Tag Archives: life

Where I’ve been spending my time

Photo: a work station in an office cubicle
It’s not the same as a yoga mat.

It’s not as welcoming as a yoga mat, but it’s where I spend most of my waking hours, learning the ropes at LCG Inc., building working relationships with my peers and plying my trade as a writer-editor-researcher. The company is about a tenth of the size of my previous employer, but I probably do 10 times more work. I used to say that I worked in the Prop Shop; now I am the Prop Shop. Even though we have not presented a proposal since I’ve been here (mid-November), mainly preliminary responses, I always got a clogged to-do list and a stack of tasks. There’s all kinds of writing and thinking that needs to go into preparing to bid for a Federal contract.

LCG is a different kind of corporate animal. It’s small business working in the Federal health IT sector and grants management. It’s a challenge to understanding the details of each field. We’re working with 17 agencies on the IT side and even more on the grants  management side. I have to create a kind of scorecard to keep track of all the clients, acronyms and players. It’s also in Federal government so there’s all  kinds of changing taking place in the way that information technology is handled.

Just as with DMI, the company gives me a laptop that I can take home with me, usually on weekends. Most work days, I don’t have time to check my personal mail, Twitter or Facebook accounts during business hours. I don’t even think about it. It’s a heightened focus that can stretch over several days. I sometimes have to force myself to pack up my bags and leave the office.

Yoga slows down

For the past four-five months, I backed off my practice and focused on restorative or yin yoga classes. Plus, the holidays were particularly disruptive of my normal routines, getting to the gym and class. I’ve had to take time off work to deal with dental surgery and that time has to be made up, assignments delivered on schedule, and lessons learned. Thrive Yoga is on my way home, not 10 minutes from the office, but I still find myself driving past it because my discipline has been sapped by my workload.  But that’s precisely when I should be going to class.

I wrote this entry last night, but my blog security system locked me out after midnight so I could not post it until now.

 

Old job, new job

Photo: a man seated with laptop in an empty meeting room
Writer at work. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2012

Last Monday morning, DMI Human Resources told that “due to changing business conditions and requirements” the company was terminating my job. Within 90 minutes, I was driving out the basement parking garage with my box of personal belongings in the trunk. I was not the only one.

Please note that I am not disparaging DMI for making business decisions that had a lot  more at stake than my little job.  As an upstart company that is not risk-adverse, DMI took a gamble hiring me a year ago. I had no experience writing Federal IT proposals. I underwent a “crash course with training wheels.” At the end of my tenure, I know that I bring value and polish to any proposal. I also “grok” how to leverage my other talents, knowledge and experience for maximum impact. I am grateful for the opportunity and privileges that come with a company that wants to create a productive work environment. I was told that my termination was “business, not performance-related” (the corporate equivalent of The Godfather adage). In a business heavy in human capital, cutting overhead is really about terminating people.

Today, I join LCG, a technology provider for health IT, scientific research and grants management in the public sector, in Rockville. I believe that LCG (re-branding for Laurel Consulting Group) did not make a high-odds bet with my hiring. For over a month, they had been looking for a proposal writer who could actively engage stakeholders and boil down the inputs into a polished product. Once I interviewed last Wednesday, they acted promptly to acquire a resource that fits their corporate needs.

I start work on November 17.

Small victories, distant defeats

Today—I mean, yesterday—I made myself go to the fitness center on the first floor of my workplace and put in an hour on the stationary bike and the elliptical trainer. I had already put in a full day of work, plus an hour of online training, so I told myself I could not let myself slide another day without getting some exercise.

Or I could keep going down to the basement garage  and drive off to restorative yoga class and chill out. But I would probably talk myself out of restorative because I should really get my prana flowing.

So getting out of the elevator, I turned left, walked down a long corridor and ended up in the fitness room., watching the depressing news on CNN about Isreal/Palestina and Ukraine and…  I worked up a sweat and did not attempt to read or listen to music.

Then, I got home, had dinner and found myself sitting in front of the TV, sucked into watching Frontline: Endgame about our wrongheaded adventures in Iraq over the past decade. I wanted to go upstairs to do something productive, or meditate, or do some restorative yoga, or my pranayama, or my bedtime sequence of tension releasing stretches.

But I sat there paralyzed by the sheer gravity of America’s involvement in Iraq and the scars that it’s left on our men, this country and the Middle East. And in my small way, I had survived that tragedy.

I finally climbed the stairs, sat in my study, and started office busy-work. Midnight and I started writing this blog. What can I write about?

I did not go to my yoga class today. I did put in an hour of aerobic training. I made appointments to get new glasses and check my teeth. I did put in a productive day at the office, turning another professional’s tortured technical prose into something that made sense. I did not discover any shining truth in my journey. I did not fuck up the world in any traumatic way. For most humans, that daily entry in life’s ledger would yield a profit.

Amen. Shalom. As-salamu alaykum. Namaste. Hallelujah!

Too many distractions for my own good

This past month I’ve been absorbed in work mode, with a couple of writing assignments that  exceeded my initial estimates and required overtime and weekends. But that status has been complicated by the World Cup soccer (football) games that are available in my employer’s break room. I’ve had several topics to write about for this blog, but I never had time to develop them, and it was more important to do yoga than write about it. So I’ve had to prioritize my activities and available time.

I’ve became increasingly aware of how over-committed I ‘ve become: just to cite all the training activities that I have theoretically lined up: (1) studying for the the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Foundations certification (part of my technology refresh 10 years after getting my masters), (2) taking some online courses from Lynda.com to catch up with MS Office productivity tools (my old job was still on version 2003, now I’m using 2011), (3) learning to take advantage of Adobe Creative Suite, especially for online and e-publishing, (4) watching some videos about some of the other software packages I’ve invested in (the delusion that a few apps will make me more efficient), (5) taking some online courses to revive my writing and editing skills (that’s what they pay me for), and (6) stopping the count there… because it’s become ridiculous. Even when I had idle time after leaving the OAS, I could not fit in that much time for skill development and self-improvement.

I’ve been able to tackle these tasks in fits and starts, in evening hours when I don’t have the energy or focus to get the most out of the courses. Regular visits to yoga class and the fitness center have been my way to increase my capacity to extend my functional time and ward off the lethargy of brain work in front of a keyboard. What’s clear is that I have to eliminate my evening TV time, just as soon as the United States team is eliminated from the World Cup.

New job, new directions, new mindset

Photo: yoga class with fingers (thumb-index) in jnana mudra
A mudra seals the flow of prana in the body.

Today, I started working at Digital Management Inc (DMI) in Bethesda as a technical proposal writer. I will finally get to put my MS in IT to good use one decade after getting it.

About a month ago, I realized that it had been a full-six months since I left the Organization of American States (OAS) and I started to second-guess myself. I had been working at creating a consulting business for writing, editing, translating and publishing, but I’ve been dragged down by illness, mini-crises, distractions and other matters (Next time around, I try to set up a business, I am going to position myself to concentrate on just that).

I reached out to my limited network of former colleagues, classmates and friends to see if there was a good fit for me in IT, education, the government or something like that. Luckily for me, I chanced across a direct link to DMI’s senior management, who happened to have an urgent need for editorial and writing support. I interviewed seven days ago, and today I showed up for my new laptop and desk. And the office is only 15 minutes from my home so no commute to downtown DC, no Red Line delays, no need for coordinating transport to and from the Rockville Metro station.

Working in an IT consulting and service company requires me to break the old mental habits of an international bureaucray. I will have to leap into the 21st century and learn a whole new generation of software and technology (the OAS was entrenched in MS Office 2003, to name just one example of its tech lag).

More whining about plumbing, an aging body and yoga

I woke up this morning feeling sore and stiff. Some of my body issues were due to a  class at Thrive Yoga with Susan Bowen on Sunday that made me awaken under-used muscles. I’ve also increased my time spent cross-legged in meeting my blood vow to devote morning time to meditation.

The other reason was that I finished a remodeling project on our bathroom, requiring the installation of a new wash basin vanity and toilet (I had started the previous weekend). It’s a good thing that I do practice yoga because I had to twist and contort my limbs and torso to reach plumbing fittings. Seating a water-saving toilet over the drain hole appropriately requires a lot of core strength. My brain also got a workout because although plumbing has systematic procedures, parts and tools, they are not readily understandable to novices, even with a do-it-yourself manual available. Multiple trips  to the hardware store were required to get the right parts (I now remind myself to save your receipts). Since I do this kind of work on irregular basis, I never get to acquire the necessary job skills.

My wife’s consolation after reviewing my handy work was “We saved a lot of money.”

This steady siphoning of time and energy into home improvement is the drawback of working at home. I am drawn into home maintenance and improvement projects that I avoided when I had to show up for a 5-9 job five days a week. Of course, a lot of my projects over the past few months were chores accumulated during that time so it was bound to get me sometime or we would have had to hire someone to do it.

 

A compact for a new personal interface to life

Photo: hands held in yoga mudra
The mudra (thumb to pointer finger) is held in standing position.

I have struck a bargain with myself—a new compact to simplify my personal priorities.

  1. I will meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, minimum. I may cut myself some slack if I have a yoga class or have a complication, but the morning sit has to be a blood vow. Aside from exercise (yoga), this is the most important thing that I can do for myself according to the most recent scientific research.
  2. I will pause three (OK, maybe two) beats before speaking and take a more thoughtful pace when speaking as a way of being more present in the moment, listening to both my counterpart in the conversation and my own internal dialogue. The idea is to create some “space” where I can be more aware and attentive in the present moment and not be led astray by my own tendency to get lost in a stream of words, fragments, tangents and monologues. In a way, it is a continuation from meditation practice.
  3. I will slow down my yoga practice by taking restorative, yin or nidra yoga classes as often as feasible, and also continue my home restorative practice. Even my hatha or vinyasa classes should be done as slowly as possible. I need to soften my exterior armor and open up, which will come with greater vulnerability.

I make these three commitments because I’ve had time to think about some questions about the basics: How do I improve my quality of life? How do I engage the outside world? How do I sketch out my interface with the world (geek speak here, as in user interface, the mechanisms to manage software or hardware). Rather than resort to what might be typical tactics of self-improvement (become a vegetarian, learn to play a musical instrument, become a better public speaker), I want to get down to even more fundamental issues.

During my yoga teacher training at Thrive Yoga, I became aware that there is a big difference between my packaging  and my essential core (what lies underneath my thick skin, calluses, scars, knots, kinks, ticks, reflex reactions, open wounds, hardened muscles and fascia, and the stories that I tell myself). Part of the challenge of living wholeheartedly is breaking through all that external armor mounted over decades so that I open up a window into the core chamber of my being.

Sh*t happens and sometimes it hurts

Photo: mother and grown son pose together at airpor
My son Matthew and Teresa have one last hug before he heads off to grad school at UC-Berkeley, aiming for his master of fine art. At Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC.

Yesterday we drove our son Matthew to Dulles airport. He had stripped his life down to an over-sized suitcase and a duffle bag (total 100 pounds, max), a knapsack (with laptop and iPad) and a few boxes that friends and colleagues will smuggle into California. He left his car, some boxes and his new flat screen TV in storage with us (I don’t know if there’s space). He gave up a nice paying job working for a NASA contractor at the Goddard Space Center, though the post was no more secure than anything dealing with the Federal government these days. He could have lost funding in the next round of sequestration cuts.

Continue reading Sh*t happens and sometimes it hurts

Life eases back into glide

Photo: yoga trainee and mock class
In front of the class, I muster my will power and focus to get through the final practicum.

I had all kinds of plans to writing a bunch of entries about my yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga, but I got sidetracked by all the thing that had been piling up during training. Just sorting through the stacks of mail seem to take over an afternoon. I can see myself being swept up by the flow of life and failing to examine this experience thoroughly.

Plus, my son, Matt,  is moving to UC-Berkeley next week to get his master of fine arts so he is dropping off a lot of his stuff for storage while he’s away.  Which means that we have to shuffle our own stuff or donate older items to charity. Our burden of possessions takes over entire rooms. I think my son takes pleasure in reducing his life to two suitcases, a shoulder bag and a couple of boxes sent by mail to the west coast.

One of the prices of being a “renaissance man” (by which I mean a well-rounded man of many outbursts of curiosity, multiple interests, mundane chores,  and middling talents and intelligence to get them accomplished) is that the current crisis tends to get the upper hand on all the other agenda items. Today, a visit to the dentist and the resulting low-grade pain wiped me out for most of the afternoon.  And I get successive visits to my office by my wife to remind me that I owe her big time for her being a “yoga widow” for a month—and she’s right.