Dogs of war

In a shocking turn of events, I am no longer going private. Do not get me wrong; every inclination is to take myself off the grid emotionally, figuratively, literally, physically, mentally… That could be the fight or flight reflex kicking in.

Maybe I’m extra raw right now. I found out Monday a friend of mine from my former employer passed away. He went on secondment like I did, from California (LA) to another country (London, to be specific). My journey took me from San Francisco to Australia, but we had similar experiences which left similar tastes in our mouths after the fact. He’d left the firm, and found a great role at Ares Capital Management. He was gay, as am I. He was active in our LGBT employee diversity group, as was I. He had stage 4 colon cancer and was only 2 years older than me.

I’m shaking as I type this, so much so I can barely keep my hands trained to the keys I must type to say this. Adrenaline has been coursing through my veins all morning, as the anti-immigrant executive order signed, subsequent detaining of even legal green card holders, and protests at airports has unfolded. The United States has placed a ban on travelers from 7 countries, effectively targeting the Muslim religion, which coincidentally do not include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Trump’s businesses have ties there in those 3 untouched countries, to be clear. If anything, terrorists from those 3 countries were primarily responsible for 9/11. But they’re not blocked. They’d get through Trump’s “security” today. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

I consider myself a citizen of the world, though my passport may be from the United States. Traveling internationally gave me profound respect for cultures other than my own. I saw the unity of humanity despite and through its differences. I appreciated how tiny I was in the scheme of the things, yet how loud a single voice and experience can be.

No, I cannot be quiet. A song debuted at the women’s march on January 21, 2017, practiced by online participants in advance, called “I Can’t Keep Quiet.” Like its lyrics proclaim, I, too, am a one-woman riot right now.

What Donald Trump and his supporters have done in just his first 8 days in office has completely up-ended the good, stable things that have made America great in the past. They have just made it un-great. That will undoubtedly have consequences. That’s gonna leave a mark.

I watch in shock and awe as history repeats itself. The dogs of war have been unleashed. It is on. This is how the 3rd world war commences, and that would make the time of the 3rd anti-christ upon us, according to the predictions of Nostradamus.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what gift to give my dad, so I asked. Maybe it was a birthday, maybe it was Christmas. My memory begins to fail me in the details from long ago. He asked me for a Pink Floyd CD as a gift. I was shocked that there existed a Pink Floyd album he did NOT have! He told me it was the album with the song “Dogs Of War” on it. If you’ve not heard it, I urge you to give the link below a listen. It begins ominously. As we have, as well.

We can’t stop what has begun. Signed, sealed, delivered – oblivion, as the lyrics to the song go.

I am so disappointed. I’m disgusted. I am angry. I am sad. I am ashamed. For America. But I cannot hide. I’ve chosen my battle. I’m 35 years old. This and now is as good as it gets. I am as strong as I need to be right now. If I don’t commit myself to fighting this, then what is my purpose in life? I’ve never felt so passionately for something before. Peace. Open borders. No walls – the wall in Berlin was not only to keep unwanted outsiders out, but also to keep people in. If Trump builds a wall, part of me knows it too will be to keep Americans who want out in.

Giving up is not an option, now. Staying silent isn’t either.

He is Voldemort in the sagas of Harry Potter. He is President Snow in the Hunger Games. I just hope it doesn’t have to take 2+ more books to put his evil to rest for good. He cannot win. This is not how the story goes. I find myself wanting to shout from the rafters, “I volunteer as tribute!” if it would help the situation. It will not, but I’m involved now. It’s gone too far.

Iran is already retaliating against Trump’s order. I do not blame the Iranian people. I worry about future international travel plans I have. What if citizens of the US are no longer welcome anywhere else? What if the tables turned, and the Americans are now the refugees trying to escape a terrible force of unwanted government, and we have nowhere to go? No one to help us? No no no no no. Borders, bans, walls – these are not the answer.

I feel unsafe. Uncomfortable. The stress of only 8 days in the presidency is taking its toll on my body. My PT had to tape my left knee the other night, as I’ve got bursitis from perhaps too vigorous a leg workout day, working out my aggressions and stress. All morning I had a tension headache. I’m not sleeping well. I’m barely eating. This is not good for me.

His impeachment cannot come fast enough. This tangent we’re on needs interrupting. This would be a great time for the Avengers to make their presence known. For greater powers with sanity, logic, and a heart to intervene and make things right.

But that would be easy. Nothing ever comes easy. We must fight for it. Our ancestors fought for freedom in the past, and the fight is not over yet. I hope the election didn’t wear you out, because this has only just begun.

Resist. Everything. He. Orders. Resist.

Also, I again refer you to a post written by John Pavlovitz, who seems to have a knack for saying things the way I want to these days. Please read his most recent post “Dear World, From America”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, again. Please forgive us; you are seeing us at our very worst right now. We are turning to look at ourselves with horror.

I’ve said it before and it’s worth reiterating: Muslims, I’ll ride with you. Like the hashtag that went viral after the Lindt café shooting in Sydney, you are safe with me. I was coming home on the bus from yet another stress-induced vigorous workout today, when two women with head coverings and dark skin sat next to each other on the bus next to me. Maybe they weren’t even Muslim, but my sense of protection kicked in. My reflexes were so taught, I was literally thinking if anyone came onto that bus and began to harass them, I would literally get in that person’s face. I wondered what it would be like to get my ass kicked for doing so. I found myself not caring because what is right must win. It must.

I have also said before (see my post) and I’ll say again, this is exactly what the terrorists wanted, and America has played right into it. Fools.

Yes, I’ve admitted before to having hate for Trump. But that shows that I have passion. I am not indifferent, which is the true opposite of love. I’m certainly not indifferent. I have chosen a side, or perhaps the light has chosen me. I refuse to be on the wrong side of history, and now, I am prepared to die for that. Where this is going is unacceptable. Where America is going under Trump’s tutelage is not acceptable. I cannot, with my mind, all my heart, and very being, exist in a universe where the bad guys win.

So I must do everything I can to see to it they don’t. It’s hard to keep it all straight, as the M.O. of Trump and Republicans has been to throw the entire cavalry to the field within the first 8 days, signing executive orders that impede on my rights as a woman, as someone with a voice, as someone who appreciates the many freedoms afforded to me as a US citizen.

Yet today, I’m a little unsafer. Yes, I’m scared, if I’m being honest. I might look white. But I am female. And I definitely look gay. I’m not safe in Trump’s America.

If you’re not scared, then maybe you should be. Leadership of America now rests in the tiny hands of a malignant narcissist, bringing us ever closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.

Remember to find little joys where you can now. Sleep. Try to be good to yourself and others. Build strength. Find a way to fight and be active. Now is the time. If you find yourself getting tired, just rest; don’t quit.

I recently rewatched V for Vendetta as it recently became available on Netflix. Where is Guy Fawkes now? What day exactly do we mail out costumes to everyone to create an uprising? Do we wait for the curfews? How far does it have to go before we stop giving him a chance and begin shutting him down? Why isn’t he impeached yet???

I still believe in diversity and freedom and liberty. I have no children to protect or look out for. I have no wife to keep a photo of in my helmet as I press on. I sit here, writing to you now like Bastian in the attic of his school while reading the Neverending Story. Perhaps we had to be brought on this terrible journey, to give the empress a new name and save this world. We had to watch the horse die in the swamps of sadness. We loved the damn racing snail.

I sit here, writing to you now like the lesbian who died in V for Vendetta among the masses of emaciated prisoners likened to Holocaust victims in the film, who wrote her life story on a tiny scrap of toilet paper and rolled it up between the bricks of her cell for Natalie Portman’s character to find during her stay in the very same cell.

I have something to fight for, though. I still believe in good. I do not own a gun, nor do I want one. It would defeat the purpose of what I believe in, to fight with a gun. I do not think our government should take away your gun, if you have one. I’d feel a lot safer if you put it away, actually, unloaded, thanks.

I’m on edge tonight, and as I go into tomorrow, and the next day. My defenses are up. Maybe yours should be, too.

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La pura vida

Not too long ago, probably back in November, I was at the gym doing some kettlebell swings, when I felt an unfamiliar crack and unsettling destabilization in my right knee and right ankle. I’m no stranger to knee injuries, but that one seemed relatively harmless, as it just felt like my joints cracked when I was standing up. For about 6 weeks afterward though, things didn’t feel right. I had pain all the way down into my foot, and my hip/IT band were tight, offsetting the instability in my knee and ankle. I’m just now getting to a point where there is less pain. The worst was the cold making everything stiff, especially in the middle of the night when I just needed to make my way to the loo with no lights on, but walking was a feat in itself.

I went to the physical therapist (PT) a few days after my injury, and every two weeks since. I call him a PT because that’s his job, but I really chose this place and him due to his credentials in chiropractic care. I had a chiropractor in San Francisco with certification in active release techniques (ART), and found a chain of gyms with professionals with this same designation upon moving to Seattle. For those that don’t know, ART is a soft tissue/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Once those are loosened, often the movement-constricting issue is resolved, but sometimes a chiropractic adjustment is still needed. Rather than just going in to crack a back or neck with little to no prep work or stretching, the treatment of the soft tissues around the site of constricted movement usually resolves whatever is causing us pain or stiffness. It’s easier on your system and your soft tissue with these techniques. And hey, free mini massages in targeted spots when you go to the chiropractor!

However, the place I found in Seattle near me has a more holistic approach rather than a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am chiropractic adjustment. They provide half an hour of chiro-care time, and half an hour of physical therapy with exercise focused on body areas wherever little nagging pains or tightness happens to be. I have been going every two weeks, 1) because my insurance covers these sessions, and 2) preventive ongoing maintenance means fewer and further between major breakdowns/pains.

In the session just after Christmas, before New Year’s, after my mother and aunt left from spending the holidays with me, something funny happened at the PT. Dr. Donuts, as his name was in school for eating donuts in class, was working out some of my tightness and making adjustments, as he normally does. My body’s response was anything but normal that day.

Maybe it was the stress of entertaining family for the holidays, or the stress of the impending doom scheduled to take over the White House. All of his adjustments tickled, and I giggled. Everywhere he touched me, the stress relief came in the form of laughter. Normally, I crack jokes and make general embarrassing deep, guttural utterances when he adjusts me. That day, my released tension took the form of giggles (much to my dismay.) So much more embarrassing, but very telling about the stress I was holding.

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Luckily, I’ve redeemed myself since, and Dr. Donuts and I continue to have amusing and lighthearted appointments. I’ve noticed many differences for the better just by making sure I go every two weeks. Plus, I feel better about my body when I can move it the way I need to and the way I like. Everybody wins.

I’ve also since been focusing on diet and exercise to build my strength back up after my injury.

Translation:
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I booked a holiday in Costa Rica at a yoga and spa retreat for a week, and I don’t want to embarrass myself in the 2x-a-day yoga classes. There are half day and full day excursions, as well as 3 healthy meals a day sourced with local ingredients. The package also comes with one massage that week, and my room has a sweet view of the central valley. I plan to hit up Poas Volcano, local hot springs, do a coffee tour through the fields that surround the resort, walk through a cloud forest (skywalk) and maybe zipline between trees, and check out the waterfall gardens and butterfly observatory. Factor in to this that I used airline miles I’ve accumulated to cover airfare, and this is an all-inclusive fairly cheap adventure for me. I’m planning to go by myself at this point, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

It feels good having more travel booked this year, since I didn’t quite make it out and about last year. It was a big year, purchasing a home, moving cities, starting a new job, and all of it required my attention on the homefront. But now that I’ve nested sufficiently, it’s time to get out there and have more adventures, take more pictures, and live la pura vida (the pure life).

Pre-existing conditions

It’s been one helluva week, folks. My stress levels have quadrupled this week, and I’m looking forward to a most relaxing weekend to counterbalance what’s happened.

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Cheddar has been wheezing on and off for a little while, but I just assumed it was a cold, and it would pass, since it came and went without incident. Wrong.

I finally took him to the vet, because it wasn’t going away. The vet performed an x-ray to weed out the possibility of pneumonia, and luckily that came back negative. However, the rattling in his breathing was ominous. The vet said he probably had bronchitis, and he had a fever when they checked him out. Further, they thought that since he was having fits that looked like he was just trying to pass a hairball that never resulted in an actual hairball, that he may have feline asthma. It broke my heart, 1) that I had been a terrible cat mom and put off taking him in when he was clearly having trouble breathing, and 2) that he now had a chronic condition that could possibly never go away at just a tender age of 1.5 years old. He’s still just a kitten to me; this couldn’t possibly be affecting him at such a young age. He had been really miserable, and the vet’s findings confirmed it.

He’d been avoiding cuddling, love sessions, treats and even me, by sitting in another room entirely. That hurt. But I understand now just how miserable he’s been. The vet prescribed a child dosage albuterol inhaler, and recommended an aerokat device. It is an apparatus that fits over a cat’s nose and mouth, and connects to the inhaler to deliver a chamber to breathe in the medicine. He was also prescribed antibiotics as well as a steroid that served as an anti-inflammatory for his bronchial tubes and airways.

For the last few days, I’ve given him his medicine every 12 hours from two tiny syringes. I think I get more upset at having to give him his medicine than he actually does. To be clear, he hates it, wiggles, and generally is unhelpful by keeping his mouth locked shut so nothing can get in there. Half of it winds up on his face and me. Our twice a day regime is emotionally draining for me. I think he finally gets, though, that I’m trying to help him, and I bribe him with copious amounts of treats before and after medicine time.

His attitude is improving every day, touching and booping me more, rubbing against my legs, purring incessantly again (he hasn’t even been purring much because it makes it harder for him to breathe.) He’s not so anti-social, and while he’s still got a raspy breathing, he’s starting to feel better. I also spoiled him with a bit of kitty grass and new toys last weekend.

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The second wave of stress after the initial vet visit arrived when I picked up his prescription albuterol inhaler. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think my company will let me designate a cat as a beneficiary on my company health plan. Did you know inhalers not covered by insurance, just in a child dosage, are $80??? I sure didn’t. The aerokat apparatus was another $60. The vet bill was $500. I blew over $600 this week, and realized that I’ll have to possibly pick up $80 inhalers for the rest of his life.

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I beat myself up for not purchasing pet insurance sooner, to help defray future costs. He’s still just a kitten in my eyes, and he’s an indoor cat at that. What could I possibly need pet insurance for? And that’s when it hit me over the head that even if I acquired pet insurance, feline asthma was already in the vet’s records, which means two dirty little words in insurance speak: pre-existing conditions. Most insurers, for humans and pets alike, do not cover pre-existing conditions.

It’s the worst Catch-22 of the entire insurance industry: the whole reason one might sign up for insurance (receiving a diagnosis) cannot be covered by a new policy, if symptoms presented prior to coverage commencing. If someone you love gets diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have health insurance, any subsequent treatments for lung cancer can’t be covered. It’s the heartbreaking paradox that I faced this week.

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When I first brought Cheddar into my life and home, my apartment complex in San Francisco wanted to charge me an additional pet deposit, and monthly pet rent (see my scathing posts about it here.) I managed to find a loophole and a happy ending in registering him as an emotional support animal, thus excluding him from the definition of a pet. I managed to dodge both the additional deposit and monthly rent to an already bloodsucking extortionist property management company. I contemplated reaching out to my GP to pretend like I needed an inhaler, so it would be covered under my insurance. Tried as I could this week, I refused to lie to insurers about his condition, and could find no insurance loophole to have his asthma covered by popular pet insurers. I hated to admit defeat, but it appeared I had no viable options.

Nearing the end of a rapidly fraying rope with which Cheddar would love to play, a glimmer of hope arrived in the form of an email from my vet suggesting an insurer I should look into who, get this, accepts all pre-existing conditions! Cue magical music. Even better, the premiums for just 1 animal under the plan were an extremely affordable $89/year, or $7.41/month! Relief! It fits; I sits.

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All’s well that ends well. I’m hard on myself as a cat mom, so I can’t imagine what human moms must go through every day. I understand now the threshold moms reach every day, where not a single fuck is given: That point of saturation when you simply cannot take anymore, but life’s tennis ball machine keeps launching neon shitstorms at you.

I didn’t birth this furry poop machine with talons, but I love him with all my butt (I’d say heart, but honestly, my butt is bigger.) I don’t care if he’s the only nerd cat with an inhaler. I’m so grateful he came into my life every day, no matter what I must endure and pay to keep him there. He’s my family. He ain’t heavy, he’s my 9.5lb purr factory and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, I have the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s insured and protected, should anything else unexpected arise.

Should any of you ever need pet insurance, and you only come to that conclusion after the neon shitstorm hits, I recommend Pet Assure. I haven’t used it yet, but I can only expect so much if they accept pre-existing conditions when all other insurers don’t.

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Twin peaks

Recently, a quote happened upon my path which summed up my struggle for many years past:

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For so long, I worked in a role I simply didn’t care about. I saw it as a stepping stone, a means to an end. It caused unnecessary amounts of stress. I was a mixed bag of emotions when I left San Francisco and my previous place of employment – there was sadness, yes. There was fear of the unknown, uncomfortability with change after the same role for almost 12 years…

Now, stress at work seems a thing of the past. While what I’m doing and the skills I’m using have not drastically changed, I look at work a lot differently now. When there is a lot of work to get through, it’s all manageable, and it all has purpose now. Even if, in the grand scheme of things, my tasks are not that important, I feel infinitely more valued at a smaller firm. The things I do, however menial, have impact. I’m in an industry in which I’ve studied and practiced my whole life. This is passion, now.

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I feel like I’m living so much closer to my truth. I’m genuinely happy, and have very little about which to complain. I mean, my garbage disposal is broken, my neighbor has been flicking cigarette butts on my patio, and construction is still ever-present at a nearby apartment complex, but on the whole, life is better. I feel myself wanting to write more blog posts, but having less to say. What I mistook for passion before was simply perhaps just a bug under my skin. I had more to write about, when I had more to complain about. I could write about horrible venture capital companies ultimately being to blame for my shitty living situation. I could write about my cat and the adventures in small apartment living with him… Now that I don’t have half as many things to complain about, perhaps it means less stress? Or perhaps I have it backwards: I have less stress, so I see the world with different eyes, and can complain about much much less. It’s an argument similar to which came first, the chicken or the egg… which came first for me, the stress or the stuff about which to write blogs… they are both twin peaks in the same mountain range, I suppose…

I’d even possibly go so far as to say, I might actually be slowing down too much as I grow some roots here… I’m quite content after work going to the gym, or going home to spend quality time playing with Cheddar, Netflixing, and relaxing.

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In some of my downtime, I recently watched the series I seemed to have missed when it first came out, Twin Peaks. It was filmed about 45 mins outside of Seattle, as the falls in the opening credits and the lodge are in Snoqualmie Falls at the Salish Lodge. Shots of the main character’s room were filmed in nearby Woodinville as well, about 20 minutes outside of Seattle. Now, if you haven’t seen that series yet, grab a bowl of popcorn and the Cliff’s notes, cause you’re gonna need them. Just like when I watched Mulholland Drive, I needed help to figure out what the HELL I was watching.

There’s this guy, who apparently dances in the world between worlds, speaking garbled words:

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And of course, the ever-wise log lady:

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Mine does too, lady, mine does too.

But it’s required viewing if you live in Seattle, especially seeing as how I’ve been to the falls twice now with guests from out of town. Here are a couple of photos I took at the falls for your own personal viewing pleasure:

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They’re just far enough away to take in the mountain and tree-filled scenery along the way, and feel like you’ve left the city far behind you. Even cell phone reception is sketchy at the falls, so you know you’re in the sticks.

So overall, life is so good, I really can’t complain… Until the next thing pops up to complain about.

Under pressure

When it comes to matter, as a state of being, we are most familiar with the examples afforded us in high school of ice, water, and vapor: solid, liquid, gas. Each of these states has certain properties which distinguish it from one another. Then, the teachers shake it up and blow your mind with an elusive 4th state of being – plasma. Slow down, crazy. Whoa.

I think people have states of being as well. I have my solid days when I’m the bat and the world is my baseball. I have days when I must be fluid to navigate neuroses and situations, adapt to change, and make things run smoothly. I also have days when I’m spread too thin; I’m everywhere and nowhere at once.

I’m thinking about events in my life for the last couple of weeks, primarily work-focused because, hey, busy season. Some beautiful words come to mind as I reflect on my lessons and experiences: Viscosity, Malleability, Ductility. These are all words I learned in physics class in high school, and they are capabilities of substances to interact with their immediate environment, and what that confrontation is like. They are put through trials and we see what becomes of it – cause and effect. This creates a measure of being. Add to that variations in properties based on changes in temperature, and what we get are very different scenarios of how we are when we’re cool and calm vs. when we’re immersed in hot water.

Viscosity; Vissss-cahssss-it-ee. I love the way it sounds. This is a measure of resistance to stress, and gradual deformation, and is most commonly expressed for a fluid state of being. Or you can think of it like erosion of a solid, if that’s easier to wrap your head around. When fluid interacts with a solid, say a tube or a wine glass, some interesting dynamics occur. When there is a pressure difference between you and those you encounter, there will be tension; it’s the basic concept of friction. If you squeeze wine into a tiny tube, it will slow the flow of the wine down (even if not observable to the human eye). If you pour wine into the nice tumblers, the liquid takes the shape of the solid. With slow motion image capture, things can appear to move slowly at the site of interaction between the opposing forces. At work, that meant client meetings appear docile and the team appears calm. They make it look easy. Under the surface, everyone is scurrying to barely make it by; particles are moving more quickly away from the point of interaction, because they’re not encountering conflict or opposition. It makes sense that if a liquid encounters an opposing force, or an obstacle, it will slow down.

Some fluids are more viscous than others. If Maple Syrup and Moët Chandon had a track and field meet, at the starting line of a naked race, the champagne would obviously move much more freely and faster than the maple syrup, making a bigger mess. If those two are racing peanut butter, we all know who is going home with 3rd place. But if you’re peanut butter, when you get bombarded by stress, then you don’t break down easily. Pros and cons, sweetie darling.

I think the best example of viscosity is how glaciers move. The part of the glacier closest to the ground moves slowest, as it is slowed down by friction. The glacier moves fast at the top and center, where it is not touching the ground. Most people think glaciers are solid ice, but in fact, they are not solid. There area very slow moving liquid with a high viscosity (thicker than peanut butter). Erosion patterns of glaciers are also different because of their interaction with the ground over which they advance and recede. They scoop out rounded valleys, as compared to wind and water erosion which move sediment in different ways.

Malleability refers to how we react under the pressure to deform us, or to change us. Often, this is used to speak of metal and speaks to the ability to bend or be hammered without breaking. Aluminum is a great example of a metal than can be pounded nearly flat and won’t break easily. I admire people like that. In the face of opposition, those people can take a beating and not falter.

Ductility is a property of metals, too; it measures how brittle a material is. This is the ability to be formed into a wire. Like malleability, it’s about being flexible and stretching thin, without breaking. One simply cannot work with those metals (and people) which (who) shatter or break under stress. Copper is a great example of a metal which is both malleable and ductile. It makes great pipes and wires. In metals, electrons can be shared between many atoms, which allow the atoms to slide past each other, without breaking. The bonds within a team are what hold it together when the pressure mounts and the temperature rises.

While this has certainly not been my most challenging or most sleepless busy season in my 11 years of in asset management assurance, it’s certainly been interesting. This year, I learned more about the kind of person I am and want to be when it gets down to brass tacks.

“This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure”
– Queen

When I encounter friction, I slow down a bit, but I find ways to move on and persist. I can take a beating and throw myself in front of an enemy to save my team, because pain is relative. A thousand arrows may barely pierce my skin, but just one to the people I supervise could have a huge impact on their happiness, endurance, and very wellbeing. I don’t always take the path of least resistance, but I try to go with the flow. There is an ongoing struggle between good and evil, and it’s all relative, but I am gonna fight for the good side (at least in my eyes). I have my reasons for fighting the good fight – it’s not the client, it’s not the thrill of battle.

It’s for the people above who give me a safe space to try incredible things, even if I fail. They give me room to fail; in fact, it’s ok if I fail. Just get back up and keep going. Resiliency is the key to success. Just get back up.

I certainly gave at least 100% when it came to my boss and my team. I probably only gave 80% when it came to myself and what I’m truly capable of, if I include a discount for the not-caring-anymore factor. I didn’t have expectations this time around, except to come out alive on the other side and not feel like I compromised on my principles, beliefs, and the core of my being. In that regard, I was not a disappointment. I only missed the gym the one week I was sicker than a dog.

I could have given more, and with hindsight, there are some things I should have known or done better. They were immaterial and small, and perhaps with a more focused attention to detail and desire to do well, I could have totally nailed it. But I still nailed it pretty good this time around. It’s not over yet, as I still have three more projects to get out the door before my excellent Scandinavian European Adventure. But for now, I did well enough for me, and that’s all that counts. I was kind, patient, responsible, caring, and thoughtful. I didn’t extinguish anyone else’s light in order to make mine shine brighter. I think that’s all anyone can hope to be. And I didn’t kill anyone.

‘The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We came here, and we tried. All of us, in our different ways… We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.’ – Deborah Moggach

So today I celebrate the anticlimactic success of being done with the most difficult project this year. Last night, after leaving the client’s offices on a Sunday evening, I stopped on the way home and got a pizza. Treat yo self.

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Jingle bell blues

I’ve been quiet when it comes to writing blog posts this last week. No excuses. I just haven’t written. I’ve been pretty busy with work, and the people on my teams seem to be dropping like flies, so the ability to delegate and get some help has dwindled to the point of nonexistence, for which I find myself picking up the slack.

I just learned someone on one of my teams quit over Thanksgiving, and he didn’t bother to say goodbye or let me know he was leaving. I had spent a lot of personal time coaching him, and getting to know him. Another guy has been split between two intense clients, including one going IPO and ours with a restatement (which in audit circles is a dirty, dirty, horrible word) and has no more candle left to burn at either end. Yet another guy is so sleep-deprived, he lied to a partner’s face on Friday about a trivial detail, really without thinking, and without intention to deceive, yet the lie had no real consequence. It just rolled out. He spent two days beating himself up over it over the weekend, thinking he’d be fired by Monday. He wasn’t. But I can relate – for the years of successes in my industry and chosen profession, I still focus on my fuck-ups a hell of a lot more than I should. I tried to share with him over two home-made cookies in my office yesterday, the things I tell myself once 20/20 hindsight kicks in and I’ve moved on past beating myself up over a fuck-up. I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up which also means I have a lot of experience in pulling myself up by my bootstraps to get over it, too.

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The stress in my line of work is a clear and present danger every single day. I had active stress management techniques while I lived in Sydney that worked. Yet, I somehow find myself more stressed these days back in the US. I’ve somehow let those techniques slide, and my health is being affected. I haven’t had that regular daily gym routine for a long time now. When I could, I would get back into it, but in Sydney it was much easier to manage my workload to make it to the gym every single day. More and more gets piled on me at work these days, and that workload is getting a bit out of control. Thing is, I’ve resisted for long enough and other people have absorbed it before me, that it’s sort of my turn. In a shitstorm, no one stays clean. Or in baseball, if you don’t get your uniform dirty, you’re not playing the game.

It’s not even our busy season. But that seems to be the problem. When the weather channel has predicted that the storm is trekking its course directly on its way to you, you’re forced to batten down the hatches to weather it out, or get the hell out of dodge. People are still trying to quit before we enter busy season, which leaves many of us in the lurch to pick things up when they leave, and board up more abandoned places.

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Not that I blame the quitters. I know this job has a high turnover rate, and busy seasons are not for the faint of heart. In my post The audit lyfe chose me, I’d probably otherwise be one of those quitters in another lifetime, too. I could use this post to vent my frustrations, and there are many, but I’d rather not. I shall use my voice for good, not evil. No one wants to read me whining and I’d rather get that energy out at the gym, than furiously punching unresponsive and complacent laptop keys.

On top of my day job, there are social interactions – oh so many of them, this time of year. I can be social, but being an introvert, those social interactions zap my energy. I don’t harness my chi talking to others; I spend it. I harness it alone, comfortable in my own silence and company, while I recharge doing what I like when I like. It’s just how I am. This time of year, so many holiday parties pepper the calendar. There are also more family obligations – shopping, spending quality time, enduring the 30th time your relative shares *that* story with a smile on your face. For some people, there are financial pressures, about the one-off spending to give someone gifts in the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not saying I’m worried about money myself, but a lot of people are.

The holidays exacerbate (I cannot tell you enough how much I truly LOVE that word) that “normal” daily stress for me. Stress is simply the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. Situations, events or pressures, whether real or imagined, can trigger stress responses. Or said best another way from that lovely LGBT romantic comedy “Imagine Me and You”, what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

I’ll tell you what happens for me: extreme fatigue, headaches, back spasms, digestive issues, decreased ability to concentrate/focus, forgetfulness, anxiety, and depression. It’s not pretty. It’s always a balance, my job and my health. Who knew being an accountant was so dramatic? And why are there no TV shows humorously depicting this???

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So, dear reader, if I can be of any help this holiday season, I’d like to help you recognize your own personal stressors (those things that give you heart palpitations and such). I received an email today from my firm’s preventative health care provider of health exams indicating that common holiday stressors are as follows (my commentary in italics):

  • Traveling: Long lines at airports, delayed flights, crowded airports, heavy traffic, and wintry weather conditions can all contribute to stressful travel. No shit, Sherlock, add to this screaming babies, sneezing/coughing passengers, and of course, perpetual battles for the armrest without making a scene. This year, I avoided this stressor by visiting family in early November, rather than now. *pats self on back and exudes annoying smugness*
  • Finances: Expenses for gifts, parties, and traveling can all add up quickly and result in significant debt that causes stress long after the holidays are over. I luckily do not experience significant financial stress at the holidays, mostly stemming from my life choices of having a salaried job and not procreating up until now.
  • Expectations: Having unrealistic expectations almost always leads to stress and disappointment. Expecting perfection is not practical or possible and can only lead to increased stress. My expectations are already pretty low for most things, so this is not a stressor for me. However, that is not the case for everyone.
  • Over–committing: Attending many activities and events, even if they are fun and enjoyable, can cause individuals to become stressed. It is not practical to attend every holiday event and to also do all the necessary shopping, baking, party planning, gift–wrapping, and card writing. See my post on Joy of Missing Out. Undercommitting, in my opinion, is always en vogue.
  • Family: Every family has internal dynamics and personality conflicts that can lead to tension at any time of the year. This tension may be heightened during the holidays when family members are together for several days and expectations are high. Ok, I’ll openly admit to this one affecting me, mostly via feelers of missing my dad. Refer to my post here for more elaboration on that.
  • Loneliness: Sometimes it is impossible to travel home to be with family and friends over the holidays, and this can lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness. Individuals facing the holidays without a loved for the first time may also experience these feelings. Bon Jovi said it best, “Tonight I won’t be alone, but you know that don’t mean I’m not lonely.” I’m an only child, and an introvert, and I’m totally okay with being alone. Even when I’m not alone though, I feel lonely. I think it comes from not having a significant other on which to dote and focus. No cat to hug out my feelers on. When it gets to this time of year, I want to have a family of my own to spend time with, my chosen family. But it doesn’t exist right now. No life partner, no pets, no accidental kids (that I know of.)

So, as an out person with depression, and knowing that a lot of suicides happen around the holidays (note: do not infer that I am suicidal as I am in fact NOT at the moment), I hope you can learn to identify your stressors, and work to avoid or manage them in coming weeks so you can maximize your holiday enjoyment.

It’s ok to say no, and you have to prioritize your precious time and energy at all times, so doing it at the holidays is no different. This is the time of year when you reflect on what is meaningful to you, so whatever you commit to, do it with purpose and intent. Mean it. Be there.

Don’t underestimate the power of your support system – family, friends, and “other.” The Christmas-time film classic for me, Mixed Nuts, taught me about this. Even if you have to call a hotline for suicide prevention on Christmas Eve – do it if you must. Reach out when you feel yourself drifting or falling. Someone who loves you will catch you – I promise. Ask for help if you need it – you might just be surprised at the overwhelming response you get.

Exercise – even if you can’t manage your daily routine, move your body somehow. Try to eat nutritiously in between the chocolate binges and champagne flutes. Get good sleep, and watch out for your health. Seriously. This can even mean cutting back on coffee and caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, other recreational drugs, and the like. Be kind to yourself. You leave treats out for Santa, so why not make some healthy treats to put in your own stocking?

When you feel yourself getting stressed, just stop for a moment. Have a silent night. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with emotion, responsibility, pressure to get the best gift, or have a perfect holiday experience. It’s also Murphy ’s Law that something will inevitably not go according to plan. That’s ok. Keep your perspective, and remember to enjoy your time, no matter how you spend it. Take time at the holidays to relax, and slow down. The hustle and bustle gets to everyone, and if you don’t stop to rest a bit, it’s easy to get sick at this time of year. Make sure you get enough sleep, too.

This holiday season, I have to work at being more like this:
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and less like this:
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So maybe, like me, you may have to work a little harder than most people right now to manage ever-increasing stress levels. I’ve been neglecting taking care of myself in that way, as exhibited by my literary silence the last week on my blog. I, like you, like everyone, deserve peace and joy during the holidays. I just have to go and seek it, since it doesn’t come straight to me quite so easily as it does for others. I know which panda I want to be – how about you?

To you and yours: a festive and happy.