Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

8/28/2020

A Few Thoughts on Grief and Stress

Filed under: About The Author,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

This year has been pretty rough for everyone.

I don’t know who I’m writing this for, but I’m sure there’s someone out there that’s got the same pain going on as I do.
We started the year with whatever personal and financial challenges we have every year. There are always more bills than there is money to pay them. We all would like to get paid more and have more leisure time to enjoy our families. That’s a constant struggle under the best of circumstances. Then, we had a pandemic. COVID-19 swept the world, bringing with it fear, stress and, ultimately, grief. Here in the USA, we didn’t get a lot of leadership on how to handle the raging infection rates, so things got worse. Then, we had conflicting information thrown at us until no one knew what to do or not do to best stay safe. That’s still the case. On top of that, many of us lost jobs or had businesses that were in financial difficulty. In some cases, entire industries had economic problems, like the oil and gas industry. That alone would be enough to cause pretty severe emotional distress.

Then, a month ago, my father died. Now, I know not everyone has a great relationship with their parents, but my Dad and I had a great relationship. I talked to him every week on the phone for twenty-two years. Basically, every week since I moved to Texas in June of 1998, I talked to my parents on the phone. I would regularly call Dad for advice, simply because I could. I mean, I mostly knew what he was going to tell me, but, sometimes it was nice to hear him say it. Since he died, I haven’t slept well. Not that I was sleeping great to begin with, but it was definitely worse after he passed. I have strange body aches. Yes, those might be the result of being almost fifty-two and never considering the punishment my body was taking when I did stupid things, like drop out of second-story windows and other assorted bad ideas. But, my wife tells me that those are almost certainly symptoms of grief. She’s lost several people close to her, so she’s in a position to know. I feel strange. It’s almost a kind of mild body dysmorphia or depersonalization, which I tend to read as having eaten something bad or not hydrated well enough during the day. I just don’t feel like my physical body is quite right sometimes. Again, she assures me that it’s the physical symptoms of grief.
And, there’s the anger. I have such a limited capacity for other people being slow in any way right now. If I find myself at a loss for a particular word, I want to just push past it and move on with the conversation, but if anyone else delays or gets “stuck” on something, I get very quickly frustrated. I’m aware of it, so I think I’m keeping it mostly in check, but I am so very aware that it’s there, just beneath the surface.

I’ve read books on grief, but, as I told my Dad in our last conversation, we’re at the point of seeing just how applicable all that theoretical knowledge really is. Because let me tell you, there’s a huge difference between having read about death and grief and actually experiencing it. It does help, though, to know that I am, in fact, going through the grief process and that it is a lot more unclear and a lot less simple than any book explains it. It’s not a straight line through the five stages, that’s for sure. But, I’m learning to have some compassion for myself, which is its own challenge, and I’m learning to apply some of the practices I say I believe in. The struggle to apply the theory is there, but at least I’m aware and able to see what’s happening in my own interior life. One step at a time, one day at a time. That’s what I tell myself and how I try to take it. The next time I know someone who loses a loved one, I think I’ll be better equipped to help them based on what I’m learning here, about both the world and myself.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words. I don’t normally post this kind of thing on my professional site, but it just seemed to be relevant right now.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t separate the personal from the professional these days.

5/1/2020

Time Distortion Under Stress

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, does anybody really know what time it is?

I know everyone is talking about this, but I have to constantly remind myself of the day and time. And, yes, I know this is a side effect of being do far out of my normal routine, like everyone else is, that my brain’s sense of time has gone into a kind of psychological freefall. Also, it it may be a side of effect of both the isolation and the stress. I know, for instance, that some of my issues with concentration and memory are almost certainly related to the stress of working from home and the rush I went through to try and get as many people as possible able to work remotely. So, I feel confident that when my work schedule more closely resembles something that’s at least regular, if not “normal” whatever that even means any more, some of those issues will be less. Of course, that sense of time dislocation and general fuzzy-headedness is the reason that I’m writing this at 10:30pm on Thursday night, when I usually write these much earlier in the day and week, queueing them up in time for Friday morning. At least I know that I’m doing the things that will generally help with long-term stress, according to this article on LifeHacker, which is keeping up with my normal, regular sessions of sitting meditation, regular phone calls to distant family, and getting back on my rowing machine, which I’ve neglected for far too long. I should be getting better sleep and trying to be more creatively engaged, but, well, the concentration and memory things make that difficult for me. And, I’ve always had some issues sleeping, more so since having had cancer back in 2007. But, I work at all that, as well as trying to cultivate and maintain a positive mental attitude, which is frustratingly difficult. Though, thanks to this article on Boing Boing about positive thinking, at least I know why I still struggle with it, and, again, I find it comforting that I’m mostly doing the things suggested in the article and video to reinforce positive thinking rather than the negative. It sure is a process though, as the arty types are fond of saying.
And, just a quick note before I share some of the more fun links. COVID-19 is still super serious and the experts all seem to agree that there are more illnesses and, unfortunately, deaths coming from this. I know initially, it looked like it was going to be no more serious than the regular flu, but at the time I write this, the deaths from COVID-19 in roughly two months already have surpassed the number of deaths from the flu in all of the 2017-2018 flu season. And, not only do many people think those deaths are under-reported, even outside of China, but we’re just getting started here. If you’re having a hard time with visualizing how serious this really is, this article from Stat+ has some good visualizations for the potential death toll. That’s not counting, of course, the people who may suffer from long-term health issues after actually recovering from the disease. So, these numbers are why we’re being asked to wear a mask in public. That and the fact that symptoms take up to two weeks to appear and during that time an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient breathing out on someone could be infecting them. In other words, when I wear a mask, it’s as much about protecting those around me as it is protecting myself. Keep that in mind before you rant too much about your civil rights being infringed by a mask. Of course, some of my strong feelings about this may come from the fact that I just recently finished reading The Great Influenza, about the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. It’s a little terrifying how similar the entire situation is to what we’re facing today. (And, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can follow the daily stats in the US via Google. Again, the numbers are a little terrifying.)

Okay, now that I’ve got you good and worked up over something or other, here is the gentle, distracting content you actually came here for!
Just to start you off with something mellow, via Boing Boing, Muzak for Airplanes. Believe it or not, this offering from the same people who brought you soothing elevator music dates back to the 60’s and is so chill I can absolutely see it keeping uneasy airline passengers calm. We aren’t flying much these days, but the calm music is pretty nice background sound.
And, while you’re at it, check out Isle of Calm; 6 hours of calm, soothing music from NPR.
One of the ways I generally escape the world is through books. And, regular readers, if I haven’t frightened you away by now, know that I love free or cheap ebooks. It’s how I roll. So, in an effort to encourage more of the world to read, here’s a Lifehacker article/video on where to get free ebooks. And, if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, try one of the sources in this list of free ebook sites from MakeUseOf. Hopefully, between the two of them, you’ll find something to take your mind of all this.

And, for the kids of all ages, there’s NASA at Home, daily offerings from NASA to bring space into your home with books, videos, activities and more. There’s surely something here to enlighten or entertain, all brought to you thanks to your tax dollars, so enjoy it!
For the geeks that need to do something with their hands, there’s Rocky Bergen’s computer papercraft models. All free to download and share. You just need to print them, score and fold them, then glue them to recreate classic computers from paper in your home. Seriously, they’re pretty cool and I may have to try one, just for something different to do.

Finally, something for homeowners that are thinking about all that toilet paper we’re flushing at home, via Boing Boing; the Drain Addict. A YouTube channel of a professional drain cleaner. Trust me when I tell you that if the idea of 450 videos about cleaning out blocked drains doesn’t interest you, you’ve never had a major plumbing problem in your home. It’s weirdly fascinating. (And, if you want to go right to the YouTube channel, it’s here.)

So, there you go. Enjoy! See you next week with… Really, I have no idea. But there’ll be something here.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/21/2009

All stressed up and

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

…No one to choke.

I’ve been living with a lot of stress lately.  It sneaks up on me when I least expect it.  I noticed it this past week when I almost snapped at church while driving one of the vans to pick up women from a local shelter to bring them to church.  Yeah, I know, that totally sounded like a self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-promotion statement, but that’s what I was doing.  The additional stress of doing that for the first time, not knowing where I was going or what the procedure was combined with driving essentially a small bus, which is the largest vehicle I’ve driven in years and years, in the rain, had me about ready to snap.

But, here’s the thing, I didn’t notice that the stress was building up until it was right on top of me.
Looking back, I can see all the warning signs.  I’ve been eating too much and exercising not enough.  Nor have I been sleeping enough.  Witness the fact that I’m writing this at about 1:00AM after not working out because I fell asleep on the couch after eating a huge bowl of left-over mac-and-cheese-and-Spam.  Don’t judge me, you hypocrites who are all acting shocked because I ate Spam.  You have your comfort foods, too.  Mine just happens to be high-fat, processed meat with delicious hickory flavoring added right in for your convenience.  And, I’ve been eating donuts and candy at work, too.  But, the other signs are worse.  I’ve been clenching my jaw for weeks now, to keep myself from saying the things I don’t want to say out loud, at work and elsewhere.  I don’t want to be the asshole that turns loose with the biting sarcasm at the least provocation.  Well, I don’t want to be that guy again.  Oh, sure, it’s funny, but it doesn’t exactly make me the kind of person who other people want to get close to and be honest with.

Worst of all, I’ve noticed that I’m not getting everything done at work that I want to get done.  My users have come to expect a certain level of service that I’m proud to be able to deliver.  I try to make things run smoothly enough that no one waits for more than a few minutes for anything really important and most things aren’t really important.  But, that has its problems, too.  Now, I think that my users are used to not waiting, so some of them get impatient when they don’t have instant results.  Worse, I’ve made the impossible happen on short notice so many times now that everyone seems to expect that to be the norm.  Apparently, I haven’t made it clear enough that I’m making an exceptional effort to accomplish some of these things on short notice so everyone seems to think I can just produce at that level all the time.  Well, guess what?  I CAN’T! I know, I know, I should take time off, right? Because a little time off will make it better, right?  Well, not so much.  I am, in fact, taking several days next week to go watch my nephew graduate from Basic Training, but I’m so worried about what’s going to go wrong while I’m away that I can’t hardly sleep at all, unless I pass out from exhaustion on the couch, like I did tonight.  And, yes, I know this is getting more and more panicked and ranty sounding, but that’s in part because I feel more and more panicked and stark, raving mad the closer I get to trying to take a couple of days for myself like everyone else in the company does, because I’m so terrifed that nothing will work while I’m away or that the office will call all the damn time while I’m on the road that it will be worse than actually being there and just disappointing my nephew. I mean, if the users can’t wait five minutes for me, how are they going to wait five days?

I try to remind myself that I’m lucky to have a job.  And, I know I am, but sometimes the stress is enough to make my heart explode in my chest.  And, I know they did survive when I was getting treatment for cancer, but there are more of them now and it took weeks to sort out the mess that was the result of me being away so much that year.
There’s nothing much for me to do about it, either.  I try not to hate the person I see myself becoming.  I try not to backslide too badly on my exercise and generally better diet.  I try to pray.  I try to sleep.  I try to just relax.  But, I’ll be honest, gentle readers, I’m just not designed to run this hot anymore.  I used to live at this stress-level all the time, but that was a long time ago.  Besides, I was a real asshole when I lived like that.  And, I really, really don’t want to be that guy again.  But, I’m starting to wonder if that’s not the only way to deal with it, if that guy is the guy who’s designed to work under those conditions.  Maybe.  I hope not.
Or, somehow, conditions will have to change.  Soon.

Well, until then, I guess I’d better try to catch a few hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all again.
I hope your collective weeks are going better than that, my faithful readers.
And, with that, we return you to your regular internet drivel.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Aw, damnit, I left my spontaneous quips in my other pants."


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