23 October 2008

Good Grief and Good Riddance

I have deliberated for days about posting this blog entry:

I originally planned on not blogging about this challenge, mainly out of a misguided sense of respect for a former friend. However, this challenge was a major one for me, and, ultimately, one of the most liberating challenges I have had so far this year.

I "broke up" with a friend on Sunday.

We were friends on and off since middle school. We lost touch in high school, but in college, thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Instant Messenger, we reunited and became very close friends. I was quite impressed by his passion and drive to pursue his life-long dream, and often bragged of his accomplishments to those who would listen. I enjoyed our conversations and loved that we could often easily talk about anything and everything.

Out of this loyalty to him and our friendship, I often shrugged it off when someone close to me would question why I was friends with him. "Oh, that's just how he is," I'd say, even when something he said or did hurt or annoyed me. You see, dear reader, as much as I hate to admit it, my biggest fault is not impatience; it is that I am too nice, especially for my own good.

Because I mistakenly treasured our friendship, I ignored so many of the warning signs that this was a toxic friendship, until this past year. Over the many conversations we have had, I began to notice certain trends:

1) Every conversation had to be about him somehow, or about something he wanted to discuss at that moment. Anytime I tried to talk about something I needed or wanted to discuss, the conversation still ended up being about him, his issues, and his inability (more accurately, his unwillingness) to try to resolve those issues.

2) He is never happy. Even the little happinesses seem to escape him. Instead of finding joy in the things he has or has achieved, he can only focus on what he does not yet have. I, on the other hand, am a simple soul and often find the greatest happiness in the little things. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that "while every day may not be good, there is some good in every day," and do try to keep my complaining to a minimum. (I don't always succeed, but I try.)

3) Most importantly, I could not be myself in conversations with him. Gradually, the list of things I could not talk about grew:
* I could not talk about my job - despite his own very awesome job, he was jealous of the things I got to do.
* I could not talk about my love - it reminded him of the fact that I had a love life while he does not, and that my love life does not involve him.
* I could not talk about my dreams and hopes for the future, where I want to live, where I want to go, and what I want to do - my ambitions and dreams are not, simply put, ambitious enough for him. Instead, he would demand that I become "incredible person x" or "live in place y" because they better match the ideals he had created for me, despite my insistence that those were not things I aspired to or would be happy with.
Whenever I tried steering conversations towards something about me, particularly one of the three things I just mentioned, our conversations would become quite antagonistic, and I would inevitably wind up hurt or frustrated. If I tried to point this out, his answer always was, "You know me better than that. You know I'm just teasing." But it never felt like teasing to me.

On Sunday, we had a conversation, in which I was trying to bounce an idea I felt quite passionate about off of him. Instead of the rational discussion I wanted, he instead began to once again demand that I pursue a position of power, so that I could get "power, respect, and money." The angrier I got, the more he dug his heels in, so I eventually just logged off the computer to avoid getting my feelings hurt any further.

When I logged back on, he insulted me, and I snapped. I told him I was done talking to him and tried to offer a brief explanation as to why, but he kept interrupting me and the conversation ended with "have a nice life."

I felt bad about how the conversation ended, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the relief I felt at not having to bend over backwards to continually soothe his ego. By trying to be a friend to him, I was hurting myself. So I let it go.

On Tuesday, he sent me a very nasty email. Knowing his temper the way I do, I was not all that surprised that he sent me such an email. However, I was severely disappointed in him. He spent part of the email talking about how I meant the world to him and he would do anything for me. Then, he ended the email with "May you die, burn in hell, and never cross my path again. I am and will forever be dead to you."

That made me sad. It also made me realize that I made the best possible decision for myself in letting our friendship go.

On Wednesday, after work, I got rid of all the pictures I have of this former friend. I have never done that before. I still have pictures of "friends" who deliberately hurt me in the past. I still have pictures of ex-boyfriends. I keep those pictures because even though things ended badly with some people, I still have good memories of the times I did share with them, and when I look at those pictures, it is the good times, rather than the hurt, that I recall. However, I knew I would never be able to look at pictures of this friend again without recalling his parting words to me. So I got rid of pictures, pages out of my scrapbooks, and anything that could possibly make me think of him again.

By letting go of a friendship, it hurt. By getting rid of all the memories we've had over the years, it hurt.

By doing both, I feel so much better.

I no longer have a "toxic" friend that I have to cater to. I no longer have to censor myself in conversations. I can instead focus on all the great friendships I do have - all those wonderful people who share their lives, hopes, triumphs, failures, and mundane daily routines with me the way friends should.

08 October 2008

"Patience is the Greatest of All Virtues."

So said a semi-famous dead guy.

Why is it that patience always seems to elude me?

I have no problem dealing with life's trials and difficulties. I realize that tribulation is part of the dues one pays to life a full, rich life. In short, without the bad, you can't have the good, and I acknowledge and accept that fact.

However, I severely lack patience. I don't like waiting. I expect results instantaneously, or at least quickly enough to gain satisfaction from the ordeal in the first place. When things, even things that are clearly going to be issues, do not go smoothly, I get frustrated. The more frustrated I get, the more irritated I get, and then we just get an annoyed KtMac with no patience in sight.

What is patience? According to Merriam-Webster, it is the act of being patient. Patient, evidently means:
1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
: not hasty or impetuous
: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

Ahh! Dear reader, really, when you read the Merriam-Webster definition of patient, do I cross your mind as meeting any of those possibilities? I think not.

Which is why it is a challenge of mine this year to find ways to remain calm, and even-tempered when I encounter opposition, difficulty or adversity. Some days are much better than others. But then again, the days my patience is most likely to be tested are the days I need to work on keeping it.

Like today.

Y'all know my work deals with a bureaucratic organization. Details are unnecessary in this blog. Accurate, complete details are a must in my particular position. In fact, my job is to ensure that accurate, complete details have been given and are always current. If not, I have full permission to rain fury and thunderstrikes upon the fools who did not provide the full details. (Well, not quite to that extent, but you get the idea.)

However, I frequently am dealing with people and parts spread out, literally, across the globe. This a) makes details even more crucial, and b) makes for more than one test of patience when key details go missing.

On Monday, I was informed that a very key point was missing from quite a large group of data. I was not surprised because this particular data group has been the one with issue after issue in the conversion process I've previously mentioned. However, to track down that key point for each data item, I need a name and a number of a person to call and "discuss this delinquency" with. No big deal, right? Our conversion process is complete and the wonderful new system should make it easy to enter the data I do have into a search to find a name and number to contact. At the very least, I just need a name....I'm smart enough to figure out how to contact the person.

No go.

I do not yet have enough experience with the new wonderful program to know how to make it do what I want. Normally, since time, as always, is a concern, I would have just taken the back-door and looked up the information on the old system. However, I'm locked out of the old system until next week while the end-of-the-fiscal-year computations are completed (I have nothing to do with those....every user of the system is locked out across the board).

Instead, I spent yesterday trying to teach myself how to find what I am looking for. I tried tricks. I hacked my way back into the lessons I took (I even tried going over the lessons again today, hoping a fresh eye might catch something). I talked it out to myself (my coworker and I really do need to devise a signal or something to let the other know when we're talking to ourselves out loud). Finally, I cried uncle. I emailed the helpdesk.

Now, with the old system that we just converted from, the helpdesk was wonderful. They would respond within an hour, even if just to say "Hey, we got the problem - we'll get back when we have a solution," and almost always, they solved the problem by the end of the working day.

Can't quite say the same yet about the helpdesk for the new system. It's new to me and my client, but it's been around for a while now, so the helpdesk isn't new. As of quitting time today, more than 24 hours after my initial flag for help went in, I still have not yet received a response.

I know I can call one or two other people, but, a) this is something I'm going to have to do more than once, so I might as well learn it, and b) I hate asking people to do my job. So I tried, all day, to keep my patience as the hours ticked by without a response. I tried to distract myself, I tried to discover a new technique I hadn't tried yet, and I tried to not curse inefficient bureaucracies while I tried to figure out why it seems someone in charge is hell-bent on teaching me to be patient this year.

At the end of the day, I can say I didn't lose my temper. For me, that counts as keeping my patience. Now tomorrow? New day, fair game as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to staying patient.

05 October 2008

Falling in Love with Fall

Fall is absolutely my favorite season.

I adore all seasons for all their unique reasons, but by and large, fall is the best. It is the season I miss home the most. I miss the apple orchards, fresh apple cider and warm doughnuts, pumpkin patches, the glorious fall foliage that shows up in the upper Midwest, the scary thrill of haunted houses, and the almost seductive smell of campfires.

Here in the city, I still love the fall. I actually get a little more time to enjoy it down here since it seems like autumn stretches out over a month or two, rather than just a few, too-short weeks in October. It's been a glorious fall down here so fall. Beautiful blue skies, abundant sunshine, crisp breezes, and just a hint of color showing up in the leaves.

Days like these are not to be wasted indoors. So, yesterday, I took myself out on an adventure. I wandered. I went into the city and strolled. I walked through neighborhoods I really haven't hung out in for a while (for no real reason). I sat in a few parks and watched people. I treated myself to lunch, and sat outside, enjoying the weather, the people, and my thoughts.

When I finally wore myself out, I came home, threw the window wide open, and had a nice, long, delicious nap. When I woke back up, I was just as in love with fall as I ever was back home.