems silly to try. In seven years I'll be 50 years old. FIFTY.  Jesus, where did all the time go?

Maybe I'm just tired and in need of a vacation. I just don't know any more. But I do know that getting out and about today really helped. I just focused on the present as much as possible. And as dumb as it sounds, Eckhart Tolle was on Super Soul Sunday today, and watching that really helped too, at least in terms of giving me perspective.

I feel like my thoughts are all over the place right now. Perhaps I can write on all this a bit better later on. But suffice it to say, just focusing on what I have right now, really did help me feel better. And ironically enough, I stumbled across this entry from a while back. Gilda Radner's quote was appropriate to say the least.

Still, I just don't know any more if I can find what it is that will ever fill the hole in my heart. For a long time, that was the Marine, but he's gone now.

Despite what I think will make me happy, from where I stand right now, it just doesn't seem possible in terms of making any of it happen.

Is it wrong to say that? So be it.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Is It Friday Yet?

I haven't been so glad to get to the end of a work day in quite some time.

I started my new freelance gig today, which for the most part, went as most first days go. Like most places, the people are nice. It's the same place, but different, and you just need to get your head around it all.

I didn't need to be there until 930 am, but I left early to give myself more than enough time since my usual route to the Gardiner has been under construction for some time, and I would need to take Lakeshore Blvd instead. As expected, it was chugga chugga chugga the whole way, particularly once I got near the core.

I can't begin to describe what an utter sh*tstorm construction is making the south end of Toronto right now. So many condos are being built. Union station is being redone. Queen's Quay is torn apart for blocks.

So with nearly an hour to spare, I get to the parking garage right next to my office, anticipating the nice coffee I'm going to sit and enjoy. Except their system is down, which means I have to go back out and can't go back the way I've come. This forces me into a huge detour up York street, across King and back down Yonge. Enroute, a porsche sped up and pulled in front of me forcing me to slam on my breaks. It was no small consolation that he was signalling to turn right on Wellington, a street that is only one way in the opposite direction.

45 minutes later, I was parked in the furthermost regions of Toronto's arctic tundra. Yes, in the middle of one of the most miserable winters on record, there's nothing I enjoy more then parking right next to Lake Ontario and walking in gale force winds to get to work. I made it with 7 minutes to spare for a coffee and a muffin. I hate muffins for breakfast as they don't get me off to a good start, but whatever. At that moment, I would have eaten an oven warmed sneaker I was so perished.

I get to reception, meet the resource manager and get settled. I start going through the orientation documentation, which in a nice change, is robust and they have done a really good job outlining where everything is and how things are done. Except my boss isn't in and hasn't been since the previous week. He did something to resurrect an old injury and broke a rib! My other boss is off sick. So the other senior person, quite a lovely lady, talks my ear off while sending via email, various other items of documentation. Except, I'm trying to keep my composure because my bowels are telling me in no uncertain terms that the hazelnut flavoured coffee I had does not agree with me.

I manage to get back to my desk and ascertain my email is now up and running. I attempt to send a message and discover that the keyboard I have is one of those awful scaled down ones that are half the size of a normal keyboard. So I keep going to hit the space bar with my thumb and instead keep hitting letters. I confirm, thank God, that I can bring in a spare normal one from home, until help desk orders me one.

That's enough of that and I decide some lunch is in order.

The weather is miserable so I decide that the Italian place inside the building will do for today. Oh I forgot to mention. The inside foyer of the building is also a ruin because it's being completely torn apart and redone. So the Italian place is shoved into a kiosk of sorts right by the front door. The servers are in jackets because it's freezing and every time someone opens the doors, I have to hold on to my top so it doesn't blow up.

I somehow muddle through the remaining documentation and get to the end of the day. I head back home westbound on Queen's Quay as that's the way I need to go and most people are avoiding it due to everything being torn up.

I get to the street just west of Bathurst to turn left on to Lakeshore and discover after nearly a decade of using this route, that there is a no left turn between 4 and 6 pm sign. I say to myself, eff it. If I get a ticket, I get a ticket. Fortunately for me, some other poor soul had been picked off before me and I escaped unscathed.

A visit to the pet store and a pick up of dinner, got me home by 6 pm.

I can only be thankful I had the foresight to not book a spin class tonight.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Moving Right Along

Tomorrow I start at my new freelance gig. I picked up a contract at another advertising firm for 3 months. I had an in person interview last week and I had good feeling about the people and the place in general. It's a bigger ad firm, more corporate and in my comfort zone.

In the meantime, I also interviewed for a full time permanent role at a smaller private owned firm. It's more of a mixed bag and if the money's is where it needs to be, I may just do that instead. Granted it has a lot of things in play that don't bode well: small privately owned firm, not much digital expertise [or they can't seem to keep it - I don't know which] Working at these places can be tough. You get a lot of big fishes in a small pond. But generally, I liked the people I met with a great deal and though not exactly my ideal, I could do far worse if the money is where it needs to be.

We'll see. I realize how much I've changed. There was a time when I would have felt "bad" interviewing for a permanent role when I've committed to a contract. There was a time when I would have felt "bad" on Wednesday morning saying "I have to leave at 130pm for an appointment." because a firm had called me in last minute for an interview. No more. If I've learned anything from the last three years, it's look out for yourself first and foremost, because if someone just doesn't like you or some bean counter needs to notch in the corporate belt, your job is gone and that mortgage payment is still coming.

This hit me most acutely sitting in the Service Canada office this week to discuss my EI claim. Given I'd been freelancing for a while, I wasn't sure of the impact, if any, on my claim status. I don't know if there's anything quite so defeating as sitting in a government office. I've been in this place, needed these services, three times in three years. Granted the most time I've ever needed EI was for 4 months. The two other times I found work within 3 weeks. But I was just angry. I felt in that moment, that it's a hard thing to feel that people are just messing with you and your livelihood and that you can't fight back or make them pay in some way for imposing such a difficulty on your life. I really hadn't realized I even was angry about it all. And then once I did, the anger just dissipated. There's no point hanging on to it. What's done is done and I am where I am.

So off on the next adventure as of tomorrow. I'd type more, but my arms are too sore from my workout tonight. More on that later.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Do Not Do This

Do not get up slightly late and forget to put on deodorant in your groggy rush to get out the door.

Which you will realize has occurred whilst sitting at your desk wondering why your underarms feel so sweaty.

You will think to yourself, no need for the drugstore. I'll stop by the car at lunch and grab the deodorant I already have from my gym bag.

Which has been sitting outside in a minus 16 windchill.

No bother you decide. I shall leave the deodorant at room temperature for a bit before applying it.

You wait. You go to the bathroom to apply said deodorant and it feels like WEDGING A GINORMOUS ICY GOLF BALL IN YOUR ARMPIT.

Do not do this.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cold Rag and the Q1 Boogie

And so it's begun. Back into my first week of training. I started with a Wednesday night spin glass and a Thursday night Gravity class.

Spinning was intense and great. The lights go out and there are coloured ambient lights that transition as "Wallace" the trainer talks you through the various phases. There are modules that are placed on each bike that you plug your earphones into so the sound of both the music and his voice are crystal clear.  Wallace is seriously and awesomely good at this. The talk through is flawless, the sequences great as is the choice of music for each segment. I did a 45 minute class and when Wallace remarked that it was only 8 minutes to go, I felt like I'd only been biking for 20 minutes.

Downsides? Well the seat hurts like a mother. You literally need to break in your butt muscles so they get used to the seat. And the machines at my gym are top of the line and the seats are well cushioned. It was bloody agony at times, but I kept going.  Then at the end, Wallace distributed wet wash cloths straight out the fridge. Honestly, the feeling of it hitting my overheated face and neck was akin to the second coming of Christ.

Gravity was very challenging, but interesting. You use a machine sort of like a Pilates reformer and the resistance comes from your own body weight, the machine adjusted accordingly for different intensities. You work your whole body. This is where I can honestly say I felt weak in some areas, and I have been most sore and tired from this class.  But now that the pain is lifting and I can feel that solidification in my muscles that comes on when they get stronger. I'm already feeling addicted to it.  Gravity is going to be a hard class. It's aptly named, given how well it's brought me down to earth in terms of my current fitness state.

So yes, sore and tired, as expected. I had a rotten week at work, and was then up at 7am on Saturday to go catch Rosy's basketball toss tournament.[She came in 2nd by the way and is going to the All Ontario finals. Woot!]

It all caught up with me a bit and I was immensely grateful this morning that I didn't have to go to spin today.  I was the only one booked in, given the gold medal hockey game at the Olympics. I'll go tomorrow and God help me, that's me working out for four days in a row. I'm hoping I can take it and not get "emnoyed."

This is a new word I've coined. It's kind of like "hangry" except it's the combination of trying to hold down a job while trying to move ahead in other areas of your life and not having enough time for either.  Working out and getting in shape, quite simply, wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have a job. I'd have proper time to rest. But there are far bigger problems to have. I just need to guard against getting worn down because it affects my mood so negatively. Plus work has been a gauntlet run lately.

But it's all ending this Friday. The Q1 Austerity Beast has struck, and the freelance budget was hit hard.

I was initially pretty worried about this not sleeping well etc. I know logistically I'll find something else. I always do. It just took me a little while to adjust to it. I have some full time permanent opportunities that look like they might amount to something, but part of me is beginning to enjoy freelancing, which I didn't expect.

There are many things to recommend it though. You get to work in different places. You're typically there to cover off something specific so you tend not to get overloaded with work. Frankly, the client tends to be delighted if you can show up, ramp up and get shit done quickly. You get to meet tons of new people and experience different businesses and work environments. You learn. A lot.

It may be that this is where my career is now moving. Who knows? Right now, I'm open to anything.

As Ragdoll and I so often say to each other: Head down. Work hard. Keep going.

It can accomplish miracles.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Back to Training

I'm taking a bit of a risk and have decided to sign up at a new gym. No harm to Goodlife. I love me some Goodlife. But honestly,  I was getting tired of the crowds at peak hours BEFORE I stopped going there. Now I hear my old locale is even worse.  I really had to be honest with myself. I still need some sort of incentive to work out, be it the commitment to a trainer and time, the threat of financial loss if I don't show up, and sometimes a combination of both. I don't enjoy exercising. But I enjoy the results and that's what I need to drive towards. I don't trust myself right now to just go of my own accord.

This gym I've joined offers three types of classes: Spin, TRX and gravity. The classes are kept small so you get individualized attention. It's not as cheap as a regular membership, but I figure the plusses far outweigh the negatives. I'm getting trainer expertise, but not paying full training session prices, it's a good locale close to home, you have to book a spot in advance so the crowd control is built in and all the classes are things I've never tried before.  And I can go month to month so if it gets too pricey, I can bail.  Why not try something different?

Plus I feel like I'm in a much better place to start training again. Before I was dealing with Vitamin D, Iron and Essential Fatty Acid deficiencies. I had a sleep disorder and depression. Now I have none of those things. I'm not on any medications, the nutritional deficiencies are dealt with and I sleep better now than I have in years.

I can only imagine that training, though not easy, won't be as hard as it was before.

I also didn't want to go back to Goodlife because I didn't want my trainer seeing me having gained a bunch of weight back. Is that dumb? Prolly. But I guess I just needed a fresh start somewhere else too. I associate a lot of different things with that time in my life, the time I first started training. Going back to the same place to train, I dunno. It just seemed counterproductive. I wanted to go somewhere different to clear the slate and inject a sense of momentum into things.

For the most part, I don't really feel much momentum elsewhere. This winter is unabated, I can't seem to get a permanent job, my financial progress is slower than I would like. Working out is an effective antidote to those things. Beginning, middle end. Week in. Week out. You start to find it easier to lift things. All those reps start paying off.  I want to have that feeling again.

I've also started my singing lessons again, and I know in my bones that to gain any mastery there, I've really got to get my physical self on point. No ifs, and or buts.

What can you do but keep trying?