Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

Absolute Calm Retrospective

29 December 2011

Dear J-

For some reason I hate the idea that I’m treating an actual issue — the hacking cough I had for a month — with prescription medication, even though it’s been unusually effective (and only slighlty inconvenient — every night I have to use a nasal steroid spray to keep the post-nasal drip down to let’s say normal levels). I suppose it comes from the years of neglect I’ve put into managing allergy symptoms but I feel almost normal in the mornings now instead of having drainage from what seems like every hole in my head. Or perhaps I’m hesitant to rely on what feel a little like crutches to get through my day.

I’m always wary of the most consequential side effects (even if highly unlikely) which is why I elected to have my wisdom teeth out under local, not general anesthesia, having read that there was a possible chance of death under general. At work they teach us to manage risk instead, which is consequence multiplied by likelihood, and that seems like a more sane way than relying solely on consequence alone. I feel a little like I’m always bending to fit, though, whether that’s fair or true or not. The way our lives are lately that’s all we can do: fit your life into the time and money that remains.

It is strange being the sole income for the family; there are times I catch myself thinking my word-isn’t this convenient having theVet around at home to take care of, well, everything and consequently she ends up doing all the work around the house which is unfair. I grew up with parents that both worked and I wonder if this past year is going to skew figgy and Calcifer’s perspective at all. Then again I worry about what they think a lot, so I suppose they’re flexible enough to be undented and undaunted in proceeding through our crazy lives. I won’t say that it’s been easy but it’s been reasonably smooth and so we rush headlong into 2012 aware of what needs to be done without fearing it.



Corporate Notes

9 March 2011

Dear J-

One of the things I like on these audits is comparing the way other people do business versus the way utilities do it without turning a profit, or so it seems sometimes. We can’t seem to get out of our own way sometimes because the financial incentive isn’t always there and as a result our processes reflect our bulk and inefficiency. On the other hand, being in the hyper-regulated industry that we are, you are indoctrinated from day one to be aware of all the requirements and laws that dictate and proscribe everything we do. So when we come out to a place like this and things we take for granted seem to  baffle the people we’re auditing I have to stop and try to understand where they’re coming from.

They say that no one comes to work intending to do a bad job, but sometimes it’s the way things are set up that causes the issues. If we say to do the wrong thing, and no one knows any better is that really their fault? It’s funny that we never seem to drive all the way down to the right reasons until someone else points it out to you. Maybe it really does depend on getting a fresh perspective on your issues that makes these trips worthwhile for me. Well, that and the chance to get out of the same old stuff in the office once in a while.


Reference Frame

15 March 2010

Dear J-

I always thought that reference frames of motion in a Newtonian (non-relativistic) physics world were an elegant way to reduce a lot of jargon (like Newtonian, for instance, meaning pretty much at speeds not approaching the speed of light) to instinctively-understandable prinsiples. I say reference frames, but think of it this way: as you sit in a car, the car itself is not moving from your perspective (that dashboard isn’t getting further away, is it?), but your sense are telling you that the world is slipping by at 66-ish miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour in the rest of the world). If you were standing by the side of the road, all those people would be rushing by you at 65. It’s all about what you choose as your reference frame: car or ground.

Of course, if you choose the reference frame you’re ignoring that the earth itself has both rotational (day) and translational (year) motion. Likewise it’s sometimes hard to discern the changes in life when you’re immersed in the details; riding in the car you may not appreciate your fellow passengers coming at the same rate — or that guy passing you at an increased rate of speed — while the world rolls by under the wheels. The further we get, the less dazzling the change.

We regularly mock ourselves in an effort to deflate the seriousness of a situation; humor has a way of defusing tensions. It’s more about perspective and tolerance; what are you able to sustain? How do we see ourselves, and how does the rest of the world? Engineers tend to want to reduce the world into a series of instructions (rules and references) but it really comes down to how we frame the questions and our perspectives.



13 March 2010

Dear J-

Yesterday I spent a few minutes looking around the daycare for dirty laundry — not figuratively hunting for rumors and innuendo, but trying to find evidence of accidents; there were none, and I was confused, doubly so today when we ran out of pants and we had to choose between putting figgy into a diaper before bedtime and trusting that she’d be able to hold it. We did make it through an outing without incident (I’m not counting falling asleep and letting go in the car seat) but the rest of the day was filled with craziness.

It threatened rain all day, but the madness could not be contained in the house either. We made our way to Balboa Park where I initially thought we’d go off to the Japanese Garden and the Spring Festival, but we ran into a perfect storm of traffic (Zoo, major rummage sale, and a parade on the western edge) and we ended up trying to find a quiet corner instead. Yet as we made our way across the highway, the noise swelled and our steps quickened toward the St. Patrick’s Day parade instead of the Marston House like I’d thought. The brick paths and lush greens from the last month of rain were calling to me, but we’ll have opportunities in the future.

It’s strange how the more independent we want to make her, the more work we have to put into it. At some point she will find out that her legs work again and we’ll be able to discontinue the impromptu upper-body workouts, but that means we don’t get to hold her as much either. There are compromises and tradeoffs to every choice; we can’t hold back time, we can’t keep her from growing up and I wouldn’t want that — the small steps seem so infinitesimal until you actually take a longer look at things; one month ago, one week ago, one year ago.


Moving Week

24 October 2008

Dear J-

The long week comes to an end; I look forward to several calm, numbing hours in front of the TV scanning odd channels for coverage of improbable NCAA Football upsets.  I always end up, at the end of the day, reflecting on the distances traveled and comparing where I woke up with where I lie down.  It’s easy with the lens of distance to note the changes, just as it’s easy when you make the millionth round-trip to where-ever you call home tonight to dismiss the everyday as pedestrian.

With the rare opportunity to be up and awake just past midnight (this, courtesy of my brother and his Wii), I bunked down in my nephew’s bed, which forced all kinds of musical sleeping arrangements — and was up by five to experience the promised ninety minutes of Bikram Yoga.  I’ve never practiced Yoga before, and the opportunity afforded me insight on the flexibility it lends its practicioners (“Okay … now bring your other leg behind your head …”).  The overall experience — held in a room kept at near-sauna conditions, to better replicate the conditions of India — left me drained and sopping wet, but as my brother explained, it’s more about the meditative experience you gain as you progress through the poses, rather than a competition to find the next human Gumby.

I’m not sure for sure that it lent me some perspective on the following internment ceremony later, but I certainly saw things in a different light than I did yesterday, flying in to San Jose.  I got to learn more about my aunt’s life; I got to see how she touched my family in numerous ways.  Best yet, I’m now most familiar with the portrait of her as a warm, vibrant woman, not as the past few years had left her.

We all came together with few exceptions, with few gaps, this mob of a family and all its cousins.  We may fumble over the right words and produce something nonsensical, but that we’re all willing to pause our lives and gather, that speaks volumes to how strongly the feelings pull us together.  Once again, humbled, amazed, in awe of the things that keep us family.  And a long Friday closes with nothing but surprises.


Daytime Nighttime

16 November 2006

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress
Daytime nighttime suffering is all she gets– Paul McCartney, Daytime Nighttime Suffering

Dear J-,

They should have had the first reunion at fifteen years. Ten isn’t quite enough time to forget faces, and twenty, well, no one wants to be facing forty without making some kind of an effort. Fifteen is enough to have had some perspective, not just on high school, but on your life to date. Plus you’re at the point that those folks being born when you got your driver’s license are now menacing the elderly you on the roads.

Nothing quite like seeing all the significant milestones of your life fall to kids you remember baby-sitting to force you to grow up, right? I met someone today who confided his excitement in his first grandkid at one turn and the dismay of “finally having to grow up” in the next. Time moves ever forward; if I’m already afraid of tomorrow, how can I enjoy today? What is it, exactly? When do you give in and say that you’re getting old? The first white hair? Done. Music gotten too loud? Years ago, now. I’ve always thought that the baby boomers (and here I go tarring all with the same brush, just as I get slotted somewhere between Gen X and Y) were self-absorbed image-conscious youth-seeking idiots, but the older I get, the more I understand the truth behind “Age is just a number.”

We cling to the idealized memories of youth, not remembering living someone else’s life, those first fumbling attempts at love, waiting always waiting for changes pointing the way forward. I remember the delicious anticipation, the night before handing out the new trimester’s schedules and hoping that I’d have the right mix of folks — someone to crush on, someone to talk to, someone to keep the lonely away. How can you possibly know at eighteen who you are, let alone who you need? I’m in awe of childhood sweethearts who make it work; they remember the wonder of the new, the bloom of youth, the steady pace of life, the joy of every wakening.

Everyone dreams of being out on their own without thinking twice about what it might mean. I had roommates in college up until my last semester of senior year, and even that wasn’t so bad because I was semi-officially living with theVet by then (maintaining separate rooms for the public’s sake). Loneliness is coming home two thousand miles from everything you remember to the unheated house you rent from the landlady upstairs. Loneliness is the last bus of the night, riding past Fenway Park on game night and hearing the distant cheers. Loneliness is reading the “personalized” messages left when you asked for more signatures in your yearbook to reduce the desperation inside. Loneliness is realizing why you wrote and saved so many letters knowing you never followed up on them, all the while listening to something suitably nostalgic — let’s say the first album you bought alone. Alone.

Even though the overwhelming memory of Jamaica Plain is of that isolated loneliness, I still want to go back and wander through the Arboretum by myself; I want to wander, and then return and remember how lucky I am to have known so many people to call, so many people to write letters to. Nights I’m alone make it so much easier to be grateful.