Randomly

Baz Luhrman rather famously says you should wear sunscreen and that there’s no point in worrying because the real troubles in life will blindside you randomly on a Tuesday at 4pm.

At 9:15am on Thursday, before a second cup of coffee, I was being grilled about what I would do if the training data in a neural network led to an algorithm that provided incorrect outcomes. I gave a pretty good answer, which is not a bad feat for a political science major who reads about machine learning for fun.

I’ve made mention of the fellow I was dating. Casually. He was (and is) a nice guy. But he was looking for a different kind of woman. That’s ok, but it does mean there’s an incompatibility. I ended it on Monday. I miss having someone to chat to, but fundamentally I’m ok.

I have all these thoughts about it, about what I learned, about what happened, about how I feel. I’ll probably get around to breaking that down.

Mostly, I know that the things you never know to worry about, they happen randomly on a Tuesday at 4pm. So too do the best things in life.

Maybe I’ll be single for the rest of my life. Maybe, randomly, I’ll meet the love of my life.

Who knows.

Baz is right. Wear sunscreen.

Posted in Adult Dating | 1 Comment

Good with the Bad

I’ve had three true performance problems in my career as a manager. One was resolved by transferring her, the other two had to be let go. In the latest case, it was blatant incompetence combined with astonishingly poor social skills. (Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you stories that will make your hair curl).

This time I hired my last performance problem. At least with the other two, I inherited them. I can tell you all sorts of things, but it will come down the the fact that my back was against the wall, so I ignored my gut and hired him. I figured I could make it work. (Nope. Very much no. Not possible.)

It’s been good for no one, this last hire. I’m trying not beating myself up about this, but it’s worth reflecting on what I could do differently next time, for my own sanity.  Equally, I doubt that it has been much fun for him. He’s been good at nothing. Everyone dislikes him. There’s constant conflict.

I had this university prof who said that as long as the number of teaching awards he received was greater than the number of crazy students who stalked him, he was going to call his career a success.

In the midst of my reflecting came the most beautiful vase of yellow roses. My young intern (that I also hired) has gotten a full time job and he wanted to say thank you for my coaching. Jack is my fourth intern (or minion) as you may hear me call them. I’m enormously proud of all of them.

By my prof’s metric, I’m still winning at the success game. I’m going to take that.

Posted in Flying with Warthog Air | Leave a comment

Silly

About 3 years ago I started playing this silly little game on my iPhone, called Pearl’s Peril. I think I started when I was first diagnosed with MS. Someone told me, I read somewhere or I just decided that one way to stave off worries about cognitive decline was to play a hidden object game.

Which I did. I (mostly) refused to spend money on it, so I played it for a bit more than three years. Usually only a round a day. It was part of my morning routine. Make coffee, feed pets, play a round while I drank my coffee.

I finished the last level this weekend. Pearl and Klaus got married, and I found the last fire extinguisher/canteen/cobweb and bat.

This morning I got up, made my coffee, fed the pets and sat down on the couch. I’ve tried a few other games, but none of them fit quite so well.

Like I said, it’s a silly game and this is a silly thing. It was a silly part of my life for about 3 years, and that’s not nothing.

Thanks Pearl’s Peril, I’m glad you were around.

Posted in Interruption. | Leave a comment

The dark and the cold and the wind

November, after the time change, is hard for me. I come home in the dark, it’s cold, windy, snowy.

10 years later, I know this.

The early part of December? It’s filled with loss. For the first 10 days, I march through the memories. Admission to hospital, those days in that bed. The moment he came and went.

In the dark, in the cold, in the wind, I know it’s coming.

In the dark, in the cold, in the wind, I remember.

I know it will pass.

10 years on, you learn that. You learn it will be tough, you know that the waves will engulf you and that you will emerge, spluttering and gasping for breath. You know you will live.

In some ways, that’s harder. You know you will live. And that it will happen next year. And the year after that. You know that you will take care of yourself, you will be kind to yourself, you will seek out warmth and light and care, and you know, on the 10th of December, for a few yours, you will drown all the same.

And that’s life.

I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t change the time I had with him, I wouldn’t change the way it broke me, because it made me kinder, wiser and more caring.

But in November? In the dark, in the cold, in the wind? When I feel alone and cold and tired?

It’s tough.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

But Without the Sword

As I was driving home on Thursday, I listened to an exiled Egyptian Political Satirist and Comedian. Egypt, with all of its turmoil and upheaval, does not exactly seem like a funny kind of place. The current regime in Egypt is not a bastion of transparency and openness, one wouldn’t think that being a political satirist is exactly a sensible decision. I suppose it’s not exactly a surprise he was exiled.

I found myself annoyed with the journalist (so earnest, so determined to get to the sore parts) and sympathizing with the comedian. His job is to be funny and he was funny. You wouldn’t think you could be funny about corruption and revolution and exile, but he was.

I found myself understanding that he was playing a role. He may grieve, deeply and profoundly, about the loss of home, culture, hopes and dreams, but he’s going to make jokes. That’s what he does. That’s how he responds in public – true to type. It’s his job to make us laugh and think, in that order. His grief and is sorrow? That’s a private affair.

So too it is with me.

I have a cane these days.

I woke up on Thursday and my left leg had stopped working. If you ask me, I will tell you her name is Rosie (because she’s  red and because together we can do it). I will tell you that my brain and my leg are experiencing some technical difficulties in communication. I will let you know as soon as you can stop standing by. I will tell you that the number of cane manufacturers who make sword canes is minuscule and I’m, quite frankly, annoyed by this.

I will make it clear that I do not actually want to talk about this. My grief, my fear and my frustration at my relapse, they are a private affair.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves | 2 Comments

As Friends

One of my colleagues, having both finished an advanced degree and recovering from breaking her knee has been struggling a bit to find level ground.

I have watched, knowing that this will be me. Well, the degree bit and hopefully not the knee bit.

This weekend she is to read a novel. We got to talking about books. If you have met me in real life, you know I am a reader. By reader I mean that I have a built in bookshelf that covers 90 square feet in my dinning room. It’s full. There are stacks of books by my bed and we won’t talk about the digital books on my iPad. I have books from my childhood, books I loved as an adult, books from courses, books I haven’t read yet.

I had planned to bring my friend three books from my shelf. I thought that was enough to be getting on with. But it’s hard. You peruse through the shelves and you see all these books that you want to share.

This morning I came in with 7 books. Using post it notes, I annotated what I loved about them. I included a card, asking her to pick what she likes or feels like (hence the post its), return them when she is ready.

Books journey with me. I can often tell you when I read them. Sometimes where I read them. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving her books. It feels like I am giving her friends and spaces and times in my life.

I’m looking forward to seeing what she likes.

Posted in Books | 2 Comments

Dear Guy on the Train

Yes, Yes. I know, you were frustrated at the delays, the crowds, the broken speakers which made it hard for us to hear what the driver was saying.

I heard you. Everyone heard you.

Here’s the thing. You are warm, safe, dry. You will, eventually get home. You have a phone so you can call or text or email if you are going to be late.

The train is running late. There are delays.

The only thing you can change in this situation is your attitude. The sighing, muttered outrage? That won’t fix the signal problem.

Just thought I should mention this.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Surplus Women

At the end of the Great War, the British called them the surplus women. They were the more than 2 million women who had no hope of finding a husband because a generation of men lay dead in the fields of France, of Belgium, Gallipoli. At the end of 1919, only 1 in 10 women were going to marry.

The surplus women had to find their own way. They had to find jobs, housing, ways to get along in a world designed for marriage and children. More than that, they had to find meaning. In a world that wasn’t what they hoped, what they planned and what they dreamed of, they had to find a way to find joy in an unexpected life.

I, jokingly, told my niece that there used to be a place for single women. They wore cardigans and pearls, they arranged the flowers at church, gardened, had a few cats and wrote handwritten letters to their nieces and nephews.

Well, this is what I imagine the surplus women did. I suspect the truth is both more pedestrian and profound. Some of them played to cliche, some of them went and found their own way. Looked at tradition and custom and the dramatically changed world and they forged their own path.

It comes up in so many ways. Right now it’s Christmas. I have photos for the Christmas card. They are fantastic, but I haven’t sent my final selections to the photographer, because I just don’t know. Do single women send a Christmas Card to everyone – or I guess the half the list that is mine and the people still talking to me. Do I decorate? Where do I go for Christmas dinner?

What’s the new path forward?

Posted in Divorce | 6 Comments

On the Chin

When the fellow I am seeing asked why I did it, the best answer I had was because it was my job.

Which is true. I was the delivery manager, I am the project manager, and on my watch someone was patently incompetent.

For the record, I have a folder of emails, notes from meetings, a bloody excel spreadsheet detailing his incompetence. I’ve been coaching him for 9 months. I’ve been advocating for a career change for him for 3 months. To be fair, it’s not like I haven’t been trying to mange the issue.

I took it on the chin.

Part of an apology, at least for me, is whole heartedly accepting the blame, even if it isn’t fully my fault. Someone has to be face of the mistake. And someone needs to acknowledge there was a mistake and apologize.

So that was me. Today. And I took it on the chin.

Which got me thinking about this blog post. It’s from 6 years, 1 month and 19 days ago. That was the first time I decided that I needed to change my way of handling failure and being wrong. I thought about that day, about my need to get better at this.

I’ve developed this trick in the last few years. I call it the “reasonable stranger” test. Effectively, I ask myself what I would tell a stranger, if they presented the situation to me. So I would tell you that I did what was reasonable.

The good news is that I did the reasonable stranger test with myself. I did start blaming myself. Spent a bit of time there. Then I pulled out the reasonable stranger test. I took it on the chin. Someone had to.

But I didn’t own it.

That feels like progress.

Posted in Learning Life | 1 Comment

The Philosophy of Soup

I have become a fan of the moral philosophy of soup.

Oh, I realize you think that I’m crazy. How on earth can there be a philosophy of soup. What is moral about soup? All great philosopher’s write some sort of treatise. Here I shall give you the moral philosophy of soup.

Soup starts from a whole chicken in my freezer. Defrosted in my fridge. Dumped into a big pot. Herbs, cut from my garden. Left to simmer in a very large pot I hauled up from the basement. Simmer for 12 hours. Put it on the burner, pay it only a bit of mind. Really, make sure it doesn’t burn and the house doesn’t start on fire.

Put it somewhere cool so the fat solidifies. Scoop that off. Save it in a bowl for the dog. Take the carcass out. Wash your hands. Carefully pull the bones out. Return the meat to a bowl.

Strain the broth, put it back in the pot. Bring it to a boil. Turn off the stove. Crush egg shells and use those to clarify the broth. Strain the soup again. Consider the vegetables in your fridge. Choose them. It’s ok if they are a bit past their prime. Sharpen knives. Cut the vegetables. Make sure the pieces are the same size. Cut two leeks and some onion. Sweat them in the frying pan until they soften. Slowly let them brown. Deglaze the pan with sherry.

Return the meat to the pot with the vegetables and the leeks and onions. Let it simmer for another few hours.

Soup is a series of small tasks. Taking not the best, but what you have. Soup takes time. It cannot be rushed. When I do soup well, there’s a meditative quality about it. What ever else I do in that time, I am building soup.

The soup will be imperfect. I’ll taste it and I’ll think that it needed a bit more thyme, a bit more salt. I’ll wish I had a bit of celery.

My soup was a way to reconnect. To use my time and my talents and the fruit of a summer’s labour in the garden. It was grounding – I stayed close to home and left it simmering on the back burner, always a bit aware of it. Soup was a way to rebuild sanctuary and calm after a terrible week. Some of it will go to a sick friend as an act of care. Soup is a hedge, an act of self care. Next week with 8,000 words of final papers will be no less stressful.

Perhaps my philosophy is not so much a philosophy of soup, but a philosophy of little things done with effort. The morality of doing what you can, imperfectly, with what you have. The work of grounding and mindfulness as you do one thing, with many steps to build something greater than what you started with.

Philosophy, all of what I read, talks about great things. Hard decisions. It asks enormous questions – who am I? Why am I here? Where are we going? How should we live?

I have no answers for that.

I have the philosophy of soup.

Posted in Feats of Wonder | 3 Comments