Category Archives: Life

Living and wellbeing

Unresolved

I wrote an article in December 2013 which was kind of vaguely about new year resolutions. As per tradition, I’m back two years and seven months later (?!) to try and assess how I did.

Be less like my father
I may have made some small steps on this. At least I’ve left my wife before getting a girlfriend – the other way around to how he did it. And I’ve not alienated my offspring yet either. Oh and I don’t have a bullshit consulting company of which I am the only employee.

Fix my relationship
Whoops! See above. In fairness we tried, did counselling, but could only agree that separation might help. It did – we get along much better now we’re living apart.

I mentioned the kid before – he is handling it well although he doesn’t ask about it much and either doesn’t really understand what mom and dad living in separate homes means or is internalizing it for future analysis/heartache.

Get a doctor’s finger up my ass
I never did this, but my current feeling is that my low libido was near enough 100% attributable to relationship issues. I at least played a (very small) part in bringing libido-related medical issues into the spotlight.

Organize myself better at work
I wish I could remember exactly what level my work organization was at when I wrote the original article. I’m still not happy in this area though, which is the important thing. My company is not very advanced with useful technologies plus we still have cultural problems that haven’t been addressed.

I should probably do a recounting of how things are at some point.

Get therapy
As noted, I’d already committed to this when I wrote previously. I’m not sure it helped me that much. Maybe I picked up a few things without realizing it. There was certainly no revolution in my thinking as a result of therapy.

Take more prescription drugs
Score! However, earlier this year I decided the drugs were not doing enough for me. I should have consulted my doctor, which would presumably have led to trying out another drug (as I was already on the maximum dosage of what I had) but instead I slowly came off the drugs and that was that.

I don’t know if my judgment was sound, but clearly I should have taken advice. I’m okay though – mood swings and anger management issues are just a part of life, right? I’m getting fewer anger issues now that I’ve cut out trigger activities (gaming).

Exercise more
I’ve definitely improved this, and leaving my wife has allowed me to modify my routine in ways which make exercise hard to avoid. Exercise really does make a good start to any day, just for the sense of achievement it gives.

Generally fix myself
While I may not have demonstrated it here, my mission to be nice to people is progressing. I love helping people at work, although I have days (don’t we all?) when it feels like I can never do enough and people take advantage of my need to be useful.

And in the world of online dating I’ve also tried to be nice, even when those I speak to don’t seem that interested in me or when they want what I’m not prepared to give, I try to keep up a friendly conversation and understand their motives.

Read more
I’ve had no time for fiction and I’m still struggling to keep up with online reading. Having given up gaming I’ve found more time and have started reading self-help books, but I admit it’s a discipline I struggle with. I have a few books lined up though, and maybe will come back around to fiction in time.

Write more
Another whoops, although this is not the only place I’ve been writing. This is, however, the only place I share candid stuff like this.

Finish watching “Angel”
Unsurprisingly I did that, and am currently on another round of it. Shortly before leaving my wife I actually gave up television, so now only watch DVDs (on a monitor – I don’t even own a TV) and I tend not to get into new stuff although I’ve purchased a couple of movies this year. I kind of miss the programs I was following but I also realize that my life is unaffected.

What’s actually a bit sad is how I’m seen as weird for not being interested in TV.

Dissent or disagreement?

I recently came across this great article about how to disagree with your boss. I realize I’ve been ‘dissenting’ quite a lot recently. As I’ve been focusing on efficiency/productivity (with help from the guys over at Asian Efficiency), I’m more aware than ever of the problems all around me.

I’ve spoken many times to my boss about professional integrity and how it often contradicts how senior management behave. Recently her own very supportive boss (who would fight for his team) was replaced by a disinterested boss (who already has another team) and now she’s afraid to make waves. She’s admitted this herself, and it’s darn frustrating when she passes down senseless decisions that she’s too scared to challenge.

Cut staff to save (no) money
We were given the opportunity to challenge a restructure in our department which would create more high paid managerial staff and fewer ‘worker bees’, move work around, maintain/increase silo working and ’empower’ staff to challenge inefficient working practices. All of this was based on a business case that basically said “this will make us a better service” with nothing to support such a bold statement.

Of course I put forward a challenge making my dissent quite clear. That probably didn’t help my relationship with my boss, who was a key contributor to the business case. My proposals to tweak the restructure to address some of the issues highlighted above were ‘carefully considered’ (but never discussed with me) before being rejected almost in their entirety.

Despite losing quite a few staff, due to poor cost modelling it turns out that no saving has been made…

Time-saving ideas
Following the ’empowering’ element of the restructure, and driven by necessity due to losing staff, we’ve cut down on what we do in my team. We used to do a lot of checking of various things because every once in a while we would prevent something bad from happening. We’ve now recognized the risk as minimal and abandoned that kind of checking.

Bring on the auditors, and a draft report that says we need to do more to reduce risk. With my tongue slightly in my cheek I suggested the wording should be “completely eliminate risk”, thinking they might see some sense, but instead they used the revised wording in their final report! Having been an auditor I know that low risk is fine. *Sigh*

People just aren’t seeing how much time they waste. The other day there was a whole conversation about how something might go wrong with a particular thing and could someone check this, check that etc. In not so many words I asked them not to bother me until there was actually a problem, at which point it would be worth my time. I also pointed out how someone appeared to have spent a fair bit of time looking for possible problems when it would have taken little more than a minute (by running a program) to hit any actual problems… or not.

Generally, time-saving ideas are going over people’s heads, as the rest of this article perhaps demonstrates.

The selling game
Management has invested in a sales training ‘game’. The company selling it has great reviews and it sounds like it really works for sales teams. Did I mention that our department is not a sales team? We’re back office support to internal ‘customers’. We don’t sell our services.

My suggestion that there may be more useful ways for us to spend our time has been taken rather personally by my boss, even though it wasn’t her idea and she is also not convinced that it will be of any use. She basically can’t handle dissent, because she’s paralysed by fear for her job.

Administrative nightmares
As if we don’t have enough actual work to do, HR decided that line managers must record sickness as soon as an employee calls in, rather than them logging it when they return. It’s a (daily) task that isn’t that onerous I admit, but add it to all the other tasks like this that are not part of our productive output and you can lose a lot of productive time.

At the same time as telling me I must comply with this decision, my boss is chasing me for an overdue report. “Lucky no one’s off sick today,” I commented.

What do you do all day?
Department managers were recently asked to report what they and their teams actually do, including time allocations. My first attempt at this was rejected because I included general management/supervision and administration time for myself and my deputy and they “didn’t like it”. Fortunately there’s been no further feedback after a number of weeks, probably because the people tasked with reviewing the data have no understanding of the tasks I’ve listed, making this yet another waste of productive time.

Information technology fail
Me and the IT department have a difficult relationship. It doesn’t help that they seem to employ helpdesk staff straight out of kindergarten. I’ve developed a few in-house solutions that my team support, and we also support some of the purchased solutions. Obviously we rely on the overall IT infrastructure and the administrator rights that only IT possess.

So when the infrastructure fails, we experience a knock-on demand for our support service. And while I don’t technically have permission to email all users, I know a workaround. Having experienced previously the reluctance of IT and subsequent delay in sending out a message on behalf of my team, I took matters into my own hands and got an email out quickly to provide advice for users before they all started calling for help, saving everyone time (including IT as users often call them in error) and allowing us all to be more productive/efficient.

As you might have guessed by now, my actions did not result in praise for my initiative and quick action. Instead I was confronted (or rather my boss was) with an angry email from IT management. Strange, as I’d resisted the urge to start my global email with “So, IT have f*cked up again…”

Meanwhile, IT are keeping quiet about the fact that the network is not up to speed and getting calls from exasperated users like me when they could easily issue a global email that would reduce the demand on the helpdesk. My boss is too scared to respond to the criticism from IT, and again takes my dissent as a personal disagreement with her and doesn’t recognize the effects on productivity.

Isn’t depression funny? (Part 1)

“The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin” is a British TV sitcom written by David Nobbs (based on his book) and starring Leonard Rossiter as Reggie Perrin. At 46, Reggie is bored with his everyday suburban life and work to the point that he starts sabotaging himself before faking his suicide with the intention of starting a new life.

 

Reggie, while making me laugh outwardly, leaves me with a sense of unease at the proximity of his circumstances (and their mundanity) to my own. Reggie essentially rebels – he becomes brash and brazen, even sparking an affair with his secretary which he cannot consummate through guilt. All of this spurs him on to fake his suicide. But starting a whole new life just makes him yearn for his old life.

By his various actions it is evident to that Reggie is battling with his mental health. This isn’t tackled directly in the TV show. The (first) book is much darker than the TV version: while not spelt out, Reggie’s depression is much more evident in my opinion. The book is less humorous because of it. The book even delves into other characters; mainly Reggie’s plump married daughter (Linda) who is lusted after by her Uncle (Jimmy – Reggie’s brother-in-law). Linda is disgusted by Jimmy, yet she allows him to have sex with her several times. He apologizes every time and every time she says it mustn’t happen again. Both are in unfulfilling relationships, both clearly acting out of depression. The darkness and desperation evident in the lives of Linda and Jimmy is probably why that part of the story didn’t make it into the TV version.

The TV show gives only brief coverage of Reggie’s attempts to find himself after the fake suicide. The first book goes into more depth, showing us various personas that Reggie tries on. He settles into a new life as a gardener but before too long he is leaning back towards his old life, realizing how much he misses his wife, Elizabeth. A chain of events leads to him attending his own memorial service as a long lost friend of Reggie’s. In that persona he is introduced to Elizabeth, who appears to fall for the persona but we find out later that she recognizes him (surprise!) and has decided that if he wants to not be Reggie any more it doesn’t matter to her if they can be together.

We are able to continue exploring Reggie’s condition in two subsequent seasons of the TV show (and accompanying books which I’ve not read). He continues to be self-destructive, firstly (season 2) with a business (Grot) selling totally useless/awful items which – against all odds – is a huge success, and then later (season 3) starts a commune which unsurprisingly fails. At the end of season 3, Reggie has no choice but to return to a job very similar to the one he left in season 1, and his realization of this sets him planning another fake(?) suicide.

I often think of one of Reggie’s final scenes. He is commuting to work on a crowded train, saying “Oh God” over and over in a tone of despair. His fellow commuters look at him not with sympathy but with suspicion. Some know his face – some even know his name – but none can bring themselves to offer a kind word or gesture.

No, depression is not funny.

(This post is labelled as “Part 1” to guarantee that there will never be a “Part 2”!)

Migraines and memories

My wife probably already thinks I’m crazy. So, when I stopped taking my medication, I started hiding things from her. This is not without good reason as I complained about stomach pains at the end of December and her first thought was the medication, not the effect of Christmas, or Excessmas as I think it should perhaps be called.

Driving to work
This only happened once, in early January, on a morning when I was somewhat consumed by anger over a not-insignificant problem. (Basically, someone broke a door. It was probably due to break, and if I’d broken it myself I would still have been a bit mad. But someone else broke it.)

Anyhow. I think I was driving with due care and attention. The point is, I realised that I had passed my turn at a junction. I just didn’t change lanes to make the turn, didn’t notice a thing. I was in automatic. Less than 30 seconds after the junction I recognised where I was.

Parking
Following any required u-turns(!) I finally arrive at work and an immense and sprawling public car park. The earlier you arrive, the closer to the office you get to park. My arrival times are somewhat erratic (even without accidental detours) so each day when I finish work I have to remember where my car is. This has not been a problem until lately – several times I’ve walked past my car towards the far end of the parking area. This is either because I think I parked that far away (I probably did the day before) or because I’m not thinking at all. The latter is a bit like the driving incident, I guess – I’m distracted by something.

Migraine
I am a most fortunate migraine sufferer, as I don’t get the headache part. This is a relief as all accounts I’ve heard of migraine headaches convince me that it would be unbearable to someone of such a weak disposition as I. (And I would be unbearable too.)

My migraine is visual only – an ‘aura’ that I don’t think has ever lasted more than an hour, even when untreated. I had my first one under medication, and my latest one a few weeks after stopping the medication. My optometrist confirmed that my eyes are fine and suggested the migraine diagnosis, and my nodding-doctor agreed.

The treatment, by the way, is rest. Specifically I need to drag my eyes away from screens and other sources of brightness. Even adjusting screen brightness and contrast isn’t enough.

Rest isn’t always feasible. On the latest occurrence I really needed to get an email out. Typing with everything feeling swimmy and out of focus is not something I would recommend. Next time this happens I hope I remember that I then drove home still feeling some of the effects, which probably would not have been the case if I’d rested.

Distractions
Distractions are getting to me in all situations (eg My inbox will not be the boss of me!). I admit I often distract myself, or make excuses not to just get on with it! Maybe that’s why I often feel that nothing ever gets done.

Resolutions or revolution?

So on reading this very wise article, I thought I’d set wisdom aside and come up with my own list.

  1. Be less like my father
  2. Fix my relationship
  3. Get a doctor’s finger up my ass
  4. Organize myself better at work
  5. Get therapy
  6. Take more prescription drugs
  7. Exercise more
  8. Generally fix myself
  9. Read more
  10. Write more
  11. Finish watching “Angel”

Be less like my father

Just to be clear here, my father is an a**hole. And I am very much like him – shall we say it’s my default setting. Whether through being around him growing up, or pure genetics, I have a very low tolerance for imperfection, including my own. I need to learn to chill and be less of a perfectionist.

Fix my relationship

Assuming it can/should be fixed – clearly the point above is a key part of this. I’m not sure I would want to try the fix if not for my kid.

Get a doctor’s finger up my ass

This is not something I want, but need to do for my health. There’s a possibility that issues in that ‘area’ are impacting my libido and so can help with the previous point. And I somehow know that my doctor will want to get his finger out for me before he does anything else.

Read more here.

Organize myself better at work

It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by competing demands. I delegate but need to do that more, prioritize and use tools to help make sure important things don’t get forgotten.

I’ve done some work on this already.

Get therapy

This is achievable as I’ve already committed to a therapist. I’m not sure if therapy will work for me, but I need to give it a good try for the sake of my family.

Take more prescription drugs

I’m not rattling yet. This is a joke, really, as I’d rather take nothing at all. While what I’ve been taking has been relatively small doses, it’s done nothing for me. I should consult my doctor and follow his advice. I should, but I’ve actually stopped seeing him even though I’ve run out of medication. Very unhelpfully, my beloved suggested my stomach pains yesterday could be withdrawal. Probably she’d also link my lightheadedness today to my undrugged state. It certainly can’t be anything to do with the holidays (altered diet, general over-indulgence in food and alcohol, late nights) now can it? Of course, if it is the drugs, that’s just another reason for me to stop using.

Exercise more

They say a sedentary lifestyle contributes to depression. While I don’t see it, I do need to shed some weight and I realize I’ll feel better about myself if I’m fitter.

Generally fix myself

While the preceding points are the headlines, there’s more detail to be thrashed out. One More Knight is on a mission to be nice to people, but he is not a blazing success. In fact, best intentions have backfired on me. That’s a story for another day, perhaps.

Read more

I don’t read much but do enjoy fiction, which takes me to another place and is arguably better than just staring at the TV. I also have some non-fiction which can be educational or can generally widen my horizons. There’s also lots of interesting stuff online and I tend to add stuff to Pocket faster than I read it.

Write more

I’ve found writing a good way of expelling things that otherwise roll around in my head and can keep me awake at night or distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing.

Some of those things I expel can be published as interesting blogs. Others cannot.

Finish watching “Angel”

Okay, so I’ve got to have an easy one, right? Only three seasons left, although I’m also watching the last two seasons of Buffy.