This is a long ramble—notes from a few days. I find I have trouble getting more than a few minutes at a time to write. Or read. My cooking is uninspired and to Mandela’s disappointment walks are a little shorter than usual. Long hours at work make for day after day of tedious routine. But I am resigned to getting through this next year or two and then heading out on some new adventures.
A friend sent me a picture of her backyard fire pit, which happens to be adjacent to Lake Erie. It is the perfect night for a fire. Which got me to thinking about long fall nights at the cabin in Lava Hot Springs. We would sit around that fire pit for hours—often until 2 or 3 am. Telling stories. Sometimes telling scary stories to the point where we were all afraid to walk the 150 feet through the wooded path to the outhouse. Good times.
In any case, I feel I am getting close to a tipping point on routine work that no longer inspires me. The pressure and intensity continues to escalate as my bosses try to achieve the unachievable. I long ago proved I am mentally and physically capable of running these large, complex programs. When I was younger, and flying around the world on someone else’s dime and working non-stop in what was then a new and exciting professional environment, I stayed motivated. But now the distastefulness of working 12 hours/day plus another 4-6 on weekends is coming back with evil vengeance.
It’s not that I mind working. There just seems to be no middle ground anymore. It’s 11 or 12 hours a day plus some weekend time or nothing. It’s a form of passive-aggressiveness in that the work keeps coming and we are forced to do it or appear inadequate or weak. Even the trip to Ireland today–I probably could have made an excuse and not agreed to come, but that would be perceived as a lack of commitment. And there would be a lingering feeling that maybe I wasn’t up to the task. That I’m not willing to do what it takes. And, it is the case that someone should be here for the next two weeks and in spite of my bosses poor planning, I hate to see my program suffer, which ultimately is my reputation.
I’m aware this theme is overly prevalent in my ramblings, but it’s plaguing me at the moment. I’ve never really been one to simply go along with the program because it’s what we are supposed to do. I’ve always been a hard worker; as my whole family is. But if the work doesn’t interest me, or I am not learning something new, then it becomes very difficult for me to carry on. It’s at these times that the desire for movement, to start a new adventure, to wander & explore, learn a new craft, create something or just read and write overtakes me. I thought perhaps that building campers and trailers might keep me engaged enough, but the balance of hours remains cruelly tilted to the employer side.
I had an unpleasant experience Thursday with one of the managers from our lead system implementation partner. They have been spectacularly deficient in their work on this project. This is well documented and openly discussed among my managers—and yet here they are. They are taking 75% of our budget, close to $20M this year alone, and we seem to have their JV team. Apparently, their first project manager was replaced at our request. We have now asked to have the second one replaced as well as the partner assigned to our account. They should be fired—to this we all agree. And yet they are not. They continue to drain our will and try our patience with their arrogance and resolute stubbornness to do anything beyond the bare minimum. Essentially daring us to fire them. I don’t understand how we got to this point as the dynamic existed when I showed up 4 months ago. I have been told it is because they expected to be handed all the work of the program and were disappointed when our leadership chose to farm out some of the technical work to other firms. Anyway…..it’s exhausting trying to make a severely dysfunctional relationship work. I suppose it might be like people who are in a loveless and even acrimonious marriage but remain together for the kids. Anyway, I had a meeting, along with one of our junior PM’s, to try to understand why one of their track leads is so far behind on their deliverables and why the quality is considered substandard by our manager. Our manager, again inexplicably to me, has not felt empowered to manage his counter-part at Deloitte and so the dynamic has now evolved where she (the Deloitte track lead) feels she is not accountable to anyone. It is painfully apparent that they have delivered very little of what is required by their contract, but we are now down to just a few months remaining. This female manager reminded me of this fact many times—essentially saying that because the deliverables were tied to specific events which are now in the past, that she does not need to satisfy my curiosity in wanting to review the deliverables and to see who approved them. She kept interrupting me every time I tried to ask a question or clarify a point; her arrogance and refusal to accept that she should be held accountable for the nearly $2M we were paying for the work she is managing just really got to me. And I had already seen this attitude and had this conversation with several of their other team leads and so this conversation got borderline out of control. She raised her voice; I raised mine. And it escalated again and then again and soon it was counter-productive nonsense. Ultimately, I was bit louder and more assertive and got her to at least hear the words I was saying but it was a very shallow and unsatisfactory feeling that has been bothering me the past 48 hours. I don’t like that my reaction to arrogance and high volume arguing is to respond in kind; without mindfulness, which normally always abandons me at those moments, I find myself acting as they act. Which of course is not my goal nor is it acceptable. The junior PM that was in the room (and yes, I have thought long and hard about whether or not I was somehow performing for his benefit and I was not. That is not my style. The outcome would have been the same if he had not been there), texted me saying that the he and the manager had a good conversation after and that she would get the materials together I had requested. I later had a detailed discussion with our manager who should be overseeing this track and he said she was crying when she came to him to talk about it, but he also told me he had been asking for these materials for a long time and she essentially just refused. I don’t know why he did not escalate. I think our track leads are intimidated by their Deloitte counter-parts in some instances and this does not serve us. Deloitte has I think created this dynamic and now is exploiting it to their advantage. We are the client but Deloitte somehow has some of our people convinced we should feel lucky to have them. It is a very perplexing situation and I just cannot find any reasonable explanation for how we got to this point. I am hoping, now that we are replacing their program manager and project manager for a level set and that we can get our working relationship in order. We still need to fire them but we need them in the short term. These decisions are made above my pay grade anyway. I am merely occasionally consulted. Anyway, it is on my mind because even though I will get the result I need, I am dissatisfied with how I handled it. It is not clear that I could have got the result without that conversation but it still leaves me feeling upset that it came to that. I am upset with myself that I lost my temper and didn’t have the mindfulness to work through that conversation with a level of assertiveness but with more control.
The canoe obviously goes on hold now for a couple of weeks. I still need to order the wood and other materials; fiberglass, some hardware, and supporting wood materials. Some of the materials I could make or source locally but I decided for this canoe to get the materials from them. If I build another I will make the gunwales and some of the other supporting materials myself; but for now, given my space constraints, it just doesn’t make sense and I am far from a master craftsman.
I have started re-reading a terrific book that was first recommended to me by my long lost friend Catherine. It is called ‘Passage to Juneau’ by Jonathan Raban. In this book, Raban sails solo in a 35-foot sailboat from Seattle to Juneau. But he also fills the pages with historical observations about the native Indian population and especially their first encounters with the early white explorers in this region. He delves deeply into native art & folklore, details from the crew of the white explorers including their stations back home in Europe and problems they had that contributed to their being on a long lonely exploration voyage. It’s a really amazing book; beautifully written but packed with so much tangential information that I must always be off looking up this reference or that one. I occasionally check the map to plot his course. He has a disciplined writing style that is factually super-charged but the prose somehow remains elegant and approachable. I’ve include a short sample passage below–just a random sample. In this scene he is gale bound and tied up a pier at a summer retreat resort called Blind Channel that is still closed for the season. He spends a few days below in his salon as high winds and waves keep him tied at the pier—alone ,as only a single caretaker remains at the closed resort and he is aloof and unfriendly.
‘the waves came hissing at the transom. Only a few minutes old, born as wrinkles 800 yards away across the channel, already they were mature and grizzle-bearded. Blocklike, lumpy, they packed a big wallop for their size. Pale ribbons of dissolving foam streaked the inky water, and the boat was being jostled with sufficient force to make me double-up the mooring ropes. It was now hard to stand upright on the floating dock, which pitched and rolled underfoot like a Boston cakewalk.’
So, yes, I had to go look up a Boston cakewalk. It’s a form of exaggerated dance that was originally performed by slaves, apparently in mockery of white slave-owners and their particular movements. His descriptions of the waves here are brilliant and completely unique. Nothing lazy about this writer.
This story takes place late in late winter/early spring so the weather is predictably foul. The skies are grey and brooding and dense fog a nearly daily occurrence. I think the description of the weather and environment matches my mood which is why I reached back for my third pilgrimage through this adventure. As he travels, Raban is writing a story to his daughter on postcards, which he sends whenever he is able to find a place to mail from. The story is about a wandering and talking bear named Emily. There’s more. Truly a gem of a book which I pick up when I am feeling restless or out of sorts. Which I am at the moment. Obviously.
I’ve read other books based on native folklore about the indigenous natives of Pacific Northwest. The stories are filled with seamless transition of animals to human-form and back to animals; shape shifting. The humans seemed to have a strong connection to nature but were wary of the wrath that could come down at any time from bears, killer whales, wolves, giant otters and some other mythical animals. But also storms and wildfires and whirlpools that devoured canoes. There are a lot of sexual references and stories about women being raped by animals and then having a litter of animal pups. Some crazy shit but very interesting. I read a really interesting fiction about the Tlingit tribes of Southeastern Alaska, but for the life of me I cannot remember the title or the author. One of the casualties of divorce. Losing a bunch of money is one thing, but books are another matter.
I got to the hotel about 4 hours ago and have been sitting in the reading room working on some budget updates. I had to take a break while I waited for my boss to get back to me with some answers and he just called. So I will get back to that work and then have dinner and get to bed early. Hopefully sleep so I can get up early and finish a few things before heading to the office. There is a group of 10 people (7 women and 3 men), all in their late 50’s and up to late 60’s I would say. They are here on a photography course and it seems they must have traveled together on similar trips to other places. They are friendly and known to one another but live in different parts of the US. I have been eavesdropping a bit. They are very anti-Trump but thoughtful and apparently respectful of other attitudes as some said they have conservative friends who love Trump and while they do not agree they remain friends. So it seems possible. A lovely group of people. Very nice conversation and lots of laughter. It makes me realize perhaps I could fit into groups at times.
Weather here is 110% Irish. I took a break and stepped out on the back deck, which overlooks a lagoon by the airport. It is cold and windy and completely grey. It looks as if the sun might never have shined on this piece of the earth.
A few pictures from the party I had to miss to be here, but also a somewhat sad picture of an old man at the bar of the hotel pub. I have a real soft spot for old people. Young kids. Animals. Or I suppose any vulnerable being. I’ve no evidence this old man is sad or vulnerable but the picture seems to suggest a story.