Thursday thoughts about Yin, Yang, coffee and happiness

When does the sacred ritual of “having a coffee” start?
For me it often starts the minute I leave the train and head towards the place where a heroic barista will be preparing a sublime beverage for me.
“Having a coffee” transcends the actual climactic act of taking that first sip.
There’s so much more to it all.
The interaction with friends, soaking up the vibe, experiencing the ambiance and derivative background muzak— All of that contributes to “having a coffee.”
Even when you put down your empty cup you are still actively having coffee with a friend, because there’s a latency in the experience that only gets committed to archived memory much later.

So much of our lives and enjoyment thereof hinge not only on holding the filled cup but also on putting down the empty cup and the anticipation before there even is a cup.
Without emptiness, we can’t experience fulness.

Are we so often embarking on a quest towards chasing down happiness as “somethingness” that we miss happiness within the emptiness?”
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Get out alive! Be that person who stays healthy at the office

Hank’s philosophy about life in the military was simple.
“I arrived here in one piece, and I’m leaving in one piece!”
For those who prefer something with more esoteric bite, Hank’s view could come across as being simplistic.
It’s succinct and true though!

Don’t neglect yourself.
Even when you’re working in a truly draconian environment inspired by the worst imagery from dystopian movies.

Drink enough water, and adhere to healthy eating habits.
You might occasionally become the brunt of ridicule when you’re always seen as the “health freak!”
But fear not, coworkers will find other things to rag you about even if you’re not worrying about your diet.

Ok, but let’s hold the horses there for a minute.
If you feel you’re not up to the health-guru approach that’s fine!
Just don’t change healthy habits overnight because you feel your work is too much, or you “don’t have time!”
And don’t allow work stress to make your already-bad eating habits even worse.

What about your mental wellbeing at work?
Do you allow obnoxious entitled coworkers to trample you into the ground?
You know the adage— People treat you the way you allow them to treat you!
Even if you’re the most soft-spoken person on the planet you can be soft without being weak.

There are mean animals in the corporate world.
They use their chauvinistic arse-about-face “my way is best” attitude as a template for viewing everyone else’s way of life.
Fortunately, there are excellent resources online about managing office bullies and those who have been raised to flatten others like the proverbial steamroller.

My point— Read, keep on reading stuff and empower yourself with knowledge!
That’s your right!
Everyone is entitled to a safe and healthy working environment!
Speak to kindred spirits and ask them how they elevated themselves from the occasional mire of toxic office experiences.
Get clued-up on the company policy and labor law.
Those who suffer for the sake of being popular or accepted end up merely “suffering” most of the time.
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What is a common denominator in any job? No, it’s not asking for a better salary!

I’ve had 16 jobs over 30 years.
Some lasted for a few months, some lasted years.
None of this means I can offer profound wisdom about the “working condition” but I sure managed to rack up a few observations along the way.

So I might as well cut to the chase here.
What did I perceive to be the “common denominator” in any job?
The answer is very simple, so many of the colleagues who contributed to my collective working experience had these standard phrases in their linguistic arsenal:
“It’s almost…”
“I’m so over…”
“I can’t wait for…”

Your vivid imagination can surely start filling in the blanks?
“It’s almost Friday!”
“It’s almost time for my annual holiday!”
“It’s almost weekend!”
“It’s almost lunchtime!”
“It’s almost time to go home!”
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Your office job probably isn’t “heroic” but that’s fine!

Programming isn’t a spectator sport.
But wait until the proverbial excrement hits the fan!
Then everyone who believes he has a stake or interest in the emergency is summoned by some arcane force.
Then they all gather around the guy who needs to fix the problem, and they swarm around him like flies on a fresh cow turd!
Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the epic “hacking scenes” from a movie.
There’s only stress.

Software and systems emergencies remind me of the times when you needed to find a plumber over the weekend.
While the plumber is fixing the leak or declogging the sewerage you’ll also see everyone standing around.
They’re not watching in awe though, but more out of morbid interest— Secretly being glad they don’t need to do the job but also irritated by having to pay for someone to invade their sanctum on a weekend.
I think many white-collar office emergencies fall in the category where management is just relieved someone pitched up to find an accounting error, incorrect booking or whatever other glitch showed up on a monitoring screen.

Yeah, alright then— Perhaps you’ll get the courtesy nod of approval if you fixed the error timeously.
Just don’t think for a minute there’s a medal in it for you.
After having worked a dozen jobs I very seldom received more than a cursory “thanks dude” for fixing “leaks.”
It seems that inadvertently the boss easily perceives a glitch as an inconvenience.
Perhaps he was lounging by the pool when the crisis was reported.
On some level, he equates the problem with you, because irrespective of whether you caused it, he needs someone to personify the irritation he feels at losing some leisure time!
If you’re working for a cool boss he might appreciate your efforts, just don’t assume it will improve his happiness, well-being or anything for that matter.
Getting you to do the job—That’s the job for him, and you’re part of the job.
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Oh hell no! Please, just not the elevator going “up!”

Witness the shock and horror on people’s faces when the elevators are inoperable!
Able-bodied people can become whining sniveling little kids when the elevator doesn’t work!
Sometimes these lost souls forget these are stairs.
No, the stairs are not only a convenient place for catching an illicit smoke!
In all fairness, when the elevators are being serviced or totally out of commission I pity the guy in the wheelchair.
There are also other office workers with medical conditions who do require mechanical assistance to reach their desks each day!
And of course, not all office buildings are reduced to only four or five stories.
Elevators are a modern necessity.
But oh woe is me— Some of those who complain the loudest often summon an elevator instead of being a little intrepid and attempting the adventure of going up one flight of stairs.
They wear these fancy activity trackers on their wrists but nobody likes counting stairs it seems!
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The modified beast in the basement. Surviving corporate parking-bay woes!

Research the age of the building in which your offices are housed.
Perhaps it was built during a time when a fuel crisis forced people to buy smaller cars.
Not all allocated parking bays are suitable for gargantuan vehicles.

Some of my colleagues own big badass 4X4 Off-road monster trucks.
Many of those trucks have never seen any road surface other than smooth tar.
But some of the trucks have a winch.
If they were to get to bogged down in mud then the winch could easily pull them out!
And many 4X4 vehicles have a snorkel, in case the car needs to submerge when navigating a crocodile-infested and flooded marshland.
It often features bling-mods as well, just in case it doesn’t look manly enough.
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Remember the empty parking lot? Why were you working on Sunday?

It’s Christmas.
You’re in the middle of nowhere, in a desert, on duty in a weather station all by yourself.
That’s probably more dismal than going into the office on a Sunday.
There are times when a bit of overtime is required— With deadlines and all.
Even though you know you need to do it you never quite get over that dismal feeling when you notice your car is the only one in the parking lot.
But you do what you gotta do!

Reality is one thing, but unfortunately, we allow “worry,” “unwarranted fear,” “a disproportionate sense of duty” and other malware into our minds on Sundays.
Many of us find ourselves “working” every Sunday!
Yes, there you are sitting on your porch, reading a book, having a nice cuppa joe but yet you find your thoughts wandering off to an unfinished proposal or a document you needed to complete.
Perhaps your mind looks like a jumble of gears and wires from a steampunk movie.
I can already see how it goes into overdrive for no reason, driven by angst!
You’re in the middle of a sci-fi movie where wires from the back of your head are connected to your computer.
Before you know it you’re already working on the problem and quickly log onto your work-environment remotely.
“I just quickly need to check mail,” you tell yourself.
The “quickly” becomes a few hours because illogical self-induced panic has a way of making you doubt everything!
The not-so-funny part is looking at the same piece of work on Monday!
And then it hardly comes across as intimidating as it seemed on Sunday— While you were “relaxing” at home.
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It’s easier to leave than to be left behind

It’s easier to leave than to be left behind.”
REM’s melancholy lyrics and melodies flow like good wine.
For a minute you are tempted to romanticize heartbreak.

I was told once that leaving is “apologizing for causing hurt” whereas being left behind is “begging for the hurt to stop.”
Both concepts are so intertwined though, you can’t have one without the other.
You can’t leave someone behind if there is not “a someone” to be left behind.
It’s all very Yin and Yang!

Few places are as haunted by raw spillage from fragile human emotions as airports.
During the late 90s, I commuted a lot between cities and became an old hand at spotting “stories.”
With time you start collecting clues that tell you what the story might be.
Everyone at the airport has a story.
Some try to hide their stories behind a veneer of suave nonchalance.
Others choose to be the epitome of unbridled emotions whenever they are reunited with loved ones.
Whatever the story of each individual though, the human activity at terminals embodies the interdependency of leaving and the being left behind.
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Freeing yourself from the illusion of perfection— And being happier for it!

Chasing “perfectionism” can easily become a security blanket.
Some of the so-called “perfectionists” I met in my lifetime were plain lazy and incompetent.
Especially those who proclaim they don’t want to attempt certain tasks for fear of not getting it perfect.
Tinkerers in dimly-lit backrooms can fiddle with things for years under the pretense that they want to get it “perfect.”
Often they’re just too scared to finish something because then they might expose their product or idea to open scrutiny and realize it was far from perfect.

“Perfection” is merely a word.
It’s a word that society loves to fling about.
“Perfection is excellence.”
No matter what the dictionary says, it’s rubbish.
Perfection is impossible.
Because “perfection” will always be subjective, no matter what!

You can test my theory and go bake a perfect cake!
Yes, according to all the parameters and instructions it might come out quite well!
It might even be labeled “excellent!”
But lo and behold, you will get those who wanted it sweeter, more textured, less decorated.
Now try and convince those dissidents that the cake was “perfect!”
Good luck with that quest!
Try convincing a hardcore rocker that you attended the “perfect” jazz concert.
At the first sound of “jazz”, you’ve already lost his interest.
Had he accompanied you it might’ve been the dullest two hours in his life!

We’ve all experienced what we labeled a “perfect moment.”
Not that it was perfect.
It merely felt like it.
There was that first kiss when time slowed down on a grassy meadow near a waterfall.
perhaps you only forgot about the pesky mosquitoes, the poison ivy you sat upon and the sunburn you got.
Not that the bad things mattered though, you got a sloppy kiss, you felt happy and over time your mind smoothed out the rough spots and left you with a perfect memory.

Excellence is sometimes merely “very good” or “very suitable” within a certain context for a specific group of people.
Still not convinced?
Ask a bunch of petrol heads what they consider to be the “perfect car!”
Then you stand back and watch the fight!
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