Up and down

I was in such a good mood this morning. I got into the city around the usual time, just after 8am. Normally I go straight to work but this time I stopped off at a hole in the wall café I’d read about where I got myself a coffee, and one of their signature, home-made crumpets with honey drizzled on it.

I walked into the office and one the girls brightly greeted me. We stopped to have a chat and she offered me a donut she’d brought in. Nah, I told her, I’ve got my crumpet.

There was no real reason for my relative ebullience, except maybe because it was Friday, and yesterday was payday.

It didn’t last, and that’s what puzzles me.

My offsider is away today, and his offsider in Adelaide, and so the work that might normally come to them landed on my desk. It came out of nowhere. It’s been quiet, suddenly – with them absent – it became busy. Needless to say, it was all urgent.

I tried pushing back, knowing that was pointless. In the end I was entreated to help out. I cancelled my meetings and got down to it.

It’s not a remarkable story, but it left me feeling pretty sour, even despondent.

The work was unfamiliar to me. I’d done something like it over a year ago, but I had to make an effort to remember how to do it, feeling uncertain at every step of the way. The urgency of it all only added to the pressure.

There’s no doubt I felt some unaccustomed stress, but that was to be expected. The thing is I don’t normally suffer much from stress. Often, in situations like this, I feel invigorated instead. But not today.

Whatever I felt may have been exacerbated by the circumstances. That these were urgent requirements was because they either hadn’t bothered to advise us until the last minute, or they had fucked something up requiring an urgent fix. There’s a lot of simple things that are managed poorly every day and it gets me down.

I’m only speculating here. I can add the disappointment I felt at being so abruptly downhearted – and the confusion accompanying it – only made me feel worse.

It worries me and it fascinates me, too. There’s no doubt I’m not as resilient as I used to me. There are moments I feel quite frail. I doubt anyone can see it, or know it, just the opposite probably – though maybe I’d be surprised.

In the event I did what had to be done, without issue. Still…


How not to decide a championship

If I was a Kiwi I’d still be feeling sick, three days after the final of the World Cup. They were stiffed out of the title, not once, but in a succession of unlikely events. Mostly it was bad luck, but it becomes more than mere luck when every 50/50 call goes against you. There was the incompetence of umpires as well, as well as, ultimately, being defeated by an arcane and unfair rule cooked up by an administration that has no feel for the game. Worst case scenario, New Zealand should be joint winners right now, but play it all again and odds on the kiwis would come out on top.

Let’s recount the events. New Zealand bat first and make a moderate 241. First ball of the England innings Roy survives an LBW appeal on umpire’s call. Regardless, inside 20 overs England are four down. They rally, Stokes is batting well and Buttler joins making a half century, but then they lose wickets. Eight down they need more runs than balls remaining. It’s probably a 50/50 game, maybe the Kiwi’s in front, just, but then the first bit of ill-fortune strikes.

Stokes hits the ball towards the boundary. Boult is there on the boundary line waiting for the catch. He takes it, but as he steps back with the momentum his heel touches the rope. In an instant what was almost certainly the match-winning wicket of the danger man is now six runs off the target. Then stokes hits the ball to the boundary again. It’s fielded, and Guptill makes the long throw to the keeper hoping to effect a run-out. The ball never makes it to the keeper. Instead it hits Stokes’ bat he makes his ground, and rebounds to the boundary. What was a quick two runs is now ruled six runs in the last over. It’s wretched bad luck for New Zealand.

And here is the first bit of contention, and in comes in two parts. Firstly, it should only have been ruled five runs by the umpires, not six, because the batsmen hadn’t crossed when the ball was thrown in. The real significance of that is that instead of being on strike for the next ball, Stokes would have been at the non-striker’s end, leaving a tailender to score the winning runs. None of this emerged until after the match.

The game goes on, and England finish on 241 – tying the score, all out. What happens now? Super-over!

England bat first and score 14. Then the New Zealand batsmen take strike and on the last ball of the over – having scored 14 – are run out attempting the winning run.

So, theoretically it’s a tie still, but no – and this is where the arcane, ridiculous rule determines the victor.

England are ruled the victors, and why? Because they scored more boundaries in their innings than New Zealand did! Such an arbitrary ruling is nonsense. You might equally rule that New Zealand are the victors because they played less dot balls than England. But really, if there should be an administrative tie-breaker like this then clearly it should come down to wickets lost in achieving the score. On that count the Kiwis would have won because they lost eight against England’s ten.

But any administrative ruling is inadequate and unsatisfactory. After 46 days of intense and compelling competition the championship must be decided on the field, not in the rule book. As I see it the common sense approach would have been one of two ways – either the two teams are named joint winners because the deadlock couldn’t be broken; or, logically, they keep playing super overs until one team wins it. Shouldn’t take long.

This match has been called one of the greatest ODIs ever, and for drama you can’t argue that. It’s left a lot of people with a sour taste in their mouth though because it feels wrong. I can’t help but feel that New Zealand have been dudded. I won’t call them moral victors, but, on balance, I think they were the more deserving.

Knuckling down

Up to about ten minutes ago I was in a nasty mood. It’s Monday morning, it’s cold and grey outside, I’m sleepy as well as suffering from the same low-level unwellness that’s bedevilled the last couple of weeks, and I’m at work – with all the rest of it. Then I head down to get my coffee and one of my all-time favourite songs is playing as I order my coffee. I tell the girl there, I love this song, and as I’m waiting for my coffee to be made I sing along to it, “I heard it on the grapevine…”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to turn things around. A great song, the first coffee of the day, and you return to work with a bit more vim.

Saturday was the point that things came to a head for me. After poring my heart out here I felt listless, but forced myself to follow up on my plans I’d made earlier. I headed out a bit after midday to check out a rental property up the road from me, sussing it out as a potential new home. Now I had the job and knew what I would be earning I felt more secure doing this.

It was the second time I’d looked at this place. I’d liked it well enough the first time but thought it a tad too expensive, and it didn’t have a bath. In the meantime the rent had comes down by $25 and made it reasonable. I wanted to see it again, to imagine myself there. It’s larger and more comfortable than my present home, and much more private. And it has a bigger yard for Rigby.

I left and walked about 6-7 minutes to view another property. I got there just as it began to hail down. It was crazy, like a mini hurricane had swept through. The sky ruptured with lightning and thunder and the hail, driven by a mighty wind, came in at a sweeping angle. I found shelter under the eaves of the property, along with about another fifteen prospective tenants.

In ways that property was nicer, but I didn’t like it as much, and I returned home thinking about what I would do. A conversation with a friend confirmed my thinking, and I submitted an application for the first property.

I got to talk about a lot of things with my friend, who was supportive. As I’m talking my mind is turning over and I’m moving from one position to another. If I have nothing else then at least I have my mind. I can’t reason everything out, but I’m good at coming to an understanding.

In my experience, uncertainty and doubt are very poor for your mental wellbeing. You’re better off doing something even if it’s not the perfectly right thing to do. Inaction comes naturally when you’re down, but it perpetuates the apathetic mindset that is so often a part of poor mental health. So, I made resolutions and set goals.

I’m aware there’s a lot of shop dressing in these things. You force upon yourself arbitrary objectives to aim for, but that’s the point – to have something to aim for, and to give yourself a purpose to keep you busy. It lifts you out of yourself and takes you outside the reality you’re in.

In this case I set myself targets that encapsulated a new home (I deserved it), but also took in my professional ambitions. I’m not as ambitious as I used to be – I’ve said that before – but I need a certain degree of responsibility. I’m proud, and I must also improve myself economically. That’s what I did then. I looked at the job I’ve just been appointed to and set myself some KPIs with that. I need to drive myself.

I let something go as well, which was liberating. I’ve been agonising over a situation for about 6 months now and tying myself in a knot over it. On Saturday I accepted that not everything is forever and things change. Just because somethings always been one way doesn’t guarantee it always will, even if that means disappointment. As I know well, disappointment is a part of life. So, I opened my hands and let it fly away from me. Not my problem now.

Now all I need do is knuckle down. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s knuckling down. This is not the sinecure, but it’s a way of managing things until they get better – which they will.

Damaged goods

I was home last night when the phone rang, and it was the national digital manager wanting to catch up with me. He was calling me to congratulate me on getting the job, and to welcome me aboard. He was sympathetic and genuine, and though I was grateful, I had to think about how I should respond. I responded fine and afterwards thought, that’s the way it should be done, that’s good management.

Of course, I was contrasting it to what I’ve experienced these last three years. I’ve butted heads with the national digital manager before, but in a good way. He’s committed and ambitious and hard at it and very smart. He wants to make things happen, as do I, and in that mix of personalities, there’s bound to be the occasional fall-out. I expect he sees it much as I do, as something healthy and honest, and shrugged off.

That was a welcome call, but I’m not in a good way. I did my best to explain things this week, and I reckon what I wrote is probably right, except that I’m thinking now that I had things the wrong away around. I tried to find a cause for what I felt when I think now it is the effect. The cause may well be one of those irrational things I spoke of, beyond understanding at this level. What I did was an attempt to explain why I felt as I did, when now I think these things come to the surface because this is how I feel. They may be some circular logic in all of this, and I think the things I described are legitimate and underlying issues. What they do is inform my behaviour, in itself not necessarily depressive, but closed off in large part.

It leaves me functioning effectively, but without joy. The trigger this time was to catch a glimpse of myself in that mode as if seeing something in the mirror I didn’t want to face. Faced with it many of my reserves crumbled. The reasons I published to explain it are, in effect, justifications for it. Add to it ongoing challenges – the sense of being untethered and alone, even unloved – and it’s not pretty.

I’ve done a lot in the last 18 months to address my state of being. I opened up about my past – a difficult thing – and that was a significant positive. I don’t go broadcasting it now, but I’m open about it should it come up. There’re other things I’ve not been able to let go of, and maybe it’s not in me that I can. It’s ironic now that some of the things I’ve complained about, such as my financial difficulties, and the loss of status and lifestyle, may finally be addressed, and yet here I am feeling as bad as I ever have.

I’m damaged. I always believed one day, the damage would heal. Now I wonder if it’s beyond repair.

There’s no doubt that a decent salary, a meaningful job, supportive management – the things I haven’t had – will have a profound practical impact on my life. I’ve been saying this for months as if it might be a cure-all. The problem is that’s a rational solution to what now is an ‘irrational’ feeling – irrational in the sense that I can’t fully explain it with logic, and in the sense particularly that rational solutions don’t apply because they’re in a different language.

There will be a time when it will make a difference, I just have to hang in there until then. I’ve always managed that, but have spent a lot of the last six years just hanging in there, and I feel depleted by the effort. I want something good in my life. I want joy.

Right now, I wonder what the point of everything is. It’s nice to earn more, and it means that maybe I can take the treadmill back a notch or two – but here I am on the treadmill. These last few weeks have exposed to me the transactional nature of the things we do. Only true independence frees us from it – perhaps knowledge of that is my true and existential crisis. I’m reminded how, as a human being, I’m fundamentally utilitarian. That’s what I want to break free from – to be independent, creative, and to assert an identity which is mine – but these are the aspirations of the truly privileged. I just need to survive, but I’m sick of just needing to survive.

On the Kiwis

I sat on my couch last night exchanging text messages with JV who sat on his couch a few kilometres away as we both watched the world cup semi-final and commented on every twist and development on the pitch. He tends to be more pessimistic than me – I always think there’s a way – but by the time I hit the sack at about midnight, I didn’t feel confident of the result.

It informed my sleep a little. The couple of times I woke up I looked at the clock, thinking, it’s happening right now, and it’s happened, and wondering how it happened. Eyes shut it got into my unconscious, affecting my sleep. I woke, hoping against hope, but it was without surprise that I checked the scores and found we’d been well flogged.

I’m disappointed, naturally, but we’ve had a good go of it. I can’t complain – though I can suggest.

Most of the tournament we’ve played well, but there have been holes in our performance. Maxwell under-achieved throughout and Stoinis hasn’t played a decent game of cricket all year. I had queries regarding the batting order, as most did. Then a couple of injuries before the semi-final had the potential to cut through that Gordian knot.

Khawaja was ruled out with a hamstring injury, which freed up Smith to bat at three. In retrospect we could have done with him yesterday, he was just the steadying influence we needed after being three down early. Wade was brought into the squad in place of him.

The other injury was to Stoinis, his second for the tournament. This seemed fortuitous to me. He had given the team nothing with either bat or ball, and at this stage, Mitch Marsh was surely a better option. But then Stoinis recovered, and Marsh didn’t make the squad.

Leading into the game, there was a lot of discussion about the make-up of the team. I wanted Wade in it. I’m not a big fan of him generally, but he’s been in explosive form for the last 6-7 months, including a couple of recent games for Australia A. He was the sort of player we were looking for.

I was willing to take a gamble and leave Stoinis out altogether and play Wade and either Handscombe or Coulter-Nile (as bowling all-rounder). I’d have retained Maxwell because he can win matches, but shuffled him down the order and given the ultra-impressive Carey a better go at it.

As it turned out, both Maxwell and Stoinis played. Carey and Maxwell effectively swapped places in the order, And instead of Wade, Handscombe was brought in to replace Khawaja. And we were 3-14 before Smith and Carey (temporarily) steadied the ship.

We were well beaten on the day and on the face of it no changes would’ve made much of a difference, though it becomes a new game with new players.

I like Langer and think he’s done great things for this squad. I admire his loyalty but fear it came at the cost of pragmatism. I think both Stoinis and Handscombe were selected against better judgement. Langer made reference to Handscombe ‘deserving’ his spot, and he stuck fat with Stoinis even though he’s been injury-riddled and ineffectual.

No complaints, though. It’s a great effort to get this far after the year Australian cricket has endured. We’ve rebounded and proved our resilience, once again. The Ashes are coming, and we have a chance for revenge against the Poms then.

As for the final, the Poms deserve it, but I’ll be barracking hard for the Kiwis, naturally.

Unwinding the damage

About ten minutes after I wrote yesterday, I had a visit from the guy who had interviewed me for the digital job last week. He called me into an empty office and told me that I had got the job. It was what I expected, so my surprised was muted. Given I was in a bit of a fugue at the time, my reaction was altogether tentative. I thanked him and enquired about the process from here. I was wary knowing nothing was official until it was in writing, and I didn’t even know the salary as yet. And I was conscious of the other job still in play.

For the rest of the day, I went about my work. When I mentioned it to my current manager out of courtesy, she grumbled a little that she hadn’t been told and nothing would happen until she said so. I didn’t take that too seriously. I expected her to grumble, but it’s my sincere belief that she’ll be glad to see me go, for various reasons, but chiefly because I suspect it frees her up to do things which were awkward with me still in place.

My mood didn’t appreciably change from the morning, but as the day went on, I got further insight into it. When I say insight, it was more like recalling to mind things I already knew and had known for a long time.

I have no illusions about the work I do. I’m proud and committed, but for the most part, what I do today is likely to be forgotten in a month. I’m not creating monuments. I’m not saving lives. If I didn’t do it, then someone else could and, even if half as well, it would make little difference. I’ve known that for thirty years. Mostly it’s something out of mind, but occasionally it comes to the forefront, often when I see people take things terribly and – it seems to me – disproportionally seriously. I’m apt to say, it’s only work. You’re working on a cure for cancer.

You would think that someone who has that mindset might not take work seriously. Why bother, after all? Well, because I know as part of the collective it does make a difference – just don’t get hung up on it. And because I have the attitude that if I’m going to do anything, then it will be to the best of my ability. Just keep it in perspective.

It’s one of the things that makes me good at my job, I play for keeps. No half measures, no short steps, you do what needs to be done. Perhaps I’m of a generation when that was more of a thing, but it seems an important thing. And it is a key component of my self-identity. This is the man that H is – hard at it, honest, committed, true. Even when I have nothing else, then I have that.

It’s that which gives me problems sometimes, an attitude, sure, it’s not brain surgery, but if you’re going to do it, do it properly. I hate sloppiness. I hate skyving off. I hate passing the buck. I hate half-arsed efforts. I hate ego getting in the way of good outcomes. I hate people getting personal. I can’t get over it, it offends my sense of what is right, but here I’ve been surrounded by it, wherever I look, and I can’t get it go.

I’ve come to realise that the inability to let it go is a little bit me, but mostly it’s symptomatic of the condition I’m in. I’m such a different person away from work. At work, I feel myself seething more than it’s healthy. Outrage at the way things are is almost perpetual. I’m angry, and I don’t want to be. And I get angry that this has happened to me when, given a square run, none of it would be necessary.

I went to the footy on Saturday, and I can be described as a committed, fierce fan, but I’m focused and calm too. I’ve been called unflappable. Outside of work, I remain my true self, more or less, but in work, I change.

There are reasons for that, but it’s also symptomatic of a kind of work depression. Everything is heightened. I’m aware of how sensitive I’ve become, even vulnerable, and being of more combative nature I react to it. My behaviour is not true to me, but true to a state of mind. I’m someone I don’t want to be.

I had a conversation yesterday with a woman here I like and get along well with. She’s smart and decent and friendly. We had a disagreement about something I thought was unethical. If you knowingly deceive someone for financial advantage then at the very least it’s unethical, I said. She saw it a different way from me, but then her perspective is informed by having to deal with the practical outcomes of this, while mine is purely humanistic: people are being taken advantage, some of whom can’t afford it, and this is wrong.

As sometimes people do, she made it smaller than it was. And, as people sometimes do, perhaps I made something bigger of it (though it has been something festering in me for over a year). I could see in her eyes she was taken aback with how fierce I was. She left, and I wondered, is that I have become? Of course, that made it all so much worse. I was crestfallen.

Today I was called up to meet with the big digital manager. He affirmed the job was mine, and we discussed dollars – it’s about a $17K increase on what I’m getting now. He suggested that I had all the attributes to make it and that I would go far. His one reservation was regarding this state of mind, though he understands full well the situation here and is sympathetic. He assured me that it would be different in the new team and that a change of environment would make all the difference. I agreed that it would – and I think it so.

Right now though all I feel is the damage in me. I need to mend it, and until I do, I’ll never be at my best.

Conditions of life

Sitting on the train this morning, I felt warm and comfortable and in my own little bubble. I’d have been happy to travel for another hour undisturbed. I felt sad, though, and part of it was knowing that soon enough, I must get off the train and make the familiar journey to the office.

I’m here now, sitting in my corner. I’ve had a chat with some of the guys upstairs and a laugh with someone the other side of the office. I’ve collected my morning coffee from downstairs, stopping for the regular chat with the barista. I don’t want to be here.

I guess that’s a general condition in much the same way as it is for most people. Who of us would not rather be at home, or on holiday somewhere? We accept this as the cost of those occasions when we can stay home or go on holiday, or even just to put a roof over our head and food on the table?

I’m the same in that regard, except there was a time it was less keen in me because I took pleasure from doing things. What’s the point of being at home if there’s no sense of having achieved something? And I think in our society we accept that as a fair trade. Having paid the price, we earn our liberty, and that’s how it should be.

For the last couple of weeks, it has been more than just the general condition affecting me. I thought about it as I came in this morning, peering out the window of the train at the passing landscape.

I think it’s all this talk about a new job that has stirred things up. A new job is a good thing, obviously, and for all the reasons I’ve written about. Yet I felt this sense of dismay at the foot of my stomach.

When you’re a rational, thought driven man, you search for reasons for everything. It’s that process – once more – that provides much of the fodder for my writing. You investigate and analyse, postulate and fantasise. The problem is the rational will never untangle the irrational.

You could argue that nothing is really irrational or, at least, beyond understanding – there are reasons for everything, even if obscure and illogical. In someone such as myself, with a strong spirit, but an even stronger mind, the links are more ordered and visible.

When these things bubble to the surface, I try to make sense of it. Why do I feel this way? Is there a reason? And, to be honest, while sometimes the answer might be obvious, mostly the answer I come up with is informed speculation. An educated guess. So it is on this occasion.

This talk of a new position has roused me to the fact that I’m in harness. I might change from one harness to a better one, but the truth remains that I’m in the yolk.

Something I’ve observed as I’ve got older, and having experienced my difficulties, is that I’m much less patient with the sort of thing I would have waved aside previously. I don’t like to fudge my words or obscure intent. I’m less likely to let others off the hook when they take sneaky shortcuts or speak untruths or indulge their ego. I’m the hard eyes that ask questions of them because it’s tawdry bullshit I want no part of.

This explains this sense, if but to a degree, though there isn’t a direct correlation. Doubtless, I’ll come to wave it off in a week or two, I’ll probably celebrate in some small way should one these roles come my way, but right now I feel the compromised agency I possess. I feel the box close about me that mostly I look past.

And what makes it worse is that there are things I want to do. I don’t want to stay home and sleep in, I don’t even necessarily want to lounge on some sunny beach. I want to write, as I did yesterday (which probably triggered this).

I feel I start along pathways I want to follow with what seems infinite branching’s and I’m intrigued and fascinated and even excited. It fills my mind so that in my off times, I find myself wondering and enlarging on themes I have glimpsed on those brief forays. They are brief though because – you guessed it – I must hitch myself to the plough once more. The freedom of thought I cherish is set to one side, and my mind programmed again to think for another.

These are age-old complaints. This is the existential dilemma, and you’re probably better off being that dumb ox in the yolk because thinking brings you nothing but discontent. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I’d hate to sacrifice my mind for it. Realistically, I have to accept this state of affairs because it’s the only way I can subsist. It will settle down. I’ll get one of these roles and have more money in my account, and I’ll be happy. I know now there is more to it than that, and even if I get back to where I was before there will always be more to it. I will go through this again, and I wonder, is that a condition of life?