Money Matters: The Urge to Shop

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An update in my self-talk group of posts about money.

I’m continuing to succeed only variously at getting Out of The Office. This morning, I volunteered with Literacy Volunteers, but told the powers that be that I would make up my time by staying later a couple evenings. Why did I do that? I’m not an hourly employee. I have a lot of flexibility at a small law firm if I let myself.

I rushed to get in to the office at noon. Everything was busy and full of light and activity outside. I had to remember to breathe as I grabbed a sandwich, because it was 12:05pm.

Walking in to the office, it was dead silent. The receptionist had been working her other job on the weekend and looked like she had been falling asleep. The usual pall of powder blue and those paintings hung in the eighties that you don’t even notice until three months later fell upon me. The only activity was the slow swirling of the receptionist’s Betta fish it its small bowl on the desk, for which I entirely give her credit. Why did I even bother?

Sitting at my computer, forcing myself to work–and yes, that did make it easier as I continued to concentrate–I kept getting urges for beautiful things. Clothes. Colors. Colors in clothes and jewelry. I had this urge to click into Google and start looking for what I needed to make my life better. The telltale sign is that when I actually do pick something to wear in the morning, I want to wear the more conservative and low-key stuff. I never want to pull on something trendy with my eyes half-open. Ugh. The desire for color is a desire for stimulation and for happiness.

This isn’t a new realization, that I do this. I was just paying particular attention, observing, today.

I was able to avoid the urges today, but it’s important to write about, because one urge turns into a very fast way to spend a day’s salary or more. I only get five days worth a week! At times I do need clothes, boots, or even accessories. Yet, I want to avoid “it’s not that I need it, it’s that it will alleviate the static atmosphere here at work.” A little hit of dopamine, same as with all the coffees…and my desire to go to the candy shop. One solution could be only buying stuff I need like clothes, when I do need them, from home. I also need to get my color print up on the wall and add some more color–color that is not fashion–to my walls.

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Getting Out of the Office – Struggles

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I have a motto for the year, from labor day to labor day, inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s #happierlaborday idea of assessing your work at that time every year. This motto is “Get Out of The Office.” Maybe you can tell I’m not in love with my job. I am not in a position to leave, but I want to turn it into working from home or working from somewhere else. This is just a dream. There is a theory: if you at least know what you would do if you could, then even if you can’t, you’ll be ready if the chance ever appears!

So “Get Out of The Office” means to do that as much as possible. Physically. Arrive late (I can–nobody says anything) and leave early (I stay later, I have had more success changing my schedule than sneakily reducing hours), remember to take lunch, take my walk at 10am, and do big stuff on the weekend, like hiking. This is all running into some resistance now that it’s getting cold out. I don’t really want to do the walk at 10am. (I’m so cold!) I’m not doing any more hiking, and today I actually did that thing where you wait for one person to leave at the end of the day while they think you’re working so that you look good. I’m going to give myself a “demerit” for that!

The one thing I have been doing is going out for lunch and I have two places I sit where it is relaxing and I can do completely non-work-related things. I flip through my “law keys” – they’re kind of like flash cards. Oh yeah, that’s work related I guess, but I’m not getting paid for it…anyway I enjoy it. I do a “daily pro-social matrix” or write down my values or just have a text or email conversation. And I stare off into space. (Ahhhh!)

So going out for lunch has left me overfed and broke! And I don’t want to go home either. Nothing seems right.

Maybe if I start to head home regularly the habit will stick.

Voting Day

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Today I got to vote and I had to register on the day of! Can you believe that in Maine you can do that? I also had a name change on my last name and I was still waiting on the new license. I felt I was picture-perfect to be refused. But they let me register and make the name change in an area provided for that on the back of the registration card. The officials used my new name but put my drivers license number from my Maine license with my old name on the registration card. I went down to the S section instead of the H section.

The voting was in the Cross Insurance Center and it was a huge arena. The school gym I used to vote in might have been the same eventual floor area but the Cross Center seemed so vast with high ceilings and bleachers.

Oh, and the candidates line up at the door to greet you. I had never shaken hands with a real live candidate in Massachusetts.

Money Myths

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I’m overspending. I’m thinking about how to change this habit. There are a lot of thought processes going on underneath. Today, I’ll just address one thing.

I remember growing up, my parents making derisive comments about people who didn’t just automatically spend their money on something–maybe even on helping them. “Why won’t they do [whatever it was]….money is for spending!” or “money is meant to be spent,” or “it’s no use if it’s just sitting there.” Something of that nature…

Often in the regular world, I’ll hear people complaining about things being too expensive–the implication is whatever the item is, it is so expensive the price is not the worth of the item and they therefore refuse to buy it. Sometimes the price seems high to me too, sometimes not. I’ll encounter different degrees of this in the world. What’s interesting is I get annoyed. I don’t like the complaint about it made in the tone that somebody out there is to blame for this, this is highway robbery kind of thing. I’d just rather not talk about it. I’d rather be kind and open–with money too.

Notice a similarity? I wonder if I am annoyed by people who complain that things are too expensive because I’m thinking, “if you have money, you should spend it!”

Mornings

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I slept ok last night. I didn’t get up all night! I woke up a couple times, though. Wave, my big black and white cat, meowed at the door where the new stray, Kitty-Kitter, is being kept. I fed the cats at 6:45am. This really isn’t bad. Nevertheless, then…

I went back to sleep. I keep sleeping later and later in the mornings. I just don’t want to go to work. I wake up and it feels like a big BLAH just hits me on the head and the only logical thing to do is go back to sleep. I can judge the state of my soul from the weight that seems to land on me when I regain consciousness. When I was eighteen I remember not being able to believe that I really was there, in the position in the world that I was in. It was too awful. Now, not so bad. But not so good either.

I know my productivity tips: get right out of bed! There are apps to make you do it! Think of something that motivates you to get up! I remember one example of a guy who thought about breakfast, so he got out of bed. That’s more my speed. So for a while I had breakfast when I got up. Breakfast still took a little too long for the time I had given myself. Although I got up earlier, I was still always late. Was breakfast worth it? Eventually I decided not.

There are a few personalities at work that are difficult, but one was on show today, the office administrator. The office got a reminder to let her know our passwords to everything, because earlier in the morning I had made her work for a minute resetting a password. But later, a group of admins and the paralegal got a warning with bold text about not using the internet or cell phone too much while at work–how’s that for a clear policy–and I know at least two who thought it was directed right at them–exactly how I felt about the password email. The email insinuated that internet usage was being spied upon.

I’m not even supposed to know about this but two people came to me. How can I not know? One told me to save the email she printed for me as “evidence.”

I love that my office is right downtown in my small city of Bangor and I get to get out and about easily. Such a contrast from being on the 26th floor, before I left the Boston area! As winter comes, my naturally cold-shirking skin tends to stay inside more –but I don’t want to be inside with these negative distractions that make me as unproductive as the latest gossip.

Either way, it’s like looking forward to jumping into a cloud with my day, instead of caring for others or changing the world…can I just stay in, sleep with the kitty gang and help with their kitty peace of mind?

Tired

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Does anyone else find when you are tired and you have to show up for the day, you do very, very little? I’m almost becoming ok with this. I have my own office, and I can shut the door. Yet, there are times I’m frustrated even then, because I want to be focused and pursuing that next assignment.

The cat crew kept me up from 2:30-5 am this morning with disagreements, hiding under the bureau, and then it was just me being totally awake because my fight-or-flight response had been triggered. When I woke again at 7 I felt like I had a bad cold and considered calling in sick. No, that’s just waking up after the wee hours cat interruptions.

I have had a history of being overtired. It’s one of my major categories on WordPress! It happened before I had cats too. If you look at my other blog, Shy Cats Diary, you’ll see it might be hard to believe at one time I had zero cats. It was a mistake!! I wish I had gotten cats sooner–it might have led to a productive life sooner–but after I left for college in Vermont, dropped out, continued to be depressed, and began to move around, I was catless. I sleep very lightly. At at one time in my life, I would not be able to fall asleep until it was getting light out outside.

Even when I had cats and was just in school again and not working, I couldn’t get enough sleep. I journaled instead of sleeping because I felt awful but was too wired to sleep.

One of the amazing things about my boyfriend, Clay, is his ability to sleep–the kind of sleep like that when, in the movies, people move all the furniture out of the apartment and the person keeps on sleeping as long as they don’t move the bed. Or they probably do move the bed–with him in it. How can he just drop things like that, forget about what’s worrying him, and trust that whatever happens around him while he sleeps doesn’t matter–including me ruminating on his sleep habits and how he’s, as we’ve often jokingly fought about–“taking up the whole bed.”

It is Halloween and I put pumpkins out on the porch steps, gave candy to the two small groups that came by the porch, showed my neighbor how to take care of the cats when I am away, and vaccuumed the rug. These few little things were easier than sitting in my office contemplating the latest employment discrimination rebuttal. Maybe they will allow me to sleep tonight.

The Flowers

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Clay has never gotten me flowers. Until today.

Ok, maybe he got something at some point from the gas station or the Shaw’s in Waltham, Massachusetts, one of those single red roses falling apart or a bouquet of daisies and goldenrod I tried to appreciate. If that happened, you see, I don’t even remember when, it was so long ago.

There is a silly thing going on at my workplace. One woman, our paralegal, is being wooed by an ex and he sent flowers something like four days in a row. Her desk is covered with flowers such that I made a crack about not being able to see the desk and to tell him that she’d run out of desk space. She was out sick today, but the flowers were still there.

Around 11:30am this morning, a gentleman with black hair and small black beard showed up at the door (it’s glass) holding a basket of flowers. It featured fall-foliage colored zinnias, yellow lilies, some greenery of the evergreen type, perhaps some asters–my favorite fall roadside flower. I’m working from memory, so I’ll take some poetic license. In between all this were little witch hats that said Happy Halloween. I ran to the door and held it for him. He swept in with the basket and laid it on the receptionist’s desk.

I thought he was the elusive flower guy that I never see when the consistent-flower-sender sends flowers. But no. This was the actual boyfriend of the secretary who sits closest to the reception area. The bouquet was personalized with a little mini dragon hanging from a wrought iron plant hanger or something coming out of the basket. I watched her replace some small, dead flower vase with this big, whimsical basket. I was slightly jealous.

I’ve taken on the role at work of being the comedian, more than in the rest of my life although I have my funny moments. So I quickly wrote this email using my Outlook, and copied the receptionist and the secretary:

Dear Clay,

I write to inform you that there has been a surge of flower-gifting by significant others in this office recently. Since you are my significant other, I will be expecting flowers at my place of business between Tuesday-Thursday of this week.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

…and sent it off.

Success! The receptionist said she laughed so hard when she saw the email, and asked if he responded yet. I got the laugh I wanted. Besides, there was a distinct probability two laughs actually happened.

I left for lunch and came back in an hour. There was a lot of smirking going on. “What?” I said. I didn’t even see it. It fit right in. On the receptionist’s desk, there stood flowers. Autumn-colored zinnias. Yellow lilies. Greenery. A square orange vase with crackle glaze, shot with brown. My workplace must be helping the flower business in Bangor at a rapid pace! Now I laughed. I was shocked!

I kept on saying “I can’t believe it!” I emailed to thank him and got a completely deadpan, “I’m glad you enjoyed the flowers.” Really, though, I think three of us did.

Moonight

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My phone camera thinks the streetlight is as important as the moon.

I took a walk after work tonight. It was too cold and all my jogging clothes are dirty, so I had on my pants from the day, sweatshirt, jacket, scarf, fingerless gloves–but still the sneakers. Good thing, too, because I ended up walking 2.3 miles!

I have been exploring streets off of Central Street that have old Victorian homes, but some are decrepit and falling apart. One of these streets leads down to Kenduskeag Ave., which is up the hill from the Kenduskeag Stream. I made it to the Ave and heard the highway in the distance–Route 95–cars wooshing loudly. Leaves are falling so there’s not so much insulation of sound any more. The houses once I got to Kenduskeag were big, grand even. Always with a blighted one here or there. The last house before I turned back to head toward Central Street had incandescent sconces on a stucco facade lighting either side of a polished door, and an ornate, wedding cake, dollhouse-like treehouse in front. Oh, to play in that thing as a child!

I had already crossed Kenduskeag Ave. I turned toward home up a narrower, newer lane. All of a sudden, the brilliant moon like a dinner plate hung in my face, right at the open end of the street and so straight it was like its destination. I walked with my head in the clouds all the way home.

The Pro-Social Matrix

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I’ve been learning about this really simple concept called the Pro-Social Matrix. This all started when I was hating my day job so much. I was having a problem speaking out about something at work and thought maybe a psychologist could help. I’m not quite sure what I Googled–maybe some kind of combo of work, stress, psychologist? I found an individual named Kevin Polk and sent him an inquiry.

http://www.drkevinpolk.com/

He said his focus was on helping workplaces work together better. I wasn’t sure if this was really what I needed, but I got subscribed to some emails and especially through “Your Daily Matrix” started helping myself a little bit. There is, indeed, a work matrix, but what impressed me is the one that brings us closer to those we love, usually people outside our work environment.

What is this?

You draw an intersection of two lines. This divides a piece of paper into four sections, like a four-square court. But really, if you wanted to you could just list categories.

First (lower right). Write down: Who is important to me?

My first two responses are usually my mother and my boyfriend Clay, without thinking much. A lot of the time I also list ALL the cats.

Second (lower left). Write down: What shows up and gets in the way?

This is feelings that happen around uncomfortable things with these people. I don’t like these particular feelings–they feel “icky.” For example, my mother…I feel her questioning is hurtful or maybe sometimes think she talks too much (I don’t have this problem at all, personally–sarcasm intended!) Or, sometimes practical matters influence feelings as well. Clay is a state away and I don’t like the drive so I feel it’s too much effort.

Third (upper left). Write down: What are my “away” moves? Meaning what do I do when the icky feelings show up, to get away from them?

For me, it’s pretty easy. Don’t go anywhere, don’t call.

Fourth (upper right). Write down: What can I do right now to move toward the people who are important to me?

These are simple too. Text, call, or plan a visit.

The only magic of the matrix is that it helps us to remember what’s important to us and focus on what we need to do. I think what happens is that plowing–gently–through a quick analysis of the feelings that makes me want to move away acclimates me to those feelings so that I can then move forward. I’m going to be studying this so there may be some more posts on it. Let me know in the comments if you think this is too cosmic or too sappy!

 

October Walks

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Walking gets all my senses tingling, especially when it’s cold. Maybe that’s why I may not particularly like walks when I am in them, but I remember them with joy. One of the most vivid moments from yesterday was walking around the block at 10am. It had started to drizzle and the temperature was in the mid-40s.

The concrete of the sidewalk seems more immediate when darkened a shade by rain and when the soles of my shoes have a thin layer of water–nothing to skid on, but enough to worry about when I keep my slipper-like work shoes on–underneath them. The van and the guys who seem to be constantly doing electrical work lately in the back of Umami Noodle are instantly my brothers, us all shivering in the drizzle.

Last night between six thirty and seven I took a walk with a little running thrown in, and a crescent moon and bright star hung in the east. Illuminated clouds blew past. I was cold but my legs were tired. I couldn’t decide whether to run more or just freeze. Luckily I was rewarded by getting to see the second stage of what I call “the halloween house.” They have added twirling orange lights on the side of the house, purple still lights in the front, and some large spiders, to what was the day before an air-inflated, very large, pumpkin-head guy.

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This evening walking home I saw a pink cloud over City Hall. Sunset is getting even lower and it may not reach the windows of the church on the hill any more, but it colors the clouds. I reached into my purse to get my phone, for instant photography–duh-oh! I left it at work. I wasn’t going back so that moment couldn’t be recorded.

There is something to be said for understanding the tossing of the wind and the change in the weather when winter comes on.