An Attitude Adjustment

There’s a new employee at my part-time job, and they’ve got a defensive streak that really makes them unpleasant to interact with. This has created unnecessary turmoil in my life lately. Of course, I’m treating it as an exercise in learning how to filter my language to avoid unnecessary drama while still attempting to get things accomplished with difficult people. But more than that, I’m choosing to use it as a lesson in letting go, on a couple of levels – in letting go of expectation, negative emotion, and memories of things that are just not that big of a deal, in the scheme of life, the universe, and everything. In other words, I’m giving myself an attitude adjustment.

The other day, my coworker was nearly 10 minutes late, which might not seem like much, but is a big deal since there’s only one of us at a time. Whoever is manning the desk overnight can’t leave until their relief gets there, which is a problem if that person has a day job (as all of the night auditors at this hotel do). The person didn’t bother to call to let me know, so when they finally walked in, I was already late to Job #2.

On my way out the door, I asked if they had my number and explained that from now on if they’re running late they should call to give a heads up to whoever is working the desk. My coworker immediately started making an excuse about a car broken down, with an offer to show me photos of the car that had broken down, to which I replied, stupidly, “I don’t care.” Not meaning “I don’t care about your problems,” but rather “I’m not your boss, you don’t have to prove that your car was broken down.” It was an unfortunate turn of phrase, and I regret that I didn’t realize immediately that what I’d said could potentially be hurtful.

It didn’t hit me until later that I’d said something that could be interpreted a different way if you didn’t know me, so when I saw my coworker today, I explained myself and apologized for using the phrase “I don’t care” when we were talking. The person rolled their eyes at me and snorted. Awesome.

Of course, also today there were several things that a couple of our newer employees had mistakenly done over the last few days that I had to spend about an hour fixing last night. Part of my job is to fix the problems on reservations, but also let the morning shift know what’s going on. When I let my coworker know what had gone on overnight, they started passing the buck immediately. Keep in mind that this person is brand new. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know how to do something – it’s expected. But instead of “Oh yeah, I might have messed that up,” or “I think that was so-and-so who did that, but I don’t know how to fix it, could you show me?” all I got was “It’s so-and-so’s fault. I was training him and he did it wrong. Etc.” Mind you, I have no clue why a brand-new employee who doesn’t know the reservation system is training another new employee, but that’s out of my control. Also, if you’re “training” someone and they do it wrong, as the trainer, you should be equipped to correct the problem then and there, or at least leave a note so someone else can fix it instead of waiting for the night auditor to catch it in passing.

Oh well. It’s not my fault that this place is crazy, and there’s nothing I can do to fix the crazy. It was that way before I started, and it will be like that long after I’ve moved on. The only thing that is firmly within my control is letting go of the angst I’m feeling over working with people who are not interested in accepting responsibility and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and excel. This is my part time gig, not my career. It’s not my life, and it has very little bearing on my future, other than helping me pay off credit cards. It is within my power – and indeed, my responsibility – to watch my language, and never say things like “I don’t care” again – because obviously I do, very much. But it’s up to my coworkers to accept apologies, and to volunteer to learn things that will help get the drama and shambles under control.

It is also within my power to spend all day tomorrow looking for writing and editing gigs, so that if I have to keep working these long hours, at least I can do so from home, where I can control the quality of my surroundings and work output.

Anna’s Camino: Day 16 (Part 2) – Villafranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.

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Though I believed I’d seen my fair share of the Spanish countryside by the time we got to Villafranca Montes de Oca, this day’s walk was to be a lesson in avoiding assumption. Shortly after leaving town that morning, we entered a large swath of beautiful, undeveloped forest land, and it seemed like there was a new surprise around every curve. I walked down a long, quiet stretch of fern forest, saw the prettiest little flowers, and happily analyzed every new type of rock I stumbled across (sometimes literally). My college geology professor would have been amused at how a girl who’d often slept through class (you can’t blame me – it was at 8am, and you already know I’m not a morning person) would one day grow up to geek out over pebbles.

One of the biggest regrets of my morning was coming to a huge dip in the road and realizing that no photos I took were going to capture its stupefying dimensions. I’d walked up and down mountains before, but this was something else. It looked like a freefall I’d absolutely hate to take via rollercoaster. I was in awe, but still remembered an important lesson I’d found on my first steep downhill climb, going into Roncesvalles on Day 3. I unpacked my sandals and switched shoes, just in case, to make sure there was no way of hurting my toes on the downhill climb. I might have been masochist enough to go on this stupidly long walk, but no way was I going to lose toenails in the process. (Click here to learn about how I took care of my feet on the Camino Frances.)

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It’s difficult to make out in this photo, but the dark spot in the trail ahead is where the trail drops completely out of sight. The little speck far in the distance on the trail is Natalie.

By the time I got to the big hill, Natalie was already far ahead on the trail. In fact, if you look very carefully in the picture above, you can just make out a tiny hiker wearing orange pants on the uphill portion of the next hill. I spent most of the morning alone, only meeting one other person, a woman pilgrim who was nearly done walking her intended portion of the Camino. She and her husband were vacationing through Spain together via RV, and she had split up from him a few days before to walk to Burgos, where they would meet up again and drive on. I thought it was such a pleasant idea for sharing an experience with your partner without forcing them into a specific travel style that didn’t suit.

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Before getting to San Juan de Ortega, where I hoped to regroup with Natalie, I ran across two things I hadn’t expected. The first thing was situated just before coming to the big hill – an archaeological site and memorial plaque, at the site of a mass grave. I couldn’t understand much of the signage, but was able to understand that this site was the unfortunate location of an execution during the Spanish Civil War (here’s an article about the dig, as well as the possible victims). I took a moment to reflect and offer up a prayer, feeling sadly inadequate – it was striking me how woefully unprepared I’d been to be a traveler here. It felt like the ultimate disrespect, to spend so little time getting to know the ins and outs of the country that was to shelter me.

I did my best on the Camino to divorce myself from expectation, and to be present and aware that it was my job to listen, follow the locals’ leads, and most of all, to be courteous in all dealings. I’m not sure if I succeeded, but I take some solace in knowing that I tried. There was so much history under my feet, and I had so little prior knowledge of any of it. I walked on, sober in the realization that I was completely incapable of showing proper respect to the dead here. As much as I have tried to be open to being a child of the world, much of history is alien to me, evanescent, ultimately untouchable. Of course, this is obvious – none of us are time travelers (if you are, call me!) – but it doesn’t keep me from deep regret. The best I could do was to interpret the scene through a human lens, and understand the tragedy that accompanies any theft of life.

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This “Buen Camino” helped dispel a little of the unease felt on this part of the trail.

The second site I encountered was almost the exact opposite scene – an unexpected art installation, in the middle of nowhere. There were no explanatory plaques, so I still have no clue who made the art, or why, but it was a refreshing find. The path had become flat and very wide, and though the mud was drying, it was obvious that had we walked that way a day before, it would have been the same shoe-sucking muck that we’d encountered leading into Villafranca Montes de Oca. It appeared that there had been some deforestation along the trail in recent history. Where before, the trees had come right up to the trail, here there was a wide stretch of fern growth bordering the path on each side. At some point in this stretch, I began to feel uneasy. The quiet was overbearing. Something about the road just felt wrong. It wasn’t the first time on the Camino that I’d thought back to how medieval travelers hadn’t liked to travel through the woods, on account of the threat of brigands. At times, I felt time overlapping. It’s hard to explain properly, but I was afraid of the past of the woods, not the present. Present me felt no threat – in fact, felt no human presence lurking. But another part of me felt tapped into a primordial fear, like I was stepping into someone else’s feeling-shoes, and experiencing their emotional reaction to being watched from the woods of another time.

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Dat banana tongue, tho…

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Dear artist – if you’re reading this, your beautiful sun/moon/heart/rainbow composition was one of the prettiest things I saw on the whole trip. Thank you! ❤

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Either way, as soon as I got to the magical little clearing where the art installation lived, this eerie feeling passed. Perhaps it was the little burst of happy energy from all of the colors, or maybe I was just instinctively relieved to see signs of other humans nearby. I wish I knew who’d taken the time to leave this lovely little art collection behind, and I hope that it grows along the path, in the way that so many areas of Camino offerings seem to grow and accumulate more cairns and milagros. Soon after, I passed a really nice little km marker that gave me the burst of energy I needed to pick up the pace.

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As I’d hoped, Natalie’s pack and hiking pole were waiting in front of a little cafe in San Juan de Ortega when I arrived. I happily dropped my pack and went in to find her, only to realize that she had been waiting for awhile, and was impatient to leave again. Before I’d arrived, she’d taken a short tour of the monastery, checked emails, and had a leisurely cup of coffee. Though we were both relieved to meet up again, I knew that our speeds were no longer aligning, and got the feeling that she had something new on her mind. It felt like the distance was more than physical, and I began the emotional practice of reconciling myself to what was to come, another Camino “break up.” But it wasn’t to be today. She waited with me for a little while, so I could grab an Aquarius and a slice of tortilla, and we took a look at the maps to confirm our plan to march on to Cardeñuela Riopico that afternoon. After my short break, we strapped on packs and headed off towards Ages, chatting happily about the things we’d seen so far this morning.

Click here to read about Day 16 (Part 3). 

Fur Faces

Just like humans, cats’ faces change by the second, reflecting their various moods and whatever point they’re trying to get across at the moment. Of course, no one likes to get a camera stuck in their face by surprise, and knowing that I was bound to tick off a whole house full of cats tonight, I chased everyone around to get in their business and see what kinds of shots could be taken. I feel pretty good about catching everyone in a natural pose.

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Isabel, who turns 10 this year, is typically solemn and a little suspicious (she takes after the human in the household). Here, she stands on my lap and asks what I’m doing waving my iPhone in her face. I’m sitting on the bed, and everyone knows that the bed is for cuddling with Izzy, not for taking crummy snapshots.

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Munky is 7 years old, and spends the majority of his energy seeking out kibble and affection. This is him trying to look nonchalant while also making googly eyes at me in hopes that he’ll get a butt rub. He did.

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Charlie’s still a baby, not even a year old yet, but already Isabel’s size. He’s all muscle, and spends most of his time running amuck. He plays fetch, and he makes little turkey gobble noises as he throws his body around the house at top speed. At night the house sounds like “GOBBLE! THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, CRASH! THUD. GOBBLE! THUMP, THUMP, THUMP…”He’s also just learning how to be a proper cat, and is experimenting with cuddling for hours, purring for a second or two, and finally understanding the thrill of catnip. Don’t let this look fool you; he’s a maniac.

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Kuzia is an outside cat who technically belongs to my neighbor, but spends a lot of time on my front porch. He rules the neighborhood, and has his own barstool at a bar down the street. I feed him wet food when he visits, so it’s not uncommon to be walking back from the grocery store and find I’m being escorted home by a fierce little cat king. He seems to be composed entirely of bad attitude, and will consent to exactly one light body rub or two head kisses before he gets bored with you and walks away. This is him asking what the hell I’m doing interrupting his beauty sleep.

This post was a response to the Daily Post Photo Challenge prompt, Atop.

You’re Killing Us

I heard a song yesterday that spoke volumes. I listened to the song probably 10 times on the walks to and from work, and fell in love with the lyrics. Then I got home, and decided to watch the music video, to see how the story unfolded in images. It was a total shock, because the story I heard (and still hear) in the lyrics is not at all what was shown in the video, and on top of that, all of the comments seemed to be from people who had also heard an entirely different story than I had.

Of course I understand that sometimes lyrics are nuanced, that there can be multiple variations of a message being told. But what I heard and what everyone else heard are so wildly different that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Finally today, after listening a few more times, I decided that I don’t have to wrap my head around it. I hear what I hear, and I don’t hear what they’re hearing (I mean, kinda? But it’s a total stretch. Maybe I have a tumor or something…)

Here’s the song with lyrics – not the official video (which I’m putting a little farther down the post, to let you hear it and make up your own mind about the story):

The song is called “Saving Us,” by Serj Tankian, of System of a Down fame. I love System of a Down, and have found that listening to them really improves my mood. So I expanded a little to Serj’s stuff, and found that I enjoy him a lot, too. I get strong spiritual vibes out of System of a Down songs, so I was a little surprised to listen to “Saving Us” and hear the story of a normal breakup, written by a guy who could see the beauty of the situation, even through the pain.

As I hear the song, I hear him singing about breaking up with someone whom he really loved, and realizing that through making the hard choice to say goodbye, in a way his lover is saving who they were together. The goodness that they shared can live on through exiting in a thoughtful way, and yes, it hurts, but in the end it’s the right thing. The lover is both “killing us” and “saving us.”

It’s great. I’ve dated a lot of people, and I’ve broken up with a lot of people. Most of the time I was the dumper, but sometimes I was the dumpee, and no matter which side you’re on, it really sucks. It sucks when you’re feeling like the relationship is failing, it sucks during the actual breakup, and it continues to suck after everything’s said and done. Sometimes for months, other times for decades, maybe forever, but I can’t speak to that because I’m not dead yet.

When your relationship was pretty casual, it’s not that big of a deal to break up, but when you’re codependent (or whatever the healthy version of that is – I don’t know that I’ve ever truly experienced whatever that is yet), breaking up with someone is like cutting a piece of your heart out and throwing it away. Or having that done to you, depending on which side of the dumping you’re on. Either way, the cutting, tearing, killing, and saving are all things I’ve experienced. The relationship – the “us” – is, in its own way, a separate living thing that you have created together. It’s not something you just close the door on and walk away from. You have to be careful. If you’re very, very cautious, you might make it out of the relationship with fond memories attached, and maybe even a friendship, at some point in the future. In this song, his lover is making the difficult choice to cut ties now for the sake of their love, rather than holding on to something that’s going to destroy them.

So, that being said, here’s the actual music video:

As the videography and all of the comments underneath it would seem to suggest, the video is actually about world issues, and being kind to one another. Which is fine, but actually less interesting.

But maybe I’m just a romantic.

That Voice

It’s been years now since I last heard your voice. It was a nice enough voice. I enjoyed hearing it say kind things, calling me by pet names, cooing while giving the cat belly rubs, stuff like that. It was a perfectly fine voice, and for some time there I believed that it would be a voice I’d wake up to for the rest of my life. But we know differently now, don’t we?

I’m not upset with the way things turned out. I do wish that I’d set you free sooner, so that we could both have moved on with our lives, but it seemed a waste to just give up, and before I knew it, a full-blown algae bloom of dissatisfaction was floating under our bridge. In the end, I called it quits. It was not pleasant for either of us, but it hurt you more, I think, the seemingly abrupt ending. I’m realizing now that we were living around each other, but our lives didn’t really touch. It’s no wonder that you didn’t see it coming. I should have cried out in the open, instead of going to bed early to shield you from what I considered signs of my weakness, my inability to try just a little bit harder.

I’ve heard that you are happy now, and that makes me happy, too. You deserve it. But I wish that your wholeness in some other town, in some other state, would take away the pieces you left with me – especially your voice.

On Saturday mornings, your voice made me feel guilty for not waking up early enough and getting to work on doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. On Thursday nights, your voice made me worry that I should be trying harder to force myself to go out to drinks with you and your coworkers on Friday afternoon, even though I was bored to tears when you guys talked work, and though I didn’t have anything in common with them aside from my (unused) master’s degree. Your voice belied a hidden desperation over my lack of appropriately sexy behavior, and dismay at my lack of culinary prowess and less than stellar housekeeping skills. Your voice frequently remarked on my insufficient paychecks, and need to apply myself and make more money, even when I was making more than most people in my profession in our area. It was most likely never your intention, but your voice often made me feel “lesser than.”

And it still does.

The part of me that hates myself wears your voice these days. When I feel fat, or lazy, or worthless, or am worried about paying bills, the voice that expresses disgust is yours. I know that it’s not really you, and when your voice pops up in my head, itching to make me feel lesser than once more, I calmly tell it that it has no place ordering me around.

I look forward to the day when this false guide will take its cue and leave. In the mean time, I remember pet names, and enthusiastic descriptions of food, and patient instructions for doing tasks you thought commonplace. The good voice will have to outweigh the bad for now. Maybe if I’m lucky, one day there will be no reason for any voice to stick around. We’ll see.

 

Sunday Picture Show (Keeping Afloat)

I’d typically be calling this my Photography Friday post, but since I’m two days late, we’re trying something new. This week’s Photo Challenge prompt is to share photos that exemplify what “afloat” means to us, and I’ve taken quite a few lately…

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My workouts at Iron Tribe can be a bit intense, but I love every minute of it. Even better than feeling strong and capable is the fact that a hard workout every day keeps me happy and relaxed. These are the blisters on my right hand after a kettlebell workout earlier this week.

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My Isabel. I love my cats – there’s nothing like having a good cuddle after a hard day, though Izzy isn’t prone to being that affectionate unless it’s bedtime. When I was sick and feeling miserable last week, she came and napped with me on the couch.

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One of my favorite things to do is walk around New Orleans and take photos of the things that capture my attention. Street art never fails to captivate and stir my imagination. I take a lot of photos of cool graffiti around town, but this one struck my fancy last week. Let me find out, indeed.

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Small details help keep me grounded (or afloat, whichever turn of phrase you prefer). I love that looking for little things helps keep me mindful and “in the moment”, and while I’m walking around town, I try to capture these moments in photos if possible. This is a shot I took of water droplets collecting on a newly painted front stoop the other day. I loved how the water was pooling, and was pretty satisfied with the colors of the shot in the end. The stoop was a brilliant shade of teal, but the shadows gave a purple sheen.

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The idea that I’ll be leaving for the Camino in six months is definitely keeping me sane and happy. I walk to and from work (about 2 miles) each day, and on the way to work, I cross over Spain Street. Each time that I notice the street sign, I can’t help but be reminded of how lucky I am, and how amazing it’s going to be to finally get my boots on the ground in Spain this October.

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You, you amazing man. I don’t know how I made it this long without you in my life. You’re everything I’ve been looking for for all this time. Thank you for making me so much stronger, and giving me the strength to realize that I didn’t need a man in my life to be complete – but having the right one could make everything that much sweeter. You make me laugh, you make me think, and you’ve helped me make myself whole. Your encouragement and faith have pushed me to new heights as a person, and I only hope that I can return the favor. I love you.

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Photography Friday: Abstract Orange

I must not take a lot of photos incorporating the color orange in my day-to-day. In general I’m really not a fan of the shade, so wondering if orange things just don’t catch my eye that often (kind of the opposite of how I go gaga over purple objects). Today’s photo challenge asks us to share a photograph that features the color orange, but a brief look through my phone shows almost nothing of use. However, I love this shot that my camera took on its own one day on a trip to the mall, and it’s orange enough, right?

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