Monday Musings: problematic patterns

I recently wrote about how wherever you go, there you are. That post and its sentiments have followed me around like a dark cloud since putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). At its heart, that post is about patterns. This past week, I attended a Neuroleadership Institute Summit and, as one would expect with a conference about neuroscience, I heard a lot about how our brains form patterns, and how challenging it can be to reprogram our brain to form new patterns.  For the record, patterns aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, many serve us well and free our mind from needless clutter. It’s just that not all of them do.

Herein lies why that post has sat so heavily with me. Among my many patterns, one is continuing to move into new jobs only to become quickly and intensely frustrated, at which point I become incapable of seeing anything beyond the negative. I get the flight syndrome, the sudden urge to escape and move on to greener pastures. And yet, when I start to look elsewhere, I look at the exact same types of roles, as though somehow a new organization or new colleagues or new mission, vision and values will somehow change the work itself. It makes no sense.

Except that it makes perfect sense. Because our brains are wired to keep us in a state of homeostasis, we will automatically choose the path of least resistance when faced with the discomfort of change. Change is perceived as a threat by our brains, and our brains cannot actually distinguish between real and perceived threat.  It’s fascinating, until you’re the one stuck in the pattern and seemingly unable to kick yourself out of the rut. Then it’s a pain in the ass, and then I get stuck in yet another job that frustrates the hell out of me and I’m left asking myself why I keep falling into the same pattern when I know it yields the same troubling results time after time.

I’ve broken problematic patterns in the past: the urge to pick up and move as a means of changing who I am (yes, I’m moving again in a few months, but no, this time it’s not to be a different me in a new place), dating essentially the same (wrong) person over and over again, or continually making friends with flaky people who aren’t there for me the way I want friends to be. I’ve broken all those patterns over time. What I’m not clear on is what was the impetus for change in those scenarios? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back or was it just the recognition that the pattern needed to break and a willful intention to make things different? I suspect it was the former, which is troubling because it seems the more emotionally exhausting and less direct way to break a pattern. Either way, this current pattern needs to be broken. I need to trick this little brain of mine to stop sounding the alarms every time I contemplate a career change. I don’t know how to do that yet, but when I do, look out world.

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Monday Musings: on the return of relaxation and its enormous power

It surprised me how much weight I was carrying from this move. It wasn’t that we weren’t organized. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a lot of time to deal with it. It wasn’t that I’m not overly skilled at moving (because I am, care of 10+ moves as an adult. and that’s not even counting all the dorm moves in university). In my experience, moving is just one of those things that is all encompassing. It eats up your life for weeks on end as you fill your precious leisure time with unglamorous tasks like…

…purging junk you’ve been clinging to for a decade…

…trying to list shit to sell online to absurd bargain-hunting flakes…

…packing in waves so you aren’t living in an empty house for too long but not leaving too much til the end…

…and trying to clean years of filth from the darkest reaches of your home (hello, under the kitchen sink, I’m talking to you)…

As if I weren’t feeling enough like a shadow of my former self with the new job and the heinous commute, adding moving to the mix took my monster status to the next level.  There has been no fun, or at least no fun that hasn’t been overshadowed by nagging feeling that shit still needs to get done. Then, this weekend the clouds parted (literally and figuratively), and we were blessed with a true Sunday Funday and I had forgotten how significantly true relaxation alters one’s state of mind.

For the first time in months, we weren’t weighed down by the mental stress of feeling like we should be doing something else. We leisurely and carelessly strolled the streets of our new neighborhood without that nagging feeling that we should be packing or cleaning or organizing. It was glorious. We played at the local Pitch & Putt course, which ended up taking a full three hours thanks to many, many beginners slowing our roll (as a sidenote, never have I felt so good at golfing), and I didn’t once think “oh crap, this is taking too long and now we’re going to be f*$%ed later on.”

I cannot tell you how much lighter I felt without the stressful weight of the move. Relaxation truly is a miracle worker.  It didn’t take a major vacation or even wildly elaborate plans. We did what we always do: walked and golfed and drank some wine (not at the same time), but we did it without the burden of a million unfinished tasks. This feeling may not last long, but I’m going to enjoy the peace of relaxation while I can.

Monday Musings: wherever you go, there you are?

It’s true what they say. Wherever you go, there you are. I have moved to new cities a few times, five times to be exact, and each time, despite new surroundings and jobs and friends and patterns and routines and sometimes my own best efforts, I come out on the other end as more or less the same person. Yet as I sit here one week from moving into our new and temporary rental in the city, I am hoping that for once this old adage won’t ring true.

I’ve been a self-proclaimed monster for three months now.  Imagine living with a monster for three months.  My boyfriend deserves a serious reward. I get up way too early (for me), deal with a commute that fills me with so much rage, spend my work days dragging my feet and soul and brain around like dead weights, and then try to cram all of my fun life activities into the 1.5 hours of free time I get before going to bed to do it all over again. It has made me a Royally Unpleasant Person (capitalization to emphasize how very deserving I am of an official moniker). I don’t like myself much these days so I can’t imagine that others are terribly enamoured with me either.

Next week, however, I will receive the gifts of sleep and time. I move closer to work, substantially closer in fact. And it has become my light at the end of tunnel. I can sleep in a whopping one to one-and-a-half hours longer (!!!!!!). I can start work at a normal time and leave work at 5 and still be home at the same time I get home now leaving at 4 pm.  I get 2.5-3 hours of commuting time back to myself, part for sleep and part for fun. In my mind, this surely has to make me a better human again. It simply must. I imagine myself as I used to be: quite sociable when I want to, able to get through a work day without feeling as though it’s all for naught, and maybe, just maybe, being able to stay up past 9 pm on a weekday. I imagine it to be glorious, and imagine myself as a ball of bright sunshine instead of the angry, brooding dark cloud of bitterness that I am these days. Dear God, people might actually want to spend time with me again!

Here’s the thing: wherever you go, there you are. So what if my commute and lack of sleep aren’t the real issues here?  I’ve blamed my work malaise and general lack of sociability on a crippling combo of exhaustion and commuter rage. But what if it’s the other way around? What if the job and the lack of sociability are the cause of the exhaustion and commuter rage? What then? It’s been a nagging little voice in the back of my head for weeks, one that I’ve been trying to sweep under the rug with reassuring thoughts that it just has to be better. Deep down, that little voice is still there. I haven’t silenced it and I am not convinced its voice shouldn’t be heard. I’ve been holding out hope that I’ll be a brand new, shiny me next Monday morning. But what if…whatever you go, there you are?

Monday Musings: finding a short-term, furnished rental is worse than dating

I recently read an article about the hyper competitive rental market in Toronto, where people are apparently writing the equivalent of dating profiles for landlords just to set themselves apart.  I remember reading it and thinking how ridiculous it was to compare seeking a rental to seeking a life mate, and thinking it even more bizarre that someone would essentially write a flashy bio to try to entice landlords to select her.

Well, now that I’m in the midst of the seemingly impossible task of finding a decent, affordable, furnished, and short-term rental in the similarly expensive city of Vancouver, I totally get it. On the outside, me and my partner are a successful, quiet, dependable couple with good credit, with no pets and no kids and no desire to throw disruptive parties in a suite. We sound like dream tenants, don’t we?  The problem: there are countless other couples just like us. On paper, there is nothing that sets us apart. Suddenly, I realize we have to woo potential landlords, something that feels odd and creepy to say the least. And yet, it seems our best option for beating out the rest.

Last night, as we viewed the first listing we’ve seen that actually looked livable and had a decent price tag, I realized we were essentially on a first date with prospective landlords. I mean, we were sitting on the owner’s patio at sunset babbling on about all our best qualities for goodness’ sake. There were the words that we were saying, and then there was the undertone of “pick us! we are the best! you will not regret choosing us!” It was subtle desperation at its finest.

Even responding to rental posts has its ties to the dating process.  It had never occurred to me before I read the article about Toronto’s market, but each of my painstakingly crafted intro messages was just as awful as drafting an online dating profile. You want to be brief but informative, giving true insight into what you’d be like as a tenant, but also wanting to make yourself appear like the absolutely perfect renter. You want to be different than the rest, but not so different as to be seen as strange. You want to be interested, but not so interested as to appear desperate. It’s a fine line to walk.

At the end of the day, no matter what we do the ultimate choice is in the hands of the renter. That’s what makes this the toughest. Much like dating, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and know that sometimes, even though you’re a great catch, the other person may not want you.

…but they should, because we’re FANTASTIC tenants. So if anyone reading this has or knows someone who has a short-term, furnished rental that won’t render us bankrupt, please let me know. We’re really, really awesome tenants.

Mid-Week Tangent: Perks of Having a Homemaker

For four months, I played the part of homemaker and it was a brief but wonderful time. I loved not working. It was grand. And then I went back to work and my world turned into a hectic, mad rush to fit everything in: workouts, work, making breakfast, lunches, helping with dinner, keeping the house tidy, running errands, finding time for friends. Ugh. It was too much. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed since the day I went back to work.

Then, just last week, something magical happened: my partner wrapped up his work until our move. Now, let me just start by saying that my partner has always been wonderful at dividing and conquering household stuff. The problem was that when we were both working, we were rushing around together to get everything done. Both of us felt stressed and overwhelmed. Now that he’s off work I’ve experienced the wonder of being on the receiving end of some seriously fantastic home-making.

Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced:

–I haven’t made a lunch salad in days. I do not miss it. At all. Also, I firmly believe that a salad just tastes better when someone else makes it for you.

–Our dining area no longer looks like a bomb went off in it. Seriously, I used to just cringe staring at all the crap piled up on our table waiting to be organized or put away, but who had the time? And it wasn’t as important as other things. It is oddly soothing to come home to order and tidiness.

–Hallelujah! The bed is being made again! I don’t know why I find it comforting to come home to a bed that’s been made, but I do. Much like the dining area debacle, it’s pretty low on my priority list (think: almost dead bottom) but when it does happen I just feel 10,000 times better.

–I’ve gotten so many treats! My boyfriend knows the way to my heart, and that is through candy and various other sugar-laden things that I shouldn’t be eating but eat with gusto nonetheless. Just yesterday I received a text mid-afternoon that said “there’s three new treats for you to find.” Scavenger hunting for treats! Could there be a better thing to come home to after work? No. The answer is no.

Lest you think I’m totally superficial, in all honesty the nicest thing has been feeling less overwhelmed at the end of the day. Instead of walking in the door and feeling like there’s another 10 things to do immediately, I now feel like I have time to breathe and relax and I am so, so appreciative of that. Trust me when I say when I’m not an overwhelmed stress-ball, it’s also a much better scene for my boyfriend. This is a total win-win. We’ve also been able to spend more quality time together. Just yesterday, we went out, on a work night (!!!!). I mean, it was just a trip to Superstore but, who am I kidding, Superstore trips are like my favourite thing ever.

I think you can tell that I’m a big fan of this transition. Although temporary because, you know, we can’t live without the income forever, it’s still pretty nice to have so many of life’s things taken care of before I even walk through the door at night. Having a homemaker is pretty freaking fantastic.

Monday Musings: never say never

I’m occasionally a fan of being overly dramatic. I have a particularly high tendency to say things like “Ugh! I’ll never {insert any totally plausible action here]!”  The expression never say never is designed for people like me. More often than not, I do exactly what I say I’ll supposedly never do.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m with you on this one Bieber.

Over the last few years alone, I have a lengthy list of never-do’s that have turned into my reality:

  • I’d never be interested in golf and I’d certainly never choose a round of golf over hiking
  • I’d never date someone in the suburbs (it’s true! my entire relationship right now is based on a major oversight on my part)
  • I’d never live anywhere but in the city centre
  • I’d never move to the Okanagan
  • I’d never quit my job without something else lined up
  • I’d never buy real estate when I could just rent
  • I’d never go back to working in a traditional, corporate environment
  • I’d never be willing to do the rush hour commute from the ‘burbs

See? I told you it was a long list. This is the danger of saying never. What I’ve realized for me is that “never” really means “not right now”. I could never (see? there’s that word again!) have predicted my circumstances would shift so dramatically over the last couple of years, and how much that would impact my priorities. Everything from my relationship to my injury to my career insights to the real estate market have caused major ripple effects.  Suddenly the things that used to be never’s seem not only perfectly logical but also overwhelmingly exciting.

There’s so many other never-do’s that I still live with, yet I’m considerably more cautious with them than I used to be. I cannot predict how my priorities and goals will continue to shift. What seems like  a never-do today may once again be the most compelling of choices a year or two from now. So while I may still utter the words from time to time, I’ll do so knowing that it’s pure drama and maybe, just maybe, I’ll do just that thing when the mood strikes me.

Monday Musings: Change, change and more change

Pull up a chair and let me tell you some of the big things on the horizon that I’ve subtly alluded to over the past couple of months but never really talked about. Behind the scenes, we’ve been quietly working away at some big-time moving and shaking. It’s been exciting, exhausting, stressful and, at times, utterly overwhelming.  But mostly it’s exciting.

We are moving! To the Okanagan! The heart of wine country (in Canada, at least)! Lakes! Rolling hillsides! Slower pace of life! Yes!!!!!

I don’t even know when or how it all started. At some point while I was still on my work hiatus, we got the crazy thought “what if we sell our house and move to the Okanagan?” It seemed like a pipe dream at the time, but slowly we started investigating the situation. On a wine weekend, we hopped into an open house smack dab in the heart of wine country. While that particularly property wasn’t the right fit for us, it was the small action that set us off on a path to full-blown can-we-actually-do-this research.

Now, not even two months later:

  • I’ve started a new job for which I had to negotiate a trial period of working in a different region.  The jury’s still out on whether it will actually work, but we’re going to give it a whirl.
  • We’ve staged, listed and sold our current house and have to be out October 1st.
  • We bought a new house that won’t be ready until February 2018, which means…
  • We’ve been on the hunt for a temporary rental to carry us between our move-out and move-in dates.
  • My partner in crime has resigned from his job and will wrap up work in two short weeks, at which point he’ll start looking for work in our new ‘hood.

There have been a lot of stressful weekends driving up to the Okanagan on a moment’s notice. There’s been a lot of last minute cleaning in preparation for showings (thankfully the real estate market is ridiculous here and our house sold lightening fast). There’ve been a lot of mid-day phone conversations about upgrades and offers and counter-offers. There’ve been flurries of emails to mortgage brokers, realtors, relatives, rental agents, and prospective employers. So yeah, we’ve had a lot of stuff on the go in a short period of time.

Chances are things won’t slow down much for the foreseeable future. While it’s tiring a lot of the time, and certainly gets in the way of consistently blogging, it all feels like the right move (pun intended) and I couldn’t be more excited for the future.  Change is rarely easy, especially when you combine multiple major changes all at one time, and yet sometimes it’s exactly what you need to align your life with your priorities.

We’ve wanted a number of things to shift in our life. We’ve wanted a slower pace. We’ve wanted to have a life that doesn’t revolve around stressful jobs that pay well but don’t necessarily hold personal meaning.  We’ve wanted to be closer to some of the things we love (golf, wine, new trails for me to explore, etc.). We’ve wanted to get as close to mortgage free as possible so that we have more time and need less work to do more of the things we love. We couldn’t envision any of that happening here in the Lower Mainland. While the move isn’t going to instantly satisfy all of these wants, it will get us considerably closer in the short term. In the long term, it creates the ideal conditions for a life we’ll both love.

So for now, even in the midst of the stresses and annoyances of moving (ugh, moving, am I right?) I am trying to remind myself of all the positives on the other side.  Bring on the change!