Monday, September 10, 2012

Yes, Meaning No

When I interviewed for the job I’m now doing, they asked if I could compare data in Excel, to which I said, “Yes,” meaning that, “If I have to do that, I’ll consult the Internet and figure it out.” Last Thursday they gave me my first such assignment and I said, “Sure, will do,” but when I went to look at the task, I realized I had no idea how to proceed. It wasn’t so much how to do a comparison (though indeed I had no idea how to do that) as not being sure what exactly was to be compared.

My de facto supervisor and I met on the phone and a certain amount of tension arose, in part because J.’s version of the spreadsheet appeared to be different from mine, causing me to realize that this going to be a major and ongoing aspect of this job: information management. It also turned out that one of the spreadsheets had one kind of information at the top of certain columns, but different kinds of information in the same columns at the bottom, making it impossible to sort the columns.

I found myself getting tense, thinking the person who filled in the spreadsheet had done the wrong thing in using the same column for two different kinds of data—this person was 1) dangerously out of touch; and 2) interfering with my job. But of course that is the job, or part of it: encountering things done not the way I would do them and figuring out how to handle it.

J. clarified what exactly was to be compared and the Internet did tell me how to do it, and voila! It was a very good feeling to be able to send the thing off in a timely fashion.

In the evening, David L. from Howie’s and I had dinner at Udupi Palace, an Indian place on Valencia. David worked for a long time in the nonprofit world and said that a person who is a good database administrator can be a very key resource at many nonprofits, which gave me thoughts about a possible future career.

On Friday evening C. and I had dinner at La Santaneca.

On Saturday morning, I went over to help C. set up his new phone and then Tom and I drove in a City CarShare car to Sacramento for an evening of remembering Mac with his loved ones. We stopped by Ann’s place first so Tom could try on some of Mac’s clothes. He selected some items to keep, and put others in a box to go to the thrift store, and we went on to Steve and Julie’s.

Much of Tom’s family was there, plus Mac’s three children and their families. We sat at beautifully decorated tables out back and had comfort food for dinner: lasagna, garlic bread, salad, mozzarella and tomatoes. A slide show of Mac’s life was shown in the living room, plus it turns out he had been working on an oral history, and there were CDs for those who wanted one. I took one, but haven’t listened to it yet. The thought of hearing his voice gives me a pang.

Tom stayed in Sacramento that night so he and his girlfriend could go with Ann and several members of Mac’s family to scatter his ashes the next day at the Sea Ranch. I had to get back to San Francisco for work, so I had a wonderful drive home by myself that evening, enjoying the lovely night wind.

Yesterday I took Mac’s clothes to the thrift store before going to Rainbow. I recognized some of the garments from having seen him in them, including the red pullover shirt he’s wearing in one of my favorite photos of him. I cried when I handed it to the thrift store woman.

Back at home I made dal with fresh tomatoes and listened to a dharma talk or two. To catch every single word, it would have to be turned up unreasonably loud, so I’ve resigned myself to hearing bits and pieces, but even that is great. It’s soothing to hear the familiar voices of Howard Cohn, Phillip Moffitt, Paul Haller.

In the evening, C. and I had dinner at La Santaneca again.

All the bouts of nighttime anxiety in the past month seem to have brought some definite benefits: facing the fear directly, as best I can, has made me feel more confident about my ability to be with other feelings. As for anxiety, I’ve been actually hoping it will arise so I can have a chance to practice with it again, and so of course it hasn’t arisen.

One of my favorite Buddhist authors is Ezra Bayda. I think his books At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace Within Everyday Chaos and Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life are excellent, so when Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness and Compassion came out in paperback, I wanted to take my time reading it and make sure not to miss any nuggets of wisdom. Now that it's been three years since it came out in paperback and he has yet another book out (Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment), I decided it would be OK to go ahead and read Zen Heart, and it’s also excellent.

Bayda’s grasp of how our human minds tend to work and his explanations of what to be on the lookout for and how to work with what arises are superb.
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