The View from 20,000 ft

In management, they talk about the view from 20,000 feet; that is, the big picture—the view from high enough up that you see the surrounding landscape. I think I’m beginning to get a view like that on my life.

The past few weeks have been the (usual) rollercoaster ride: sesshin was wonderful/amazing/fantastic, DBT is going well, just before sesshin I completely lost control of myself in a public place and was mortified by my behaviour. Bryan’s contract was extended for 3 months, I had a car accident which will cost me plenty, and Revenue Canada sent a notice to my employer to try and collect money owed by my late father’s estate, which I am responsible for. Oh yeah, the hard drive on my Mac is toast. :^(

I was reading something in Mark Epstein’s book about a guy who was all happy when he was on retreat but couldn’t bring that mind to his hectic family life with all of its associated mayhem. Previously, Sensei spoke with me about how the various challenges in my life have arisen like waves to be a point of practice for me. So, what does the view from up here tell me?

I don’t have to turn my home into a monastery to practice Buddhism. This life, this very life, this going to DBT meetings on the train, this child is whiny, this dog keeps barking at the cat life is my practice. It’s no further than this.

Today, when I received the Revenue Canada letter, I went into a series of anxiety attacks. My mind would spin out, like a car out of control on ice-slicked streets. I’d go for a bit of a ride, watching myself all the while. “Where’s the money going to come from? How are we going to afford it? How could I have got us in such a mess? I’m such a loser for ending up here.” Letting go of judgements, breathing, coming back to “it is what it is”; over and over again. Turning my mind to radical acceptance.

For isn’t that really what it comes down to? In each moment, we have a choice. We can turn our heart/minds towards radical acceptance or we can foster willfulness in our hearts. Zen practice and DBT practice are exactly the same, constantly encouraging us to open to acceptance, to become willing, in whatever the moment brings.

My moments seem to be fairly juicy, but that’s only true when I compare myself with some people. If I compare myself with others, it’s so obvious how blessed I am. The most recent example of this was when Bryan and I heard a radio news story discussing Stephen Truscott. For those who don’t know, almost 50 years ago in 1959, Stephen was a 14-year-old boy. He was accused of murdering his 12-year-old neighbor. He was convicted and sentenced to death. This year, he was finally acquitted. So, if you are ever indulging in some particularly clingy self-pity, remind yourself that you could have been a 14-year-old kid sentenced to be hanged for something he didn’t do.

My day wasn’t really so awful after all.

The Times They Are A-Changing

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and lots has been going on.

First of all, I can report that our trial separation has accomplished what it was supposed to: it gave both Bryan and I time to gain some perspective on our relationship and see where we were each responsible for creating the situation. Communication is critical, but if we are not clear on our own wants, needs, and responsibilities, we can communicate until the cows come home and still not address the real problems.

I’m deeply grateful that we both got clear on a few critical things. It gives our relationship new hope. It’s a good thing.

Work, on the other hand, is giving me fits. In the latest round of alignment with our new American overlords, “title mapping” was addressed. In short, because I am neither an engineer or a senior-level employee, I am no longer eligible for either bonus or stock options. Note that I was previously eligible for both and that my compensation reduction is purely policy driven. It’s yet another example of the cult of the engineer and I am fucking pissed off about it. I don’t know what to do. I am aware that there will always be something that bugs me about my job—I’ve been alive too long not to notice that one. But getting my compensation cut simply because my title does not map properly has seriously demotivated me. Why should I give a shit about them when, quite obviously, the corporation really doesn’t give a shit about me? In a way, it’s a very good reminder that I do work for a corporation and corporations don’t give a shit about anyone. They are not entities capable of caring. Humans care, and my immediate manager has been very supportive, but neither one of us are going to change the corporate mindset.

So, just as the corporation I work for has to keep its bottom line in mind when it makes decisions, so do I. Is my current position the best option currently available to me, for the good of my own career and my family? Just as the corporation has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders, so do I have a fiduciary duty to my family. Apparently, it took this slap in the face to remind me of this fact.

I guess, in a way, I can be grateful for that. Deluding myself that my company really cares about me is not good for me or my family. And they are my number one priority.

Life These Days

Life these days has consisted of work, home, childcare, laundry, cooking, cleaning, sleep, repeat. My biggest challenge is simply adjusting to what most people in my social realm consider “normal” life. After so many years of living in crisis mode, I find the biggest issue I have to deal with is anxiety. My spirit is conditioned to expect the worst is sneaking up on me: a fist in the back as I’m washing the dishes or a cruel demeaning remark riding on the heels of a success. I’m doing fairly well at work—okay, so they gave me dinner out at the Keg and a movie gift certificate for doing a good job on my first manual for an ASIC product. I’m loving what I do and I really enjoy 99% of the people I work with. Even the 1% that I don’t actively enjoy are easily tolerated.

So why are my anxiety levels so high? I don’t really know. I could bump my meds up a notch again, but I don’t think that more pills are really the answer. I think the answer is to learn to enjoy my life, successful and happy times included.

My weight is growing, slowly and steadily. Not because my diet is bad—I actually eat quite well. It’s more that I have a significant emotional eating issues. I eat when I feel stressed. And I feel stressed a lot. Rather than turning to Atkins or some other diet fad, I think they real solution is to deal with my stress.

How? I’m writing more in my journal. I’m now seeing a chiropractor once a month. I’m looking into getting hypnosis. This last item is the one I’m most hopeful for. I’ve been through therapy, I understand my issues. That’s not what I need to address. I need to address the repetitive negative thoughts that spring forth, unbidden, into my mind. I think hypnotherapy can be an effective means of addressing them. Here’s hoping anyway.

I think I also need to book regular massage therapy appointments.

Last night, we used that Keg gift certificate (yum!) and I took Bryan to see “300”. Gory, violent, so obviously drawn from the pages of a most excellent graphic novel. I enjoyed it immensely. I have a thing for Greek history and mythology—the story is based on the battle of Thermopylae in anciet Greece. And behind the blood and gore, there were some intensely beautiful bodies to look at. (drool)  It was just fun. Bryan really enjoyed the deeper political implications: the refusal to submit to someone else’s idea of religion and the fight for freedom on that account. The cinematography was also most excellent. It looked like a graphic novel. Truly, watching it on the small screen would not have done it justice.Today, Brianna is going to a birthday party for 5-year-old twins at a local gymnastics centre. Fun!Yesterday, we stood in line for an hour and a half to submit our passport applications. Mine and Bryan’s are in, but I have to drive back to Whitby this week after I locate Brianna’s long form birth certificate. Apparently, if you’re not married when you have a baby, you need the longer document to prove parentage. Fortunately, I get to jump to the front of the line, so it may actually be doable on a long lunch hour.

So that’s where I’m at. Spring is a good thing.

The Season of Giving

Bryan, Brianna, and I were discussing which charity we should contribute to in the coming year. It wasn’t hard to get the concept across to our four-year-old, who seemed to naturally understand that we have a lot and should give some of it to help people who don’t. We finally decided, with Brianna’s input, that Médedcins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) is our charity of choice. This is in addition to the giving to Hermitage Heart that supports Myotai Sensei, my Zen teacher.

This got me to thinking. How much should we be giving? I’d like to be able to give a lot more that we can currently, but I firmly believe that retiring our debt is a very high priority for our family. Interestingly enough, I ran across this article in the New York Times magazine that gives a very interesting perspective on the issue. I heartily recommend reading it.

I would like our total giving to be on the order of 10% of our income, but we’re going to have to work up to that. But I’m happy to say that we have begun. Here’s to making a difference in 2007!

Enough chatting—the movers are coming tomorrow and we still have a frightening amount of stuff to pack. I don’t know what the internet connectivity situation will be after today, so I will wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year now. All the best to you and yours!