Posts Tagged ‘balance’


9 August 2013

Dear J-

It has been a while since I tried writing on the road and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover the keyboard still works, well, at least as well as it ever did which is to say with a sticky ‘o’ key and everything. I’ll give it some more time to warm up, I suppose. Good. Awkward preamble done.

As it turns out maybe this — trying and failing spectacularly at getting the units returned to service — maybe this is the impetus I need to shake off the momentum that’s kept me driving a hundred miles every day to work. We have yet to see what jobs everyone will end up getting but I’m contemplating three choices. There’s a local job as a procurement engineer, doing stuff I did every day for five years and that I’m sure I could do in my sleep. What it has to recommend itself is familiarity and comfort, no need to move, shorter commute, I know I can do that work. I’ve done it. But on the other hand it’s a very substantial drop in pay, especially once the bonus or results-sharing payout is figured in, probably close to 40% and is that going to be enough to keep us in San Diego and not struggling check to check?

Then there’s potential job number two, in the Bay Area. Probably involves some travel. definitely a relocation. There, though, the work is interesting — much more in line with what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half or so. Very technical, too, and that’s something my mind wants. So far no interview and no discussion of salary, but I have good hopes there, so we’ll see I guess.

And also, there’s potential job number three, a cross-country relocation to Charlotte, North Carolina. This is even less certain given that I’ve only just applied, but they called me and asked me to submit a resume, so that’s a good sign, right? But still, Charlotte? Yes, Charlotte, and with lower costs of living and the heat, and the South, there is also the satisfaction of working a pan-industry job, meaning it’s something they’d need if any nuclear plant is working. Anywhere. is that a huge appeal, stability?

That’s the crux of it, I’m afraid. if I had no family I’d have no problems shrugging off a relocation anywhere, anytime. Thus concludes the Southern California adventure. We’ve had a good run. I look at what my dad had — the same job for thirty-five years, and they had to push him out the door — and I know that isn’t going to happen for me, unless I want to switch gears completely or work into my mid-70s. it’s a source of envy and regret, we’ve spent so many years here and we’ve just gotten to sample the joy of its potential: Disneyland, beaches, sunshine. every place has its upsides, though, and part of the joy of relocation (oh yeah, I went there) is is finding those things that work well for you.

And yet I’m not alone in this. Leaving now means pulling figgy out of her current school program — a pretty unique opportunity to learn Mandarin in a public immersion program — with no guarantees that we’d be able to jump into another one in time for this fall. I keep having faith that we will but, y’know, wish in one hand and spit in the other, and you’ll know which one fills up faster. Ultimately I don’t know if that’s the trump card that should cover everything else. It should be. But I’m also not sure if this is a case of work to live, we need something to enable this, what we have, what we need.





Hard Spot

29 August 2012

Dear J-

As much time as I spend at work you’d think I’d start to get something done, but the truth is I end up getting sucked into meeting after meeting and the paralysis of groupthink starts to set in: well, what if they don’t like the way this is phrased? theVet is driven bonkers by my need to parse words to their final meaning when I’m at home, but it’s all I do at work — write, edit, parse — that it inevitably spills over into the rest of my life. For instance, when we went to buy a new mattress a couple of weeks ago, she insisted on calling it a bed, which sounds like we’re getting a frame and boxspring too; by the time I was done with parsing the difference between mattress and bed, she was ready to tear my hair out.

I suppose that’s the crux of the problem lately; the way that I can no longer keep things neatly compartmentalized between work and home, separated as they are by the long buffer of distance and commute time. I get email at home now, and email prompts me to write a few words or draft a response or … but then again, I often choose to ignore it and set my planes in motion on Pocket Planes instead while at home, hoping to get some kind of a refuge from that time at work, time at work, ticking away like a metronome in my head. Our boss has said that he wants us to wake up at night worried about the issues we have happening, and that much is true, but the worries I have are less technical and more managerial.

Deadlines, when they told us to take the time we need to make sure things are correct. Schedule dates. Legal aspects. Word choices, phrasing, careful summarization to show what you know and only what you know, not implying that you’ve got a speculative bone in your body. I suppose the enforced discipline is good for me, as I would otherwise write what I want off the top of my head with little concern to whether I’m right or not. Because, y’know, I’m always right. Does that even make sense? There is a lot left to do, and no time left to do it wrong, which means that time has become the most limitingly precious commodity once again. Such is the wonder of the world.


Catch Up

14 June 2012

Dear J-

There are a thousand loose ends to wrap up before Friday afternoon and only a few hours left to get them done. My plan is to bring along a laptop along with company access to email to try to get things done on the road; whether or not that happens or indeed if I even have the inclination to keep working after a full day of training will be another matter entirely. I had hoped to make a clean break between work and travel, but when you’re traveling for work with unresolved projects then there’s a lot that they’ll ask while you’re out. Welcome, telecommuter.

I’m bringing along an ancient IBM X31 with hopefully a not-too-corrupted installation of Arch Linux; with any luck the program will copy over nicely and I can use WINE to run it on the laptop. Otherwise it’s too late to scrounge up a copy of XP and do a clean install. Breathe. The more important things are happening tomorrow night: figgy is ‘graduating’ from pre-K and I need to get home a little earlier if possible, which probably means driving but I may be selfish and do one last bike ride before the four weeks off. Make sure the batteries are charged and the sound checks out okay; new life, new tools, new world order. Between now and her first day of school just after Labor day I’m going to be gone for a third of that time.

I try to convince myself that it really doesn’t matter, that there’s always be more chances later, but the longer we keep to our strange schedules and commitments, the more they expect. I’ve somehow gotten tangled up with an industry initiative to overhaul a computer model, and improbably, I may be the only one who can run the predecessor program on-site. How did this happen? If all I wanted was to draw a paycheck and breathe I wouldn’t have left my old job. This is exactly what I was asking for, I suppose, and maybe it’s what I deserve. It just feels like I’m always out of breath, though.


A Question of When

19 March 2012


Dear J-

The steady rain all weekend has been our accompaniment today as well, informing all our actions and investing them with perilous consequence. I woke to the steady drumbeat on the roof and immediately resolved to drive to the vanpool, but changed my mind what seemed like a thousand times between the half dreaming state I couldn’t break from and actually walking out the door. I started off on the bike but turned back at the top of the hill before the rain had soaked me completely through, before it was too late. Start out early enough and you have that luxury; lie in bed any longer and you reap that harvest.

My schedule continues to be consistently erratic; last week I spent less time than ever under the pace set by the seventy hour guys and so of course I spent the whole weekend wracked with the sort of guilt that accompanies it, no longer sure that I’m doing much good at home or work. It’s a funny feeling to convince yourself that you owe work, the mobster that demands all the time and love you have and asks for more. Worse yet is the day to day nature of things, schedule shifting fluidly from days to nights and back again, leaving my family wondering if now would be a good time to talk, or eat, or call. Answer is probably not.

Eventually the storms pass and we return to our normally scheduled programming of sun and fun, of regular hours and no more secrets to keep, no surprises waiting to ambush the unprepared. Looking forward to days that will come but for now I don’t mind weathering the storm on the doorstep, snuff together with people I trust.


Forward into the Gap

25 August 2011

Dear J-

It has been a strange month, one where I would have (should coulda woulda) tried to not let the distractions of work bleed over into what I do and how I do it but that’s life sometimes. The drama of changing jobs is, I hope, over and a negotiated change date of 12 December has been hammered out at levels above me. Meanwhile the exemption to the residency waiver (company policy is that you spend 18 months in your cjurrent position before being eligible to apply for another job) which was an artifical roadblock that was erected (my opinion) as a punitive measure is out of the way and now I should just be hearing back from Human Resources about an actual offer. Eventually. This has not come easy and it’s openled my eyes to the kind of bureaucratic red tape that supervisors have to deal with every day. I’m glad I’m not there.

There’s a lot of things that aren’t necessarily normal in my life right now. Working on Sundays is a struggle to reconcile the feeling of Monday away when there’s no one else around; likewise halving the weekend means making Ssaturday twice as dense and who knows what that’s actually doing for figgy. She has been acting up at home these past few days and I think it has everything to do with provoking a reaction from us: any reaction and any inkling of paying attention is a good thing for her. I think back to when my first real job switched over to a new system and what the long hours meant for the young parents in the crowd. Here I am at less than fifty hours a week and looking forward to a new job that might take me out of the house even more.

Regardless of the guilt there’s little I can do about it at the moment. The hours are seen as virtue by management and cultivating a career at the expense of family has never been the wrong choice at work. Perhaps I’m in the wrong industry altogether. Does it make sense that the young people who have come into our group have all left? I don’t know if it’s more about potential industry growth in the wake of Fukushima Dai-Ichi or the fact that they’ll work you to the bone and ask for more every day of the week. You don’t go to work to be bad at your job but there seems to be no end to the sacrifices demanded.


Life Balance

22 August 2011

Dear J-

Second week of working Sundays (out of how many more?) and the trick for me on Monday is to reset my internal clock to Monday, not the second day of work my body tells me it is. I do it generally by insisting it is so until reality matches my mind. Whether or not it works has yet to be proven but by halving my weekend I’ve also managed to make Sunday night a cranky time for all. This life shouldn’t revolve around work but that’s the gear I need to switch to for a few months until things shake back out and down to normal again. What is normal though? It’s when our minds tell us that everything is back to an even keel again. Balance.

So far working on Sundays has been remarkably pleasant and I’m finding I don’t mind it too much as long as I have enough music to keep me going. The rule of thumb I’ve been following has been roughly one album per task maximum; it keeps me from getting too frustrated with things I know I need to get done and interested in the task at hand as there’s a bit of a deadline to sweat. Last week I found myself bogged down in one particularly complex assignment and that didn’t help my concentration towards the end. So again it’s about balance and making sure what I do matches what needs to be done.

The big regret is not having enough time over the weekends to catch up with family. I suppose that I should be moving closer, meaning less time on the road but that’s all pretty selfish time I have to take naps or write here or get things done that I normally wouldn’t have a chance to finish at home. theVet and I discussed this and truth is that I’m going to work because we could use the money and I don’t mind the sacrifice in time as long as the burden on her doesn’t drive her nuts. There are a lot of ways to live this life and even if the path seems to have taken a particularly dark turn lately I have to keep my eyes on the light ahead and balance my way across the tightrope.


Picket Fence

25 October 2010

Dear J-

There shold be ground rules for engagement, figgy and me, and most of them need to govern my behaviors: no distractions, no deliberate aggravation, no using electronic babysitters when all she really wants is attention. Yes, it’s exhausting, but why should it be? It’s still no reason to be flat-out ignoring her in favor of the latest scores or celebrity gossip; while it may be five kinds of wonderful that I can do things in the palm of my hand that required a computer a few years ago, it also comes with a great responsibility to use when apprpriate. Sometimes in retrospect I look back and think about the lesson I’m imparting by acting like she’s not there.

The rain this morning is a deceptively fine mist; there are no gaudy, large drops hitting the windshield and making the steady drumbeat that usually marks rain, but the roads are impressively wet, and that means all the wheels of all the passing vehicles are kicking the mist back up and you end up running the wipers at a manic rate to keep the windshield clear enough to see. At some point last night I’m sitting there thinking about all that lies in front of figgy — from school to sophistry, love to loss — and realizing that life’s going to throw enough crap in her way that I don’t need to be adding to it.

As it is we spend precious little time together — Mondays are the most, three or four hours maybe; the rest of the week is two or three hours and all day Saturday and Sunday — so long as she’s awake, call it twelve to fourteen hours, and that adds up to what: thirty-five to forty-four hours. And you’re telling me I’m telling myself that I can’t spend at least as much time with her as I do with work — less, even, this week given that between commute and work I’m away from home thirteen hours a day during the week? Put that way and it all sounds weakly ridiculous, especially when we’re talking about my favorite people.


Rattley Bang

20 July 2010

Dear J-

Believe me, I’m aware of every little sound from the bike in the mornings; yesterday there was a squeak coming from where the fender stays attached to the rear, and today there’s a rattle sounding off as we click our way noisily across the bumps. The first twenty miles or so have the freeway expansion joints laid out in such a way as to excite every possible vibration at speed. I appreciate the extreme conditions testing that manufacturers subject their cars to — searing tropical heat and freezing arctic climes — but it’s also gotta pass the rattling-bike test before they should sign off on it.

I hate the noises because they mean that I’m not sufficiently concerned with my fellow riders, which is a lie. At the moment I’m paranoid over the rattle (which I think is the rack bumping up against the frame) and the greasy chain which I have no insulation for against the bag that someone threw into the back. It’s wonderful, this transcendental guilt: always concerned with what other people think; it’s the omnipresent need for approval that drives me nuts, really. And really, getting over the need to be popular is part of growing up.

The last few months at the park-n-ride lot have seen people stopping temporarily to pick up passengers while blocking the flow of traffic through the lot — it’s laid out in the shape of the number 8, with folks entering and exiting at the bottom right corner. You can usually squeeze by, but only just and creeping gingerly past. I suppose it’s the opposite way to swing: fully not caring about other folks and looking out for your own needs first. What’s the point? After all, you may never see them again, and if it saves time, more power to you, right? Like all things in life you need a balance; that modicum of consideration isn’t such a small thing to sacrifice in the face of rising societal incivility.


Balanced Life

18 July 2010

Dear J-

I’m feeling a little better about the homework situation — I’m sure it’s a temporary delusion — but at the expense of any kind of home life; the television shouldn’t be a babysitter, and I can’t expect that that brand of inattention isn’t going to have consequences. It’s a little strange to contemplate going back to work tomorrow, as I’ve worked exactly one day (hair on fire the whole way; I’m sure you’ve had those days too) in the past ten, but having homework is one way of reminding myself where my priorities are.

Today we spent the day in air conditioned splendor courtesy of various retailers in the area: thanks, IKEA and Target. The heat broke a little today (we actually had a marine layer in the morning keeping things cool), but if it wasn’t for retailers with furniture, we’d never get out of the house. I can live with that. It reminds me that companies keep trying to convince me that I need more than what I have, never mind that we’re already overlowing the house: those rules are true: your life will expand to fill your space and then some.

figgy made a giant pile of mess (she is remarkably good at that) at some point this afternoon as I was struggling with economics (I can whip through cost comparisons with the greatest of ease now; it’s interpreting the words, as always, that trips me up). There’s a ton of stuff around for her to get into, and with all the distractions, far more opportunities. At times I’m starting to glance around and life catches me off-guard; there’s a thousand moments that I keep seeing in slow-motion regret and hindsight. How long can I put my thumb on the scales without her noticing?


Sandy Center

11 June 2010

Dear J-

I’m a big believer in the power of the sun; as theVet will tell you, I’m always telling her that if you just leave it in the sun for a day or two, the stink will go away, even though it never seems to work out quite that way. It’s silly, I know, but I’ve tried to treat everything from stinky shoes to skin conditions by soaking up rays (here’s a ProTip for you: the sun doesn’t dry things out as well as you might like, especially when the temperature is below freezing; don’t ask).

Hopeless optimism or misunderstanding basic scientific principles? I dunno; I stayed home today as figgy was sick yesterday at daycare (they were alerted by the uncharacteristic crabbiness; for you who believe I was just doing it to get some time off, I’m heading in Sunday to make up the time) and the first thing I knew I found myself headed to the beach for a reboot. If you ever find yourself with a sick day during the week and you’re up for it, there’s nothing wrong with sun, surf, and sand. Not to go in, just to walk along the surfline and listen to the spray in the air crackling with the stuff of life, feeling sand shift underfoot and hiss in response.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a tight grip on figgy as I went in and she had an inadvertent dunking as soon as we got there (inexperience with how to move your feet when underwater, I suspect, coupled with sheer panic). The real effects of the illness came late tonight in the guise of narcolepsy and lost appetite — it’s clear that we did no good with our walk on the beach today, but I wonder if I didn’t reap the benefit myself instead. There’s something about sand and water that always brings me back to myself, and I know the balance I feel tonight is based on those shifting beaches.