I need it to feel longer…

I spent most of the day mulling over how it could possibly have been Monday again already. I suppose it comes fast when the weekend lasts approximately 37 minutes. I made my usual and customary early run to the local grocery store, stopped at Lowe’s to resupply on bird seed, and then made my way home to pull up the drawbridge. It’s the same basic rhythm that’s ruled life here since the earliest days of 2020.

It was a weekend filled with reading, cooking, and generally puttering around the house with the animals. The last person I had to contend with face to face was the supermarket cashier. Unless something slips from the rails, she’ll have been the last person I see “in person” until the next time I wander in to the office. It’s a real thing of beauty if one of your big objectives is not dealing with the general public unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The consequence, it seems, of being entirely pleased and satisfied with the state of things is that these glorious “off” days is the perceived speed at which they pass. Days feel like they’ve become hours – like there’s barely a pause between Friday and Monday.

My question, then, is there some way to consciously slow it down? Do I have to fill the weekend with activities I loathe to give the impression that I’ve gotten a full 48 hours? What’s it going to take to make weekends feel like more than a speed bump on the route to Monday? There must be a secret… and I need it.

The ghost of Jack Bogle…

I’ve been with the same financial advisor for near on 20 years. I’ve had very few complaints, aside, perhaps, from his being not quite as aggressive when picking investments as my own comfort level would allow. I appreciated someone who was “fiduciarily neutral” to act as a sounding board to discuss changes, goals, and long-term planning. Now that he’s set to retire, I have to wonder if I’m willing to peel off 1% a year to build that same relationship with whatever new guy comes in to take over the shop.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve held back a small amount in a separate investment account that I tinker with directly. I’m not a stock picker. I don’t have the time or inherent analytical ability to do deep evaluation on this stuff. I am, however, good at recognizing that over time, a broad index of the whole market has given me returns in that account that are perfectly acceptable. I’ve observed the same function in the Thrift Savings Plan sponsored by our beloved Uncle. Its core funds – again, broad market indexes – grind out ample returns over time. Set it and forget it until it’s time to rebalance.

The account I held with my old advisor has always been something I thought of as a fallback – a failsafe that would prevent one disastrous, misguided decision on my part from wrecking the entire house of cards. I wonder, though, if maybe it’s time I take the whole thing in hand for a decade or so… at least until I need to come up with a plan to move from the accumulation phase to it becoming a cash flowing source of income. With less than a handful of index funds being fed automatically every two weeks, it doesn’t feel like the occasional rebalancing should be something that’s too hard for me to manage. Saving the yearly fees until we reach a point where there’s heavy duty planning to do would also be a nice little bonus.

It’s all easy to say here, but does, however, require a tremendous leap of faith in my own ability not to fuck things up in the absence of a safety net. Maybe what I’m really waiting for is a late-night visit from the ghost of Jack Bogle to reassure me that “Nothing is simpler than owning the stock market and holding it forever.” Yeah. That would go a long way towards easing my mind on this one. 

In the end, they’re all Monday…

It’s Monday. Again. This morning, I reached deep into the cabinet where I store my fucks, but alas those shelves were bare. It’s a sad state of affairs that my increasing lack of fucks to give is even seeping into telework days now. Historically, it’s mainly been a problem reserved to those days when I’m required, for reasons defying logic and common sense, to schlep over to the office and sit with other people all day.

But here we are. Trying to come up with new and interesting ways to say what I’ve probably said 137 times here already. Gods, I’m not sure I could be less interested even if I put maximum effort into it. That’s probably some moral failing in me as a person. Meh. So what?

It’s probably a gift that I don’t have to be particularly interested in something to do it tolerably well. If it were otherwise, we could be in a real spot of trouble here. As it is, I’ll sit here with a dog sleeping on my feet, a cat trying to occupy the keyboard, and tinker about with some PowerPoint slides (while trying not to dwell too much on the four Monday equivalents left to go before my time is wholly my own again). 

From there to here…

Twenty years ago today, at about 8:00 in the morning, I walked into Shoney’s in Petersburg, Virginia having no idea what to expect. Three weeks earlier, I had celebrated Christmas by walking away from my still poppin’ fresh teaching career in the middle of the school year. Between getting my old condo ready to rent, the U-Haul expense, and setting up housekeeping in a new apartment, I was lucky to scrape together enough spare change to be flush enough to order breakfast somewhere so fancy. It was a starving time – the flattest of flat broke I’ve been as an adult before or since.

With that career turning 20 today, it’s been hard not to linger on where it’s taken me – from Petersburg and Richmond, to the Columbia River gorge and The Dalles, Honolulu, DC, Memphis, and finally back home to Maryland and the shores of the Chesapeake. I’ve met some absolutely brilliant minds and more than a few complete and utter shits. A few of the former, I’m lucky to consider dear friends. The latter are unavoidable no matter how hard you try.

No matter where the geography took me, it’s always been a job – the thing I do to pay the bills and afford to do all the other stuff. That’s ruffled the feathers of the true believers whose paths I’ve crossed. It cost me a few points here and there and maybe made me more than one low key enemy… but I have very few regrets. I’ll bitch about Uncle’s batshit crazy, incredibly frustrating, and outmoded way of doing things until the day I die, but it’s been a good living and it’s given me the opportunity to build a good life with not too many compromises. That ain’t nothing.

I’m just a bit shy of 2/3 of the way through this unexpected career of mine. With 20 down and 12 to go, I do find my thoughts turning a lot more frequently to its end than I do to its beginning. It’s nice, though, this one time a year, to sit down and think about the truly bizarre series of events and decisions that led me from there to here.

It’s important to be just cynical enough…

As we rolled headlong into 2023, it was refreshing not to see a myriad of posts about how this was going to be “my year” or “the best one yet.” The plague years of 2020-21 and financial fuckery of 2022 have, it seems, beaten people into submission and given everyone a bit of a more realistic perspective on the world and their place in it.

The date on a calendar, you see, doesn’t mystically change anything. Absent unusual circumstances, things plug along much as they did before. There’s no secret sauce, no matter how badly some want to believe that in a new year, all things are possible.

I know for some of you that’s going to sound too pessimistic, or defeatist, but that’s not in any way how I see it. I didn’t think last year was so bad. Hell, we all know I was absolutely built for life in 2020. If there was ever a moment of living my best life, that was it.

Sure, my take could have some cognitive bias at work, but so far 2023 doesn’t feel all that much different than its immediate predecessors. If I’m wrong, we’ll all find out soon enough – and if everything does slide off the rails, I’ll be the first to admit that I called a bad shot. Still, my plan is to keep doing what I’m doing, on the assumption that nothing we’re seeing at the moment is the herald of the collapse of civilization. If I’ve misread the signs, well, none of what I’m thinking about or doing will make a lick of difference anyway.

If you’re just cynical enough, it’s actually kind of comforting.

The dread…

The dread I’m feeling about tomorrow being the end of my 17-day Christmas weekend is palpable. Without any scientific evaluation, it’s precisely why I think most heart attacks happen at the beginning of the work week. 

Despite none of the plans of the last two weeks playing out as expected, the time has been an absolute delight – seemingly endless hours stretching out surrounded by books, and animals, and range time, and generally doing whatever caught my fancy on any given day or hour. I imagine it’s a sample of how I’d spend my days if it wasn’t necessary to work in order to afford those things.

I’m jealous of those people who, it seems, find fulfillment in their jobs. More power to them. I don’t know that I’ll ever find it more than a rude, 8-10 hour interruption, keeping me from doing the things that are actually of interest. For good or bad, I’ve told every boss I’ve ever had that it’s just a job, not some kind of sacred calling – usually in response to their misguided questioning about my desire to move upwards through positions of “increasing responsibility.”

If I were going to embark on some uplifting holy quest, I promise you it wouldn’t be planning the best gosh darn conference ever, or writing the OPORD with the fewest spelling mistakes, or sending out the most taskers in a single day.

It’s job, not in any way to be confused with actual life. If you’re expecting me to be passionate about it, you’re looking in the wrong place and at the wrong guy. I’ll do it well because that’s why I’m getting paid. The minute I’m finished, though, it won’t even be a passing thought during the rest of my day.

I’ll schlep into the office tomorrow because it’s what keeps the lights on and the animals fed. I might even crack some jokes or make a few snarky comments while I’m there. I’ll create the necessary illusion of being interested and engaged. Uncle will get his money’s worth… but it’s never, ever going to be a place or activity I’ll run to with a smile on my face and song in my heart.

I won’t be home for Christmas…

For 42 uninterrupted years, I woke up on Christmas morning on the western fringes of Allegany County. The arrival of the Great Plague in 2020 changed that. As it stands now, I’ll have only been home for Christmas one out of the last three years.

It’s a combination of factors this year. There’s been non-Covid respiratory sickness for the last two weeks at the old homeplace. Maybe it’s reached the stage of not being contagious, but then maybe it hasn’t. I came back from Christmas last year carrying a bug that unloaded on me on about December 28th… and see no good reason to ask for a repeat performance. Better, I think, to just push the visit out into January or February once everyone involved is healthy.

The second precipitating factor is the appalling weather. At 9:00 this morning, the temperature here was 46 degrees. By 10:00 it had started plummeting towards it’s anticipated low of 9 degrees. It’s not forecast to creep back above freezing for the next four days. Being away from the house for days on end while nature threw some of her worst possible conditions at us, felt like tempting fate unnecessarily. Add in problematic travel conditions enroute and staying put feels like even more of a no brainer.

Finally, and perhaps the most compelling factor, is that a certain feline member of the household came back from the vet earlier this week being diagnosed with a double ear infection. We’re treating it with drops twice a day. He’s just barely tolerating my administration of the drops. I know his normal sitter would have given it the old college try, be she only comes in once a day and there’s no guarantee he’d have been cooperative. Sitting tight ensures he’s getting the full course of meds as scheduled. Even surrounded by the comforts of my childhood home, I’d have inevitably spent the entire visit fretting that I should be doing something more for him.

It’s a disappointment, of course, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not catastrophic. I’ve got a ham to bake and made a trip out yesterday to pick up a few missing ingredients to whip up the appropriate side dishes for a proper Christmas dinner. It’s decidedly “less than” the normal traditions of Christmas, but it still won’t suck. 

The other spooky season…

I know everyone leads hard on October as the spooky season, but I’m going to need to give at least partial credit to mid-December as well. Oh, sure, it’s not spooky in the conventional sense, but the middle to end of December is the one time of year my personal email clears out. As of last night, there’s not one single receipt, shipping confirmation, or any information at all about items purchased, in transit, or being returned. If you happened to be familiar with my online buying habits, you’d know just how unusual that is.

It’s the time of year when my online orders dry up. It’s less because of not needing anything than due to the logistics of this time of year. Delayed orders, out of stocks, items lost in transit, abnormally long shipping times, and then the ever-present weirdness of having UPS, FedEx, or Amazon drivers stumbling around the yard in the dark well after I’ve gone to bed on those occasions when a package happens to get through.

Unless it’s something urgent, my proclivity for online buying is momentarily paused. Whatever I need for the time being should be easy enough to lay my hands on locally. Even so, it’s a sure bet that my Amazon cart will be full to the electronic brim by the time I get around to getting back to normal operations sometime around the first of the year. For now, I’m willing to wait out the worst of the Christmas rush. I’m sure it’s just a weird personality quirk, but I’d rather hold off on ordering completely than spend any bit of the next week or two raging about shipping and logistics.

So yeah, whatever else it may be, the back half of December feels like its own unique flavor of spooky season. 

Tossing the schedule…

As the end of the year bears down on us like an onrushing bus, I’m strongly leaning towards temporarily abandoning the normal schedule.

I give it the good old college try to get a post up here every weekday of the year. With the exception of federal holidays that I sometimes forget are weekdays, I mostly hit the mark. You’ve probably noticed that at least a fair amount of what ends up on these pages is at least tangentially related to work. Given that we’re about to hit a two week stretch when work will be the very last thing on my mind, there’s likely to be a dearth of quality source material from that front. If I happen to also mostly ignore the news, well, there’s no telling what, if any, ideas might percolate. 

I don’t think I’ll be taking a two-week break – the chances of me shutting up for 17 days in a row is absolutely nil – but I do expect the final two weeks of the year will be a time when I toss the schedule completely out the window and let posts fall when and where the motivation strikes.

With all that said, don’t be surprised come December 19th if you don’t see a spanking new post hitting every night promptly at 6:00. I promise you’ll still get a healthy dose of angst and hostility over the ultra-long Christmas/New Year’s weekend, but I don’t want to commit myself to any kind of a schedule. It’s my longest break of the year, after all, and I fully intend most of it to be a true break from any kind of expected performance. 

Taking full advantage…

It’s finally Friday night after what felt like an exceptionally long week. I’m feeling tired, but mercifully not sick. So, I’ve got that going for me, anyway. 

I’m sure there are those of you out there with grand and glorious plans for the weekend. Good on you. Me? Well, all I really want to do is sink down into a nice comfy chair with a good book and a decent gin drink and lose myself for a little while. Mercifully, I can do exactly that for just about as long as I can stand it over the weekend. Aside from laying in the weekly groceries, there’s nothing on my “must do” list. 

I intend to take full advantage of the situation… So, if anyone needs me, please don’t.