Monday, December 21, 2009

Late Night Listening XXXV: First Day of Winter Edition

I don't think there has been a time in my life where this song has been more relevant than now.

The past month has been rough for me. Shorter days and colder weather usually don't help my spirits, but this year I couldn't even bring myself to listen to anything remotely Christmas themed until today, when I finally tuned in to the XM Pops channel to listen to chorales.

I don't think I'm turning into a Scrooge. I make a distinction between that spirit which is pure and good and rightly represents the season and the commercialism and the compulsion that drives peoples to misery in the quest of doing things that are believed to keep others happy.

I was generous with gifts to my employees, and I took them out for lunch on the day of the final release. I have been active in selecting and purchasing gifts for the kids. I have donated freely to charities, and I've even tried to set a good example for my daughters, teaching them to put money in the bell ringers' kettles.

I know that workaholism has been a recurring theme in posts here, but my funk isn't really a work/life balance problem. It's more like an everything else/me balance issue. I've been spending way too much time handling requests from others that I've neglected to tend to my own needs.

The condition of my house had deteriorated into an embarrassing mess over the past month. The family room had been cluttered with the girls' toys and art supplies. My kitchen table once again reached critical mass with bills and junk mail. I was behind on laundry, and nary a dish was clean. I hit rock bottom this past weekend and finally rolled up my sleeves, getting the house straightened up. The bathroom could use some work, and I still have an unruly pile of note pads from work, but the day-to-day stuff is caught up once again.

On the work front, we had a development cycle that ran between Thanksgiving and the middle of last week. As sometimes happens, some items required way more work than what was anticipated. There were even a couple of things that we hadn't anticipated working on. There was a lot of client side work, too, so I had to step up and code some JavaScript. There were even a couple of Bozo items that came up from some of our high maintenance clients.

The last two releases involved going into overtime with test completion times in the late evening. Just about four hours before the first release, our hosting provider had a power issue that wound up taking out 3/8 of our server capacity for a couple hours. The other release had to be delayed by a day to make sure that must have features were implemented.

On top of this, I was busy trying to find a new developer. After revisiting the resume pile, I picked out five candidates for consideration. One of the interviews lasted a mere six minutes because they weren't aware we were a Linux shop and they had no desire to learn that. The other four made it to the point where they got the mini project assignment. One of them didn't submit a response. The other three had problems serious enough that I sent them rejection letters.

On the personal front, my daughters and I attended the wedding and reception for my cousin whose mother is the aunt with whom I've had issues in the past. I really didn't want to go because it was back in my hometown, and I feared that I'd have to face and talk to people about my situation. In a small town like that, there isn't much respect for boundaries. Fortunately, most of the people there I didn't know, so I was able to remain in obscurity.

STBX asked me to work from home on the 11th because our younger daughter had a fever, so she couldn't go to her sitter. STBX had a full calendar that day, complete with a test for the secretary training course she had been taking and driving her mother up to a clinic to see a doctor. The doctor's visit ran way over, and her mom got sick on some medicine that she had taken, so I wound up staying late with the kids, missing the company Christmas party.

Then on the 16th, she asked me to take the day off to take the younger daughter to the pre-school co-op for her last day of school there. After about a month of elevated drama, STBX decided she couldn't take it anymore. The school's finances are a mess, and the executive director has been trying to pin the blame on STBX's close friend, who served as the co-op president the previous year and as treasurer the year before. They submitted complaints to the county prosecutor, who looked at the claims and decided there wasn't enough evidence to file charges.

When STBX found out what all had been going on, she was livid, so much so that she stopped taking our younger daughter to class. On some days, the younger daughter didn't go at all. On others, she was taken by the sitter.

It suffices to say that my day at the co-op was awkward. One of the mothers asked me whether there was anything they could do to change our minds. I said that I wasn't sure about the circumstances of the withdrawal and that I only wrote the tuition checks. My younger daughter volunteered during circle time that she was going to a different school after this.

The irony of all of this is that the co-op had been a social underpinning for STBX. For the past four years, she had been on the board, chaired fund raising efforts, had served as president, and had baked countless items. One of the things that had weighed on my reluctance to push forward with the divorce was that I didn't want her to have to pull the younger daughter out of school because she would have a full-time job. But now, it is a moot point.

I am still struggling with isolation. There's a part of me that wants to get out and connect with others, yet there is inertia. There are feelings of guilt that I can't quite explain other than I feel like it's wrong for me to have fun before I'm fully divorced, so I am stuck in limbo.

I have been listening to some local programs that promote local music acts, and I caught word of a parody lounge act that was going to be backed by a big band orchestra for a Christmas show at a popular jazz venue. I wanted to go badly, but I couldn't bring myself to go alone.

I ran a "strictly platonic" ad on CL a week prior to the show to see if anyone wanted to go along. I got one reply from a woman from the northern part of the state whose life I would find was rife with drama and lacking in reliable transportation. Another was from someone who planned to go to the show and said I should go alone regardless. On Friday, when I had resigned myself to going alone, I found that all seats were sold out for both shows.

If there is any consolation from this experience, it is that I will get another chance to see the lounge act, sans big band, on New Year's Eve at a great place on my side of town. So I've committed to that night by purchasing a ticket up front. At least I can take comfort in knowing that I won't be spending my New Year's Eve in isolation.

Three years ago, I used the phoenix as a metaphor for the self dissolution that I was undergoing in the big job search of 2006-7 and the collapse of my marriage. The phoenix certainly rose from the ashes on the career front, but my social life still lies dormant. The hiatus is taking a toll on my spirit, and I fear that if I don't take decisive action to break through this year, I may not be able to recover. My gut is that I'm going to have to build a social graph from scratch.

Just as a Scrabble player whose current set of tiles allows no useful word combination, I must cast them back and draw anew if I am to make progress.
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