What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The confidence of youth. I’m not saying that I don’t still have a ragingly high level of confidence in my own abilities, but that confidence has been tempered with the experience of so many things that should be simple to do becoming a giant triple-stacked shit sandwich right in my hands. Occasionally it’s because of something I either did or failed to do, but more often it’s because of outside influences over which I have little or no control. Occasionally now I see a young project leader, eyes bright with possibilities, charge through a meeting as if nothing could possibly go wrong. I chuckle to myself, but I also feel a little bit sorry for him because I already know what the next act looks like. Experience is a harsh teacher and while those occasional flops have made me better over time, every now and then I miss the swaggering confidence of youth and a time when I was slightly less cynical about everything.

2. Things beyond my control. Believe it or not, I don’t think of myself as being much of a control freak. Most of life is pure reaction to those things we don’t foresee or exert any control over. While willing to accept that I can’t possibly control for and plan against every conceivable circumstance, I do like to imagine that I can bring some semblance of order to my little section of a chaotic world. I’m also enough of a realist to know that order begins to break down just as soon as it’s established and keeping a veneer of control in life takes all manner of effort on a pretty consistent basis. Knowing that there are a multitude of things beyond my control and being willing to accept those things just now is feeling like more of a tall order than usual. Maybe I need to sign up for some kind of master class in Zen and the fine art of acceptance.

3. Not being surprised. I’m a bit befuddled that anyone is somehow surprised that there’s a set of rules for the wealthy and powerful and another for the rest of us. It hardly seems like news that a long time politician “somehow” managed to get away with actions that would cause the average employee to lose their job, be barred from future employment, and possibly go to prison. While I’m certainly as outraged as anyone at the lies, deceit, and in my opinion outright criminal behavior foisted upon the public by a high profile politician, I can’t for a moment say that I’m surprised that the official consequence of those behaviors is absolutely nothing. If this is the kind of thing that surprises you, there’s a fair chance you’re just not paying close enough attention to the world.

In the rigging…

I’ve been out of sorts for the better part of the last month. I know that’s coming through loud and clear in my writing (and my lack of writing for that matter). Even my OCD has taken a bit of a holiday as I let things pile up around me. Few of you have ever been in my home, but take my word for it that finding things out of place is an extraordinary rarity. I end every fall with some kind of minor funk, so it’s not unusual or unexpected at least. Top that off with a couple of other issues and let’s just make the blanket statement that October and November this year have been particularly unkind. I wouldn’t say I’ve been a wreck, but I’ve definitely been way, way off my game.

But a funny thing happened at 6:43 AM yesterday morning. Not “haha” funny, but still. That’s when I felt my confidence return. I don’t mean a little bit. I’m talking about physically feeling it pour back into me like it was dumped out of a bucket. And then it was just there; like it has always been in the past.

I don’t know where it went, or what brought it back, but for the first time in longer than I want to admit, I’m feeling like myself again. I’ve got a smirk in my lips, a glint in my eyes, and more than a few sarcastic comments on my tongue. As it should be when all is right with the world.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the rigging nailing my colours to the mast.

It keeps me up at night…

I’m not generally given to bouts of fear, but sometimes, lying in bed, late at night, I think some moments of trepidation are unavoidable – a product of a brain churning through a 100 different scenarios each more unpleasant than the last. Perhaps that’s the curse of the educated class; that we know the things we know and are thereby unable to live lives of oblivious happiness.

There are hundreds of possible “bad things” that one can reasonably fear. There are the perennial favorites: war, famine, plague, pestilence, dogs and cats living together. Then there are the more personal fears. Is tonight the night the “big one” is going to hit the New Madrid Fault? Is Uncle Sam going to open his doors on March 5th? And what could I have done to be better prepared? While those are quite real possibilities, that’s not the one that wakes me up at night.

The one that gets me every time is the fleeting notion that this 30-day hiring freeze could easily be extended through the end of the fiscal year – or beyond. Even more vexing is the thought that I’d then be sidelined here in Memphis indefinitely. It’s not an unreasonable thought. Should Congress pass a Continuing Resolution at or less than the funding level during FY10, I fear it’s altogether possible that the human resource managers at echelons above reality could decide that hiring and transfers are not currently in the best interest of the government due to the costs involved and in an effort to attrit the workforce into its desired size and composition. That would mean another six months marking time awash in a rising tide of disinterest and discontent.

To have gotten so close only to be turned away now would be a hammer fall. Even my self-confidence has its limits.

“Other…”

No one should be surprised that I watched the debate last night and now I’ve watched the morning spin on all three of the major news channels. I’m actually a little disturbed by the repeated line from the talking heads that last night was a contest between “two great politicians at the top of their game.” Were they watching the same debate I was? At best, both of them seemed tepid in their responses. Had one of them stepped up and presented an air of command, of certainty, I think this election would basically be over. Is a little passion too much to expect from those who would be king? Rather than increasing my interest in either of the candidates, it made me more likely to check the “Other” box on the ballot. The trouble with democracy is that the people tend to get the government they deserve. Given my level of confidence in the people to make informed decisions, I’m not optimistic.