Most nights by the time I get home I have at least the kernel of an idea about what I’m going to write about that night. Usually it’s a few words dashed out on the back of a post it note, or a voice memo on my phone, but that’s enough to get me started. Tonight is one of those other nights – the nights when despite being busy from dawn until an hour before dusk, I don’t have a single decent thing on my mind.
You’ll have to trust me when I say that’s not a function of just having been bored today. The fact is today was probably one of the busiest days I’ve had in the last few years. None of it was particularly hard work, but everything I touched was time consuming – understanding the issue, talking to the right people, making sure the right answers go to the correct places; put another way, it was an all-star day of coordinating, integrating, and synchronizing. It lasted forty minutes longer than my usual day, could have lasted another fifty minutes past that, and when I left I still wasn’t close to finished.
Tomorrow looks like more of the same. Actually, tomorrow looks like more of a continuation of today because so much of the work will carry over or worse yet because people will have had the night to sleep on it and dream up some new and interesting wild-assed questions. That’s my long winded way of saying that since around 8AM it’s felt a lot like we’ve been trying to cram ten pounds of day into a five pound sack.
It occurred to me some time this morning that Friday is a day off for me. I’m going to get my yearly physical and eye exam. Getting my eyes dilated and being treated to the old “turn your head and cough” routine sounds better than the alternative at the moment. That should tell you all you need to know about the kind of week I’ve got lining up.
1. Being a ping pong ball. After many years of attending far more meetings than I want to recall. fortunately in that time I’ve cultivated a lead ass and a steel bladder, making it possible for me to endure just about any time suck thrown at me. What I don’t think I’ll ever get use to is the sheer volume of the damned things they throw at you while expecting you to get actual work done in the few minutes between them. Two before lunch, two after, and one blown off because it was scheduled after close of business. Add to that the slides, pre-meeting questions, general coordination, post-meeting minutes and that leaves about 45 minutes of the day in which real work might actually happen, except of course 30 of those minutes belong to lunch and even that gets interrupted a couple of times. It looks like I’m going to need to find a hidey-hole if I want to carve out a minute or two to have an actual uninterrupted thought for the foreseeable future.
2. Focus. Somewhere during my recently concluded vacation, I apparently lost my ability to focus. I’m sure it’s not helped by the ping pong routine referenced above, but it was brewing long before that. I can’t seem to string more than three sentences together without my brain running off in some other direction. I’m sure it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a damned annoyance when you get home, try to spend some time working your “second job” and can seem to squeeze a coherent thought out of the space between your ears.
3. My shoulder. I’ve been ignoring the nagging pain in my shoulder for a while now. For the last year or so it’s one of those things that comes and goes. Lately we seem to be in a mode of it coming more often than going. I’ll spare you the image of the face I make when I accidentally reach for something over my head. It’s probably one of those things that’s funny, just not to me. I’ve got a check up coming at the end of the month. Maybe I’ll remember to bring it up, if only because it might distract the German from yelling at me for packing on a few more pounds since he switched my meds and still loving red meat. Unfortunately, I suspect that kind of distraction would require some kind of major trauma in the head and chest region, but I’m willing to roll the dice on that.
I know a few of you out there are all gung ho about your exercise routines. You run marathons, lift six times your body weight, and participate in all manner of physical exertion. More than a few of you have commented about how the effort leaves you feeling energized and wanting to go harder and do more. See, right there is where you lose me. I’ve tried a lot of it over the years – free weights and machines, walking, jogging (aka my feeble attempt at breaking into a run), stair climbing, resistance training, etcetera and so on. Where these activities leave you feeling energized, they leave me feeling tired, achy, sweaty, and generally like there are a dozen other things I could have spent that hour doing that would have left me feeling more productive for the day. It’s not that I reject the obvious benefits of these activities so much as it is that I find them mostly dull, tedious, and often painful. Hard as it might be to believe, that’s not the exact recipe for keeping me interested in something.
However, my semi-annual visit coming up in January to my Teutonic doctor and he’s going to ask the inevitable question about doing a minimum of 30-45 minutes of cardio a day. I won’t lie to him, because lying to your doctor is just bad policy, so with the impending visit in mind, I’m back on the wagon. And by wagon, I mean the cursed stationary bicycle that lives in the basement and for the last three months has served as an improvised laundry drying station. So at least when he asks, I can tell him with a straight face that yes, I’m doing the requisite number of minutes per day. I’ll leave off the bit about hating every minute of it since I’m fairly certain that’s not medically relevant.
I envy you people who find your exercise regimen personally fulfilling. For me it feels an awful lot like three hours a week that I’ll never get back.
Life is full of ironies. When I was a young careerist just starting out you, I barely had two hours of vacation time to rub together. What I did have were almost limitless invitations to go places, do things, and generally raise hell while I was young and stupid. Since I never seemed to have the vacation time, I took a pass on most of those opportunities and hoped against hope that I wouldn’t get sick and need to burn off any of my limited reserve of days off.
Now, after a a decade or so of experience, I’m sitting on a pretty respectable war chest of paid time off. What I seem to be lacking are the invitations to raise hell and be stupid. While that’s probably for the best, there’s something disheartening about taking the vast majority of days off over the course of the year to do things like having bloodwork done and going to the dentist. I’m sure this is not how 25-year-old-Jeff planned to spend his days off when he was 35, but there you have it.
Sure, it’s a four day weekend, but I’ll be spending a big part of the first day with my mouth hanging wide open letting complete strangers poke, prod, drill, and fill. If I can manage not to spend the afternoon drooling all over myself, I’ll consider it a victory.
Someone furloughed shouldn’t be working as hard as I am. I got up at 6:30 this morning (Hush, that is sleeping in for people who normally wake up around 5:00), drank a pot of coffee, emailed my usual anti-furlough rant to the members of the Maryland Congressional delegation. I thought about calling them out on Facebook and Twitter, but thought better of it since I was on a schedule. I was on a schedule because I had my six month check up with the ol’ sawbones this morning. Ironically, I picked this doctor at least in part because his practice is not far from the office so it would be easy to slip out and back for appointments. Being Furlough Friday, of course, I believe I have discovered a flaw in what was an otherwise logical arrangement. And, please, don’t get me started on their rescheduling the appointment from yesterday to today with about 18 hours notice.
I could turn this into a long story, but I won’t. As usual the doc is annoyed that my blood pressure is good, blood sugar is well within tolerance, and the acid reflux has been gone now for well over a year without meds. They pulled blood in the hopes of finding something wrong, but I have no reason to expect it will come back as anything but “normal” as it always has in the past. So it was a typical visit – lose weight, less meat, nothing over 10g of sugar.
OK, look, doc. At some point we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about not just health, but also quality of life. Maybe if I eat nothing but tofu, almond milk, and salad with no dressing for the rest of my days I’ll live to be 106… but I’m not sure 71 years without steak, pizza, craft beer, or blue cheese dressing is a world I wish to inhabit. Sure, I’d be alive, but I’m not sure I’d really be living.
1. Lip syncing. If I were to make an eight hour recording of me sitting at the keyboard banging away at what I’m sure is some very important memo or PowerPoint briefing, and then push the play button on that recording every morning when I sat down at my desk and claim that I’m working, it’s fair to say that my boss would call me an idiot and tell me to get back to work. My argument that the performance was recorded “live to tape” probably wouldn’t be sufficient to convince him that a recording was a good enough substitute to actually doing the work live and in person. Not being a professional audio engineer, I don’t know whether Beyonce performed live, live to tape, or whatever. I’m not sure I really care all that much, but it strikes me that if your occupation is “singer,” it’s probably a good idea to show up and, you know, actually sing.
2. Dress codes. On days when the temperature falls below, say, 20 degrees, I think office dress code requirements should automatically be relaxed to allow for jeans, boots of sufficient size to account for wool socks, flannel shirts, and possibly hats with ear flaps. I don’t exactly know who came up with the idea that a shirt and tie equate to professional conduct, but I think it’s safe to say that can get just as many memos written while wearing Levis and Doc Martens as I can while wearing slacks and wingtips. I’ve managed to slowly ease out of wearing a tie, but sadly, my struggle for greater clothing equality against oppressive government rules continues unabated.
3. Medical science. I’ve got my next regular check up with my favorite should-have-been-a-Prussian-Field-Marshal general practitioner tomorrow. This will be the first of two visits this year where he tells me to exercise more, eat less, stop having fun, and that way maybe I’ll live a long and boring life. That’s fine. It’s his job and he seems to be good at it. Hopkins tends not to hire people that aren’t good at it, which is one of the reasons I’m willing to drive so far out of my way for a basic checkup. Still, what I really need him, and the broader medical community to do is come up with a pill or procedure that fixes whatever damage I manage to inflict on my body without needing to change my lifestyle and habits in any meaningful way. God knows I don’t have a death wish, but I’m not sure a world without perfectly grilled steak, penne pasta with vodka sauce, and the humble potato in its many pleasing forms is worth living in… and let’s not even get started on how many more productive and entertaining things I could do if it weren’t for spending time on a bike to nowhere every evening. Science just needs to get off its hump and come up with a way to keep us from getting dead with a minimal amount of effort from the patient.
Today I’m learning a hard lesson in sitting quietly. As good as you think I’d be at it, truth is I’m not good at it at all. In fact after about 12 hours of it, I’m pretty much at a loss for what else one can do when sitting around is pretty much the only thing to do. So far I read, wrote, read some more, did some editing, drank a pot of coffee, talked to the dogs, watched the Republican convention and hurricane coverage on television, yelled at the television, read through major newspaper websites from two continents, heated a bowl of soup, and the plopped back down in my chair so I could put my foot up. This is not the life of leisure I dreamed of.
I suppose the good news is that I didn’t break the damned ankle when it twisted. The bad news, according to the shopping center doctor I saw last night, is that I “sprained the hell out of it.” Im pretty sure that’s some kind of complicated medical term for this is going to hurt like a mother for the next couple of days. I like to think that it’ll be settled down enough tomorrow to do something more than sit here twiddling my thumbs, but if my last gimping trip to the kitchen for more water is any indication, I’m not overly optimistic. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, I guess. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting here quietly. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, there’s a good chance I’ll have beaten myself unconscious will my laptop just to have something different to do.