Surges

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Terror for me, in its purest form, is providing unfiltered information about myself to comment on. In an age of people being able to easily offered unsolicited advice – often without context – I’ve developed a steady habit of writing my thoughts in ways that can’t be read; to maintain my joy in a secret place that no one can touch.

Lately, however, with everything happening, I have to wonder if the increasing lack of sleep and the suppression of crackling energy is worth it. The unwritten pages are turning into blood in my palms and it’s dripping into the bed, onto the bus, into tons of times I am withdrawn but somehow up at 6AM.

So I’m going to do this thing of maybe putting things that are, somehow, closer to me than everything I’ve publicly written and let you read it.

The Turn

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Some days at work are really frustrating and while I’ve written about that, one thing I haven’t necessarily talked about is what happens as I process things, so I’m going to have that moment.

When I am frustrated, I usually just want quiet to allow my thoughts to process and get lost in the flow of my work. My job rarely affords me that chance which increases my frustration by orders of magnitude. Usually, at the height of this, God Himself sees fit to present me with a way to venture out of my own brain by sending me a person with a problem and a challenge to empathize.

Today, that was a client who just could not understand the implications of some changes she made in our software. She’s been at this for weeks and trying to solve some stuff and all kinds of frustrated. Herein begins the challenge to empathize: I have to see her frustrations as equally important to my own.

I start the journey somewhat reluctantly, but get into asking why. Then another why. Then another. Soon, it’s been an hour and I have forgotten about the last few hours of wanting to strike people with lightning bolts. I’m abuzz with thinking about how I can help this person somehow be a little less frustrated somehow and sometimes that is all you need.

Wouldn’t that be nice? If we could just get so lost in helping someone and trying to see where they are coming from that we stopped being about ourselves?

I imagine it would be great.

Joyous Melancholy

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As a matter of temperament, I don’t smile often in normal situations. I’m always kind, pleasant, and such, but if you were to judge how happy I was from my instagram, you’d send me to jail to prevent problems.

However, it’s not that I’m unhappy; most days, I’m fine. However, it takes a lot to make me smile or laugh because that’s overflow for me. When I say overflow, I mean to say that the joy is always there, but it takes something special to bring so much of it to the fore that it gets expressed physically.

Sometimes, it’s a phone call, a letter, a text message, a hug from a friend. Most times? It’s being lost in nature for a few hours without a drop of signal or talking to someone that speaks my language on all levels or listening to the ocean crashing against the shores like an applauding multitude.

I suppose that I’m in awe of the world at large, but the one that I live in day-to-day rarely sparks my interest except in small spurts. I wonder what you call that. I wonder what the word is for that.

Whatever it is, that’s why I’m always on a plane or in a car whenever the word vacation happens. My city is like a 5th-grade t-shirt; I was able to wear mine into my early 20s.

That’s OK. I think that’s the thing for me: even if no one understands my melancholy or my joy, I’m comfortable enough with both to not need additional approval of it. While I sit with them, I imagine places larger and farther away from here where I can write and dance and just be.

When Times Are Hard

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You’re going to walk into the office or desk or just to the front door and feel like everything is too heavy for either yourself or someone else and when that happens, professionally our approach is just to try to patch the wound with some sentiment like “Try to find the positive in this…” before patting someone on the shoulder and getting back to the grind.

However, I want to suggest that, the next time you find yourself or see someone else in this spot, I want to suggest a different tack.

  • Give someone a hug.
  • Talk to them, then listen, then (and only then) act. Always in that order.
  • When the dust clears, find them and do more listening.

There is a difference between caring and appearing as if you care. The people you interact with know the difference, so when it comes to you, be the care people are looking for.

Strategic Venting

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Today I listened to a friend vent some frustrations related to work. It was a pretty intense list, long with issues. I let him vent for about 30 minutes with little interruption aside questions to clarify.

After that, I asked him:s so what now?

Because that’s the thing, right? We don’t want to walk away from the scene of a good vent, a good meeting, or a good idea without the answer to that question. Especially when we are frustrated; that very frustration might be your call to take a moment and address that what now question.

There’s a few ways to answer that question, but I’ll simplify it to three concepts:

  • Create
  • Refine
  • Destroy

Essentially, make something new, better, or failing those two things, get rid of what isn’t working. As for who should “own” that process, that might be the simplest thing to answer: you.

So here we are at the end of a pretty good idea.

What now?

Attention

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Earlier on in my professional career, I was often told that I need to determine how to better manage my time. I mean often. Mind, it was very much needed at the time, but more and more I find that time isn’t my biggest issue. These days, it is my attention.

“So you mean priority, right?”

No, I don’t.

I work in the support department. Prioritizing is a given when you’ve been in that department as long as I have because, without the ability to prioritize, you drown in backlog. However, even with your best effort to prioritize the tasks before you and even with the ability to manage your time to be super productive, none of that matters if you can’t give yourself to those tasks and only those tasks.

So then, before I can prioritize and manage time to most effectively do the most I can, I have to decide what to pay attention to.

The thing that bears so much repeating is that attention is a limited resource.

One phrase I have at the office for this is “I can’t brain right now.”

What I mean by that is I’m out of attention to spend on anything else right now. Recognizing that your attention is a limited resource changed a few things for me in terms of just handling the day. One of them being making a shrine out of the time between 8:30-9:30AM every day. That’s my planning time where I have enough attention in the tank to prioritize things that day.

From there, it’s a mad dash to around 12:25PM to handle top priority, high attention stuff. Things that require me to focus on details in order to solve a problem. After lunch, I get into the lower attention stuff because, although I have a reserve of attention, it gets consumed with “Hey, I got a quick question” pretty quick. You’d be surprised how quickly that chews through what you have in the tank.

Sometimes, if I need that attention for something else, I have to pass out the occasion, “I can’t right now…” and that’s OK. Again, attention is a limited resource. Other things I do to help keep my attention where it should be:

  1. Wunderlist.
  2. Scheduling appointments with myself.
  3. Fitbit alarms.
  4. Headphones.
  5. These wallpapers (take them if you’d like, I made them):

How do you manage attention? Comments are yours.

When Things Are Personal

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One of the more frustrating things that I read are people in defense of things like the executive order which is, in effect, a muslim ban. It is my thought that these people are blithely unconcerned because it is an issue they are not touched by.

For me, this isn’t a matter of “trying to protect the nation from bad people” or “making sure the vetting process is working well”. I’ve actually seen what that process looks like thanks to my work experience.

It’s a 3-inch stack of paper. It’s questions that not even native-born Americans know about our country and history and laws. It’s having to submit that same paperwork multiple times.

I took this whole executive order to heart. I have a friend who is Iranian and is serving in the US Navy. He can’t go home. His family can’t go home. We have people in a Dubai office where I work. One of them is a dual citizen of the US. I’m hoping he’s in an unaffected area because, if not, he can’t see his family, either.

I wouldn’t be so bothered by it except that there was not a single check to whether or not there would be any negative repercussions in signing this order. Had that been done, it is possible people wouldn’t be stuck abroad while pursuing their academic goals.

How do you defend that? Especially if you have a single shred of respect for another human?

I don’t know. How do you defend any of this? At what point do we stop bending our brains and finally decide to do what is right by everyone?