Posts Tagged ‘work’
I really hate the whole idea of ‘crazy busy.’ Been there, done that – it’s no way to lead a proper life. You just end up with endless task lists duly completed, but no sense of having lived or living… But these days, it’s been rather like that. There’s no getting caught up, never mind getting ahead. All good stuff, but just a wee bit too much of it. No real end in sight, though the holidays should provide a bit of a respite… if I’m lucky. And on a cruise… lost at sea… somewhere in the southern ocean where no one can find me and there’s no phone and I’m too cheap to pay for internet and really don’t care what’s going on in the world – as if me knowing about another murder or two would matter a whit…
I can’t wait.
“Life is a long turd and every day you have to take a bite. But you can’t feel so sorry for yourself you piss on people – at least not the people who love you.”
A quote from Mifune, Danish director Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s 1999 contribution to the Dogme 95 School – a rather good film actually, not fully appreciated for the number of levels in which it operated. This quote is uttered by a prostitute who’s been keeping her bratty younger brother in a posh boarding school – and he’s been wagging. She is beyond disbelief at his disregard for her sacrifice on his behalf. She’s been eating a lot of shit sandwiches.
Long after I’d more or less forgotten the film (and Dogme 95 – is it still in existence?) that line stuck with me. Certainly in this context it is true – but I realised it pretty much applied, if not to life in general, at least not my life in general, there are times, or have been times when it was absolutely true.
When you’re young and starting out, you need to convince people to give you jobs, mortgages, let your children into their school – and everyone you try to convince gives you a little or sometimes not so little shit sandwich to eat. At first, well, you refuse – and rightly so. A shit sandwich, regardless of the paper doily on the serving plate is still a shit sandwich. But if you want the job, or the house or that elusive status symbol – you hold your nose and take a bite. Usually one is enough – and you can say ‘thank you, that was lovely,’ sign the papers and move on. You get used to it after a while – you need so many things…
But then, somewhere along the way, you might discover you don’t really want something that bad – you’re just not in the mood for a shit sandwich. Usually by the end of your forties your done with them. Oh sure, someone will offer you one every so often, but you politely decline and if it should somehow end up in front of you – well, you’ll just send it back. You are done with that.
Then boom! One day, when you least expect it – there it is, sitting on your desk, waiting for you. A big shit sandwich. All the toppings. It sure looks like someone’s gone to a bit of effort to come up with this. But why? Hmmm…
You KNOW there’s no way in hell you’re gonna eat that thing. Nope, ain’t gonna happen. You’ve got to send it back – that’s all there is to it.
Except… you don’t really know where it came from. Or why. Or…
You’re not going to eat it.
But where do you send it back to?
(Remembering not to go and piss on the people who love you in the meantime.)
Back in my youth I recall being told by my elders to ‘just be yourself.’ Interviews, auditions, performances – pretty much anything where you were tied up in knots and didn’t know what to do, the guidance was to be yourself. (Walking into the lunchroom every day and figuring out where to sit was definitely a performance situation.)
My self was a quivering bowl of jelly, tongue-tied and terrified someone would see me being a fool. The only thing to do was NOT be myself. Work up my courage and plan who I would be. Back then it was usually some pretty, popular girl in school (who in retrospect undoubtedly had the same issues – but socially awkward teens always feel so alone.) I would invent some cool as ice, clever person I could be for half an hour or so – and pray I didn’t get caught. Sort of like multiple personalities, expect they were on purpose – and if I wasn’t exactly in control – there was no doubt who was in charge.
As I got older that didn’t change much. I was operating on a case by case emergency NOT being myself response to job interviews, motherhood, employee, volunteer, boss, businesswoman… it wasn’t until I was well into my thirties before I could breathe normally and perform all the roles I was expected to master. And if something came up that rattled me a bit, it was easy to slip into a more comfortable personae to cope and then slip back out.
Then something odd happened… all those me’s I’d invented over the years sorted of melted into one new super-me. I went from a wallflower with nothing to say to a storytelling, wisecracking cymbidium. I suppose developmental psychologists call it reaching adulthood – but to me, it seemed a miraculous transformation. And it was very very cool. I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that being me was someone I would want to be.
Fast-forward to the present. I’ve done a lot of dreaming in the last two years – ain’t gonna stop – but it’s time for hard change. Changing jobs was big. For the first time in nearly fifteen years, I am not writing a monthly column – possibly even bigger. I’ve moaned about the paucity of time so long, and I’ve reclaimed about 60 hours a month. That’s 60 hours of quality time – not Monday morning at 5.30, or Sunday night at 11.22. I’ve been meaning to write and illustrate some more children’s books. A book on gangster movies would be fun. Yes, I know I should spend more time on fitness. And nurturing my friendships… But, if I’m not careful, it will be all used up – and I’ll be back to moaning…
Good time: time to conquer a new world, take on a new demon, discover an unknown talent. It’s time to reinvent. It will undoubtedly call for a new hat – though I’m hoping the helicopter proves unnecessary!
Actually never was much of a Jimmy Buffet fan – I was never that laid back. But I always thought that was a nice little turn of phrase, and what with my passion for changing latitudes and my growing sense of restlessness with the bread and butter duties of day to day life, it fits rather snugly at the moment.
It started back in the spring, 1st of September to be exact, when it dawned on me that Spring had Sprung a Crossroads. I began to feel an itch I just couldn’t scratch. And of course – those kind of itches just go on and on. Six months later – I’m ready to rock’n'roll. Changes coming fast and strong – more powerful than a speeding locomotive, faster than lightning and sharper than a honeybee sting.
I love the audacity of these wee girls to create a giant woman – a fifty foot woman – unstoppable and immovable. No reason I can’t do it, too.
Film at 11.
I’ve recently developed a fascination for Kali – the Hindu goddess of… hmmm… Just what is she the goddess of? Depends who you talk to as there seems a bit of confusion, even among Hindus. She runs the gamut from annihilator to earth-mother.
One man I work with turned a bit pale when he spied a small brass statuette a couple of centimetres tall blue-tacked to the top of my monitor. According to him, a goddess of destruction had no place in a government building and especially not in a Transport Department. We work with serious machinery doing dangerous work.
I suppose he has a point, but I was thinking more of the transition our local governments are going through, turning seven mini empires into one SuperCity. (With Auckland’s massive 1.4 million residents the victims of this inevitable evolution.) While I am optimistic that after five or ten years the outcome will be positive, at present it is rife with to-ing and fro-ing, rumours, whispers, half communications and unclear statements. For example, it’s hard to imagine we really needed to change the access cards to all the buildings NOW because they are no longer supported by the manufacturer. Looks to me like someone has decided the organisation has to be prepared for massive redundancies, and there may not be time or opportunity for niceties such as turning in passes. I could be wrong. It’s happened before. But that’s how it seems to me. I’m not a conspiracy theorist – but that doesn’t mean they’re not conspiring… It would be great to point a finger at one or two culprits – but even the culprits are in the same leaky, rocking boat.
Enter Kali – we need a goddess to take hold of this chaos and supervise it, keep the whole thing manageable – even as it remains as dangerous as ever. It then begs the question as to who will be her Shiva? The new SuperMayor? Or SuperCEO? Or if she is a force of Eternity, then perhaps we will have to wait for Father Time to settle her.
In the meantime, I think this tree may be Kali’s arboreal incarnation – dancing wildly, vicious – and if those green streaks were red – the whole thing would be damned bloody.
I keep a little Ganesha on my desk. Just in case.
One of the things I’ve never quite adjusted to living down under is having the seasons arrive three weeks earlier than the solstice or equinox generally associated with them. It wouldn’t be so bad if we actually lost three weeks of miserable cold and rain, which is the Auckland winter. But it runs on at least until the first of November and occasionally refuses to depart until the beginning of January, which is already the second month of summer. It can be silly down here. I don’t mind. Except that today was wintry.
But in the spirit of spring and new growth and earth worms busying themselves etc, I’ve begun to feel a bit restless. Ideas are earthworms, working their way to the surface. Pardon the poetic licence (and general indecency) but I suppose this means I should be plowing the furrows of my garden – blah, well, you know…
So here’s a photo of the winter.
This is taken from the bus series I did throughout August (in future referred to as the 2009 Bus Photos) and while it’s not a very good photo technically – not sharp enough, the car is chopped off, the bus is blocking the interesting bit of the train – it rather nicely conveys a melange of unappealing choices, with the crane in the background reminding you that no matter what you choose, there is a roadblock up ahead. You have no control over how long they’ll make you wait. But someday there’ll be a nice new something there to travel on…
This photo captures my position – waiting around with unappealing choices is kind of where I am, and reflects my attitude toward this past winter. I work in transport, so it’s not surprising I would find my metaphors there. It’s been the winter of our discontent.
Auckland is merging from 4 small cities, plus two rural districts into one SuperCity of over 1 million people. Yes, New York may have 16 million, Chongqing 32 million – but Auckland is the SuperCity. (Somewhere I there I’ve already commented on the silliness of this place… Just because I love it does not mean it’s not surreal.)
The politics around creating a SuperCity and their effect on the staff are simply deranged. I’ve watched leaders turn into bullies, good people behave badly, loyal staff quit (without a job to go to), folks of questionable ability move into roles they can’t hope to fill adequately, mysterious resignations and the gossip mill churning at speeds previously unrecorded in the annals of contemporary corporate culture. Everything’s splattered with gossip juice.
I realise it’s making me tired. Tired of hearing it, pondering it, participating in it, working in and stepping around it. Tired of farewells and rumours of farewells to come. Tired of hearing friends slog through a stagnated job market looking to escape.
And suddenly finding I’m thinking of escaping myself! That’s one hell of an earthworm – I am famous for loving my job… and yet… it’s seems like a mighty one rumbling up – and he’s got friends. Time to look at this garden… Nothing glaringly wrong with it, but it’s tired, needs a refresh, a rethink, new blood.
I just gotta get me out of these miserable crossroads! If it ain’t fun – it ain’t worth doing, that’s all there is to it.
I was last in Queen Elizabeth Square last summer, around Christmastime. It was buzzing and beautiful, with giant ornaments, reminiscent of Jeff Koons installations, placed here and there. Near the waterfront with the ferry docks and cargo ships nearby, a real hub of activity a spot in Auckland a visitor shouldn’t miss.
My newly formed photography club went on our first outing today – what I’ve dubbed a ‘speed field trip.’ Leave your desk at one, dash down to QEII Square and photograph whatever you can see from the square – and back at your desk at two. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from my office, walking at a decent clip. We arrived, and the charming square from 6-7 months ago, was now chokka with construction – everything was in chaos. But a brief is a brief is a brief… so we started photographing.
Of course as soon as the pigeons saw the camera, they were all over me – and I had a parade of poseurs. Seriously -
They were trying to outdo each other, fluffing their colours, cocking and strutting – when along came a white babe with all the right stuff. And she was making moves, showing off all her angles, moves and generally kicking up quite a fuss. I could tell the others were not impressed with her antics – but actually when it came down to it – they were all streetwalkers, looking to see what they could scrounge up.
The square is not that large, yet right next to the contruction is a water feature – it’s sort of lost its sparkle amidst the barriers and metal fencing, so I rather like this view. It’s decorated with some lovely Maori carvings, but they are best viewed some other time.
I found the bicycle rack rather charming – at least, I think it is a bicycle rack. I think the woman approaching is also uncertain.
The best place to look was up. Looking up, it’s so easy to be clever.
An urban Kauri tree
My favourites though is this reflection off a glass building. Maybe a little cheesy, but I love it when the clouds come to the party.
And then of course, the mandatory shot of the waterfront. I am especially fond of these red gates. The port is right in the middle of downtown, part of the heart of the city, which is one of the things I love about Auckland.
So Queen Elizabeth Square didn’t really blow me away in the dead of winter. Still, I’m sure when I come back in a few months, it won’t be the same.
You can’t buy more time. I accept that. I don’t like it, but the universe isn’t set up so you can buy more time the way you can buy ‘carbon credits’ to offset your evil carbon consumption. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s a load of crap – but someone’s figured out how to structure it so they make money and a lot of people get to feel good about themselves.
As for time sales, the poor would be selling it off to the rich, not to me – so not only would I not benefit, I would be railing against it as immoral and abuse of privilege. The unavailability of time for sale is therefore good for my soul. I’ll sleep better at night.
So more time – if I can buy it, what can I do to get rid of time eating stuff in my life? Sure, work eats a huge chunk of my time – but I am less concerned with the amount of time I spend at work that with the time hogs that eat my valuable work time. People who ring or who want meetings when they don’t exactly know what they want and you spend ten minutes listening to them dither around amusing themselves. People who send useless emails – the ones where they are so desperate to cover their butt they copy in entire departments. Meetings where nothing is accomplished or decided… I figure I could get two hours more into the average day if I could get rid of that stuff, but it’s generally insidious. Although – I did set up my Outlook inbox, so that one of the columns, along with Sender and Subject, etc, is WHO it’s addressed to. If it’s just copied to me I’ve stopped reading them. That’s nearly a quarter of my emails.
At what point is it okay to terminate a telephone call? From an external caller, I figure, if they’re not cursing at you, you can never terminate it. I’ve been trapped with an unhappy ratepayer on the phone for up to half an hour – but I’ve since learned how to manage those better. And today I horrified someone standing at my desk by telling them the call I was about to answer was going to take 30 seconds – and then finishing it off in 28.
But these are tiny wins. I need some big wins. Delegation is generally good, I’m on top of that, no problem delegating. My motto – delegate – and you give someone a chance to be a star! (And to think, I used to be a control freak…)
The writing is on the wall – lighten the workload… and thereby give up the fun stuff… or get more help.
I keep thinking I should give up the movie reviews – the column takes about 50-60 hours a month. But if I didn’t do it… I would be watching movies and not writing about them, which I would hate. I shouldn’t complain – my life is not so hard. I just need more…
…time time time… Could it be I’m addicted to the stuff?
2009 has been the year of dreaming. I wrote about it early on and updated a couple of times. It probably started with the book, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly, which I commented on back in January in a post called New Year’s Dreams. At the time, and even now, I’m not hawking it as the greatest thing since sliced bread – yet, it got me thinking about dreams. I dutifully made a list of 100 dreams of my own. That was surprisingly easy compared to some folks who’ve also done it. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.
But a funny thing has happened this year with these dreams… they’ve evolved. Sort of like I opened a can of worms only it’s not worms but a million silken strands waiting to be woven into precious fabric. And once I have the fabric – I can do anything I desire with it because there is the magic of dreams embedded in the fibres.
Even five years ago, the idea of being on a social committee filled me with horror. Planning a group event brought on a minimum of three sick days. But I am fortunate enough to work in a place where staff are really encouraged to pursue their dreams. And somehow, without planning it, I formed a social committee of my own and together (because it definitely isn’t all my doing) we’ve been pulling off event after event. Yet, I work for a large organisation with over 2000 staff, so the stuff I’ve been organising for my little group of 90 is small potatoes.
One of the problems of an organisation this size is the silo mentality, where people identify with and are protective of their group, and other groups or divisions are ‘other.’ And ‘other’ is never a good thing. But how do you reach that many people? You couldn’t have events that large – and even if you tried, you’d still get folks clustering in their own silos. You need to mix them up in small groups, so they get a chance to talk to each other – but it has to be about something other than work because work already divides them!
So I got the idea of forming clubs. Things people are interested in outside of work. I’m in the midst of piloting six of them, which again, couldn’t possibly happen without the buy-in, belief, participation and hard work of a lot of other people. And they’re working. I should be blogging this! It’s an incredible thing to watch, and even more incredible that it was just an idea that I had that I decided to try out.
Surprise, surprise – I’m co-facilitating the photography club. Had our second meeting today – people are excited. Our next meeting is a speed field-trip, dashing down to the Auckland waterfront at lunchtime, shooting for half an hour – and then getting back together and seeing what we all come up with. I’m excited!
And keeping on dreaming and just doing what you dream of, making it happen, being the change. It’s scary and wonderful and one of the best things I’ve ever done. And while it’s bloody hard work, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had.