Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rain rain rain rain rain

The sound of the daily morning voices reading the day's news stories from the TelePrompTer is what I am accustomed to as I awaken from my sleep. This morning was definitely different. Other than staying up later than usual, causing me to sleep through the morning news programmed to ease me out of my morning dreams, my reason for sleeping in was quite obvious...work. This was my day off. After hearing the news that the bad apple had fallen from the tree, I needed some rest before my next few weeks of finding a new addition or two for the team, with whom I spend half of my life. Filling the holes in the schedule is easier, knowing that the elation of the team, caused by this recent incident, has changed the overall attitude of the staff. After a nice long sleep, the foreign sound that gently woke me was rain, large drops smacking against the window, ringing off the window pane and balcony railing.

Okay, yes, the title of this blog states that I live in Canada's rain forest, so why would the sound of rain wake me? Looking at my stress this year, ultimately making me rethink my direction in life, I recognize it all began with the turn in the weather. The month of June was hideous, filled with the monotonous days of gray clouds, chilly temperatures and wet clothing from the heavy rain showers, surprising hopeful Vancouverites, whom had chosen not to carry an umbrella. Once July began, the sun forced it's way into the city full force, causing a seemingly marathon-like heatwave, melting the core being of every cook. I drank so much water during these summer months, attempting to replenish the drops of salty sweat dripping from every pore. Cooking in a hot kitchen during a heat wave makes you realize that you can sweat from anywhere on your body, even your knees. The hours during these months continued to pile up on my shoulders, strengthening the base for my future hump. It seemed the endless heat would never break. As Vancouverites all know, the Pacific National Exhibition, the annual fair, would put a plug in the nonstop heat and bring rain. It seems the Fair always is hampered by rain at some point during the two weeks of it's run.

Today it was my day off; sleeping in is always my first priority, considering my start times range from 6am to 9am, almost similar to being back in school again. Having two appointments back to back today was the one reason for eventually pouring myself out of bed, body maintenance saving me from turning into a crippled old lady with a hunchback. Originally, I was weary about going to see a chiropractor and massage therapist regularly, never wanting to depend on medical assistance to physically get through my day. Now, I look forward to the appointments, helping me avoid the pain. Once I pulled myself out of my cozy bed, showered and dressed appropriately for the weather, I mentally prepared for the different environment assaulting me as I walked out the front door of my apartment building.

The rain was cool, soothing the city from it's months of dusty smoggy days, crunchy brown straw covering the boulevards and previously lush green lawns, pine needles, dried tree branches and leaves from thirsty trees coating the ground in every park and forest in the province. Opening up my black umbrella, I stepped into the wet weather happy that I decided to wear a scrunchy scarf around my neck, keeping me from the unusual August chill enhanced by the misty damp showers sneaking up under my mobile awning from the gusts of wind attempting to mask late August as October.

The appointments were quick and informative, progress being made every time I am tortured from neck to waist, and every crack of each vertebrae in my spinal column. I made more future appointments, and rode the elevator to the lobby of the medical building in hopes the sun had won out over the stormy clouds. To no avail, the weather had not changed. I opened my umbrella and sauntered out on to the busy street, walking in the direction of my scheduled rainy day routine. I love to pass the day on a wet day inside, shopping for bargains and emptying my brain of all thoughts. Usually I wear my ipod, drowning out the sounds of conversations. Today I welcomed the eavesdropping on other lives while I emptied my stress, sliding each hanger adorned with discounted, dismissed clothes. I pass by the the purses and bags, a new addiction, especially as I realize my previous purses were creating an abnormal muscular knot on one side of my shoulders. Always having a reason for a purchase, I bought a purse which was water proof, ideal for my netbook, on which I am blogging most often. It was raining and my current purse was becoming a bit soggy.

Out of the first store, I cross the street to the next, not fully satisfied with my shopping. I rise to the top level of the department store, the bargain penthouse rather than basement, and begin the long search for something to feed my addiction. Catching my eye immediately, I come upon another garment for which I have another affinity, . Is it the theme of the day, rain, which makes me pull it off the rack and try it on? Is it the color, red, which always focuses attention on me immediately, attention I say I hate but find impossible from which to walk away. A classic trench coat, a designer name brand, with excellent quality and amazing fit. I have a closet full of jackets, coats and sweaters, all cheaply made, bland or simply not fitting me correctly. I put the coat down and walk away, telling myself I don't need it, but I am pulled back to the rack like a magnet to a fridge. People tell me regularly that red is my color. I check the price tag recognizing an amazing sale of seventy percent of the original price. I checked all the sizes, trying to find a second excuse for buying the trench, or is this the fourth reason? I pulled it off the rack, being the only size left that fits me, and promptly purchase my new red trench, hopefully waiting to cheer up the city amongst the black and khaki trenches worn by the downtown population.

Out into the blustery day I raise my umbrella, walking home with my addiction fixed for the moment. I enter my apartment and cook some late lunch or early dinner, listening to my aging cat speak to me of her time while I was away. Napping after eating, I listen to the rain dripping on my balcony, while the television natters on about the current gossip of entertainers. My day off was half over, but mostly done, as I have no desire to leave my humble abode again. I spend the evening watching mindless boob tube shows while attempting to retrain my cat on where her litter box has been repositioned. She has entered her twilight years, accidents on the carpet and hours of sleep, a path which I have walked with a past pet, Sebastian. This time I will not make my current cat a pin cushion, tested for solutions to an uncontrollable situation - aging. At 18 years old, Princess, has lived the life of which her name signifies. An indoor cat, sleeping and eating are her main activities. She enjoys hours of lounging on a chair on the balcony during the summer months, sleeping all night long el fresco often when it is warm enough. Her aging symptoms are usual, most likely the slowly deterioration of her kidneys, resulting in more water intake. Comfort, water, and clean litter boxes are all she needs, as the medical advice suggests, unless re-hydrating her every two weeks intravenously is an option. My cat has never left the apartment in six years, transporting her would be more traumatizing and no doubt will speed her aging. As long as she is comfortable I will be satisfied.

Now it is dark, the rain has stopped and I begin my nightly routine of watching the news, just as I regularly awaken daily. I have an addiction to the newscast also. Perhaps, I should attempt to wander off the routine path once and awhile, but today was not the day. Mindlessness was much needed, the rain washing away the dust and dirt from the city streets, and my own mind.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive

I remember when I was in Elementary School. Young and naive, learning and not knowing it in my classroom. Those days were such fantastic innocent times. The friendly mothering teacher taught us all to never be afraid to ask questions. That's how we all learn. No question is a silly question. Time passed and the innocence faded as we all got older. Teasing and bullying began quietly when competitiveness entered the ring. I remember asking a question in class once and heard the lilt of twittering snickers behind me. Of course the teacher scolded the students, but that first stab of embarrassment and teasing will stay with me forever. Since then, I made it my mission to know everything about everything, or shut up. Don't ask questions for fear my peers would laugh at me, pointing at my ignorance. I was not cool if I asked a question.

Through Secondary
School this was not apparent in my learning process as I remained steadfast on the honor roll annually. I made sure I earned the best marks to prove I was an ideal student and still popular with the in crowd. Asking questions in front of my classmates was a gamble. Either I would look stupid if my query was silly or I would look too involved in the school work and be classified as an egghead. Not asking questions was safe; better safe than sorry. Sorry is a relative term in the context of that chapter of my life. Sorry meant, in my teenage years, unable to avoid the slings and arrows of my so called friends and peers. Always trying to fit in, eluding the simple questions I could have asked to help me in my studies, I managed to chip away at my self confidence, while building a false sense of self. Regardless of the marks I achieved in school, and post secondary education, I am more book smart than life smart.

So, as I write this I realize that we all grow at different rates and I seem to be learning the basics far later in life than most. When I went to university, I was
able to take on a new persona but I was unable to build my self-confidence, each class becoming harder and harder. The classes were enormous; standing and asking a question was not an option with three hundred people possibly laughing at me for my ignorance. As the terms went by, I gradually lost honor roll standing, avoiding the imminent embarrassment of being in the spotlight as the loser in the class.

Now, at the tender age of 42 years young, I am
not known as a shy person. I may not mingle with new people easily but I am not one to hide in the corner. I have had many nights where I will argue my point and stand tall, perhaps making up for all those years, fearful of being embarrassed. I am still one not to get into a confrontation, avoiding any possible face to face disagreement. If another person provokes me into a verbal fight, I will vie to the death. I am fairly uncomfortable in those situations but not unfamiliar with defending my core being. It rarely happens and I will avoid those scenarios if I can see them in my rear view mirror.

This passive aggressive behavior has advantages and disadvantages. Rarely do I involve myself in disagreements. I am always looking to make my bubble harmonized with the people and situations in my vicinity. If there is any possible threat to my bubble, I generally decide going deeper in my cave is better than outwardly showing my unhappiness. This backfires, in that, I have a tendency to save the stress and release it all at once. Additionally, I tend to blow off issues needing immediate focus, avoiding the possibility of a negative outcome.

Recently, I was presented with a challenge which would ultimately result in a loss to my lifestyle regardless of my choice. After suffering almost a year of stress at work, trying to fit a square peg in to circle hole, I was asked if simply removing the square peg would make my stress disappear. Problem being, removing the square peg resulted in the loss of my vacation time. I chose the happiness of my staff and myself over my vacation. Altruistic, I am, but also, understanding that removing the thorn from the paw and letting it heal, is a better option rather than trying to run on an injured paw, with the thorn causing a more painful infection. Yes, I left the thorn in for a bit too long, but I never made the choice to remove it from the throbbing paw. It fell out on its own, immediately relieving the pain. I am happier when my surrounding staff are happy. Without the thorn, my staff are elated and I have gained an enormous amount of respect and gratitude without confronting the problem head on.

Now, as the paw heals, the thorn will always be in the recesses of my memory, splinters of it spread around, impossible to remove, the scar tissue visible for all to see. Have I learned from my Shakespearean character flaw? Will this change my flight rather than fight characteristic? If there is a fork in the road clearly labeled "the wrong way", will I choose it just to avoid the challenge?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time Wasted is Time Lost


Time...time on my hands. How do I fill the empty hours of my tediously work-filled life. Amazingly with all of the Disneyland desires fulfilled, I somehow require more. My appetite is a continuously growing monster, demanding food from all reaches, rather than just the simple staples of everyday meals. I am not desiring more so to speak, but rather variety.

I am soon to have a break from the monotony of my employment in the hectic world of hospitality. For a manager, especially a kitchen manager, this is practically impossible. There are many reasons for this predicament, first being, the nature of the person taking that role is, in general, a workaholic. I fill my life with work, making everything part of my life, from friends to home life. If you are addicted to the enjoyment of being needed, you feel you can't take a break.

The second reason for never taking a vacation or a break revolves around the type of employees that work in the restaurant business. Although they are all good people, they tend to either have other priorities in their life goals or, worse yet, no focus on their future. This leaves the reliability aspect of the job a bit in question. As a manager of a kitchen in a sports themed restaurant, there is a precariously balanced Jenga Tower built resembling the kitchen; the economy affects the pay rate, the quality of employee, the amount of employees. Weather affects the sales of the restaurant, the hours employees work, the general mood of the staff, and ultimately the desire of staff to actually work. The personalities of the staff need to be intricately interwoven to make the machine run smoothly. With one person missing the machine can run inefficiently. Others that fill in, work too many hours, decreasing efficiency and clashes can occur.

After all of these arrows continuously battering the Tower I have built, I also have to be able to leave that Tower and hope it is still standing when I return. I must choose the best opportune time to take enough time off to recharge and ultimately be sufficiently recharged to begin to reinforce the Tower for more battle. In someways I wish to see the battle end, to simply find a new challenge, to be part of the outside world looking in, with the memories behind me. I would be able to enjoy a dinner out again. I would live a life not waiting for my phone to ring with more missing employees or troubles to solve. Friends and loved ones say I would miss it, probably needing to detox from the insanity of my current situation. Others I work with say that they couldn't do it without me, internally planting the seed of guilt which grows so well in the soil of my addicted brain. That sickly sweet feeling of appreciation built by creating a position that no one could possibly fill, is like a bee attracted to a flower, regardless of the smell.

There is something to be said about being a natural leader. The gratitude and appreciation is addictive. The work needed to reach a level of trust is immense. Being taken advantage of begins as 'doing people favours', which quickly becomes old and you start feeling like that used, torn cloth in the kitchen. It's hard to drop the position of leader when you've been looking out over the world from atop the Tower you've built. I have never walked into a new place of employment in a leadership position. I like to see the whole Tower, or what's left of it, checking every nook and cranny, inspecting the weaknesses. This way, it's easy to fill in the cracks and repair the weak spots before building. Sometimes digging down is better than building on an uneasy base.

My new palette has been starting to eat away at me from the inside out. I have looked at myself lately, thinking about how and why I am where I am. I am no Chef by any means. I am definitely not one to sit and think and breathe food. As a matter of fact I don't even really like food that much. People I work with practically fall over in shock when they actually see me eat. I believe eating is simply an addition to life like music, clothes, decor, and pets. Yes, food can be good, delicious, forgetful, or down right disgusting. These are choices we all make to fill our little profile package to determine our personality. The fact that I do what I do for a living is even foreign to me.

My recent introspection has made me think about the activities I enjoy out of life; things that distract me to the point that I forget about my current situation. Passions, heart thumping moments in my little world that I have created. I turned off my path to peek out beyond the barriers around my street to see if I would be accepted or even noticed. Recently, I took my resume, updated it and sent it out to a possible 'job of passion'. Immediately there was a response, a helping hand over my fence to see what was on the other side. Little did I realize that my path was connected to hands pulling me back. Even though I spoke to the foreigner of my world over the fence, my grip wasn't strong enough to climb over. I did see the immense countryside of freedom and it isn't lost in my memory.

The one passion I followed was animal based, as I have an affinity towards animals of all types. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was much younger but never followed my passion. The job offered attracted me - Store Director of a Pet Food Supply Store. I answered this advertisement because I felt I had the management experience and leadership qualities they were looking for and my natural passion for animals was a given. Unfortunately, the hospitality industry has quite a good grip and pulled me back in, not being able to attend any interviews during the busiest time of the year. Of course, some friends told me to call in sick, but being on the butt end of that situation, I would never return that agony. I refuse to lose respect of my staff for an interview which could ultimately leave them abandoned. Additionally, there was no guarantee of a job, just an invitation to enjoy the fields on the other side of my fence.

This has not deterred me from my search but simply showed me that I would be accepted in a similar position of leadership, not unlike a student in college who is accepted because of life experience.... I have always known since I was in high school that I found writing to be easy and even enjoyable. I was never afraid of handing in a written project if it involved creative thought and story creating. I have had a journal off and on but never was consistent in my writing. I do use my writing now as a tool to relax, write out my feelings and tell stories. I have always been a good speller and, although it's been years since I have had to practice being grammatically correct, I am able to hold my own. This has had me searching easy lower copy editing positions. Nothing as of yet has passed my eyes in my hunt but i am hopeful.

I digress off the main topic of my upcoming time off... In about two weeks I will be getting time off. Now, a preferred vacation with the man in my life would be great but not possible. He needs to pay the bills and the general rule with the hospitality industry is that holidays happen when it's slow - September, October, November, January, February. Of course, his industry has no set busy time, post production for movies and TV. His industry is dependent on the economy solely. If the Canadian dollar is low, more work comes his way. Now he is balancing two jobs. This means I take vacation alone or keep working until we can match up our lives, work-wise. I need this time off for mental therapy, so alone it is.

Choices, choices. What do I like doing and what will I do? I am needing to deflate and have enough time to empty the bricks of stress blocking my mental efficiency. I need to do something easy, mindless, relaxing, familiar, quiet and definitely away from work. The first thing that popped into my mind was a nice B&B by the ocean with wildlife and in a small quaint town. Qualicum Beach popped into my head as I know the town well, travel to and from the town on my own, friends live close by and all of my core passions are there; beach, wildlife, silence, shopping, stars, and no-stress-living. Although it is a remnant of my past, I believe it has been long enough to revisit this special and beautiful town. Yes, it is my ex boyfriend's hometown, but I will be staying in a B&B and he won't be there. It's not about him it's about me. He showed me the area and now I want to see it. Knowing it inside and out is good in that it is no stress. While I'm here I can practice wildlife photography and spend time writing. I just wonder how many days I want to go for without overdoing the trip or, reversely, not recharging enough.

This way I can 'discover' myself. I hate that saying. I always thought it was an excuse for having no future goals.Well, at least I can say I am going somewhere for an extended amount of time without depending on anyone. No one else. I wonder if I will return wanting out of my cage more than when I started my time off. Only time will tell. So, as I quoted someone's saying, "Time wasted is time lost". Have I wasted half my life figuring out that I need to fulfill my passions? Maybe, but hey, I'm not dead, at least not yet. Hopefully, I can climb over that fence to a free pasture. Hopefully, viewing the hospitality industry from the other side will reinstate the actual definition of hospitality rather causing my shoulders to tighten up into a knot, causing numbness in my fingers.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Enjoy Your Day Off When You are a Workaholic...

After working day in and day out in a busy restaurant, sweating up a storm over open flame in 30 degree heat, having a day off can be a foreign situation. When the drama of the day is multiplied by 100 during the summer thanks to the raise in sales, requests for days off from staff, on top of the numerous key events that boost our sales over the top, your scheduled routine is simply sleep-work-sleep-work. I have been lucky to finally get 2 days off and my mind is still needing to be busy. Sleeping in is hard as waking up at 6am on a regular basis can create an inner alarm clock that pushes you out of bed when the sun is up.

Yesterday I was sitting around in my apartment until I finally got outside and went for a walk. I was intent on just looking in windows but, of course, I was sucked into my favourite "pass the time" store - Winners - and came out with some more clothes. In the approving eyes of Stacey London from What Not To Wear, I bought some perfect clothes to change my look. She would approve. The day went by quickly and effortlessly. With music in my ears tuning out the surrounding stress of the city, I was able to go through racks of clothes and pass the time, work stress escaping my body, every step I took.

Today, my cat woke me up, tapping me in on the nose, mewing in my ear. As I slowly arose from my sleep, I decided on a breakfast of cereal and yogurt with blueberries, coffee and juice. My tv showing my morning guilty pleasure (What Not To Wear and The View) as I decide what I have planned for my day, I listen to the chickadees peeping over the bird seed treats I have on my balcony. I have decided on a Park day with my camera. Get some use out of my $400 Canon, with the ability to zoom in on bald eagles and such. I must pick up an item for the kitchen before but after that Stanley Park. The only unfortunate thing is that the city has decided repairs to the seawall are important during the summer months.

Hopefully, this will relax me a bit before returning to my high stress job tomorrow. I am kind of excited for a week off to do "nothing". Now if I could just get the stress out of my shoulders.