Saturday, July 23, 2011
I've been meaning to write a blog about procrastination for a while now.
I've been putting off writing a blog about procrastination and the one thing I desperately want to change in my life: my job. I was so excited to start my job in animal poison control 4 years ago. I had heard so many great things about the company I work for, and I was ready for a change after 5 years in veterinary emergency clinics. I would still get to use my emergency skills and we had great management (you know, actual leaders, not just "bosses"). My supervisor did not hover or really "supervise"--she recognized that we are professionals and don't need to be "supervised." It was a genuinely respectful and great workplace. Between calls, my awesome co-workers and I would chat and joke; sometimes my belly hurt after work from laughing so hard all day. Since we were well-staffed and I had competent and efficient co-workers, work hummed along smoothly most of the time. I had pride in my job and my company. I felt we offered a great service and I was happy to be able to help animals and their owners.
Two years ago, my supervisor decided she didn't want to be a vet tech any more and moved to New Mexico to pursue a career in writing. At first I thought this would be okay, because at that time my company was a close-knit family. Going to work felt like going home. Everyone had each others backs, and we had great support from management. If a caller was being unreasonable (yelling, swearing, screaming, threatening, etc.), it was our policy to tell them so and hang up on them. Sometimes if a caller was really bad, our managers would call them personally and tell them to never call again. It was our policy to not tolerate abusive callers.
The changes in middle management over the past two years have ruined my job. (Then again, there's probably a reason they're in the middle, and not at the top). They put one of the most incompetent vet techs at my work in charge of all of the vet techs. My "supervisor" has lied about things (therefore making others look bad), and even when shown concrete proof, our company's founders have taken no action. The micro-managing has been relentless, and the more we push back, the more we get micro-managed. The changes in middle management drove out most of my awesome co-workers (or, a lot of them got fired). Now I have almost no one at work I have any desire to talk to.
My "supervisor" has set up our lives to revolve around our jobs now, which goes against our company's old philosophy that work should never consume our whole life. Our schedules are completely erratic. While they have been good about putting me on evening shifts only, they refuse to do a set schedule. I may work 9 days in a row and then get a day off, work 3 days and get 2 days off, work 7 days and get a day off--we rarely get 2 days off in a row. Our schedule is treated as though we are just letters in a box that can be haphazardly rearranged, rather than realizing that those letters in a box on a timetable encompass entire lives. My "supervisor" says, "There's just no other way to do it," which I have translated into smart-person speak: "I don't have the brain capacity to figure out how to do that." The biggest kicker is that while this is supposed to be my full-time job, they often scale back our hours. Instead of my "guaranteed" 40 hours a week, I may get 20-25 sometimes. Needless to say, these cuts have meant financial disaster. I'm caught up for now, but I won't be if they mess with my hours again.
We also don't get breaks at my work (which is actually not illegal), and a couple of co-workers and I have offered solutions to this so we can get away from the phones for a bit during our shifts. My "supervisor" says, "There's just no other way to do it," which I have again translated into smart-person speak: "I don't have the brain capacity to figure out how to do that." In talking to the company's founders about these issues, I have offered solutions and offered to handle the schedule and breaks myself (with the help of another co-worker), but they don't do it. It shows how much they truly do not value us.
My current "supervisor" will only hire people who will suck up to her, so needless to say, they need to be be pretty meek and dumb (some of my co-workers and I lovingly call them the "B-squad"). The newer veterinary technicians, for some reason, have been assigned to handle the most difficult cases that require skills in emergency medicine, fast thinking, and confidence. Because these sheeple have no confidence in either talking to people or in assessing even the simplest exposure, they are a lot slower on the phone. They ask me about almost every one of their cases. So not only am I handling a lot more cases than a lot of my co-workers (often 40-50% more cases), I'm ultimately handling their cases, too. This gets extremely tiring by the end of day.
It now goes in our permanent record if one of those yelling-screaming-swearing-threatening-nut
bag callers complains to management. Even if they are 100% in the wrong, we get reprimanded. The middle management seems to believe that if our "customer service" skills are excellent, then no caller will ever get angry or complain. We're asked how we could have "handled it better." I guess the response of, "Well, let's see, I could get a time machine. Then I could go back to the time before the caller's parents met, prevent them from conceiving, therefore preventing the a-hole from being born in the first place. Then they could never get a dog that they can't take care of, only to yell at me for charging for our service, which clearly proves that I don't care about animals," probably wouldn't go over well. We didn't used to worry about crazy callers, because we knew our company would support us. Now, we cringe when we hear anyone complains, because we know that middle management is going to ask us to reflect on the call and try to "think of ways to do it differently in the future." I suppose not picking up the phone in the first place would be a really good start. Whereas our company used to operate on respect and open communication, the middle management is trying to run it on intimidation and dictatorship. The problem is, they are too weak and dumb for me to take them seriously. Instead of being intimidated, I'm just pissed off. I used to be so proud of what I do, but the middle management has made sure that we can't feel that way any more. They don't set up our workplace so we can be successful any more, it is set up to try our best to avoid mistakes (most of which are beyond our control, such as crazy callers).
The biggest recent change is that I've become so apathetic that it is really starting to affect my performance. It's not that the way I talk to callers is different, but I'm no longer a caring individual helping each caller individually. I'm a machine churning out cases as fast as possible to pick up the slack for my co-workers, counting down the seconds until my shift is over. I feel like I'm no good at my job when I don't care. It's become very clear that my company is not only not going to get better, it will continue to get worse. Since my company has made it clear that they don't care, then why should I care? I'm tired of feeling like crying at work. I'm tired of crying when I leave work, after working for 8 hours without a break and then still being there late because we're understaffed (of course, we're just reminded that we're "not being efficient enough with our time"). It is really too bad that the company's founders are making no attempts to *actually* change things, because they've turned a job that I used to care about into one where I simply count down the days to my next paycheck. The fine line between exhaustion and total apathy has been crossed. There was a point a few months ago where I was thinking that I'd rather be dead than keep doing this job. I have never had that kind of thought because of a job. That was the true signal that my job is very, very bad.
"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
Wow, that's a whole lotta whining. When I sat down to write this, I didn't realize what a list of cons would pour forth. It wasn't meant to be a whine-fest nor to sound so angry and be so long, but I'm going to leave it. If I start to think, "Oh, maybe it's not that bad," I need to come back and see this. The sad thing is, I can't think of any pros to my job, other than my paycheck. Even the grateful callers don't touch me the way they used to. I'm so bitter and apathetic that their words don't sink in. That makes me sad. I love animals, I love helping people...I want to care. My workplace has made that impossible, so it's time to get a job where I can be the caring person I want to be. I've spent a lot of time convincing myself that maybe it is just me, but seeing it written out tells the truth: it's not me, it's them. I've procrastinated and have put my life on hold long enough. I deserve to care again. For whatever reason, working through my problems on SparkPeople has produced results, whether it be weight loss, finances, or living a more fulfilled life, so I'm going to let the magic work on my job situation.
I graduated with a self-designed Bachelor's degree in kinesiology and psychology last December. My original intention was to go to school for a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education, but I just can't justify accumulating any more debt for education. I have used this as an excuse to not pursue a different job. I've come across jobs for which I would be qualified to apply for with my degree, but quickly dismiss it with the thought of, "I'm sure I wouldn't get it anyways." I've come across a range of jobs in health and wellness, and even healthcare organization, that seem interesting. I need to start aggressively applying for them.
I knew I wanted to get certified as a personal trainer, too, and I have all of the materials. Although I am aiming to get a job in wellness and health education, I know having personal trainer certification would be an asset and open a lot of doors for me. Between preparing for and taking the exam and the daunting task of applying for jobs, I've gone through the excuses:
*Registering for the exam is expensive.
*Studying is time-consuming.
*No one will hire me while I'm still overweight.
*Changing jobs is scary.
*Looking for jobs is hard work.
*What if I look like I don't know what I'm doing?
*Changing jobs is hard.
*What if the world ends because I changed jobs?
Each excuse ticks away more minutes of my life that I should be using to pursue my dreams. I need to stop glancing at my personal trainer materials and think, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to stop listening to friends telling me, "You'd be so good at helping people turn their lives around," and then think, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to stop coming across a job that looks interesting, and set it aside thinking, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to put a stop to the excuses and stop thinking, "I'll get to that...eventually..."
This shows the disastrous consequences of putting things off, so I better get started:
“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
Friday, July 22, 2011
I don't ask myself that question very often.
Every month, my work gets a huge cake to celebrate everyone who has a birthday that month. I can usually take or leave cake, but chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is one of my favorite foods. This month, they got a beautiful chocolate cake with fudge frosting and chocolatey buttercream filling. It had bright flowers adorning the fudge frosting. It was an impeccable cake. I walked past it while at work, watching it whittle away as people kept eating it. I wanted a piece. Not the whole cake, which was how I used to feel, but just a piece. I kept telling myself "no" because I hadn't planned on eating the cake today. Although I usually have something sweet every day, I normally avoid eating "unplanned" foods. But then it dawned on me: I almost never eat cake. I have almost 600 calories left for the day. I really enjoy it, and I don't want it just because it's there. So why shouldn't I have a piece?
I made a fresh pot of coffee, cut a corner piece with lots of frosting (you know, the piece you used to fight siblings for as a kid), and took the cake and coffee to my desk. Of course the phone started ringing when I sat down, but I didn't shovel the cake down during the brief periods between calls. I waited for a lull, sipped my coffee, and let each bite almost melt in my mouth. It was perfection. I loved every single bite, and I didn't want any more. The old feeling of wanting to continue to eat everything else in sight was not triggered.
An old picture of me going after a chocolate cake.
I have learned I don't always have to tell myself "no." "No" can be just as naughty as "can't." Why should I always say "no"? If it is a food I truly enjoy, I should just have some. It's not the same as the mindless grazing on foods that aren't that great. I also won't sit there obsessing about how I want something, only to end up eating everything in sight except that particular food. So why shouldn't I eat the cake? Why shouldn't I have some chocolate every day, or ice cream on a hot day? My sweet tooth seems to have been tempered by learning to just say "YES!" every once in a while.
Heck yes, I spent 500 calories on a Buster Bar!
But Dugan helped me finish it. Good dog!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
A vet tech friend of mine had worked with a bird rescue, and needless to say, the birds were not always coming out of the best situations. There was a beautiful Macaw that became homeless after its owners were arrested for running a meth lab in their house, and the bird was surrendered to the rescue group. To the owners' credit, the bird was in fantastic shape. The parrot did not have any health problems and they had actually taken care of him, unlike so many of the birds that came to the rescue. However, the bird had picked up many choice phrases from being in the environment he was in. The parrot would cheerfully bob its head, piping in with, “Are you clean? Are you clean?”, “Where's the s**t?”, "Gimme the money first," “Where'd you park the car?”
Makes me wonder a bit what comes out of my mouth without me even realizing it. After reading LIFEASAFATGIRL's blog yesterday about fat friends who are saboteurs, I started to think hard about whether I even know what I'm saying half the time. I have been on both sides of being fat and lean, and have spent most of it on the fat side. Since I've never had friends who are just eating buddies, I don't feel like my direct circle of friends has saboteurs. The biggest thing I've learned throughout the past couple of years is that a saboteur is a saboteur; if they're bashing weight loss, they've probably been bashing other things for a long time. Weight loss is often accompanied by greater wisdom in our lives, and I believe we just start to notice these jerks when they start to nay-say our efforts. These are people who probably never think before they speak. They should win not only a "Thanks for trashing my weight loss!" award, they probably also deserve a "Wow, you're a total baboon's ass!" award.
We'll see how it goes this time around. I am a lot more guarded about with whom I discuss this journey, so I am much less open to saboteurs. My close friends and family members know I am losing weight and about SparkPeople (although most do not know about my SparkPage), but I don't have any more toxic people who are close to me who are going to try to sabotage my efforts, whether by giving unsolicited "advice" or by being mean. I have made a point to be pretty distant from most of my co-workers, which is really the only inescapable group of saboteurs I have in my life. I still fend off toxic co-workers who seem to think they are my friends, despite the fact that I've essentially told them to their faces that they are not. They haven't been saboteurs about weight loss because I refuse to discuss it with them, but they make some of the most eye-rolling comments sometimes. A few weeks ago I had asked if anyone could cover a shift because I was asked by my boxing coach to be the time-keeper at a kickboxing tournament. One of my co-workers-who-thinks-they're-a-friend asked what I needed the day off for, and I told him. He started laughing. I asked, "Sorry, is that funny?" His reply was, "No, that's just really cool, and I can't picture you doing anything cool." Dude, go back to the schoolyard, you're not coming near me.
Sometimes people are more direct about trying to ruin weight loss. I had a co-worker at my last job who had seemed to feel downright betrayed that I had lost weight. She treated me worse and worse as I lost weight. At one point, she had remarked, "Us big girls need to stick together." She was such a toxic person that I was not friends with her, but if she had been my friend, I wouldn't have cared what she weighed or what I weighed. Apparently it mattered a lot to her, though. I guess is she was too shallow too accept me being thin, then I'm glad I never let her get too close.
I have a theme amongst my group of friends, and that is that no one is neurotic about their bodies. I suppose this has been a good influence on me, since our lives don't revolve around trying to look a certain way, and therefore I've never learned that my worthiness as a friend is based on my body size. One of my best friends, Kacy, is tall (almost 6 feet) and gorgeous. She is also my "sexy friend." She exudes self-confidence and has great fashion sense. She has always helped supervise my shopping, whether I've been fat or lean, because she helps me pick out clothes that actually look good on me. I've gotten most of my dating advice from her. Our relationship is not based on being fat or thin, it is based on who we really are.
Me (in grey shirt) and my girl Kacy a few years ago.
I realize on the other hand that I don't have the right to be the mean friend, either. Since I've tried to be conscientious of how I treat others, having been bullied for a lot of my life, I certainly hope that I have not been that toxic person. I suppose it's very possible that words have just spewed from my mouth without my brain's prior knowledge. Since I have friends who are very open, they would just call me out on it right away if I ever did say anything stupid, and for that I thank them. I will never hold my friends to some kind of standard, and I now have friends who treat me in kind.
I am extremely lucky to have my group of true friends who accept me for who I am, and I hope I return the sentiment. Weight related or not, real friends love us for US, not for who they think we should be. I may not always know what I'm saying, but I try not to just parrot other people. I try to think about what I say to others, and I also think about what is coming out of their mouths. And if what's coming out is something stupid, then they can cheerfully go on saying dumb things...just not to me.
Thanks to LIFEASAFATGIRL for getting me thinking. If you haven't checked out LIFEASAFATGIRL's blog, she is fantabulous!:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Yesterday was just a plain bad day at work. I was exhausted before I even walked in the door, so putting on my empathy voice was a challenge. It was extremely busy and the phone calls were non-stop. We do not get breaks (and are actually penalized for being logged off the phone for "too long" to go heat up a meal or something, and we can NEVER be logged off the phone to actually eat a meal), and so I am glued to my chair talking to frantic (and often, frantic, crazy, and mean) pet owners for 8 hours. Yesterday I almost started crying at work. I'm like a little kid. When I get tired, I cry (and scream). I didn't cry at work, and instead opted to hit the candy drawer and eat several unplanned mini Kit-Kat bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I put a stop to the mindless unplanned eating, and altered my nutrition tracker so I didn't end up going over my calories for the day. I told myself I could cry and scream when I got in my car. And that's exactly what I did. Then I came home and did 20 minutes of Pilates; my body was craving some kind of soothing movement. When I was done, I laid on my mat sprawled out for at least 10 minutes, almost falling asleep.
I got 7 hours of sleep, but I woke up feeling spent. I debated whether I should work today or if I should skip it. No, I was not wrestling with, "Aww, I don't wanna" or "I don't feel like it"--I am genuinely exhausted. I was whining in a blog earlier this week about my 2+-week work stretch, and how my job is exhausting me. Combine that with a little TOM and 120 degree heat index, and you have nap time. My workout plan today was to do an STS upper body workout (Cathe Friedrich's Shock Training System), and then walk to the beach, swim, and walk home. I got tired just thinking about it. I decided that STS is the priority today and decided to go for it, knowing that I would probably be lifting lighter.
My workout today caused to me to come up with many new variations on the "F" word, and I alternated between being near tears and giggling (gosh, isn't TOM just grand?). I had to take longer breaks between sets and I was lifting 30-40% less than usual. I made it through all of those damn push-ups, though (there are at least 100 total in the workout I did), but just barely. And that walk to the beach? And swimming? Well, I'm sitting here writing instead. I actually really WANTED to do it, but it would not be good for me. As my old Muay Thai coach used to say, "Today is not my day."
Yes, we CAN be too exhausted to exercise. I think beginners confuse exhaustion for a lack of motivation. I know I made that mistake, and it ultimately made me feel like a "failure" and I quit. After working out with athletes for several years (and--AHEM--becoming one), I have drilled it in that not every workout is going to be spectacular. Sometimes working out is a plain ol' bad idea. Part of becoming an athlete has been learning when to push myself and when to back off. Working out when exhausted came be counteractive and detrimental, so I don't do it any more. I actually have a rule now that I will not do a workout if I have gotten less than 6 hours of sleep the night before. I listen to my body, and it has been good at telling me when I can go for 3 hours and when I need to sit in my recliner staring at the T.V.
Today was borderline, but I know myself very well now, and I was able to modify to get through it. I also know that any cardio activity would wear me down too much, so I'm not doing any today. I may do some Pilates or yoga when I get home tonight, depending on what my body wants. My brain is just along for the ride for the time being. Sometimes even the biggest pep talk can't make your muscles do something that they can't do. Without getting into a boring physiology lecture, let's just say that the muscles physically can't perform at the top of their game when we are exhausted. The term muscle force production essentially refers to the amount of work a muscle can do at any given time. Force production can be affected by stress, lack of sleep, hormones (yes, ladies, you are not imagining that muscle fatigue around TOM), poor eating...the more that is thrown into the mix, the worse off a workout will be. The nervous system is not as capable of activating the muscles when we're exhausted, and there aren't many great ways to overcome that kind of fatigue. This is true during both strength training and cardio activities. There were many factors playing into the exhaustion I'm feeling today, so my muscles were already "pre-fatigued" before I even picked up a barbell. So although I was lifting 30-40% lighter than I would if I were well-rested and not overworked, the work performed by my muscles evens out in the end.
Needless to say, trying to force ourselves through true exhaustion sets us up for failure on many counts. We may feel like a failure and give up. Our immune system may not respond correctly to the stress of exercise, and inflammation becomes chronic, and the cycle of exhaustion continues. Eventually, overtraining syndrome may set in (unless we quit completely before that point, that is). Sometimes when you're body and mind are telling you that you can't do it, they're actually correct. I'm glad I can cut myself some slack now--then again, I think it's funny that now an "off" day for me involves doing a 1-hour long strength training session.
Time to get ready for another night at work. If your pet gets into something tonight, please be nice to whoever you call.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Kaleigh the Rottweiler
I have been a foster parent for many animals over the years, and have had surprisingly little trouble placing animals in new homes. Sometimes I have worked with rescues, sometimes I've "happened upon" the animals and taken them in. I started working with a Rottweiler rescue a couple of years ago that pulls the dogs out of dire situations, such as Rottweilers in shelters that are going to be euthanized that day, or dogs that have been seized from dangerous situations. I have had Kaleigh the Rottweiler for over a year. She had been seized from a breeding operation in Missouri, and was transported to Rescued Paws here in Minnesota. After having her for about 8 months, I toyed with the idea of keeping her permanently, but I can't afford to keep a second large dog. I told the rescue that I wouldn't be able to keep her, and she went back up for adoption. Many months passed again, and once again no one was showing interest in Kaleigh.
One day while at work, one of the new staff members was mentioning how she wanted to adopt an adult Rottweiler. The woman is a veterinary student, so unlike a lot of the people I've dealt with, I thought she would know something about canine behavior. She looked at Kaleigh's profile and said she was very excited to meet her. She talked about how she had tried to adopt a Doberman Pinscher a few weeks ago, but that the dog was too aggressive with her guinea pigs and the dog was too neurotic. That's understandable, so I didn't have many reservations with that. She asked me a lot of questions, such as how Kaleigh gets along with other animals (fine, but some dominance around other dogs), how far she can run (I have no idea, I haven't been able to run since I've had her), how she does in her kennel (great, she loves it), etc. Kaleigh sometimes gets a little too excited when she's around new people, but is overall a great dog. She met Kaleigh, and wanted to take her in a few days to see how things would work out. Kaleigh was picked up a few days later.
Her biggest concern was that she has guinea pigs, and she wanted to make sure that any dog she adopts "gets along" with the guinea pigs. That's fine. I thought she meant not attacking their cage or something like that--lots of people have rodents and dogs in the same house, they just have to keep the rodents out of reach and put the dog somewhere else while the rodent is out. The more I thought about this woman, the more reservations I had. Within 18 hours of taking her, she sent an e-mail saying that Kaleigh had an accident in the house, and that she was showing mild interest in the guinea pigs, and that she hoped this “fascination” would wear off quickly. She seemed mystified why Kaleigh would have an accident. I told her that, ummm, many rescue dogs may have a couple of accidents when they are in a new environment, but that I did not expect her to continue to have accidents. She wrote me again the next day stating that Kaleigh was still somewhat interested in the guinea pigs, and would bark when they squealed. The cage is at eye-level, so it is very easy for Kaleigh to have access to them. She said that, "oddly enough," Kaleigh did not seem interested in them when she couldn't see them. She was concerned, too, that Kaleigh seemed interested in following the guinea pigs when they were running around inside of their clear plastic ball.
Other vet students at my work expressed their disappointment in her behavior to me, and said they thought I should get Kaleigh out of that environment. On one hand, she would talk about how she would roll over in bed and there would be Kaleigh, staring at her adoringly and wagging her nub of a tail. On the other hand, she expressed concerns over how Kaleigh was not adjusting fast enough. Other people had suggested that she simply put the guinea pigs' cage up higher and to kennel Kaleigh when the guinea pigs were out. She had said that she didn't want to do that. I decided to write her an e-mail saying I didn't think it would be a good match and that I needed to take Kaleigh back.
She beat me to the punch and wrote me an e-mail saying that it was just not going to work. She wanted a dog who would ignore her guinea pigs completely and she could not picture Kaleigh doing that (she had her for a full 4 days). She also expressed disappointment with Kaleigh's running abilities; she took Kaleigh for a 5-mile run and Kaleigh seemed very tired afterwards (even though she did complete the run). I said, well, yeah, she's never been running (I wanted to say, "Did you run 5 miles the first time you went running?"). I told her frankly that I thought she would have problems with any dog if she is unwilling to make any changes to the environment, and that she may want to reconsider if she actually wants a dog (let alone a rescue).
We are not the only ones who pay the price when it comes to high expectations. Others suffer, too. It is not that Kaleigh is suffering by living with me, but instead of having a new home, she was dumped within days because she wasn't deemed good enough. We cannot demand of others, animal or human, what cannot be delivered. As far as I'm concerned, it is not Kaleigh's loss. Kaleigh followed her everywhere and instantly accepted and trusted this human being who she did not know well at all. This is why we love animals; they take us as we are, a lesson many humans could stand to learn.
Just like the rest of us, Kaleigh cannot be something she's not. If that woman wants a guinea-pig-ignoring, running-5-miles-a-day from birth dog, then she will probably have to raise one herself. I am never going to try to convince anyone to adopt any particular animal, but it was very disappointing to see someone expect such perfection from a living being. I understand not wanting to adopt a particular animal because they have deep-seated behavioral problems, but when all it takes is minor changes to the environment, why not make room for a loving and beautiful animal? Kaleigh is about as far from neurotic as any foster animal I've had, and I hope she gets a good home soon. She is 100 pounds of gentle love. Kaleigh is laying at my feet right now, as she always is, happy for no apparent reason. I'm glad she is oblivious to the stupidity of humans and only sees the good. She deserves a hero--someone who loves the entirety of her being.
Kaleigh's Petfinder profile: www.petfinder.com/petdetail/19547619
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