Workin’ WFH. With Yiyun Li.

WFH. (Work From Home). No shoes. No socks.  Chained to the desk. Lower back groans.

HBR: “The risk is substantial. The lines between work and non-work are blurring… (those) who feel “on” all the time are at a higher risk of burnout when working from home than if they were going to the office as usual.”

I pause for a few page turns of Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life:being caught by the mesh of one’s mind.”

Friday Night. 11:30 pm. Everyone in bed – but me. I’ve shifted positions, from desk to couch.  I’m clearing out a swollen email box. 214. 210. 198. 175. 143. 138. 117.  18 hours. Calls. Conference Calls. Conference Calls. Conference Calls.  110. 108. 106. 104. 101. 99.

Get up to stretch. Walk to the kitchen. Grab a ramekin. Scoop out 3 heaping tablespoons of Talenti, tamp it down, lean in on the spoon again, add another scoop.  Today, Talenti for late breakfast, for dinner, and again, now, at midnight. Mint Chocolate chip. Close eyes. Gelato slides down throat, soothing. The only thing that is.

88. 85. 84. 83. Losing focus. Re-reading same email 2x.  Replies are littered with spelling mistakes. Autocorrect, correcting incorrectly. F-** it. I send it anyway. Does it really matter. Lose. Loose. Lose.

81. 79. 64.

Back to Yiyun Li. “Even the most inconsistent person is consistently himself.”

63. 62. 59. 57. 56. 54. 53. Li: “Wanting nothing is as extreme as wanting everything.”

50. 47. 43. 41. Li: “Did we ever ask ourselves: Why are we so lonely, so proud, and so adamant about perfecting our pretense?”

40. 39. 38. 37. 34. 32. Li: “we are, unlike other species, capable of not only enlarging but also diminishing our precarious selves”

30. 29. 27. I’m closing in on clearing my cue, but like Sisyphus, the closer I get to zero, the steeper the hill seems to get.

26. 25. 24. 23. Neck aches. I mean aches.  I turn, twist to adjust my position. 23 left. Come on. Bring it home.

I stare at the remaining cue. And stare. And stare.

And quit.

I gently set my iPhone on night stand. Twist in the earbuds, skim to find Chill Playlist, and hit Play.  But Yiyun Li can’t help herself, and lip syncs over it.

…the worst kind of fidgeting is that of one’s mind…I wonder…—not that one has known…but that one knows…This ceaseless effort—

 


Notes: Photo – Shibari & Photo Geoffroy Tako Baud. Model Lafille Delair (via Newthom)

WFH? Give me another 4 weeks.

Week 2, Work-From-Home, which today in work parlance is WFH.

No early commutes in, or exhausting rides home. No hiding your iPhone to play Words-With-Friends during slow meetings. Had enough? Just turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’, close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and drift away for a few moments.  Or turn to your Kindle app and read a few pages from Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. “Can one live without what one cannot have,” she asks. I pause at this, and Wonder. Can I?

And WFH here, involves Father and his 26-year Son.

Both suffer from immune deficiency disorders of differing severity levels. Both hunkered down to stay out of the path of COVID-19.

Father in his make-shift office. Anchored to his chair, desktop computer, internet phone, headset and a notepad to scribble. Many days, not more than 1300 steps all day, most to run down to the Fridge. Potato Chips. A fix (or two) of Talenti Gelato. A handful of pistachios. Then, a short run back upstairs to calls. Up 6 lbs since WFH has commenced, and unfazed. Could be worse.

Son prefers to work from his bed. Two laptops running, iPhone on his bed, playstation cued up, ear buds to take his calls. He’s sipping from a tall glass of water. No junk food here. He’s lean, fit, a full head of hair and sits in his shorts and tee-shirt, sock-less, while the morning sun beams in. When did I get so old?

I sit next to him on his bed. Nudge him over. “Come on, give me a little room.” He grunts, and moves over. I lean into him while we check messages on our iPhones.  Illya Kaminsky, that word magician, describes the moments. “…but something silent in us strengthens

And then we have lunch.

And then we sit and have dinner, and we argue over the madness in the 6pm White House Briefings.

And the next day, we repeat.

COVID-19? Give me another 4 weeks. I’m going to remember this.


Art: Kendall Kessler, Clyde and Alan

Walking Cross-Town. With Time Lapse.

Photographs, Yes… Love ’em.

Time lapse photography, not so much. Haunting. The clouds zipping by, dragging me along, hands desperately clutching the relentless spinning flywheel of Time, all slipping from my grasp.

This same morning walk to train. This same Metro North train. This same commute. This same cross-town walk.

Always black shoes. Always dark socks. Always conservative neck tie. Always black coat. Always black brief case.

That overhead drone, its dark eye, rotating, whirring, peering downward, tracking my steps. My progress.

13 years ago, it was the first train, always the first train, the 5:07 am to Grand Central. DK and the Traders. I take the aisle seat for quick ejection. I graze through the morning papers, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times. Eyes active, skimming, inhaling pages, hungry.  I shift to the pile up of late afternoon and overnight emails. Respond to the Team – they begin to roll out of bed, checking their smartphones. DK’s emails flashing, flashing, flashing...Unread. Years of the same Strategy, pull them along in my wind tunnel. He’s up, he’s moving, and they’ll follow along, or….they won’t.

Train arrives at Grand Central. I’m up, and Ready, standing in the vestibule. The hiss of the doors, and I’m off. Accelerating down the tunnels. Passing other Suits. Pulse up, heart racing, I make the turn in the tunnel and approach the escalators to the exit: Escalators are for pu**ies. I take the stairs. 75 of them, straight up.  Fearless, I gobble them up two at a time, brushing by walkers on the right. Get to the top, breathless, I jog to catch the open door onto the street, catching the Walk sign, 5, 4, 3….

I’ve figured out the pace, the precise cadence to catch the next cross street Walk sign.  Foot steps brisk, moving.  Brief case swings in right hand, there are re-grips but the smooth, cowhide leather never leaves the firm grip of the right hand.

Eyes are locked on next street, the next cross walk, the next Walk sign. The mind, in parallel, rifling through the morning calendar.  The office, ETA of 12 minutes, if I hit that street and that street and that street, just right. 

And more often than not, I would hit it just right.

13 years ago, and now, This Week. [Read more…]

Go on.

Thirty years ago, I was remembering, an eminent writer had given me some unsolicited advice.

Just look at an orange, she said.

Go on looking at it. For hours.

Then put down what you see.

– C. P. Snow, Strangers and Brothers: Last Things


Photo: anka zhuravleva

Riding Metro North. Searching, for Important.

Jenny Offill : “To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”

Tuesday morning.

A brisk walk to train station.  32 F feels like 26 F.  No snow, no slush, no sleet.  Dry.  January.  I’ll take this all day, all winter long.

5:48 am train to Grand Central.

Plenty of empty seats.

I slide by her into a seat next to the window.

She offers me a smile, and tucks her legs in to let me pass.

I nod, offering my thanks.

She’s reading a soft cover book, verses of some sort. I can’t make it out. 98% of the rest of us are heads down into our gadgets.

She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap. A knitted scarf wrapped around her neck.  She’s in her late 60’s to mid 70’s would be my guess. She turns the page. Why am I so distracted by her? Her elbows and knees are tucked in, and she’s sitting comfortably in her lane. Lady @ Peace comes to mind.

But for the industrial heaters blowing warm air through the ceiling vents, the train car is silent.

She gets up in anticipation of her stop.

The vestibule is crowded with passengers waiting to get off.

She waits quietly at the back of the line. [Read more…]

Walking Downtown. With Air to be reckoned with.

Jenny Offill describes her mood…”she’s tired all the time now…she can feel how slow she is walking, as if the air itself is something to be reckoned with.” I read the passage a week ago. And Mind keeps flipping it back.

Sleep app congratulates me this morning on seven consecutive days of hitting sleep targets. Grooving a routine. And it’s working. I’m sleeping.

But, tired all the time.

Lower Manhattan this morning.

40+ F, but don’t get caught out without a coat.  Frigid winds blow through the tunnels between the hulking skyscrapers.

Colleagues take the subway to a client meeting: It’s only two stops!

I let them go. I need to walk. Shoulder stiff. Neck aches. Need to be alone.

A lifetime, swift walker. But not lately. Like a glider banking energy, I’m waiting for a tail wind, or even a gust.

Not my photo above, I couldn’t muster up my own shot.  I pause to watch the tourists take their shots with the Bull.  In all the years, this is the first time you’ve stopped (paused) to admire him. You are a beaut Mr. Bull.

Bullfighter or the Bull?  Red cape, the muleta. God Save the Bull.

Three minutes to destination.

I take a take breath and step into the building.

Game time.

 


Photo: Alexander Nilssen, Bull of Wall Street

Running. Not with Lorena.

Thanksgiving Day.

8 a.m.  43° F.

I haven’t run in weeks. Weeks. I don’t wanna run.

The TV in background is running a Netlix preview for The Irishman. Ah, yes. I’ve been waiting for this flick. I pause to watch the trailer.

The momentum is shifting here, I’m wobbly, a topple back onto the couch is so seductive. Rest DK. Take the morning off.

I stand shirtless in front of the mirror. And stare.  Eyes drop to the nipples*, they are firm, no slouching, and in so much better shape than the rest of me.  I apply Body Glide, like an amateur cross-country skier rubbing the wax stick on his skis, or in this case my entire upper torso. God knows, if I get going, chafing could run wild. The rest of me may come apart on this run, but there’s no chance Boobies** are going down.

Mind drifts to a short (but moving) 28-minute documentary I watched the night before: Lorena, Light-Footed Woman. Lorena is a 22-year old indigenous Raramuri woman from the Chihuahua region of Mexico (think mountainous territory, no others within miles.). She’s been a top finisher in ultramarathons (up to 62 miles) and runs in Raramuri dresses and sandals. Sandals! And not made by Tory Burch. A notable scene has her opening up a gift from a running shoe manufacturer, a pair of fluorescent orange, slick all-pro running shoes. She delicately opens the package, looks at the shoes, carefully places them back in the shoe box and says: “I don’t think I’ll use them. The people who do…are always running behind me.” And she bows her head turning away from the camera.  Don’t you just love her!

And so it goes, Lorena the night before, and the indigenous Connecticut Man on Thanksgiving Day.

On goes my sweat-wicking running shirt.

On go my running shorts.

On go my smart-wool socks.

On go my running pants.

On goes my running jacket.

On goes my Apple watch.

On go my running shoes.

On goes my fanny pack.

       In goes my Smartphone in the fanny pack.

       In goes the bottle of water in fanny pack.

On goes the Tuk.   And it’s a Tuk. Not Touque. Not Tuque. Or whatever else the French Canadians want to take credit for. Tuk was founded in Western Canada in the mid to late 60’s in a town called Castlegar. Don’t like it, re-write the story on Wiki. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Stones, truths and time.

Sunday afternoon

I’m sitting on couch, wrapped in a soft hand-knit throw, reading Rachel Cusk’s new book “Coventry“: “I wanted only to be allowed to stay where I was; all weekend, the feeling of Sunday evening’s approach was as cruel and meticulous as the ticking of a time bomb.”

Weekend dripping away.  Work enters consciousness. Calendar. Meetings. The unfinished business.

Monday morning.

8 a.m. Dentist appointment. X-rays. Open wide. The pinch of hard plastic on the soft tissue inside of mouth. The squeeze of metal on molars.  The heavy cloak of the x-ray protective vest weighing on chest. All triggers the gag reflex. Then, cleaning. 48 minutes later, I’m released. I get up. Vertigo. Can’t find my footing. Woozy.

Cusk: “It is the body of a nearly forty-nine-year-old, but it doesn’t feel that way. I have never felt myself to be ageing: on the contrary, I have always had the strange sensation as time passes that I am getting not older but younger…This is not, of course, a physical reality.

I pay, exit, find my car and enter I-95 traffic in right lane. And stay in right lane, following traffic. Semi trailer to my left, an arm’s length away.  Decal below his rearview mirror trimmed in silver: “In memoriam of Armando.” Son? I stare at the lettering a-r-m-a-n-d-o, it slides closer to me. I return attention to the road in front. Damn it, it’s me! I turn the wheel right to veer back into my lane.  Cob webs heavy. Tailings of vertigo from Dentist chair. Fading sleep medication. So that’s what it’s come to. Old man in right lane, following traffic. Since when have you followed traffic, in the right lane, followed anything, or anybody? [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S & N. Money For Nothing.

Hasn’t happened. Ever.
50+ years.
Not a single time.

I’m stuck on I-95 S. Frustrated. I was up early, planned to be ahead of the morning rush, way ahead, and now, here I sit. Nasty traffic, snarled. Waze signals delays, and more delays.

Need a mind set shift. I type Dire Straits in search box. Because dire it is. That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it / Money for nothin,’ and chicks for free.

Nothing for Free. Stupidity is expensive.

Traffic is at a dead stop. I grab my briefcase from the backseat and rummage through it again. Nothing. What makes you think it will be there. You went through it twice at home. And your Suit jacket from yesterday and the day before. And your pant pockets, from three days. And the hamper. And the floor in the closet. And your other bag. And the kitchen counter. And the car. The trunk. The glove box. Under all seats, and between seats. And the side pockets. A sweat droplet glides down your back, your forehead glistens.  55° F and you’ve just about had it for the day. 

I inch forward in traffic.

I call the office: “Could you please check under my desk? In my drawers? Call lost and found? Call the restaurant hosting the work dinner Tuesday Night?”

I call home: “Could you check my Suit pockets again please? My desk drawer? My other bag? Under the cushions on the couch? The drawer in the night stand? The floor under the nightstand?”

I’m sure with two different sets of eyes, they will find it. I’m sure.

I sit in the cabin, in traffic, in silence, and wait. Nick Flynn: “We are made of waiting –…”

Traffic inches forward.  WTH. Is everyone in the State of Connecticut parked on I-95?

Both calls come back. Nothing.

I’m sitting in my first morning meeting. Mind is gone, Away. Replaying the last 2 days, hour by hour. Or was it three days ago? Forgetting many things of late. A harbinger of things to come?

Rattled. [Read more…]

Flying AA1330 on A321S. Need Another Day.

First flight out of Dallas. 6:36 a.m. on-time departure.

Foot traffic unusually light at DFW, as are the lines at Security and at the Gate.

Ah yes, September 11. And, the morning of September 11th.

Pilot gets on the intercom, and announces that we’re flying on an Airbus A321S. 168,000 pounds, 450 mph at cruising altitude.

Plane unusually quiet. More seats empty than usual for this flight.

Pilot dims the lights in the cabin.

Cabin is silent as the plane taxis up to the runway.

It’s dark in the cabin, my seat mate snoozes. Me? Restless. Churning.

[Read more…]

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