Things change. Life goes on. It seems every year I marvel at just how different my life is from the prior year. The gulf between now and 2010 when I arrived in South Africa is massive. Wi-Fi was just a thing that didn’t usually work very well, and Johannesburg a scary and ugly place with lots of crime. I didn’t know what a muscle up even was, and I’m not sure I could run 5kms without having to stop and walk.
I’ve somehow been finding myself thinking more than normal about my life in Boston. Maybe it’s the announcement that Dunkin Donuts is coming to South Africa. Maybe it’s the Presidential Primaries. Maybe it’s St Pauls in the news. Maybe it’s just that these extreme summers make me yearn for a nice overcast New England autumn day.
Some things are the same, definitely. I still love to cook, and to eat. I still love animals. I was always a cat person but for some weird reason in the last year or so I’m no longer sure of that. I’m still a workaholic.
I remember when a former boss of mine, Ed Boudrot, posted somewhere online an article he’d read about how no one had just one job. Everyone should be moonlighting at something, was the point. The reactions to it were mixed but at the time I strongly disagreed. I was busy enough with one thing, how could I possibly do two things?
Well at this exact point in time, I find myself doing four. Three of them I was doing last year, and one is new. I’ve not yet been given dispensation to announce it so excuse my vagueness.
Shoot, actually, CrossFit would be a fifth. It’s somewhere between a leisure activity and an activity that requires constant discipline and consistency. A healthy lifestyle is one thing; performing at a reasonable level of proficiency requires a certain dedication.
What do I do when I’m sitting in front of my laptop? It turns out even my own brother didn’t know and was asking me lately as my statements are quite vague if you don’t have the context.
Well, I work with technologies (mostly Wi-Fi-related) that bring together software, telecoms, people, and sometimes advertisers. That’s the most I can dumb it down. I do this from one angle as an independent company that can work as a supplier or subcontractor, and from another angle as part of a multinational telecommunications company. Some days, I am honestly not sure which is more rewarding. I love them both and choosing one would feel like cutting off an arm or a leg.
When I’m not busy trying to disrupt things and people who need to be disrupted, and put spokes in the wheels that need spokes put in them, I volunteer in a trade association for the wireless industry. This is some days very rewarding, like when you can put an idea into the head of the CEO of the regulator or the Deputy Minister for Telecommunications and Postal Services. Or some of the stuff I’ve done in Treasury over the years; seeing all things ordered and in their place makes me very happy. I’m not a CA but I can be as pedantic as one. Some days, it’s a burden. Normally when people act like children, or disappoint you.
I’ve had a lot of disappointment in that arena the last few months and there is nothing but nothing in this life that pains me more than losing respect for someone I hold in high regard.
Something else that pains me is moving backwards rather than forwards. I tore a ligament in my back in January. That’s put a hell of a spoke in the wheel of my training. I also keep getting sick which puts even more of a spoke. At least if well I can do gymnastics, running, rowing, swimming, etc. even if I can’t do Olympic lifting, squat, or load my spine while the ligament slowly does its thing.
I have known for some time that I travel and then I tend to get sick. Yeah, planes carry germs. Not much you can do about that. One thing that I have recently discovered I may want to do something about is sleeping with air conditioning on when I’m in hotels. Seems there’s a correlation between sleeping in aircon and waking up with sore throats, tiredness, etc and it just gets worse from there.
I may not be able to control everything about my lifestyle but I can control how I sleep and what I eat (er, well, normally). The very least I can do is eat paleo when I’m on the road. A little rice may not hurt me when I’m at Wang Thai across from home, drinking a green smoothie every day. But if it’s rice & fish or meat & potatoes every single day …. Well I was just saying it’s a miracle I don’t get scurvy from lack of vegetables!
I was writing about resting. The CrossFit is a form of rest. Sound mind in a sound body, and real “me time.”
Another form of resting is not getting stressed out to begin with, which begins with practicing the discipline of saying no. This enables you to focus on accomplishing a few things rather than spinning yourself around in circles trying to do 30 things at once.
Another form of resting is just doing nothing. My first 3-4 days of holiday in December, all I wanted to do was NOTHING. Like sit and stare at the wall nothing. Not walk to the gorge. Not cook anything. Not hold my head up to have a conversation. Quite sad, really, but I guess at that stage I needed it.
There are various ways to recharge. Meditate, hike, take a bath, play with dogs. I probably don’t do enough of such resting; it seems like a luxury. At least I’ve tuned out to a lot of fun movies recently. That is also nice; to shut off your brain and be amused by, say, Tony Stark. Or Thor. Wonder why the women are always left to the supporting roles?
Another way to rest is seeing if you can more consciously be aware of where you are taking emotional load. I know that I take far more than my fair share of it in a lot of areas. Work, work, WAPA; home is a bit different.
I stumbled across this very long MetaFilter thread on emotional labour and spent a few hours in a row just reading it. Seeing parts of it in me, my past relationships both personal and professional, and pretty much every damn thing around me. Strike that – my current relationships included. I’d been talking about this very thing with a work colleague recently. I told her I didn’t have any time to conceptualise or plan the next few weeks. I could respond but she’d have to do the heavy lifting. Take on the emotional load of figuring out what to do, why, and the emotional load of the project management to push it forward.
I see a lot of this in work, all the time. 40% of the hard work of a project is figuring out what the hell to do: what questions to ask, what data to gather, what success criteria to define. 10-20% is doing the legwork – research, documentation, etc. The other 40-50% is nagging people and following up.
I’m really good at the first part. The second part I’m ok – more than OK if I really like the subject, but I do procrastinate. The third part I am neither good at nor enjoy. It would be very nice to be able to offload the emotional load of having to remember all the things I asked people to do that hadn’t been done. Keeping track of them in my head or a spreadsheet is work!
Anyway. It’s something I’ve dealt with my entire adult life. I don’t actually think it’s a gendered thing although it does tend to align that way in society and in many cases therefore does fall along gender lines. I like to think I’m an equal opportunity critic; I know women who are crap at this and men who are good. What I do also wonder is to what degree we actually place ourselves into these roles where we feel put upon. Does the nurturing woman seek out needy men? Sometimes, maybe, yeah.
But some days I really do wonder – how much more relaxed would I be if I never had to worry if the rent were paid, or the toilet paper were about to run out, or how much salad is left in the fridge, or how long has it been since I’ve asked for the POs, or yep, it’s been two days, it’s time to nag so-and-so again, or is it a VAT return month?
It adds up. All of it. And all the systems in the world are designed to get the to-dos out of RAM and onto the hard disk, but that only works well when your I/O is decent. To record the task, update the task, mark the task off the list is also work. There is no escape!
Is there a solution? I don’t know. If there is I’d pay real money to know what it was.
And with this, I’m off to bed. Early. Because my absolute favourite kind of rest is with my eyes closed. Nothing as luxurious as an afternoon nap; no better way to recover from illness, stress, or low-level burnout than a good night’s sleep! I was hearing recently that you need sleep to recover from intellectual exhaustion the same as from physical. Well, I get enough of both. So I like my 8-9 hours, thank you very much.
- “You’d have to be a real idiot.” “Well, stranger things have happened.” – Ellie & Riaan
- “You can’t invest a million dollars if you don’t have a million dollars.” – Ben
- “May you put spokes in any other wheels that have a spoke coming!” – Mom
- “That is possibly …. The most inefficient thing I’ve seen all day.” – Ellie