What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I try to read for an hour before going to bed every night. It’s a habit I’ve been in for years. Lately, though, my eyes are so tired and scratchy that it’s impossible to do comfortably. Since I regularly have my eyes checked and there’s no apparent problem with them, I can only assume the amount of screen time, reading, and writing I do during the rest of the day is catching up with me by the time I’m ready to kick back with a few chapters of the book of the moment.

2. Character assassination. When you attack someone’s character, I have no idea how you can reasonably be surprised when they push back at you hard. Accuse me of something I didn’t do and you’re damned right I’m going to get vocal about it… but when it’s being fronted by holier than thou members of Congress with their 16% approval rating, well, they deserve every every cross word and glare sent in their direction. Being told to defend yourself by proving a negative in the absence of any actual evidence against you has got to be an immensely maddening situation. Reacting with feigned shock when a man speaks out in his own defense in that situation is appalling.

3. Rain. For Christ’s sake can we just get a 48 hour break from all the damned rain. The back yard is such a mud pit that I’d be better off opening a brick-making factory than pretending to even think about fall yard work.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Refinance. I’ve had two deals blow up in the last 45 days. One because of obscure federal regulations governing how many condo units have to be owner occupied and one because the appraiser used a nearly-unrelated set of comps and low-balled the house value. So now basically I’m out $850 with nothing to show for it but a shit ton of paperwork and the exact same rates with which I started the process. Some days it’s not at all hard to imagine why people don’t trust, like, or particularly want to do business with large financial institutions.

2. Party Planning. I’ve once again assumed my mantle as supreme party planner. Feel free to talk to me about event registration, catering, party tent reservations, name badges, parking, shuttle bus service, cash bar socials, menu planning, and all of your party, wedding, or other event needs. When I walked out if the gym at dear old Frostburg State with a shiny new social science degree in hand this is not at all the future I had in mind. Let my life experience serve as a reminder to you all that just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you’ll have any interest in doing it. But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and spend a few months each year doing something you loath. It’s sure it’s character building or something.

3. All the other things. Perhaps capping off the list of annoyances this week are all the small things. That’s what life is made up of, really. The day-to-day, moment-to-moment instances. Usually they pass by unnoticed and unremarked… until they all start fraying at the same time. This has been one of those kind of weeks, where even the easy somehow makes itself hard to do. If I make it through Friday afternoon without verbally expelling what’s really on my mind at anyone I’ll consider it one of my greatest personal and professional accomplishments to date.

A case of the feels…

We’ve been wandering down the path of politically correct, overly sensitive molly coddling for most of my adult life. I was lucky I guess to catch the tail end of the last generation that was allowed to compete, win, lose, and sometimes feel badly about ourselves. Now we all get trophies just for showing up. We’re told that good enough is ok. And for God’s holy sake we must walk on every eggshell in order to avoid saying or doing something that someone, somewhere may find in any way offensive or objectionable.

So here’s my open invitation: If you ever find yourself in a conversation with me, just spit out whatever is on your mind. Don’t feel any need to mince your words or to use euphemisms to “soften the blow.” Be honest and forthright in your meaning – you know, the way our parents taught us. You’re not going to hurt my feelings because we’re grown adults and anywhere within my (admittedly limited) span of control you’re allowed – even encouraged – to have an opinion different than mine. On some level I might even find some of those opinions offensive. That’s ok too. Having your ideas challenged builds character. And believe it or not, having character and the courage of your convictions use to be considered a good thing.

Not now, though. What we want now is a world where we all think the same things, feel the same way, don’t rock the boat too hard, or heaven forbid, have an original idea that doesn’t march in lock step with whatever passes for the mainstream. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t dare express an opinion that isn’t approved, packaged, and sanitized for your goddamned protection.

There was a time we did great things in this country. It was a time when we were dared to dream heroic dreams… but it was also a time when we didn’t worry quite so much about bumps, bruises, and skinned knees – and when having a bad case of the feels wasn’t considered a mortal wound.

Blank page…

Some days no matter how hard you squeeze, the old brain just doesn’t have anything to give. That’s when you end up with one of these rambling posts that doesn’t seem to say anything and ends without ever coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Maybe it’s not true for every blogger, but for me, I don’t think there’s any greater enemy than the blank page… except maybe when that blank page coincides with a completely empty bucket of ideas. Maybe I should just embrace the nightmare and take a day off every now and then, but I can’t shake the feeling that it would be cheating somehow. Even a habit as deeply engrained in my schedule as blogging every day enjoys a perilous place on my much-valued daily schedule. Miss it for a day, or two, or five and God only knows when I’ll get it back in the lineup. One of the many joys of being a creature of habit, I suppose.

So yeah, there’s plenty going on in the world, but to continue with what seems to be the theme of the week, the worse the news gets, the less I care about the world and the more I care about me and mine. Maybe that’s a character flaw… or maybe it’s a thousand generations of human history screaming that the best any of us can really do is making right by our own circle of family and friends. Then again, I’m just a half-assed blogger so you might want to take that with a grain of salt. I, on the other hand, will be taking it with a cool refreshing rum drink.

Reader’s remorse…

Any serious reader will probably know what I’m talking about here. It’s that moment when you get to the end of a book or a series and realize that you’re going to miss the characters you’ve spent the last few days or weeks with. It doesn’t happen with every book you read, but some of them get inside your head and you devour a hundred pages in a sitting. Before you know it, you’ve read all there is to read. It leaves an inexplicable hole, because even though they only exist on paper – or as electrons in this case – you were invested in these characters; in how their stories turned out, or didn’t. However briefly, you shared extremely intimate moments with them (on the can or before going to sleep for example).

I’m not going to tell you what I’ve spent the last two weeks reading because that would call for the immediate and permanent revocation of my man card. Suffice to say, I’m casting around looking for a new fictitious family to occupy my free time. Thankfully there are a few movies that might help take the edge off my separation anxiety. They won’t be as good as the book, of course, but still it’s better than going cold turkey.

Sure, soon enough I’ll find a biography of Churchill or a tome on the Federalist period to capture my attention, but just now my sense of loss is too raw and bloody to even look seriously at another book. It would feel like I was cheating somehow. So yeah, there’s your unscheduled glimpse of the weirdness that goes on in my head when I don’t think anyone is paying attention.

Still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

If you would have told me back in August when I decided it was time to pull the plug on my Memphis experience, that I’d still be firing off resumes on the first day of spring in the following year, I simply would never have believed you. The irony of coming here in the first place was that I’d alwayherdsrd that getting back to the DC area was easy because no one from outside the area had any interest in going there. That may or may not be the case, but I’ve found that in most cases for jobs inside the beltway the typical number of resumes submitted for consideration is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 with some running north of 500. I’ve got a healthy level of professional self confidence, but the odds get pretty long when you start talking about numbers like that.

There are still a couple of “maybies” out there that I haven’t written off yet, but it’s definitely slot slower going than I remember the last job search being. The department’s hiring freeze extending over the last two months, of course, hasn’t helped. The personnel office points only to the most recent memo that calls for the freeze to be reevaluated by April 1st to decide if it will be extended or to announce how hiring might be handled moving forward. It’s not reassuring that the hiring system will get back to something approaching situation normal any time soon, even if it starts up again in April. With a two month backlog and a notoriously slow process to begin with, things could be ugly for the forseeable future.

There doesn’t seem to be much to do now other than to continue piling my name onto as many heaps as possible and hope it turns up at the top of one of them. The federal government’s a big place and something will come along eventually, but this exercise in patience is wearing very thin. In hindsight, I’m sure this experience will be character building or something, but in the moment it’s enough to drive a man around the bend.