The Summer of Doggie-Paddling: a Blog

Maintaining a personal journal is a form of self-care. The time off work is surprisingly rough on my feelings of self-worth and empowerment. I give myself this new rule: that I must blog, so that I do not succumb to inaction, and through inaction, allow myself to come to harm.

I hate that we have come to the place where rules are necessary. It’s likely that I will break the New Rule immediately. But to be fair, I sat down to write this at 12:30 and it is now three hours later. I have given the dog an ice cube twice, refilled my ice water three times, listened to a full Spotify playlist, and – just now – realized that I may actually have to move off the patio, as the sun has swung around and chased away the shade that made this mid-nineties heat temporarily bearable.

Here are my current projects, briefly:

  • I would like to open a neighborhood ice cream shop. This seems like an achievable dream; there is used restaurant equipment available, and prime spots in my scrappy little neighborhood, and no competition. This is held back by the sheer scope of opening a food service joint, and my lack of experience here.
  • I had imagined doing a craft soda. Which is still a great idea, but I have to admit now that the development stage of creating a shelf-stable product is too prolonged for me right now.
  • I should certainly be looking for part-time work. Or full-time work.
  • Or writing. For which I bought a notebook; we can consider that progress, I guess.

 

There’s the current state of affairs in my neighborhood. Talking to others about my projects is, I’m beginning to realize, a huge part of my process. It helps me focus and clarify, move forward, incorporate feedback, and maintain my own enthusiasm. And in my post-office environment, I’m lacking a lot of that. So let’s set it down here, for memory and conversation. And then see what comes next.

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Breaking In New Shoes


This picture from 6 years ago popped up in my Timehop. It’s actually helped me feel a lot better about things.

I’ve been struggling, lately. Feeling stressed and unsettled and like I just ought to be working to fix things, except I can’t quite identify what’s broken and mostly don’t even have the energy to try.

This picture was taken in my last apartment, which I’d lived in (at the time) for about six months. I moved out of it earlier this year, and by the time I left, that apartment felt settled. It felt like home. Everything had a place and I had a routine. It just worked. It was my imperfect sanctuary.

But looking at the photo, I can see how far I still had to go, six years ago, before my home would feel that. No one but me can tell, but I know how much work that fish tank was, how many times I moved those bookshelves, how long it took to hang up those mirrors and picture frames.

I still feel unsettled, stressed in my new house. The new house is not the cause; it’s just not yet my sanctuary. But this is a timely reminder: we’ve been here before. We’ve worn other changes. Things don’t fit right at first, but they soften. And I continually start out uncomfortable, and then stretch and get broken in, and soon enough things will be cozy again. 

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Streets Like Metaphors

For a long time, I’ve been TERRIFIED of riding my bike on the road.

Just recently, they finished up an improvement project on my block. Before it started, the street I live on might have been charitably described as a pothole canal loosely connected by strings of delicate asphalt-and-concrete lace. Sidewalks? Not here. Just trampled paths through neighborhood yards, washing bits of lawns out into the street when it rained.

The project meant the street was torn up, unrecognizable, inaccessible, inconvenient, smelly, and pummeled by heavy machinery for a long time. Just getting home was sometimes a bit of an adventure.

But after a summer of painstaking progress, now it’s finished. There is a a glorious, smooth new road! It’s broad and flat and well-painted! It’s beautiful! There’s a sidewalk and real curb! There’s a BIKE LANE!

And I can ride that bike lane all the way to the end of the block. Where it abruptly ends and dumps you back out into traffic and potholes.

That’s my life in a nutshell right now, kids.

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The Unhungry Cat

The cat is very sick. The vet has given us pills & potions to try to combat the effects of severe kidney failure. Winston is “leaking oil”, says the vet – his kidneys are basically not doing much of anything anymore. He is thirsty all the time, expelling all the water he drinks and most of the vitamins and protein he takes in along with it.

The cat is cuddly and cheerful, but dying. He won’t eat. First he refused kibble but would eat canned food. Then only certain brands, then only certain textures of those brands, then only the prescription stuff, then only human baby food. Now I can’t even get him to eat the two teaspoons a day that I mix his powdered medicine into.

I’ve tried every trick I know: sprinkling it with fish flakes, giving him a hit on the ‘nip as an appetite stimulant, waving it under his nose while he’s sleeping, letting him lick it off my fingers. It hasn’t worked. I spent an hour this evening listening to podcasts, crying, and trying to get the cat to eat. It is a glamorous life. NPR between sniffles. Me and the gaunt little purring spotted cat.

winston2 winston3winston1

Watching him starve slowly is rough. He’s gotten so used to me popping pills, gels and powders at him that he now flinches when I walk up to him. Poor little buddy.

He’s been a champ about letting me do sub-cutaneous rehydration and he’s a dream cat to give pills. He HATES the gel that I squirt into his mouth, but swallows most of it. He’s only missed the litterbox twice. He’s dying, but he’s dying so very, very politely.

I basically feel terrible about the fact that I’m never home, and he only sees me when I’m forcing pills down his throat. I work. I have a social life these days (weirdly). Since Winston was diagnosed a month ago, I have only spent one full day at home. I went up north on vacation, I went to the renaissance fair, I went to the apple orchard, I went to pub trivia, etc etc. Summer was borderline boring. Fall is already crazy busy.

I’m supposed to leave for an extended vacation to Portland next week, my first in a while. I haven’t planned anything. I don’t have a flight or a hotel. I don’t have a boarding plan for the cats. I’ve never had to board an animal before. Normally I would have this all planned out and be able to do things in between times. (Well, I mean, mostly planned out. Let’s be honest, I’m never QUITE prepared for anything. But it’s usually not this bad.)

Things are a mess right now. There are so many things that I want to do! But I need to call a moratorium on being social for a while. Not because Winston’s a mess. Because I am.

It’s not all because of the cat. I haven’t been giving myself enough down time. There are periods when my brain just plain requires a lot of breathing room. Sometimes it’s better to power through — but I’ve been trying that, and this seems to be a time when I need to power down, instead. Every time I’ve tried to be social lately, I’ve enjoyed the company, but the rebound time required has been dramatic.

I am going to have to ask my friends to be patient if I go on retreat for a few weeks. I want to do social things with you guys a lot. I do. But afterwards, I feel so drained and strained and unhappy. This isn’t anything anyone has done wrong. I just don’t have enough energy right now for everything. I already pre-emptively miss pub trivia, shows at the Ave, game night, dinner with friends, ArtPrize (ArtPrize! I’m not going to be able to go this year – owwww, my art-loving heart!). But I’m already pre-emptively exhausted by all that, too.

Meanwhile — I got Winston to eat three Greenies treats tonight. Small victories.

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Work Advice Sought: How to Delegate with an Disengaged Team Member

I’m currently in a position for which, within a relatively narrow scope, I have the authority to delegate. (I’m effectively a project manager.)

There are a couple people on the team who frequently come back to me with “I don’t understand what you want me to do here.” That’s fair feedback, so I make an extra effort to explain the project reqs better, outline the first steps.

 

Their response is usually “Nope, still not getting it. Can you just look it up/fill in the spreadsheet/make the corrections/create the report you’re asking for and I’ll format it? We need to take care of this as soon as possible.”

 

I can’t imagine responding to a direct request with, essentially, “Nah, too hard / too busy, do it yourself.” This is so far outside my personal frame of reference that I have no idea how to counter it.

 

Where does this response come from, and how do I outfox the shoulder-shruggers into actually doing the work I need them to do?

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One More Blog Attempt

I get a lot of mileage out of blogging, when I bother to do it. But it often turns into more of a chore than a joy. Why is that, and how do I change it? I’m open to suggestions for how to turn this around.

Right now, my best strategy is to just throw myself at it using the brute-force method. Commit to writing regularly for a week or so. Writing no matter what it interferes with (say, going to sleep at a reasonable hour, or playing that game on my phone where I sling pizzas and sushi rolls*). My hope is that just writing regularly will re-awaken the joy. Or at least let blogging sneak back into being a habit. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that I fail to keep up with my self-imposed schedule. I fail early. Then I fail often. And even when I complete a mandated blogging stint, by the end I do not feel joyful and it has not become a habit.

There have been several times in my life where I did find joy in writing regularly. Those were time periods when I had free time (or at least, unstructured time — I most certainly had more pressing things that should have been occupying both clock hours and brain estate*) and I had Big Thoughts to meditate on.

Without reservation, I can state that writing — even blogging of the daily-diary, overly personal and not terribly intellectual sort — has been a major boon. The first thing it does is help me work through the kind of ideas that take more than one shower session to truly grasp. The second thing it does is create external memories. A back-up hard drive for my thoughts and emotions. A timeline for things that I mis-remember. I can go back and re-read what I was thinking, see how long I struggled with easily resolved things. And probably laugh at myself for being ridiculous. But that, too, is a gift.

Anyway, I’m not enamored with WordPress.com. I’m too dang lazy to set up a self-hosted blog (I know it’s super easy guys, shut up). I love Tumblr, but Tumblr is the wild wild west, and I’m a little too citified to want to be out on the frontier these days. I like the layout and recommendation system on Medium, but the userbase is lacking; it’s also a little too citified for my wild-west heart. I’d love to find a platform that works as well for reading as writing, for sharing as well as creating, that has a good interconnected community, that allows you to be personal or topical without having to commit to one style. I’m still searching for the perfect place to diary-blog online. I’m not sure I’m committed enough to create my own space without a few of these crutches.

For now, this’ll do! I have some projects and minor obsessions that aren’t really a good fit for the profiles I maintain on social media. For example, I am mildly obsessed with podcasts. My friends mostly couldn’t care less. Solution: blog it! I am heavily obsessed with crazy animal facts. WHO ISN’T, right, but longform with photos is infinitely better for this discussion. I’m trying to start a business and find myself cycling from enthusiasm/inspiration to cluelessness/despair. Thought-cycles are a great thing to deal with in writing; these infinite brain loops can turn a crop circle into a corn maze, with the right pruning.

Note this, self: Stuck on things to write about?

  1. How many people did you talk to today?
  2. Did you read any interesting articles lately?
  3. How’s the business plan going?
  4. Have you seen any pictures of goats being hilarious lately?
  5. Are you confused about other people’s actions? Let’s obsess about it in minute detail.
  6. Did you share 160 words on Twitter that actually you had a lot more to say about?
  7. Did somebody say something stupid on Facebook?
  8. Did a podcast make you think of something TOTALLY RELEVANT?
  9. Do you just totally not get kids these days?
  10. What are we going to call the generation after the Millennials, anyway?
  11. Did one of your friends say something hilarious or blog something insightful?
  12. Butts.
  13. Not really, butts are over-done. Maybe farts, though.

*actual time-waster of choice, August 23, 2015, 34 years old
*see: college.

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On Tastemaking, Social Constructs, and Soda Pop

Quinn Norton: “You can actually take a globe and color it in on Coke versus Pepsi. For some reason, we can color the whole planet for brown sugar water. And I don’t think they JUST drink it because it’s sugar water – there are many forms of sugar water. But this one has this iconography, it has this sense of community, it has this sense of identity tied to it.”

Jody Avirgan: “But isn’t that how taste has always been created? I  mean, it’s a social construct. I’m sure there’s something that you like to drink, and you weren’t born a fan of that thing.”

What’s the Point by Five Thirty-Eight, “The Algorithm Behind Your Browser

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