I Wish I Was Better

Like most people, I fall short in many ways. I wish I was better at managing my time—at turning off my work mind, and turning on my calm mind. I wish I was better at goal-setting, and not allowing mindless iPhone scrolling to replace actually productivity.

I could document a laundry list of things I’d like to get better at; but today, in this very moment, my wishes are not that simple.

I wish I was better at knowing if someone was a good drummer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pre-teen phenom or Travis Barker—once the solo part hits, it just sounds like a damn free-for-all. All I see are limbs flailing and sticks flying. I can’t find the rhythm in a drum solo to save my life, so I just end up feeling like an idiot. An idiot caught in a scary, chaotic storm of frenetic high hats and snares.

I wish I was better at handling the surprising news that a couple has broken up—especially if the news comes via Facebook. Not as an announcement, but as a clue. It’s so alarming to be scrolling along, then notice something is amiss.

“Oh, there’s Lauren. Seth’s wife. With a bearded guy. A bearded guy that’s not Seth. Looking a bit too chummy for my taste. With “God is good!” as her status update. Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute, Lauren. I don’t think so, you two-timing ninny. Not on my Facebook watch. Then I go to her actual page and scroll through it—noticing the last time I saw a pic of Seth was over four months ago; but that Beard has been making weekly appearances with his stupid, cheating beard.

It’s so upsetting, even though Lauren and Beard look pretty happy. Where is Seth though? Oh no! He’s not on Facebook! I can’t see if he’s happy with a pretty lady with a pixie cut. How will I know if Seth and Pixie are happy? What if I never see them on a ferris wheel saying God is good? Will I be left believing that Seth is at home, unshaven, going through old photos of Lauren, while eating expired Vanilla Wafers? Yes. Yes I will.

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I wish I was better at policing my online activity. When I know I should be writing, or making headway on a work project, or updating my passwords—but instead, I’m taking a quiz to see what my werewolf name would be, I’m left with the thought, “I am what’s wrong with the world.”

When I spend an hour scrolling through Soulja Boy’s social accounts, looking for clues that he’s finally off the sizzurp—I’m left with the thought, “I don’t deserve 24 hours in a day.”

I wish I was better at not feeling personally affronted by other people’s lack of dignity. When I roll up in the work restroom and am confronted by two co-workers having a deuce-off, I’m nearly incensed.

Side Note: A deuce-off is what sometimes happens when two people go into the restroom close to the same time—with the intent of doing private bowel things in public—only to be left waiting on the other person to start, stop or leave.

Back to the outrage. The silence, the two pair of motionless shoes, the waiting. I will not be a party to this scene. I will not provide them the outside noise they’re undoubtedly counting on. I won’t do it.

I’ll walk in, realize it’s a deuce-off and promptly leave. I’ll go to another restroom in the building (which is precisely where their shameless asses should’ve gone when they realized a number two was on the horizon.) Why wouldn’t they drop their kids off at the pool in merchandising’s wing? Why would they want to do their private biz in the same small space their CMO uses? Where is their pride?

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I wish I was better at understanding our rogue refrigerator. Some couples have to keep their voices down or spell out words so their pets don’t know they’re leaving for a trip—we have to keep our voices down and spell out words when we’re going to have company … so the fridge doesn’t stop making ice.

Can anyone tell me how it knows people are coming over? Never do we ever have ice issues until the day people are coming over. Then, like clockwork, not one cube of ice is produced. That is, until the final farewell is said—at which point the little spoiled brat promptly gets back to cranking out delicious ice. And she knows we have to take her back—or we won’t have ice. HOW DOES SHE KNOW THIS?

What sensors were added to this LG model to notify her of our plans? Go ahead and make fun of us, but we now discuss our plans for company outside the house—then come back in and try to keep our body language cool. Sometimes I even walk extra languidly, as if to say, “It’s cool. There’s no news here.” We’ve even stopped taking chances with spelling—because we’re pretty sure she knows p-a-r-t-y by now.

I wish I was better at allowing myself to pray with poor grammar and syntax. I can be knee-deep into an earnest ask, but unable to stop myself from rewording sentences that end in a preposition.

“Thank You for all Your abundant blessings I’m so unworthy of … grr … Thank You for Your abundant blessings of which I’m so undeserving … ugh, Lord, please forgive me for sounding pretentious with that proper grammar. Sooo, thank You for all the blessings I don’t deserve. Thank you for Your guidance and protection. Please watch over everyone I love, and protect Jocelyn and I as we … grr … please protect Jocelyn and me as we leave for our trip. Please guide me on if I should go a step further in my efforts to … grr … go farther in my efforts to … grr … further? Farther? Sigh, never mind, just please guide me? And please forgive me for my inability to pray with questionable grammar. I hope that’s not some sin of pride or something. If it is, please show me how to have less pride—like the hosers at work who light up the bathroom I use. Please give me their low level of pride, if that is pleasing to You. No wait, please don’t do that. Please? For real though. Actually, please deal with them. Please lead and guide them … to another restroom. Thank you, Father. I love You, Amen. Wait, do You prefer Ahh-men? Is this one of those things that annoys You—the same way it annoys me when people say a Y instead of an H in words like Houston? They say Youston. Please let me know so I don’t annoy You. For now though, I do love You—Amen.”

I wish I was better at knowing, understanding, or caring about characters or stories not based in reality. When people talk about fairy tales or cartoons, they might as well be talking about quantum physics. Aside from the way they look, I don’t know Batman from Peter Pan. I don’t know what Peter’s superpower is. I also don’t know what a zombie actually is. I truly don’t. I mean, I know they’re not real, and I know they’ve got terrible complexions. I think they might be forest people? Or forest creatures? Pictures I’ve seen of zombies look super foresty.

Because we didn’t really grow up watching cartoons, I’m not clear on different cartoon characters—and I don’t know any fairy tales. You could offer me $1,000 and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the outcome of The Three Little Bears—or the premise of that one story with the shoe, and the lady, and the prairie dogs, or whatever they were.

It’s a bit odd that I’m extremely imaginative, but wholly uninterested in anything not realistic. Even in my made-up stories or daydreams, my thoughts have to be plausible. Not necessarily likely, but plausible—or I can’t focus.

I see people in restaurants or airports and concoct great tales of why they’re there, or where they’re going (but I can assure you, in my story, they’re not on their way to another planet or going back into the forest to do zombie things.)

Side Note: I need to out myself before someone else does. I did actually read—and enjoy—the Twilight series. Although totally out-of-character, I cannot apologize for that lapse in my everything-needs-to-be-realistic personality. Jacob meant too much to me, and I will not forsake him in that way.

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Team Jacob.

 

I wish I was better at troubleshooting embarrassing death situations. Like honestly, I don’t want to croak and have someone see that the last thing I was listening to was the Richard Marx version of O Holy Night—or that the last thing I googled was, “is a Trapper Keeper an age-appropriate notebook for my career?” Should that keep me listening to it or daydreaming about the day I can once again pick out and carry a Trapper Keeper? Maybe.

I also like to wear two pair of socks. I just do. I have bony, baby-soft feet, and they fancy proper cushioning. Maybe even three pair of socks on occasion. I SAID MAYBE! But, do I want to be—literally—caught dead in three pair of socks? I do not. Should I stop wearing them? Probably. Because even though my feet would be super comfy at the time of my death, and although I’d be in Heaven, and shielded from the embarrassment of it all, my family would not be.

I can hear them now, “I knew she wore two pair of socks sometimes, but three is news to us. This is something she kept hidden from us. We’ll never get over this rogue life she led.”

I wish I was better at not feeling offended by people’s lawn-mowing habits. It rubs me so wrong when people mow, but don’t edge their grass. I have to fight the urge to grab our weed-eater and finish the job for them. The only thing stopping me is Jocelyn—she says it’s not appropriate. I actually think they’d appreciate it—and be keen on me trimming their out-of-control trees while I’m there.

I feel like these non-edgers are the same people who claim their house is clean, when all they do is “pick up.” If you pick up toys and put bills in the junk drawer daily, but only bleach your bathrooms and do your floors every three months, your house is clean exactly four times a year. Stop shouting at me! I don’t make the rules—I just follow them!

I wish I was better at singing Happy Birthday. I do okay until the third “birthday”—then it’s wheels-off. “Happy birthday to you” (not bad) … “Happy birthday to you” (not bad at all) … “Happy BIIIIRTHDAY dear Delilah!” (cue the howling wolves) I’ve learned to just mouth this note … then come blazing back with “and many more!” I feel like that somehow makes up for my lip-syncing.

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Britney forgives my lip-syncing. Trust me.

I wish I was better at not honing in on external noises. This issue probably deserves its own blog post, but for now, I’ll just re-iterate my desire to not notice “noises.” I’m fairly certain I have a mild-to-severe case of Misophonia—and I would absolutely love to shed it if there was a way. Okay-okay, not a severe case. People with severe cases want to literally OFF an offender. I’ve wanted to OFF a chip eater, pen tapper, bad water-bottle drinker, inner smacker, loud breather, aggressive typer, bag cruncher—only a dozen times or so. Over the past week.

Seriously though, as bad as it is, and as on-edge as all these sounds make me feel, I’d never want to be medicated for it. Not at all. I’ve told y’all, I barely like taking Ibuprofen. Buuuuut, helped along with a little hypnotherapy or acupuncture? YES. That seems healthier than the physical harm I imagine unleashing on people who attack chips like it’s an MMA fight—or sound like they’re taking a bath when they drink from their water bottle.

Like I said, the issue deserves its own blog post—which brings me to my last desire.

I wish I was better at posting more often. Send money and I’ll do my best. No amount is too small. And don’t pull any of that “in lieu of” crap. Send actual cash. I wish you were better at that.

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Disappearance of Discretion

I value discretion.

But it seems as if this era of over-sharing and perpetual TMI has caused those around me to lose their privacy compass. I’m not paid to be the Decorum Police—just happily volunteering my time as a public service.

It all started several years ago when I worked in an “open cube” environment, which meant our work cubicles were no more than a low border around our desk and work area. You could see the entire floor while seated in your chair. This afforded us no privacy whatsoever.

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Because of the floor plan, the cutting edge thinkers of the department designated an open desk at the end of our row as a place where we could “make personal phone calls.” Since it was an exact replica of our occupied desks, it offered precisely the same lack of privacy. I never said, “I need to call and dispute this ‘shake weight’ charge on my debit card, but it’s a private matter, so I better go use the phone 6 steps away.”

Most of us didn’t use it—as we understood that its intended purpose was illogical. However, one co-worker (we’ll call her Jules) took it all at face value and proceeded to call her veterinarian about one of her cats.

I missed the first part of the conversation but gained full consciousness when I heard, “Yes, I believe it’s an abscessed anal sac.”

We were all looking quickly back and forth at one another with shocked, frightened eyes. Unfortunately, the person on the other end of the phone didn’t hear her, because she let it fly again, “Yes Sir, an abscessed anal sac.”

And now a beautiful third time, as she decided to go for broke, “ABSCESSED! ANAL! SAC!”

At this point we were all doubled over, silent heave-laughing ourselves into a solid ab workout. We were losing it. As soon as Jules hung up, we all corrected our posture and feigned concentration on our work. She was a crazy coo-coo bird, but very sweet and none of us wanted to hurt her feelings—so we covered ourselves pretty well.

And that is part of the problem. With all the other moments and experiences with Jules, this is really all that stands out in my mind when I hear her name. No, not the memory of her yelling it, but the actual visual of a cat’s abscessed anal sac. And guess what? I don’t know what that looks like, so this horrific visual, right or wrong, haunts me to this day. I probably have the sac part all wrong—but either way, it is not a sight to behold.

So here is the lesson. Medical issues typically do not have favorable names. If you feel yourself about to say something involving the words abscessed, fissure, polyp, boil or puss—and your audience is not someone with which you share an address or a mother—you back that truck up.

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Additionally, if you need to make a phone call at work (yes, even to your doctor) and any of the aforementioned words might see the light of day, put those two legs to use and walk away from earshot of any and all co-workers. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if you share a wall with someone who seems to love discussing digestive regularity with you, go make the phone call in private. I can assure you that someone who is seemingly okay with excrement talk would draw the line at rectal fissures.

While we’re talking about what is and isn’t permissible at the office (and in public), let me tell y’all what—in my ideal world—a work restroom would be for. Ridding yourself of LIQUID, washing your hands and giving yourself a quick once-over in the mirror. The flossing, brushing, plucking and various other stuff would ideally be addressed in your home bathroom.

It might sound critical, but I just cringe when I walk in the work restroom and see someone leaning over the sink, brushing her teeth. To do something hygienic in such an unhygienic public restroom seems counterproductive. Dentists themselves recommend brushing twice daily, and I can think of two awesome times and places for that—in the morning AT YOUR HOUSE and at night AT YOUR HOUSE.

Worthy side note: My friend had an employee who used nail clippers in his cube … wait for it … on his toenails. That is a technical foul of the highest order. (notice I said “had” an employee)

This may shock some of you chronic over-sharers, but sometimes even talking about your cold or sinuses treads into TMI territory. A good rule of thumb: telling someone you have a cold or sinus pressure is typically enough to paint us a proper picture. I’ll have a good grasp of your snot situation without you actually quantifying it for me in measurable amounts.

The truth is, we’re already shoved together at work with people we’d probably not spend time with, if given a choice. We’re exposed to each others’ habits, sneezes and snacking. We hear about relationship issues, family feuds and financial woes. Do we really have to also hear about Carol’s bowel movements?

“You guys! Did you hear?! The African Roobio tea worked! Carol moved her bowels!”

You’re never going to hear me lamenting not being in-the-know on that nugget of information. “What?! Carol moved her bowels? When? Where? Why didn’t she tell me? Why’d I have to find out with the rest of the department? Carol SUCKS!”

Ah, the second-hand deliverer of TMI.

“Do you guys have any idea what Delores has been through with potty-training her new puppy? He has literally gone #1 and #2 in every room of the house. She’s at her wits end, you guys. They may have to rip out all their carpet. And this is on top of the issues she’s always had with Whiskers having accidents in the kitchen.”

Me: “Wait. You mean the Delores who who brings all the dishes to our potlucks?”

The second-hand deliverer of TMI—who also wants to be a hero:

“You guys, start sending good vibes now—Danny is giving a semen sample as we speak. He and Lauren think their infertility issues might be his low sperm count.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? Are you sure Danny really wants us thinking of him at this moment and do you really believe he wants information about his swimmers making its way across our department?”

Look, all I’m asking for is a little discretion. We’re all human beings with issues and things that must be dealt with and tended to. Without a doubt, some things are unavoidable—no two ways about it. My problem with the disappearance of discretion is that 90% of the time it’s just laziness. Scoring a productive nose-blow at your table in a restaurant is lazy. Yelling at your ex over the phone at work is lazy.

Yes, please use Instagram and Facebook to share your life with us, but please don’t feel like you have to share your credit score, your post-colonoscopy side effects or anything involving anal sacs—abscessed or not.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Sweet Nothings

I was just trucking along, enjoying a nice day at work when it happened. A few co-workers passed me in the hall and excitedly announced there was dessert in the conference room, as they opened up their circle to usher me in.

“Oh, thanks so much—but I’m good.”
“What? Oh come on! A little sugar rush won’t kill you!”
“No, it won’t—I agree—I just don’t have a sweet tooth.”

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You’d have thought I just announced plans to vandalize a nursing home or light myself on fire and run through the building yelling “Pain is weakness leaving the body!”

They continued the interrogation.

“But you work out! I’m sure one piece of cake won’t hurt you that much!”
“Oh, it’s not a fitness thing—I genuinely don’t like sweets.”

Then they exchanged accusatory, almost condescending looks.

I continued, unsure of why I even had to justify anything, “I’m serious! Trust me, if I liked them, I’d be sunk. I have very little self control when it comes to spicy or salty foods. Just ask every waiter at every Mexican restaurant we frequent—they’ve learned to just leave the pitcher of salsa at the table.”

Then the group leader—we’ll call her CathyCarrotCake—took this information as a personal affront and resorted to the move I’ve seen a dozen times. She copped the, “Hey Everyone, I’ve got a HUGE announcement” stance and paired it with an endearing snarky tone.

“Oh, OK! OK! Hey Everyone! Annnnnna doesn’t like sweeeeeets! (She put “doesn’t like” in air quotes to indicate fraudulence.) Isn’t she just the bees freakin’ knees?!!!”

What? Why?! I’ve never understood why my not liking sweets elicits such ire in certain people. They might as well clink their glass for a toast and announce, “Hey Everyone! Listen up! Annnnna hates the Constitution and animal shelters!”

I don’t get it. I’m not keeping anyone from their Krispy Kreme donuts. I simply don’t like desserts—or regular food that’s sweet (I’m looking at you, sweet and sour meatballs). I don’t even like sweet-smelling candles. When I walk in a room that smells like wax-created caramel creme brulee, I become disoriented and start flinging myself in circles, shaking my head no-no-no as I feel around for the nearest exit. I can’t help it—my body simply rejects sweets.

On an unforeseen rare occasion, a cookie or cupcake (without icing) will look relatively appetizing. I’ll think, “Hmm. Well this is unexpected, but I really think I can do this.” It’ll even taste pretty decent at first, but 2-3 bites in and I’m pushing it away—rejecting its very existence.

Reluctant full disclosure of the week: I have found, for reasons that elude me, that I can put away some bread pudding—go figure.

It’s just that by and large, I never crave sweets and I’d never pick a danish over a salt bagel, a brownie over buffalo wings or cake over chips and salsa.

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I could understand people’s irritation if I claimed oxygen was overrated, but to get bent out of shape because I don’t want a snickerdoodle? I’m at a loss.

Tell you what—omit the sugar and replace it with wasabi and I’m on-it-like-a-bonnet. Bake a cake with Sriracha and I’ll polish it off without breathing or looking up. But hide your children because it won’t be pretty.

“Hey, wanna run to Sonic and get a milkshake?”
“Do they have pickle shakes?”
“Gross, no.”
“Olive shakes?”
“No—gag.”
“Then probably not, no.”
“They have chocolate and vanilla, stuff like that.”
“Can they replace the vanilla with Tabasco?”
“Get away from me.”

This reminds me of the time Jocelyn walked in the kitchen and I had my head back, slamming the last bit of pickle juice from a jar of baby dills.

“You know that’s disgusting, right?”
“Yes. If by disgusting you mean Liquid Heaven.”

All I ask is for some common courtesy or basic manners. I don’t go around saying, “What did you just say? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? You don’t like habaneros or anything above 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale? Why don’t you just stick an ice pick in my ear canal because I don’t want to hear this crap!”

Like, just be normal. We don’t have to like the same stuff. I won’t relegate you to an outer circle forever simply because, unlike me, you have met an olive you don’t like. If the most heat you can handle is ketchup—no problem—more heat for me. I’m not gonna pin you down and make you explain yourself to the group.

That would be awesome though. Imagine me physically pinning you down—yelling, “Say it! Tell everyone why sodium and cayenne aren’t in your diet, CathyCarrotCake!!! Tell them what you said about Frank’s Hot Sauce! Explain to this lovely group why you don’t like your bloody marys spicy!”

You laugh, but that’s sort of what it feels like when someone gets all haughty about sweets and dessert. For some reason, they assume I’m being prim and proper. But really, I’m pretty sure eating fresh serrano peppers is more badassy than eating macaroons. So who’s really the goody-two-shoes here?

And on that note, it’s time for our monthly birthday celebration at work, where I’ll go pretend to eat a brownie, while actually just chewing on cinnamon gum.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Fielding My Tribe

I love to sit in meetings and field a team. If it’s a smaller meeting with a mix of people I do and don’t know, I’ll just determine who I want for a flag football team. Easy enough. It’s not difficult for me to peg a great defensive tackle or crafty wide receiver. Not much more to picking this team than looking for athleticism, a little endurance, a good attitude and a willingness to have a good time.

If, however, the meeting is bigger and I’m encircled with strangers, I prefer to up the ante and imagine I’m stranded on a deserted island with a group of people and we have a finite amount of time to escape if we want to survive.

Time to pick my tribe.

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This is no joke and must be treated as such. At this point, I will mentally check out of the meeting and embark on a mission to assess the strengths and weaknesses among the group. I will begin to decipher, to the best of my ability, who would surprise or disappoint me. I enter a world of scouting out skills, strengths, hidden talents, stamina, attitude and desire.

Only an amateur would think this could be done by looking at physiques, current position or hierarchy. No. Sometimes the lowest person on the career totem pole is actually the only one in the entire tribe who could squat for hours on end, rubbing sticks together for fire without having a total meltdown. I’ve even been in meetings where a senior admin or detail assistant was my number one pick, based on what I perceived to be an invaluable ability to set up camp efficiently and dole out rations, without fanfare or need for recognition.

Most often, the leader of the meeting or the one who has the floor is not anywhere in my line-up. Deep down I know that she has grown soft and lost the necessary skills to actually survive. She’s accustomed to merely sounding knowledgeable, rather than being a true expert. She’s become dependant on delegating; however, underneath it all, her house is a wreck, her children are terrors and her husband is getting loved on once every two months, begrudgingly. This is not a woman I want in my tribe.

We’ll have many needs as a stranded people. Basic survival skills are incredibly important, but so are brains, logic, attitude and determination. I never know what kind of challenges my tribe will face during our unknown time on the island, so I’ll need to assemble a cornucopia of talent that can handle any task.

I like to believe I have the ability to spot people’s hidden talents. I have thought more than once, “I bet that lady can spear a fish with acute accuracy.” It is not uncommon to imagine that a particular woman could survive on very little sleep while maintaining the focus of an elite quarterback in the 4th quarter, down by 14. I realize these are gifts that many others don’t posses and I’m thankful I can peg the babies of the group and the brats who wouldn’t step up when faced with adversity or even death.

Another thing to consider is body temperature. This one is tricky. Sure, the island is tropically comfortable by day, but it’s bitter cold at night. I’ll need a group that is well-balanced with cold-and hot-natured people. About the only way to assess this is by looking for people doing extreme things in a temperature-regulated conference room. The lady who is fanning herself with a notepad will be a problem during the heat of the day, but an asset at night, as people can warm themselves next to her. The woman who has on a cardigan but is still hugging herself and rocking rhythmically will be comfortable during the day and have an excess of energy to use towards being productive. She will be a go-getter and not off in the shade for hours trying to cool herself. The importance of balancing these types of people cannot be measured, yet a rookie might overlook it and end up with a vastly insufficient tribe.

Let’s discuss smarts. I’m extremely careful about the I.Q.’s I choose. Inevitably there will be people I lean towards because I know and enjoy them, but I make absolutely sure I’m using my head more than my heart. If I pick a dim light, she could very well end up covered in poison ivy, rendering her virtually useless for a few precious days. Imagine the travesty of her becoming overjoyed by the abundance of coconuts, realizing all too late that they’re a natural laxative. Nothing puts someone out of commission like foolishly tanking up on a diuretic. Therefore, in scanning the room for possible tribemates, I try to remember that the person I love to discuss American Idol with may also be the one who will drink salt water.

Here are a few random things I’m mindful of as I scan potentials. When I see a self-soother—someone massaging her own hands, knees or ears—I promptly place her in the yes column. She is self-sufficient and she is a survivor. Additionally, I always choose one or more of the rare guys attending the meeting. More than likely he’ll have a utility knife (and tweezers, bottle opener and wrench) as well as natural strength and an innate ability to hunt and keep watch for a good portion of the night. I never pass up a male tribemate—ever.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that some bug eating will take place. Marooned folks never know what fruit or berries the island will offer and bugs are a wonderful source of protein—something everyone will need in order to maintain the energy to escape. Because of this disgust-inducing fact, I make sure not to choose anyone too girlie or easily grossed out. No one wants to eat bugs, so the last thing I need is someone squealing “Eww! Eww!” and recoiling in horror as I reluctantly chomp on a beetle’s thorax.

I have been in meetings where I knew the group I assembled would make it out alive—whether from an exotic island in Fiji or snake island in Brazil. But I’ve also had to choose from inferior groups where I did the best I could with what I had and still knew in my heart of hearts we would perish. I do not leave those meetings with a good feeling—or with any idea what the meeting was about.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.