Sunday, July 27, 2014

Late Night Listening XLIII: Silver Lining

There’s no starting over
No new beginnings time races on
And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going
Looking straight out on the road
Can't worry 'bout what's behind you
Or what's coming for you further up the road
-- First Aid Kit
"My Silver Lining"
Stay Gold

You know if I'm writing a Late Night Listening post, I must be in a dark space. :-)

Before I talk about the bad, I will start off by saying that today was a productive day for me in terms of domestic tasks. I did get some housecleaning done, and the kids were surprised by how much better things looked than last week.

I'm in one of those stuck frames of mind where I feel like I don't have the physical and emotional resources to cope with life in a balanced way. It's a struggle for me to avoid letting an awful narrative take root in my consciousness. It's the narrative that argues that no matter how hard I work, scrimp, and save, there will always come along a circumstance where I will lose ground that can never be made up.

It's been a month since I used my sixth and final free EAP session through my employer. They helped me to get past the feeling of utter futility that I had been struggling with since the murder of a coworker back in April. And with my counselor's encouragement, I worked to get involved with a monthly writer meetup to give myself some contact with others.

I think I am suffering from depression. I know that I need to do something about it. I know that depression can warp a worldview to the point of self destruction. I don't think I can talk myself through it. While trying to reframe the situation and de-isolate do help some, it's not enough.

I probably need medication, but nothing has really worked for me. I did fluoxetine, the hometown favorite, back in 2002 - 2003 and that just made me sleepy. After a year, I felt like I was just in a fog all the time. In 2010, I tried escitalopram, and that just killed off sexual pleasure and gave me diarrhea. Went to desvenlafaxine, but the insurance company said that they wouldn't cover it, so we went to venlafaxine, which also killed off sexual pleasure, which just left me in an even crankier state. I gave it another try in 2013, but my new employer's insurance plan wouldn't cover it, and the generic unisured price was so hight I couldn't afford it. I don't know if I have enough runway to continue trying new medications.

My relationship with my girlfriend has undergone a downshift, and I'm not sure how much of it is circumstance, and how much of it is her pulling back. Up until the early part of this year, we would see each other once a week to eat dinner at her house. We'd go to her church on Sundays. On alternating weekends, when we didn't have the kids, she would come over and spend the weekend with me. Since spring started, we've spent only a couple of nights together, and I can't remember the last time we had a weekend to ourselves.

Depression makes it easy to fall trap to the narrative that she's pulling away, and I've had more than one weekend where I've been consumed with loneliness and preparing myself for the possibility that she might reach a point where she doesn't want to be with me anymore.

In reality, I know it is more complicated than that. When we first started dating, both of her kids would go to her ex's. When she was in eighth grade, the older child started hanging out with a couple of girlfriends of hers, spending weekends with them. When her father had to move out of his rental house and into a mobile home, she stopped going over there altogether. Over the past seven or eight months, she stopped spending weekends at her friend's house, which meant that my girlfriend couldn't spend the night anymore on those nights.

Over the past four or five months, the ex-husband has been cancelling out on weekends with his son, claiming that he had to work or didn't have enough money for food. Despite promises to make up the weekends, that never seems to happen. Many times, the ex-husband doesn't even give notice that he's cancelling out.

I could deal with these things by themselves. Granted, she could take him to court for not upholding his part of the custody agreement, but there are other signs that make me wonder. For example, there have been two or three times over this period where she and I did not have kids, and when I asked her if she wanted to spend time together, she would either remain non-committal and say nothing or say that she had other things to do, like go grocery shopping.

I restrain myself, trying to keep the insecurity in check. I double check my behavior to make sure that there isn't anything that could make me seem needy or smothering.

One of the evenings when we had dinner, I told her that I missed our "us" time. She said she did, too, but she said that she thought it was temporary. I didn't ask for clarification on what her notion of "temporary" was, and maybe I should have. I don't see it coming to an end in the near future. If her ex-husband keeps ignoring his part of the agreement, it will be a long time indeed because the son is only 12 years old.

Recently, my girlfriend said she started taking a series of classes about homeownership from the local neighborhood housing partnership. Her sister took the classes a couple of years ago in the process of buying her own house. She said she didn't have any definite plans, but she does currently rent a house she's been in for the past seven years. I know that the landlord had approached her about buying the house.

The voice of my insecurity whispers to me that because she's said little about these classes, that she's planning to go her own way eventually. I'm mired down with my own house, and their isn't enough room for her and the kids here. There isn't enough room at her house, either.

That voice grinds on me in my loneliest hours and it saps me. It is corrosive and it plays to my deepest fears that I cannot be loved wholly because I am stretched so thin as to be a good catch. I can escape it temporarily, but I can't silence it, and I hate that.

As for work, I'm at a point where I'm ready to look elsewhere. I'm stuck for a couple more months maybe because I was conscripted to be the tech lead on a highly visible death march project. I'll write more on that on another post. My radio station is playing this song, and I'm drifting off to sleep.

That song never grows old.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Of Spreadsheets Between the Sheets

I try to avoid the clickbait, but a couple of recently published stories on Huffington Post about disgruntled spouses keeping spreadsheet logs of their moribund sex lives were just too much temptation for me. Read them at your own peril.

Although it's been eight years since I started this blog and seven years since my marriage experienced it's fatal cracks, these articles made me stop to think about just how much dissatisfaction with my sex life consumed my existence back then. Same goes for many of the now defunct blogs on the sidebar. In a way, we were all keeping anonymous prose logs of our own frustrations.

We don't know the full back story of the spreadsheeting spouses, and there might be plenty of blame to go around. Regardless of the level of exclusivity within a relationship, our choices to be sexual with our partner should be consensual, not forced out of an asymmetry of power or coerced through guilt and resentment.

I don't buy the communication-is-the-key mantra usually arises in relationship clashes. It is indeed necessary, but not sufficient. I believe that for an intimate relationship to sustain itself, there has to be an agreement on what constitute the foundations of the relationship. If there isn't a willingness to find that common ground, the relationship becomes a toxic power struggle, usually based on who can get and withhold the most.

Looking back on what was my own marriage and seeing X's relationships since then, I realize I wasn't a good fit for her. The things I thought would make her happy, didn't. She's definitely attracted to people who look and act very different from me. I just wish she would have felt more freely to tell me this earlier on in the relationship, because the facade was painful and puzzling to me.

I have more to write on where my life is currently, but I'll save that for a separate post.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Conjuring Up Animal Spirits

Psychic Entropy (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)
information that conflicts with existing intentions or that distracts people from carrying out intentions
Over the past several months, I've been finding myself visiting and revisiting in a dark emotional space. It is not despondency. All is not lost. I still have enough perspective to know there are many in the world who are enduring much worse than me.

No, the specter that haunts me is that loss is accelerating with time, and with that there is little renewal or recovery. My resources for coping financially and emotionally seem to be on an irreversible path to exhaustion, and what scares me is what I will do if I reach that point.

Yes, I keep the bills paid, and I haven't fallen behind on anything. Still financial hits keep hitting, depleting me of my savings, and I don't ever seem to have much room for replenishing savings.
The biggest hit by far was having to replace the roof back in September. That wiped out close to two thirds of my savings. I took another hit in October when I had a drain clog. The installation of a cleanout cost me $750.

The severe winter stressed me out because I was worried about the furnace giving up the ghost. It seems like every couple of years, the igniter has to be replaced at a cost of a couple hundred dollars, and the last time the furnace tech was out here, he said that it was probably time to get the heater and central air replaced. Fortunately, the furnace didn't die, even in the worst of the bitter cold from the polar vortex. To be sure, I kept the thermostat as low as 61°F, and I had to fight the temptation to listen to the furnace every time it ran for evidence that there were problems.

At the end of February, I started having slow drains and burbling toilets whenever I drained the sink or washed clothes. The first plumber who responded said I had raw sewage coming into the crawl space and needed to have a restoration service come out and fix things before they could look into doing any repairs. He said at a minimum they would have to replace the cast iron pipes and relay part of the line out to the sewer, which would start at $3,700.

Opting for a second opinion resulted in a less severe diagnosis. They rain the drain cleaning and found roots. That cost me $250, and I know that I will need to have the pipe redone because the house is 50 years old. I need to get estimates for that, too.

My brakes needed work done in late March, which cost me another $430.

I not only lost a coworker to meaningless gun violence at the beginning of the month, I was the one who took the call from his father-in-law trying to find someone at work to notify as they went through his cell phone records.

My older dog had a stroke over Easter weekend.  At the time it was happening, I had no idea what was going on and was almost certain we'd have to put him to sleep.  He has recovered, but still has some wobbliness when he walks.

The tooth that I had a root canal done on last year needed to be pulled last week when the gum in the vicinity started to swell.  It turned out to be a fractured root.

One thing that has kept me going has been my relationship with my girlfriend, with whom I've been together for just about three years, but even that has been subject to challenges. Our weekends without kids have been aligned so we've been able to have time to ourselves, but for the last month, her ex-husband has been cancelling out on his weekends, claiming he doesn't have enough money, so we haven't gotten to see each other for more than a couple hours at a time.

I haven't been living extravagantly. When I changed jobs at the beginning of 2013, I knew that I'd have to curb expenses, and I have done well keeping fixed costs down. But after taxes and support (still at the same level as my old job) take their bite, I'm living on about 46 % of my gross income. If you take into account that X has been asking me to pay for piano lessons for the past six months, it's probably less than that.

I hit an emotional trough by the beginning of April and arranged to get some counseling through my EAP, which provides six sessions. The counselor is having me try to come up with some activities I could participate in to get me out of the house. I've been looking over things to do at Meetup.com, but I haven't seen much that I could see myself doing.

I am pretty sure I am fighting depression, and it's affecting my ability to see how things could get better. Keynes wrote about the idea of animal spirits as a driving force in humans, the urge to do something rather than nothing, based on something other than rational calculation. To take risks, making leaps of faith toward the future, without dwelling on what could go wrong. My struggle is that my mind keeps seeing wrong turns and risks everywhere I look.

The constant loop of concerns wears me down, distracts from from focus, and leaves me feeling more helpless.  The term psychic entropy seems very fitting.

On the upside, I have been getting approached by recruiters who have been interested in whether I've been interested in making a change. If I could find a job that paid better and didn't require a death race to work, that might be the first step to getting past this horrible rut.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Second Guessing Tape Kicks into High Gear

I read the news today oh, boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
-- The Beatles, "A Day in the Life", Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Capitol Records

On Thursday morning, the RSS feed of a local business news show made my draw drop. There was a press release about how my former employer, Company Line, had agreed to be acquired by THE Big Bad Database Company. Terms were undisclosed, but the story percolated all the way to the top of the food chain the tech and online marketing trade publications.

A good chunk of the day that followed involved me chatting online with some former Company Line coworkers with whom I keep in touch. A couple of them had exercised stock options upon their departure. The earlier hire was thinking he'd come out ahead by about 40 percent. The later hire was going to lose $0.50/share.

All of us were surprised by the news. To the best of our knowledge, the company had achieved little traction in the past year. A major product redesign went live early in the year, and I know that there had been a major build out of analytics infrastructure for tracking site traffic. I had also received reports of as a host of demo-driven-development features rolled out because the self-important product guy who came on board back in late spring 2011 had promised them to potential sales customers.

Indeed, in the acquisition press release, the three big-name clients they cited all had been subscribers for at least three years. The acquiring company isn't buying an existing or growing revenue stream. There were suggestions that the application will complement feature gaps in another marketing application that it acquired last year. It's also worth noting that the acquiring company is seeing stagnation in its existing markets and is playing catch-up in the world of cloud computing. This acquisition gives them some buzz and an air of seriousness about its strategy.

Still, the press, both locally and nationally, is touting this as a win. The spectre of self-doubt that likes to nag me in these moments reminds me that I left and chose to exercise none of my options. Although in retrospect the stress was wearing me down and making me more irritable in my latter days there, the spectre suggests that I didn't have what it took to get them across the goal line. Bowing out gracefully was the best I could hope for.

I have put myself out to pasture, doing largely maintenance programming with no real greenfield development in sight.

Nearly three quarters of the savings accumulated since the divorce have been swallowed up largely by repairs to the roof and some drain line work. Although my gross pay decreased by about $500/month (since 7/1, that gap has narrowed to just under $300), I continue to pay child support at the same level. I have a car payment now, and lots of costs have gone up. My sense of financial security is worsening. In my darker moments, I think the only options I have left at retirement are hitting the lottery and suicide.

This is what plays through my mind when I feel doubt. I know it's probably skewed. I try to remind myself of the saying "You cannot be replaced," but somehow it can't compete with the anti-mantra "You aren't that great. You've never been, and it's not going to get any better. Why try?"

I can't bring myself to commit any kind of self-harm. Not yet at least. But I am seriously lacking things to hope for. Things that make it worth getting out of bed in the morning. I don't trust the universe.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seven Years Gone By... What's Next?

Seven years ago, I published my first post on this blog.  It was a heckuva ride for the first couple years.  I posted pretty faithfully, with posts being pretty lengthy, detailed pieces.  After I changed jobs and moved on to a post-marital life, this space became increasingly dormant.  If SiteMeter's counter stats are to be believed, most of my traffic are visits from Google's crawling software.

Lots of other blogs, which were displayed on this space's blogroll have since gone through similar changes.  Anais keeps chugging away at LiveJournal, and Digger will resurface every once in a while with an update.  Otherwise, the overriding majority of posters are like the illusory mathematicians and carpenters wives about whom Dylan wondered rhetorically in the final verse of "Tangled Up in Blue".  Yet still, I am on the road, looking for another joint.

So here is where things stand on my end...

I still make my home in the Circle City, living in the same house that I've lived in since Oct. 2000.  I'm also still very much involved in my daughters' lives.  They are now 10 and 8 years old.  The X keeps them booked on a pretty tight schedule during the school year.  Two of their scool nights are filled with dance classes.  During the competition season, that also includes an occasional Friday night.  On Wednesdays, they have piano lessons.  I work a early-shifted schedule that day, pick them up, and see them off to lessons and help with homework.  They stay with me on alternating weekends, and this summer, I have been taking vacation time to spend days with them. 

Both get pretty decent grades, As, Bs, and the occasional C, but my older daughter struggles with math and has trouble retaining concepts.  She loves to write stories and letters to her friends.  She also gets a kick out of drawing comic strips, but unfortunately, most of them are about bodily functions.  The younger is a lover of art and prolifically draws pictures that she keeps in binders.  I'm grateful that they've found creative outlets.  They're very much into pop music, much to my chagrin. :-)

As for me, I changed jobs shortly after the beginning of the year.  I accepted the offer with the Biggest Post-Secondary School in the State, which meant a pay cut.  Fortunately, I got high marks on a mid-year salary review and got a pay increase that restored a little over 40 percent of what I gave up making the leap.  Given the school's budgetary situation, I am very grateful for that. 

Working for a large organization like this has taken some getting adjusted to.  The pace is much slower, and you wind up getting locked into holding patterns while waiting for several divisions to reach agreement on where things should go next. 

I've been able to make some positive contributions, eliminating a big chunk of software development backlog, but all of that has been with bug fixing and extending some pretty dusty legacy applications written in the Perl programming language.  The next project I will be working on will be a mixture of Perl and newer code written in Python. 

Their project management and planning processes are in dire need of updating.  There is no infrastructure for deployment or automated testing.  Business analysts are basically order takers for project sponsors, rarely pushing back when sponsors or proxies overprescribe a solution.  The software that runs their mainline business functions does not have uniformly maintained environments for development, testing, and production, so it is commonplace for problems to be encountered when code gets promoted from one environment to the other.  Fortunately, there are some in leadership who want to modernize and have been willing to ask for my input on how to revamp things.  During my time at Company Line, I oversaw similar modernization efforts.

Living on the reduced pay has been a stressor for me.  I opted to keep my child support payments at the same level as what I was paying out under my old job.  About 35 percent of my net pay goes straight into the X's bank account, and I think she still gets paid more in child support than what she grosses with her current employer.  I've been cooking at home more, and eating out less.  I also take leftovers with me for lunch at work. 

Still, there have been some added challenges.  For one thing, on the Friday before I started my new job, I wrecked my car after hitting a patch of ice on a side street, so I started off the new year with a new car payment.  In February, the dentist decided that a crown that had been giving me problems since October of last year was in need of a root canal.  In March, a small part of my roof on my porch started to collapse due.  There was a lack of ice and water protection near the gutter and leakage over time resulted in rotting.  Insurance doesn't cover such things, so that repair work will require the replacement of the roof.  The price tag will be around $9,500.  I will be financing a little under a third of that because to do otherwise would basically wipe out the saving I have accumulated over the past five years.  I am praying that my air conditioning doesn't die this summer.

The recurring series of unfortunate events left me feeling some deep emotional lows.  I did see a counselor at the beginning of May through my employer's EAP.  He suggested I start doing freelance work on the side to supplement my income rather than trying to find a higher paying job.  I also went to the doctor to see about getting put back on antidepressants.  I went of venlafaxine for a month, but it resulted in anorgasmia.  Although my current employer is supposed to have great health coverage, I was being charged around $190, about six times what I was paying for venlafaxine at my old job at the same pharmacy (in network), and the cost of doctor visits went up about $30.  Yes, both plans were high-deductible.  The whole experience left me feeling that I can't afford to be treated for depression.  I have been doing my best to keep things together by trying to avoid negative thoughts.

On the relationship front, that is going pretty well.  I have been seeing her for a little over two years now.  We talked about blending families some at the beginning of the year, but the house issues  from March meant that I had less money for remodeling and expansion work.  We still see each other on the weekends where we don't have our kids, and I come over to her house for dinner once a week, usually on Tuesdays.  I took my first out-of-town vacation in over seven years about a month ago, joining her and her family at a rented cabin down by the river that forms the southern border of the state.  She is struggling financially, too.  Back in September, she took a job that is more in line with a postgraduate degree she has been pursuing, but there was a pay cut involved, so I know she has been stressed over that.

That's about all I can think of for now.  If you have additional questions about what's been going on, let me know in the comment section.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Late Night Listening XLII: Take Five (Years)

The title for this post is inspired by Dave Brubeck, whose passing last week gave jazz lovers reason to pause and reflect the richness of his life's work.  It's probably cliche to express a fondness of "Take Five", but I especially love this recording, which sets the tune to lyrics.

If you click around the 2007-era post archives on this blog, you'll turn up a lot of agonizing about a lengthy and stressful job search, which wrapped up at the end of that year.

The year 2012 has seen a similar search, playing itself out over the course of a year, but not the national scale.  Almost all of my job prospects have been local to the Circle City, with the few national ones being those which had telecommute options.

The motivation for moving on started out as a growing dissatisfaction with the job, as the product veep started to grate on my nerves more and more.  But as the year drew near to an end, it became more and more apparent that the company's future was becoming ever so more cloudy.
At this late hour, I have my eighth job offer of the year on the table.  I also had my share of rejections (five to be exact).  Most of them stemmed from lack of familiarity with a particular language or technology and an unwillingness to take a chance on me assaulting the learning curve.

The present offer was extended formally to me this past Thursday evening, with a request that I make a decision by this Tuesday, and I have been at levels of anxiety that I haven't experienced for some time.  I've bought some time by sending a list of clarifying questions to the hiring manager, and he as responded by asking me to come up to the office for another visit.

All and all, unless I see some serious red flags during my visit, I will accept the offer, but I want to make sure I don't hate myself in the process.

So where did the other seven offers come from.  I'll itemize:
  1. Subscription-Based Online Business Reputation Listing of Angela -- originally applied for engineering position for search; offered me lesser development role involving more generic website development; offer extended in Feb.; increased pay by 2 %.
  2. Big Pharma Marketing Collateral Warehouse Fulfillment -- suggested by local recruiter; would have involved Java MVC framework development with dysfunctional source code tree and hosting on a mainframe; offer extended in Feb.; increased pay by 2 %
  3. Education Employment Screening System -- applied for senior engineering role; somewhat shaky operation with production servers hosted in their building's basement and strange Java/SQL Server architecture; offer extended in Feb.; decreased pay by 5.3 %
  4. Local For-Profit Professional and Trade School -- suggested by recruiter; school spent $2 M on outsourced development in China for custom built social network; brought in-house in desperate need of scalability; offer extended in late June; maintained same pay
  5. Bean Crock 24-Hour Restaurants --  suggested by recruiter; restaurant chain needed a senior level developer to come in and bring code base and build process under control; turned down job before they could give me a salary
  6. Consulting Firm for Big New England Insurance Co. -- suggested by recruiter; would have been contracted to contractor; enterprisey development team built newfangled insurance quoting site without good knowledge of JavaScript; needed JavaScript debugger; offer extended in late Oct.; 16-percent annual increase in pay
  7. Red Diamond that Does "Great Things" Seed and Pesticides -- suggested by recruiter; would have been a 6-month contract to help a biostatistician build a web interface around some statistical analysis code that would help them make decisions on where to funnel R&D dollars; offer extended in early Nov.; 6 percent annual increase in pay
  8. Biggest Public Post-Secondary School in the State -- responded to ad; surprisingly progressive IT team looking to bring mature and effective development and operations people maintain legacy apps of ill repute and develop new apps using open source technology stack; 6 percent decrease in pay but awesome health insurance, retirement savings plan, and vacation time policy
Yep.   That's right.  Tons of effort to find a job only to wind up taking the one with the biggest pay cut.  That's the biggest part of my ambivalence towards accepting the offer.  In the long run, the benefits may turn out to be a better deal, but giving up $500 gross per month is a tough one to digest.

Of secondary concern is that the job would require the return to a car-based commute.  With my current job, I've been riding the bus into work for the most part.  The only days I've driven have been situations where I needed to be somewhere, and taking the bus to get there would have been impractical or would have required me leaving too early since the service is hourly.

I won't be driving as far as I was driving for my job that I held from 2005 - 2007 (19 miles versus 25), but it will be to the northeast side of the metro area, passing through two or three traffic choke points.  That means more stress from the drive, more costs on fuel, and the possibility that I'll finally have to ditch my 2000 Saturn L Series which has like 168,000+ miles on it.

Finally, I will most likely be giving up my flexibility in hours.  One of the things that has kept me tied to my current job for so long is the fact that I do have the ability to shift my hours as long as I am getting stuff done.  That means that I can take off work at 3 pm on Wednesdays to pick up my kids from the bus after school and take them to their piano lessons, if I have to.

On the bright side, even if this is an academic institution, their leadership seems to be heading in a more forward-thinking direction, and I will continue to work on an open source technology stack and get a crack at doing some bleeding edge technology stuff as well.

Moreover, of all the potential employers, this is the only one where I didn't feel like I would need to take a shower at the end of the day because I felt like I was doing something either shady or evil.  Since this is a vocational and technical school, my work would be helping people get an education that would open new doors, rather than shifting wealth towards the already wealthy.

I can probably  make it through the pay cut.  It will require eating in more and being more stringent about not saying "Yes" to every expenditure that X asks for.  There is a chance I could also supplement some of that lost income through freelance work, but that would be new territory and I don't know if I have a deep enough rolodex.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Late Night Listening XLI: Are You on Fire?

There's something about the season... the shortening of days, the changing of clocks, or perhaps the contentiousness of the nation's political Zeitgeist... that works to stir up my existential angst. But when you throw in an Indigo Girls concert, that kicks things up to crisis level.

This past Friday, these talented souls put on an amazing show in a college town southeast of here. I had purchased the tickets back in mid-July when my Beloved had heard they were scheduled to play there. It was my first time seeing both of them live. This past May, I had seen Amy perform solo at a snug local venue and was similarly blown away.

I remember being hooked on them after seeing the video "Closer to Fine" on Mtv back in the early fall of 1988. I hadn't even turned 20 yet, but the song's yearning to transcend the confusion of living spoke to me strongly. Their harmonies, unlike anything else in the mainstream, lured me in.

I was in my second year of college, struggling mightily with organic chemistry, worried horribly about a grandmother who had endured a horrible accident that would leave her an invalid for another 16 years, and still stuck in an estrangement from my father that had lasted for almost four years.

Unfortunately, it was also a time of limited budgets, so I didn't invest in a copy of that album. The song would wander in and out of my mind over the years, but for the most part, I didn't follow their prolific career.

When I moved to the Circle City in 2000, I started listening to an indie rock station here, which would play newer tracks from them. In 2005, I borrowed a copy of Retrospective and it gave me a chance to sample their work in the years between.

My Beloved, by contrast, is a huge fan and has followed them throughout the years, and has been to multiple concerts. I smiled as I would occasionally glance over to watch her singing along to her favorites.

The performance on Friday was interesting from the standpoint that their opening act, the Shadowboxers, doubled as a backup band, a group of young guys who have some killer harmonies in their own right.

The show had many moments that touched me, but the most powerful performance was their rendition of "Kid Fears". Amy and Emily started off alone, and toward the end, a member of the Shadowboxers comes on stage to sing the male vocals. The emotions the song tapped in side of me have left my mind playing that part of the concert over and over.

The overall state of my life is difficult to describe, and there are probably changes on the horizon, but I can't quite puzzle out what form it take. My employer, Company Line, is probably reaching a point where it is time to pull the plug. Despite revamps in the product and efforts to create a more effective sales program, the traction hasn't been there.

After having been there for almost five years and seeing a lot of people come and go, and having seen my closest coworker been dismissed ungracefully after she burnt out, I have struggled most days to get of out bed and get to the office.

I've done some job searching over the summer and fall. I have been presented with three more offers, and I've turned them all down because they were not natural steps of growth or not good cultural fits.

Amid all of the work uncertainty, my relationship with my Beloved keeps me going. The loneliness and isolation I've struggled with in the past has become a distant memory, and I've been spending way less time living inside my head when dealing with problems, which is why I haven't felt the need to post to my blog for a while.

We've been together almost 1 1/2 years, and the emotional bonds have grown stronger. And much to my surprise, both her kids and mine have been very comfortable with us, although we do get some ribbing over displays of affection. We're still a ways away from merging households, but it has become an ever increasing reality with the passage of time.

Although there are many planes in our connectedness, music is perhaps the strongest one, and we have had countless conversations over what we love most and what it means to us.

Perhaps some of the emotional heaviness I experienced at last Friday's show was an elevated awareness of the time that has passed over the past two-plus decades of my adult life and the sorrow that so many of those years were spent without knowing her, or even knowing of her existence.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering if things would have been better if we would have crossed paths at a much earlier point in our lives. My Beloved puts it into perspective by saying we met at the right time in our lives, when we were ready for each other, shaped by the bumps and scrapes of living life.

Although that ascribe to the Universe a level of grand design that I don't quite buy into, she's probably right in the sense that we are who we are now because of the things we lived through, and that to think that we could have lived for the better by meeting earlier on would be foolish because at that stage of our lives, we were very different people.

When I hear this, I know she is right. To meet her at this stage of my life couldn't be a better time, for there is still plenty life to be lived, and everything leading up to this point has made me realize just how rare this kind of sustained connectedness can be.