Friday, May 15, 2015

The Ides of May

Taking last Friday, May 8, off from work was a great decision! Unfortunately, the weather did not go along with my plans. So, I froze my butt off on Nut Island and sat in my car at Wollaston Beach. This gave me a lot of time to think and sort through life. I had been freaking out about Super Boss possibly leaving the company. He's young and has four years under his belt so it became a running joke between us,  "Hey, I just gave notice.", and/or way to voice anxiety. But with every joke came an underlying panic that this could really happen. It affected my sleep and had me close to tears with worry. So on May 8, I decided to not let "what if's" distract me from the here and now. I'll just learn, do good work, and enjoy having Super Boss as a guide.

I also went back to my roots at work. My first job out of college was at a non-profit that had a lot of mailings so at least once a month, all the assistants would get together in a conference room and stuff envelopes. We called it a "mailing party". It was a ton of fun and really bonded everyone - I wound up with lifelong friends from that job. So, I had a mailing party at my current job - just Super Boss and I stuffing envelopes and cracking wise until 7:30 at night. We were told at one point that we were making a ruckus and I thought, "Ahhh... Mailing Party strikes again!" Super Boss is a fellow Game of Thrones book reader and he told me there was a Winds of Winter chapter released about Arya called "Mercy". But it has been taken down from every site Google can find. If you know where I can find it, please comment!

I have been getting a lot of support and recognition from co-workers and managers so that helps a ton hearing "Good job." and pats on my back. Just today, the payroll manager told me, "Everyone down there thinks you're doing great." Aww!  Now, it's just me, Super Boss, and a new analyst II left in our department. We had a group training session Wednesday and it felt really good. We definitely click as a team. Super Boss and I were having a meeting in my office yesterday when a manager found us and said, "Ahh the analyst group!" We snorted and I said, "More like a pair - just enough for a tandem bike." Super Boss added, "And we're about to crash."

Today was the day that I knew was long coming. Both Super Boss and I were having a shitty day and were in moods. With so few people in our department, mood has a huge impact. But I saw what was going on, used all my decades of therapy fu to pull myself together, and offered my help with the mountainous workload on Super Boss' wearying shoulders. I got to help with work I really enjoyed so that was a bonus! Then we had our usual 4:00 tete a tete and since we were so tired, the mood was a lot lighter. He said at one point, "I'm glad you said X because I was thinking the same thing. It gives me hope for when I leave here." My response, "Well, I will just have to stop learning so you can never leave!" I would love to go one week without these jokes damnit! These meetings are very productive, I learn a ton, and we wind up talking about everything under the sun. This week I found out "This is Where I Leave You" is on HBO ( really good movie BTW), discussed Foucault's History of Madness, and 5 Wishes end of life documentation. Plus, we learned that both of us are really gullible so it has been hilarious trying to fool each other. I had him convinced construction around our office was unearthing another time capsule. Today's discussion was how if we worked near a black hole and had to deliver results to people not near the black hole, we would be able to have more than 24 hours in our day.

I have decided to put moving on hold since work has been so crazy. I won't have the time to look for an apartment let alone pack up and move. So, the fall/late summer is my goal. Also, there is a rumor that there might be a raise in the future so that could have a huge impact on my search.

My brother has been key in making sure I have a life outside of work. We saw the new "Avengers Age of Ultron" (I agree with the Black Widow storyline complaints and LOVE the Vision). We also saw the RiffTrax live broadcast of "The Room". SO GOOD - I was in tears laughing.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Arbeit Macht Frei

My life has become about basically 90% work. I have no one pressuring me to work late hours or overtime but the workload and various deadlines stretch the space-time continuum. Who decided a day lasts 24 hours? I have a bone to pick with them!

Sunday 4/26 - I had to work because I had a deadline to calculate and enter billing for 60 employees in almost 300 plans over 5 years. It wasn't too bad. I sucked down Dunks while blasting music getting into the data entry zone. I did get a bit freaked out when the thumping I heard turned out to be someone else in the next department working as well. The Winter Soldier soundtrack made me feel very heroic while I calculated deductions. 5 hours worked and a comp day earned.

Monday 4/27 - a pistachio kind of day. On top of all the broken processes and work that hasn't been done, that I have been able to make my peace with, a whole other reporting reconciliation that was neglected for 3 months was discovered. Yes. Another one. It was seriously not a huge or complicated task but segue to me freaking the fuck out in Super Boss' office. There were tears and he assured me this new report is very low on my priority list. We met afterwards for two hours reviewing an employee account that made no sense. A lot of clutching our heads and asking, "What the hell happened?" and adding up any little amount to try to explain variances. 10 hour day.

Tuesday 4/28 - I was a bit embarrassed about my emotional Monday so I avoided Super Boss in addition to being a huge asshole to everyone. Part of me kept asking internally "What are you doing?" as the pettiest passive aggressive bullshit spewed from my mouth. I got a lot done since I knew I should not be around people. Super Boss had a question for me in his office. I came over to his side and saw on the computer screen a mistake I had made Sunday. So, you can probably guess how that went over. I felt upset that I made a mistake so I told him that he was right. I probably fucked everything up from Sunday. He got very stern/disappointed saying that he wished I did not use that kind of language about myself. I tried to be nonchalant since I could feel I was getting upset and backed out of his office saying that I'll fix it. He asked me what was wrong and this is what I said, "Oh we don't need to do this. You've had to deal with enough of me the past two days." That kicked off this back and forth where I complained about being an emotional mess (aka an unprofessional woman). He started pacing telling me how much I have accomplished that he knows and has seen what I am capable of. He just doesn't know how to make me see it. Needless to say, we hugged it out and had a sane/calm discussion about other work matters. I have to say, that was one of the kindest most supportive ways to bolster me up while dealing with my crazy self doubts. I get a little verklempt remembering it. 10 hour workday.

Wednesday 4/29 - I made sure early in the morning to thank Super Boss letting him know how much his patience and support helps. He said this really cool thing that all the strategies/habits I have picked up through other jobs and also as a way to help myself after my stroke basically has made me the perfect fit for my job. So yeah, stars really aligned landing me this gig! This was the kind of day where a meeting cancellation is as welcome as a shot of lidocaine. I had to delay almost every deliverable due to a huge reporting project, an initial analysis of messed up employee account. Super Boss and I have this thing where we scold each other "Go home!" every time we see each other working late. 10 hour workday.

Thursday 4/30 - a big accounting/finance and filing day. Around lunchtime this is how well Super Boss knows me - Email subject: Come to My Office. The first line in the email body: You're not in trouble. Well, the only other analyst besides me in our group gave notice. If work was a movie, it would be a dark comedy. I will be the only analyst in our group starting in mid-May. The end of the day into evening was three hours trying to craft a report for that nonsensical employee account. And holy shit Super Boss is human! He got so frustrated he whacked his keyboard, swore, and yelled at the data on the computer screen. It seriously did not make sense and is five years old so it's all guesswork on what people were thinking. So, ha! I got to be the calming sane one with suggestions on how to approach the problem and verbalizing needs. We wound up being so worn out we had to leave the report at good enough after running the gamut of pivoting the data, calculating, and formatting. 12 hour workday

Friday 5/1 - I could not sleep because my mind was still trying to perfect that damn report. I got three hours of sleep. A bunch of projects were completed today and Big Decisions were handed down on policy. One of the Big Decisions was so poorly verbalized Super Boss and I were staring at each other in a meeting with "Are you fucking kidding me" faces. I had to talk to an employee about his screwed up account which went poorly and was frustrating for me to have to explain how broken the system is. I also met Super Boss' wife! 10 hour workday.

Side note. Our offices face a hotel and sometimes people walk around naked in their hotel room with the blinds open. Super Boss thinks it's funny and my first reaction is "Ew, no" I think that is part embarrassment on the person's behalf and the other part knowing that I don't want to see naked people while I'm in business casual. You know? I want nudity in my home. Not surrounded by Xerox machines and filing cabinets.

For those of you fearing for my health and sanity, I am taking May 8 off. This weekend is all about Avengers Age of Ultron.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Many Good Things, Little Sleep

The past four weeks have been a whirlwind of STUFF HAPPENING. The biggest impact is a co-worker left my analyst group so I inherited her duties and her office. Having an office is fabulous - I've been stuck in cubicle land for ten years so I feel like I have arrived professionally. That's the positive of my co-worker moving on. There have been several downsides to her departure such as:

1. She did not do any work for the past several months.
2. She broke entire reports by keying over linked Excel formulas.
3. She did not file, just shoved paper into drawers.
4. She alienated an entire department thanks to her shitty attitude/work ethic.

The first week without her was the slow dawning horror of the above. But there is an up side to all this. The alienated department is so happy to be rid of her, they have been going out of their way to help me. My fellow analysts are aware of the massive cleanup I need to do and have been very helpful with tasks and allowing me to freak the fuck out. There's just three of us so it feels like wartime bonding in the trenches.

My boss has been quite simply amazing through all this. We spent nights in my office going through "files" getting frustrated, speechless, then slap happy with stacks of unpaid bills and dusty procedure manuals. I was in tears at a couple points from being overwhelmed and he helped by talking through what we could do next. That is a very important pronoun - we. He tries to make sure - I - get credit for accomplishments. But if there's a crisis or question, - we - tackle it. I also got a really great mid-year review with helpful feedback. I love one of his suggestions. With my learning quirks post brain damage, sometimes I reach an upper limit on information I can absorb, anything above that limit is static so my thinking gets stuck. Super Boss suggested having a word so he'd know what was going on and how to help. I asked skeptically, "What? You mean like pistachio?" He explained what he meant so our word is pistachio. It's odd enough, a good laugh could jolt my thinking back into gear. Having a boss who values my work, my thinking, and supports me has been transformative. Despite the workload, never ending cleanup, and the long hours, I am engaged and happy at work!

In the midst of all this, I am looking for a new apartment. I've toured 5 places. I applied to 1 place but I didn't get it due to timing. I'm looking any place that is near a commuter rail station that gets me to Boston under 60 minutes. I really liked Lowell. Attleboro looks horrible but it's so darn affordable! Taunton is also affordable but heroin. Weymouth would be nice but I haven't found anything within my budget. Luckily, I just need to give 30 days notice to move - month to month lease baby! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Heart It's Sight

When you look at me now, you would not guess that one morning I woke up paralyzed on my left side, blind in one eye, and barely able to speak. I look normal now. I don't look like someone who spent weeks in the hospital and months relearning how to walk, talk, and think. For many years I have been very proud that I recovered from my brain injury enough to pass as a normal person to the public. But there is another side of a visible recovery that many people don't see.

I have spent over a decade practicing little strategies every day that keep me looking functional. If I don't have a strategy, I ignore it or try to downplay it. 

1. My entire left side has dulled feeling. It's like I have a layer of latex coating my skin, organs and muscles. If I am handling a knife or am around a fire, I need to keep my eyes on my left side, I can't multi-task. I don't know how badly I injure myself. Securing a seatbelt when I am on the passenger side of a car is hard too. My family knows enough to offer to help. It depends on how I'm feeling driving with others if I ask for help. I have gone without a seatbelt to avoid the feeling of shame in asking for help.

2. Since I was paralyzed on my left side, the entire weight of my left arm was hanging from my shoulder for a week. That week stretched out my shoulder tendons and ligaments so my left arm does not sit correctly in the shoulder socket. I avoid dancing to YMCA and keep heavy items on lower shelves. I also have difficulty putting on my bra and blow  drying my hair. I always put coats on left arm first.

3. Cognitively I still have a high IQ and can learn things quickly. My memory is not what it used to be. Before I order coffee, I need to rehearse it in my head so when I order it, I look like I am reciting something someone else told me. Sometimes when I am asked to remember a particular detail about something, it's like my memory is of an empty suit jacket. I can remember where I was, what the page looks like, the scene around me but not the actual thing I need to know. The more I try to find it in my memory, the farther away it gets. I have trouble writing capital E's as well. I also sometimes completely forget to rinse off my left side in the shower.

4. Motor skills bounced back really quickly for me after my injury but recently my doctor informed me that I relearned how to walk when I was 24 and now that my body is aging, I might need to pay more attention. I was very upset hearing this but I had just told my doctor that I felt like one leg was shorter than the other so learning to walk in a 38 year old body is the better option!

There are many other OCD like rituals I have to keep it together and this is what they mean when they say that you really never recover fully from a brain injury. It's not the end of the world but it is a daily reminder.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Anxiety Hill


If you have ever grappled with anxiety and live in the Boston area, this winter is like Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Bulge, and Stalingrad combined. (Can you tell I'm a history major?) How can a human being with unique brain chemistry cope with three weeks of snow storms?

Well, for storm #1, Juno, freak the fuck out. Buy every grocery item you could possibly need, fill up your heating oil, buy a new shovel, and research how to use planting pots to heat a room. Because the memory of Nemo from 2013 is fanning the anxiety flames in your mind. What if I'm stranded again? What if I lose heat and power again? What if a water pipe bursts again? The night before the storm, cook up a bunch of meals that could be eaten warm or cold. Then remember that before you were medicated or done therapy, you had bought a Red Cross emergency pack stuffed to the gills with survival gear. That is when the rushing thump of blood in your ears starts to get quieter.

Quincy received 3 feet of snow in two days Tuesday and Wednesday. I chose to park on the street not in the driveway because my landlady’s son was out of town. He sometimes plows the driveway and other times yells at us for asking for plowing. After I had my car accident with neck and back injuries, my request for plowing help was met with a, “I don’t run a home” response from him. Class Act. My workplace was closed for two days. We didn't lose power thanks to the snow being fluffy but the winds were howling. The new shovel I bought is great but the mouth is two feet wide so you wind up lifting a lot more snow than you are used to. So I hurt my back in my first round of shoveling. I also chatted with a neighbor from down the street who brought up another anxiety I grapple with. Neighbor lives with an elderly person with medical issues and our street was so bad, emergency vehicles would never be able to make it to his house. I know it is very unlikely that the stars would align for me having a second stroke during a blizzard but that possibility haunts the back of my mind. I have nothing to fight that anxiety.

The people who live in my building have all been incredibly helpful. Second floor guy shovels and salts the driveway. First floor couple shoveled out my car during Juno. I baked Thank You cookies and gave them a card. Juno was very bearable thanks to them, power, fluffy snow, work closing, and copious amounts of French toast.

The next week Monday we got a foot of snow. Work was not closed so I had to take a personal day since my street was impassable. Again amazing shoveling teamwork from all. There also is a guy on my street who owns a plow and he basically cleans up our street since Quincy just sends a front loader once. Everyone keeping up with the snow math? We're up to 4 feet of snow.

The next day, the entire train system for Boston was a wreck so work was delayed until 11:00. I got on a train at my usual stop around 10:00. The trip on a normal day would take thirty minutes to get to Boston. I sat down and noticed a lot of unhappy faces and grumbling. So I asked my seatmate what train was it. It was the 6:00 AM departure train! It had taken them four hours to travel seven stops. The train did not move for an hour and then we were asked to de-train. In theory another train was coming to pick us up. I called into work and took another Personal Day. Annoyance trumped anxiety for this round. Commute annoyance and not having a work from home option.

This past Monday and Tuesday, Quincy got over 2 feet of snow. My landlady's son plowed over my only snow shovel in the middle of the storm. The bright orange shovel. This is when I started to feel the crazies creep in. I had no tools to get out and there was nowhere to put the snow. I started imagining using Tupperware as snow scoops. Second floor neighbor drove out to buy a shovel. We had been sharing my orange shovel since his had broken.  For those playing along, this puts Quincy at 6 feet of snow.

Since I take the train into work, my commute has been a mess for two weeks. I'm lucky when it's under two hours. I have to admit the Commuter rail passengers have kept my spirits up. Lots of nice chats with strangers and a level of exhaustion combined with a dark sense of humor. The subway passengers are either awesome or complete assholes. A lady was shoving into me as I got into a packed subway car tonight bitching about how she had been waiting longer and I have no right blah blah blah. I took a step out of the car and said, "Well, you win. Have a nice Valentine's Day." After that, an awesome gal on the platform complimented me on my response and we joked around a bit.

Today all the 6 feet of snow weighed me down and amped up every worry ever. I had to have a good cry in the bathroom at work to feel relief. Why? Because we're supposed to get another foot of snow Sunday!! That is 7 feet of snow in total. Yeah, "May you live in interesting times" is definitely a curse.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Honeymoon is Over

For two months I looked forward to work, smiled all day, and enjoyed each opportunity for learning. I'm sure I drove my co-workers nuts. I'm starting month 3 now and here's the thing...

1. No one ever gets fired no matter how poorly they do their job.
2. No one tries. This past week I have been correcting two years worth of errors.
3. My first week on the job, half of my department informed me they are actively looking for jobs elsewhere.
4. Some of my co-workers are thieves and violent offenders (In HR having access to everything can be kinda horrifying).
5. My salary is $20K below market. In fact, the higher the salary the more inept the employee - work riddled with errors and lack of basic knowledge (ie math or weeks in a year).
6. And yet the benefits are amazing
7. This could be a lifer job.

Eyes are wide open now. I am still happy and grateful to have a job and enjoy the kind of work. But I think to survive I'll need to stop caring and being surprised with each example of idiocy I encounter. The two years of errors I corrected this week found over $80K for the company. And I'm sure my supervisor does not care. I don't even think he knows my name.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

MA Health Connector, No Brain Cells

YOU CANCELLED MY HEALTH INSURANCE!!!!! I can't wait until Charlie Bakers guts the entire agency.