Monday Musings: putting the time in

Today’s post is really just a thought, but one that’s been nagging at me this week as I continue to drag my feet on putting any real time into my career exploration.

I wouldn’t expect to get better at anything without practicing or putting the time into it. I don’t expect my golf game to get better this Winter as I hide from the rain and cold (i.e. binge-watch Netflix) instead of hitting the greens. I don’t expect my running to get better any time soon given that I’m doing no more than running isolated laps in between sets of plyometrics. I don’t expect a book to read itself; I know I have to sit with it and digest page after page of the written word.

I also know full well that career exploration takes time. I was a career counsellor for years and I work in career development. The first thing I tell anyone who asks “what should I be doing?” or “how do I develop in my career?” is that there is no replacement for putting the time into really defining what matters to you, your financial goals, what you’re good at, etc. etc. etc. It is not quick work and it can also be very challenging work, but it’s work that only the person can do for herself.

Still, I seem to be sitting here more days than not expecting an answer to magically fall from the sky of an alternate universe where one doesn’t need to put in the time. It is hurting no one but myself, of course, and yet that is arguably the worst person to hurt. There is no replacement for putting in the time. I’m talking to myself when I say ‘repeat after me: there is no replacement for putting in the time.’


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.

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?

TWIR #77: if it’s not one thing, it’s another

I can’t tell if my SI is actually better this week or if it’s just been overshadowed by a really, really annoying neck issue that cropped up after my personal training session. Either way, I’m left wondering if my body has just reached the age at which it is going to experience constant problems like this. I feel too young for that so my preference is to believe that I’ve just been cursed with a body that doesn’t want to get back into alignment this year. With that upbeat preface out of the way, let’s see what this week’s workouts had to offer.

Activity: hike(ish)
Relevant Stats: 4.4 km return
Observations: My SI was killing me all morning and I had no idea whether a short and steep hike would help or hinder the situation. It turns out that it helped my SI, but did not help my productivity. I had been a packing machine all morning before I left, but upon returning home was able to accomplish nothing other than eating chips and watching This is Us (by the way, totally don’t get what all the fuss is about on that one…).

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Still afraid to visit my local gym, I opted for an at-home strength workout. While some may say that can’t be a good workout, I assure you it can be. I don’t even have any heavy weights at home but I find that increasing reps per set and the number of sets leads to just as effective a workout as at the gym. Bonus of at-home workouts: watching Definitely, Maybe in the background. Who doesn’t love a cheesy Ryan Reynolds movie?

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: unknown time
Observations: Sometimes I think “I’ll remember how long I worked out for by the time I write my post at the end of the week”, and then I realize that I give my memory way too much credit. I do not remember. I am not even 100% sure that I was on the spin bike, but I know I didn’t run and I know I didn’t do strength training three days in a row, so by process of elimination I am left to deduce that I spun.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: This was the beginning and the end for my neck. I don’t know whether the culprit was multiple sets of negative pull ups after weeks, maybe even months, of not doing them, or whether it was the stress of trying to keep my hands and legs in sync while doing backwards bear crawls. Let’s be honest: in any given training session there are a plethora of exercises for which my feeble body might try to overcompensate with random muscles, yes even including neck muscles. The only good thing about this week’s session was that I did not have to tow any weights behind me.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: avoided all snow in Edmonton
Observations: I had to take a quick trip to Edmonton for work, and not packing gym gear made for my smallest carryon bag yet. Even I was impressed! But that’s not the point. The point is that it snowed on Monday and was set to snow Wednesday evening, and I somehow perfectly timed my trip between winter conditions. I actually like snow, but I stand firmly in the camp of September being TOO SOON for it.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: This was not a good workout. My legs and lungs had nothing to give. Maybe it was the fact that I woke up at 4:41 and had trouble falling back asleep. Maybe it was the wine on Wednesday night. Maybe it was just my general state of crabbiness and malaise. Whatever the cause, I did not enjoy the experience and couldn’t wait to get off the damn bike, thus only spinning for 35 minutes. Am I great at making excuses for my lack of exercise motivation or what?

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Good God, pushing that prowler will be the death of me. I couldn’t find any 35 lb weights to put on the prowler today, so I went with the 45 lb weights. Let’s just say that trying to run with 90 lbs loaded onto a prowler is harder than I thought it would be.  These legs are gonna hurt tomorrow. All in all, though, today’s workout was an outstanding rebound from yesterday. I’m finding, once again, that my strength workouts are great lately while my cardio workouts are abysmal, which probably means I really should be focused more on rebuilding my cardio fitness. But I likely won’t, because who really likes doing what they “should” be doing.

That’s another week of workouts under my belt and a weekend of packing to look forward to. Yes, that was sarcasm. Happy weekend, and here’s hoping that I don’t somehow injure another part of my body attempting to push boxes of heavy kitchen gadgets out of the way. Seriously, I have a lot of kitchen gadgets and they are hella heavy.

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.

Mid-Week Tangent: how to ruin a perfectly good morning in five easy steps

1. Spill your entire travel mug of coffee all over your cloth gym bag containing your work clothes, and all over the hallway floor while trying to leave the house as quickly as possible.

2.  Drive 15 minutes towards the office before listening to a story on the radio about texting while driving, which triggers the realization that you forgot your phone at home, which also contains your license, credit cards and the access card for your office building.

3. When trying to turn around to retrieve your phone from home, sharply cut across two lanes of traffic to make the last exit before the toll bridge and then realize this is the one exit that doesn’t just loop right back onto the highway in the opposite direction.

4. Arrive home to realize that you also forgot your house keys inside so you have to ring the doorbell and knock like a crazy person, which only makes your boyfriend less likely to come to the door because you could actually be a crazy person.

5. Miss your morning workout entirely because now it’s too late to fit it in; shower, put on makeup, do your hair and get dressed in 10 minutes so you don’t arrive at work still in your gym clothes; and then proceed to sit in rush hour traffic because you are leaving 48 minutes later than usual.

* Yes, this happened to me today and, yes, I was about as pleasant as you can imagine after starting my day off on this foot. Is it Friday yet?