One Ball Juggler

A statement I made in my last blog Competent Confidence has been bothering me since I published it. “…I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time.” There was a time when I was actively involved in church, working more than full time, volunteering for The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, and chaired and coordinated the Wish Children’s Holiday party for several years. Not to mention writing with abandon. I was an avid Franklin Day Planner enthusiast, which is how I kept my life straight….mostly. I hoped the plasticity of my life would come back to me over time but it hasn’t. I’m not really expecting my life to spring back to my pre-caregiver days because 1) A lot of the frenzied activity I participated in was to prove to myself and other people I was a good person and 2) I’m older and a little wiser now.

I want to write. I want to re-engage in the world. I want to get my “gig” going to supplement my income to help me reach my financial goals. I keep having false starts on all of it. I am proud of the fact my website is up, pamelagartner.com, but I’ve not gone any further on that. I want to write everyday either my current novels, my journal or my blogs. So far, blogging here is the only consistent writing I’ve been doing and honestly, this is just opening a vein and letting it flow. To be a single, self-employed writer, by necessity, you have to be able to keep two balls in the air at one time. When you have your body breaking down and betraying you, you need to work-out, plan meals and eat right. (ball three) To be a member of any sub-set of the whole of society you have to be willing to go out, engage in activities, make friends and be a part of it all. (ball four) I am blessed with a truck-load of friends and family so, maybe a cadre of acquaintances and new experiences will be sufficient. However, I still need to do the basics for that.

My writing has always been the most important thing to me since I was eleven. I’ve always wanted to be a published author. I used to write (pen and paper) every chance I got. I used to carry a 5 subject notebook around with my school books and I wrote instead of taking notes in class or studying in the library. Later, I carried 5.5″x8.5″ paper in my Franklin to write when I was bored in meetings or on a long lunch. I loved the freedom. I’ve gotten so keyboard-bound the idea of handwriting now seems laborious and a waste of time so I’ve abandoned the practice. My imagination and desire to write has come back to me now the stressors in life are receding, and like a petulant child, the muse wants my undivided attention…NOW! This unrelenting presence in my head makes me frustrated with everything I do because I’m not writing. I try not to let my projects distract me while I work because I can’t stop in the middle of a blood draw or accessioning someone into the system to write down an idea, line of dialogue, or plot twist before it’s gone. This makes it doubly hard for when I get home because it takes time to get the muse to answer your calls when you’ve ignored her all day.

As I’ve been writing this I realize I’m expecting too much of myself, again. It’ll be five years this December since the apocalypse happened. When that life consuming, ginormous snow-ball of a task was finally taken out of the juggling rotation and I started to rebuild my life I expected things to spring back to what was my normal. It hasn’t. At times in the past half-decade I was gifted with time to re-write my last novel twice during the 18 weeks of convalescence of breaking my foot and then the three months of pandemic confinement. It was the only ball I had to keep in the air. During those times I was living my authentic self, and I LOVED IT.

My broken brain has conflated the idea I did all the writing while working full-time; successfully keeping both balls in the air, and berating me for not doing it now. I need to be happy I am able to keep the working-full-time-ball in the air without losing it. Putting pressure on me to get all the balls up in the air again and gracefully moving in artistic patterns and mesmerizing circles is only going to distract me from the one ball I have successfully flying now. Juggling is all about timing and stamina. As much as I need it, as much as the little demanding muse wants it, the timing just isn’t right for more than one ball until I am stronger to handle a second. Dangit.

Competent Confidence

A hundred years ago I used to (try to) sell mobile homes, or the proper term is Manufactured Houses. These weren’t trailers and none of them could be hooked up to the back of a truck and moved in the dead of night to skip out on space rent. When I started in the business the licensure was a step above used-car salesman. I worked at a now defunct firm in Santa Clara called Roney and Associates where the broker was ga-ga over a real estate sales guru called Tommy Hopkins. He was big in the business at the time and he did seminars, boot camps in Scottsdale AZ and sold all sorts of books and cassette taped lectures. Though he was an accomplished real estate salesperson, he made his hard core money selling his classes, books, boot camps and cassette tapes. My mother internalized a lot of it as a professional way to manipulate the family. Her mistake was to let my sister C and I listen to the tapes and we could hear the “close” coming and realize we were being played. I bring him up because one portion of a lesson has always stuck with me…

The Stages of Competence

Stage 1: Unconscious INCOMPETENCE

This is a euphoric state when you realize everyone around you is floundering and you’re sailing through. All the square blocks are effortlessly falling into the really large round holes but you’re too pleased with yourself to notice. You keep plugging along because it’s working and you aren’t sweating it.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

Suddenly the euphoria erupts into chaos. The round holes are smaller and the square blocks were actually pyramid shaped and they HAVE to go sideways into the only visible hole in front of you. You throw your hands up and scream to the heavens but you don’t quit because you know you can and will get it…..maybe……someday…..if they don’t fire you first. I will have to say, at this stage it never occured to me I could go back to my old job. Like I said before, the benefits are just too good to leave. So, the only thing to do is remember all the kind encouragement, barked instructions and training and keep pushing toward stage 3.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

I think I hit this stage today. Our float to help out didn’t make it, probably had to cover for someone who didn’t make it to their site. It was steady and I wasn’t overwhelmed by a throng of patients. Luckily. I found myself pausing when stressed and taking a deep breath and (I hate to admit it but…) the trainer from Training Is Fun-Da-Mental‘s advise of highlighting everything (even though it eats into the wait time) is helping me catch things like stool samples that also read as blood, duplicate orders and other things I’M SUPPOSED TO BE CATCHING but generally don’t. We’ll see how well this works when it’s busy tomorrow, especially if I’m alone at the desk but it was nice to evaluate myself today as not drowning at the front desk for the first time EVER.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

The hithertofore yet to be obtained stage for my work at the front desk and in the lab.

This is the goal.

This is the ultimate of ultimates.

I know once I subdue the beasty known as the front desk my next battle royale will be the lab. I’m doing okay, I have help if I have any questions, but I need to go faster. But I’m not beating myself up about it because I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time. It stymies me into inaction which doesn’t help anyone…..especially me. So, for the front desk, I’m hoping by the end of this month or the middle of next I will have a handle on it and the aforementioned trainer won’t have too much of a need to bark instructions at me from over my shoulder. The lab is just a matter of accurate speed. Speed is a matter of muscle memory. Muscle memory in a body which feels like it’s wrapped in dementia most of the time is the hurdle I need to clear. But that, my dear reader, is a blog for another day…..soon.

Now & Zen

I’ve been working on reducing my need for Ashwagandha, not remove it, but to lighten my dose a little to see what happens and what other supplements I can use in concert with my Ashwa habit.  I’ve done some research and I settled on L-Theanin.  It’s found in green tea, but it isn’t green tea…no caffeine, no tannin no thermos full of machta to get my RDA.  It’s suppose to sedate the mind without making you tired.  At the moment,I want to be sedated.

Perhaps starting this new regime while still trying to acclimate to my new job might not have been the best decision.  I added it to my morning meds on Monday and until Wednesday everything was peachy, nothing had really changed.  I even had the same trainer I mentioned in Training Is Fun-Da-Mental who seemed to want to kick my legs out from under me every chance she got.  (My paranoia has informed me she has reported every foible back to the boss lady.  It has been a struggle to keep my paranoia and anxiety from comparing notes.)  But I survived, that was my point.  I had therapy on Wednesday night and woke up tired on Thursday and struggled to do the morning draws and processing but I felt every prickly ounce of stress and salty drop of anxiety the whole day.  I came home, ate a bowl of cereal and went to bed.  Today was a re-run, just add diarrhea .  I did do better with getting through but the Zen-like calm I normally feel with the double-double dose of Ashwa was barely holding me up.  I hate feeling stupid, and constantly correcting myself when I call myself stupid, idiot, etc. 

I have noticed though when I am able to push through the initial onslaught of anxiety due to a new situation, or a change in process, correction and so on, I can quickly take stock and realize what it is I need to do to get it done, fix it, or who to ask to help.  I am asking for help.  I consider that a win and a move in the right direction.  I’ve been assured I am doing well, and my coworker has heard nothing but good things about me from the people who have trained me but when I have days like today and yesterday I wonder.  I soothe myself with the statement “lf if this job doesn’t work out I will just get another one”  I honestly don’t want another one, the benefits of this one is AWESOME. 

Tomorrow I work at a busy site that’s open 7/365 and I don’t think anyone in the group will assign me to work in the processing lab or checking people in so it should just be a busy day of sticking people with needles.  I am going to double my L-Theanine dose and see if I feel any calmer.  I can’t afford to lose my Zen.  I like my Zen.  I want to take it home, put it in a box and buy it squeaky toys.   Plan B of my Zen-Quest is to take the L-Theanine at night and the Ashwa in the morning.  Plan 3 is to just go back to the double-double dose  and keep and eye on my Thyroid. 

Wish me Zen.

UPdate

i was wrong. When I showed up on -time with my co-worker from my site I couldn’t find a lab coat in the room that was in my size. No lab coat, no sticking people with needles. I spent the first few hours on the front desk after everyone else on the team trickled in fifteen to thirty minutes later, giving the people in the waiting queue about and hour to contemplate how easier and convenient having your blood drawn on Saturday isn’t. The lead eventually found me a labcoat that would fit, almost, and I’m pretty sure by the wrinkles in the thing she pulled it out of the dirty dab coat bin. It didn’t smell and it didn’t have any unsightly or unexplainable stains on it so who am I to complain. It got me off the desk.

As for the re-mix of the morning supplements, the double L-Theanine did the trick. I still felt a little harried, especially when the lead would go through her personal exercises of correcting everyone, not just me. I guess that was something, I’m not the only one she feels is totally inept and needs “training”.

I was exhausted though. My mind work up at the normal time, 4:30am, and wanted me to get up and work in my journal, write, or do something productive. My body refused to obey. It’s been a nice quiet restful day. I did get the nibs and converters in my fountain pens cleaned and ready for the new ink I just bought….One is called writers blood. If I like the way it flows I might buy a big bottle and make it my signature color. I don’t feel the heart of darkness black ink I used to use doesn’t represent me any more. We shall see.